One of the first things I learned about as a new m/m author when I was first published was GayRomLit, the conference where readers and authors alike converge on one city and wreak our special brand of havoc. For weeks surrounding registration, the internet buzzes in the circles dedicated to our genre, and then the buzz grows as the actual con comes closer. For weeks afterward, there are blog posts, facebook picture uploads, and in general, people crowing about how awesome a time they had. Hell, even romance can bloom at these things. Klarvin anyone?
So tell me then, GRL organizers: why have you turned this year’s con into a divisive, exclusionary popularity contest, trampling on readers and authors alike?
You see, the organizers sent out a poll to readers asking them who their ‘must have’ authors are so those authors can be offered primo, pre-registration attention to ensure their participation. Thing is, they only asked those who’ve attended before to fill out their survey.
Is there going to be a Prom King and Queen? Or Queen and Queen, and King and King? And I suspect the rest of us will be expected to fawn, right? Shall I practice my bowing down in worship position? Hey, I think that table of foreign exchange students over there across the cafeteria said they didn’t get a survey to fill out.
That’s right. They didn’t open the poll to all the readers of this genre. They have a website. Why not put the poll up there and let a more widespread group of people vote? That’s one problem with this approach. I know of one reader at least, and a reviewer to boot, someone who has done their best to help spread the word about new m/m works, who DID attend last year’s con, who got no heads’ up to this survey, didn’t know anything about it, and only caught wind of this process by vigilantly watching for registration this year.
That’s suspicious. An attendee last year wasn’t asked to vote when the GRL officials have specifically told one author asking about this detail, Patricia Logan, on Facebook, that the “survey was given to attendees from last year’s retreat.” Where was TheNovelApproach’s survey? Did it get lost in the mail?
Second, the GayRomLit newsletter says the cost of the event should never be prohibitive to the reader (and about this I agree) and so they had to cap the number of authors involved, and the number of author spotlights offered.
Okay, I get that, too, believe it or not. They know the reader turnout to expect, and if it garners only so much to support a certain number of authors, fine. That’s the cost of throwing this con. More readers means more spaces for authors, and that’s incentive for us all to work to bring new readers into the fold. But here’s the thing. By keeping the survey limited to past participants (and I question this), they’re limiting the incentive for new readers to say, “Ooh, this author could be there this year? Sign me up!” Would that not generate more registration money raised to, perhaps, allow more space for more authors?
And to give preferential treatment to select authors based on a survey of readers when not all the readers who attended the con last year were given the survey? I call bullshit.
GRL, what you’re doing is segregating the genre from within our own ranks, when we already face being the red-headed stepchild of the romance genre, when romance itself is often touted as being the red-headed stepchild of the publishing world. Instead of giving the opportunity to connect with readers to anyone, including new authors, those just getting their names out there with one or two books to their names, or indie authors, you’re making it that much harder for anyone but the darlings of the genre to make GRL an opportunity for themselves and readers to get to know them. And as a reader, I’m pissy about being told who I should and shouldn’t want to meet.
It’s the equivalent of the cheerleaders holding tryouts and saying ‘anyone can go out for the team’ but knowing the judging will only even consider the few who already have an ‘in’. It’s high school all over again, and frankly, it makes me want to crash your prom. I won’t, because I’m an adult, and not in high school anymore. But dammit, I thought I left this kind of prohibitive, cliquish behavior behind over a decade ago.
GRL’s mission statement, taken from their own website, states: “GayRomLit is an annual reader-focused retreat dedicated to the celebration and advancement of LGBT romance.”
That should read “… and advancement of LGBT romance for specific authors.”
Another statement: “GRL’s mission is to connect readers to the authors they love and the ones they have yet to fall for…”
You’re certainly not acting like the ones readers have yet to fall for have any place in this, the biggest con of our genre all year.
Yet one more: “Our motto is that GayRomLIt is where romance comes out and the tribe comes together.”
Orly? ORLY? How is it ‘the tribe comes together’ when you’re making it extremely difficult for some of the tribe to be included?
Don’t we have to work hard enough to be considered a legitimate voice in the romance world? Don’t we have enough facing us with the bigotry of outsiders who think same-sex relationships are dangerous, wrong, and otherwise will undermine their utopia?
This isn’t sour grapes because I’m sure I’m not on the list of ‘must have’ authors. I probably wasn’t going to be able to attend GRL this year anyway. But when this change in policy means in future years, the decision may not be mine to make because I haven’t won some place on a list when the list is suspect to begin with, I’ll be fucked if I’m going to stand by and say nothing.