Sunday, March 04, 2007

Or: You're One in a Million Thousand*

It will be an interesting experiment to see if any of the major gay blogs -- no need for links; you know who they are -- pick up on the Lambda Literary Award nominations.

Before I'm accused of too much self-interest as a finalist, let me note that I've been blogging for years about the tepid way in which gay media and gay organizations cover books. ['Tepid' is actually a kind word to use, but I would never be so confrontational as to call it outright neglect.

Oh. Did I just do that?]

I am sure that when Jake Gyllenhaal or Justin Timberlake write a novel, those blogs will take note. But, in the meantime, it's pretty much just us ink-stained commoners who are trying to give the handful of gay people out there (who actually read something deeper than HX) the books that entertain them, or enlighten them, or challenge them. So we are expendable.

By the way, I'm comfortable venting about this on this blog, because you guys are a pretty literate crew... which is probably why maybe 150 people stop by on a good day. The Big Gay Blogs, though -- the ones who could actually encourage their readers to crack a spine that doesn't belong to Ann Coulter -- well... their readerships tend to reflect the adage that water seeks its own level.

Bitter much? Yeah, a little. I don't speak ill of other gay writers on this public blog (e-mail? Don't ask) explicitly because all of us are in the same boat. We kill ourselves for a year or two to write something tailored to appeal not to Joe and Joan Applepie, but specifically to a small gay audience. And, in turn, we get totally ignored by the old gay media and the new gay media: the blogs.

And trust me: the work it takes to write a mainstream novel is exactly the same as the work that goes into writing LGBT books. We do this for the love, people!

If it was just my books being ignored, I'd still be bitter, but at least I'd feel small and petty in the process and know that it was my problem. But it's not just me. It's Greg Herren and Timothy James Beck (and variations thereof) and Radclyffe and Andy Zeffer and Lawrence Schimel and Fiona Zedde and Richard Labonte and Rob Williams and Ted Gideonse and, well, thousands more. Even the relative superstars -- Christopher Bram, Joe Keenan, William Mann -- get, at best, a few column (or blog) inches.

This may not be smart, but I am now going to share a sad fact of the writing life with you.

There are roughly 300 million people in the United States of America. Assuming a very conservative made-up statistic that 3% of them are gay, that means that there are minimally nine million LGBT people in this country alone. The average, decent-selling gay novel might sell 9,000 copies... so you so the math. (For the record, I don't think I've cracked that 9,000 level yet on any of my books, so, again, I'm not talking about myself. Although hope springs eternal...)

That means that roughly one out of every million thousand* gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, etc. people haved pulled out their wallets and slapped down $20 for the average gay book. And that's not even factoring in the heterosexuals who read our books.

I know this is a chicken vs. egg rant. The gay media and gay blogs discuss Britney Spears and Ted Haggard and American Idol and, yes, Jake and Justin to death because they perceive that that's what their readers want. Consequently... water seeks its own level.

Even more disappointing, I know of several popular bloggers who are newly- (paper-) published writers -- they have even had work out in anthologies published over the past year -- who barely mention that fact. Are they afraid of losing blog readers if they encourage them to buy and read a book? I don't know; only they can answer that. But it's a sad reflection on the perceptions from both sides.

What if a major gay blog broke the mold? What if a blogger started to actively encourage their readers to read books, as well as blogs? What if someone finally got it that reading a book is every bit as 'hot' as reading US Weekly?

Do I dare to dream?

I look forward to the next week, to see if my suspicions are proven correct. Will Windows Media mention that the list of Lammy finalists has been released? Will a major gay blog mention that fact? Will someone encourage their readers to support LGBT writers? I strongly doubt it, but time will prove me right or wrong.

Rant over. If you're still reading, thank you for indulging me.

Oh, and go find a book to read.

* -- As for me, maybe I should pick up a basic math textbook. Granted, 'one in a million' has a nice ring to it, but the math says that my mushy Sunday evening brain overstated my case a bit. Thanks to Gregalicious for pointing that out in the comments, and saving me from even greater embarrassment. He is truly one in a million... uh...

UPDATE: I am thrilled to report that some blogs have proven me wrong. And I have never been so happy to be proven wrong.

So, from the Dept. of Credit Where Credit is Due, kudos to: Towleroad, BoiFromTroy, Obliquity,and (coming soon) Scott-O-Rama.

Also, Jim from posted an excellent comment about some of the antipathy he receives from writers and publishers. Many of his points are well-taken, and food for thought. I hope to toss in my two cents in the next few days.