Saturday, November 10, 2012

#Smashwords and #LGBT: Please Recognize Us...


I'm am severely disappointed right now. I was very happy with Smashwords during the whole Paypal censorship matter and thought, hey, that's a place I want to do business with in the future. Seeing my titles up there will make me proud. I still retained those ideas until this morning.

Recently, my publisher, No Boundaries Press, uploaded all their titles to Smashwords and I was very excited. I didn't have time to look at it until today when I rushed off to the Gay & Lesbian section and searched...and searched...and searched for my titles (yes, I wanted to see them in the "New" section, instead of searching for my name - I was that excited). Fifty New titles in and I started to wonder if my titles had been incorrectly cataloged. 

So I did a search for my titles and discovered that instead of Gay & Lesbian - Gay, they were cataloged as Erotica - Gay Erotica. My titles are Romance Erotica, not Erotica, but I understood how my publisher was forced to catalog my titles there (since there are explicit scenes - she's been forced to do this elsewhere as well, though All Romance eBooks did create a special Erotic Romance category for the thousands of titles like mine). However, very few people looking for gay & lesbian titles will look under Erotica first. Besides, "Erotica" means sex only, as in there's no romance involved, and my stories are all based on love instead of just sex (even my Grade-A-Sex Deal is a Romance Erotica). It genuinely hurt to see my titles among titles such as Flaming Hot Gay BDSM, The Electrician's Ass, Confessing to Daddy, My Neighbors Little Girl, A Boy for the Tentacle Monster, Dripping Lust, Lubrication, Breeding His Daddy's Friend, Prison Sissy Sex Slave, Grocery Store Gang Bang... You get the picture and no offense to these authors - these titles and (probably) content belong under Erotica while mine (and more I saw lumped under Erotica) belong under Romance Erotica. There's a huge difference between a stroke-off and a Romance Erotica - both have its literary merits, I'm in no way down-talking Erotica here, I've even written a few that are unpublished yet - but a lot of retailers don't see a difference. It's gay sex, so it must be Erotica!

Okay, so my stories were doomed to hang out with the true Erotica titles. But hey! Farther down the page was a Romance category! I checked to see if there was a Gay sub-category there. They had Erotica sub-category! That's Romance Erotica, so maybe they have Gay under there...but they didn't. Of course, the male/female stories get their very own plethora of Romance sub-categories while the Gay & Lesbian get chucked under Erotica. Nothing new here. It's been this way ever since LGBT literature existed. Smashwords, I'm deeply disappointed. 

So I thought, hey, what about all those sub-genres of LGBT fiction out there. Most of them are Romances (and a lot of them containing some level of Erotic content) with sub-categories of: Sci-Fi, Historical, Paranormal, Horror, Action & Suspense, Holiday, Fantasy, Humor, Mystery, not to mention all the hundreds and hundreds of Westerns (gay cowboys, anyone?). But was there a "Gay" under these categories? Of not! 

So, a reader's option, when looking for Gay Lit, is to search through an impossibly long list of titles in the Gay & Lesbian - Gay (and no sub-cats like Historical, Sci-Fi, Horror, etc.), or Erotica - Gay Erotica (and I still insist that people who are looking for gay literature - erotic or not - do not go searching under Erotica to find them unless they know to look for them there, or unless EVERY category (Historical, Romance, Sci-Fi, etc.) has a Gay sub-category).

Yes, I'm probably being harsh writing only about Smashwords here. To their credit, they do have LGBT under Young Adult (not many do that). The reason I write about Smashwords specifically is because I always figured they were different, more open, more inclusive than other retailers. They're groundbreaking, they're iconic, they fight for writers. It breaks my heart to discover that, in the end, they're might just be like all the others when it comes to LGBT literature...  

If there are any retailers reading this. Please, please reconsider your cataloging of LGBT titles. Most (If not all) of you are behind times. There's been an explosion of LGBT titles in the past years and as things are now, it is extremely difficult to search through all the thousands and thousands of LGBT titles to find, for example, the most recent Sci-Fi title. I know you each have your own way of cataloging your titles, and you have very limited sub-categories, but I recommend using one (or both) of these methods:

This one's more politically correct. Have a sub-genre of Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Bisexual under each of your main categories (or as a sub-sub genre if you have Paranormal under Romance - so Romance - Paranormal - GayRomance - Paranormal - Lesbian). Historical - Gay, Sci-Fi - Gay, Horror - Gay (yes, there are gay horror stories out there and they're damn good). Please be aware that most people looking for Lesbian literature are NOT looking for Gay (as in male/male). Please also be aware that there's a big difference between Erotica and Romance Erotica.

This one's easier for people to find what they're looking for - at least at first, while they're getting used to the changes of LGBT literature being included in mainstream categories. Have an LGBT main genre, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Bisexual under that (and again, people looking for Transgender are NOT looking for Lesbian - it's not the same thing even though we're fighting for rights under the same umbrella), and then sub-sub categories of romance, erotica, romance erotica (or erotic romance - whichever way you wish to call it), Historical, Sci-Fi, Western, Paranormal, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic etc. etc. So, LGBT - Gay - Historical, LGBT - Lesbian - Sci-Fi, LGBT - Transgender - Contemporary, etc.

Personally, I recommend you do both, so readers have it easier to find what they're looking for. That's the point after all, right? The reason I usually stick to LGBT specific sales sites is because it's easier to find what I'm looking for. I just don't have the time to scroll through titles and titles of mixed sub-genres (or titles that aren't even cataloged under LGBT - like Erotica when I'm looking for a Romance Erotica). Don't wait too long and don't ignore this. This is a market increasing at a spiraling rate and I can only see it exploding further with all the changes in the USA today and in the future. Do you really want to miss sales because your cataloging is outdated? 

Header image by plrang via Stock.xchng.com (free stock images)

17 comments:

  1. It is frustrating and upsetting. Your work deserves to be found easily and enjoyed. No words of wisdom from me... just hugs, z.

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    1. Thanks, Z. Not only thinking about my own work here though. I've started many, many blog posts on this topic, but today I got the fire to really do it. It was just disappointing. Who knows, maybe Smashwords will change it one day. I still have a little faith in them. They did go all out in the fight against Paypal. If I remember correctly, Mark Coker even met with them personally to talk about the matter and that's when Paypal changed their stance. I don't think they would have without Mark's involvement. Or at least it would have taken much longer.

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  2. I have no words of Wisdom just more bad news.. Paypal is going rounds again about this Genra and its about to get bad for everyone all over again and this time i dont think Paypal is going to back down.. Its truly sick and sad in this day and age.

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    1. I meant Genre I dont know why I didnt caught that before I hit publish

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    2. Ugh, they are? I didn't know. That just gets my hackles up. Gha!

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  3. Erica, you do not have to have it under erotica simply because it has sex in it. I self-pubbed my story, and never categorized it as erotica. Ask the publisher to recategorize it, or it will receive the stigma of erotica.

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    1. Thanks Julie, I'll see what she'll say.

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  4. Hi, Erica,

    I can understand your frustration. However, as someone who writes erotica as well as romance, I have to say my definitions are different from yours. Erotica is definitely not "sex only, with no romance", or at least that's not the main criterion for the distinction. Erotica tends to be focused somewhat differently, more on the immediate experience than the growing relationship, and especially, erotica often doesn't have a HEA.

    A lot of what is getting electronically shelved as erotica is these days basically porn. Not at all commensurate.

    Anyway, I definitely agree that romance readers are going to be looking elsewhere for your books. But as some of the other commenters have mentioned, you may have some control over where they put you - especially at Smashwords.

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    1. Thanks Lisabet :)

      Yes, the definition seems to differ for many people. Yours sounds more correct than mine. Either way, my stories don't fit under the category (although one of the unpublished ones I have definitely fits under the category).

      You're right that a lot of what's being shelved under Erotica is basically porn (not that I'm down-talking porn either - I very much enjoy porn ^.^). I guess that's why there was a need for a new genre, the Romance Erotica genre, because by what's being shelved today, "erotica" appears not to be the same as it was some years ago. Things evolve with time, nothing wrong with that.

      Regardless (and this is my main complaint), wherever my books are shelved, the lack of genre shelves for LGBT titles is still lacking and I'm hoping that'll change in the near future. So far, I only have contemporary titles and even though they can't directly be shelved under "Romance" with most retailers, they definitely couldn't be shelved under "Historical", if they were historical books. I can only imagine the frustration of people who write genre-specific books like that, not being able to shelve them properly. Or just the frustration of readers of genre-specific titles not to be able to find the latest Gay Sci-Fi (so even if the title can be shelved twice - under Gay and then under Historical with all the m/f titles, I still won't be able to cross-search the two to find the title).

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  5. You do realize that you don't have to choose just ONE category, don't you? You can choose at least two. I have several of my books in both Gay Fiction and Erotica > Gay. No problems.

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    1. I actually don't know how many times a title can be shelved at these various retailer places. It's my publisher who handles the shelving. Thanks for pointing it out, I'll see if my publisher will change it for me.

      The main problem still remains though, that shelving of sub-genres in LGBT literature is seriously lacking (everywhere - I was looking closer at B&N yesterday and sure, there was Gay under Erotica, but there wasn't Gay under Romance. What they're insinuating by that is just insulting for LGBT people, although they probably haven't put much thought into this).

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    2. They allow two categories for each book and an unlimited number of tags. Having had a career in database management, I can understand the issues that face them. If you look at the number of tags people have created (because they're free to define whatever they want), you'll see thousands of them. Even looking for the 'gay' tags brings up hundreds, because everybody who adds a book wants to make a unique category for it. You'll find things like "gay cowboys and aliens shifter menage" and every possible mis-spelling of it.

      I'm not saying you're wrong in wanting a gay romance category - hell, that's where most of my books probably belong - but I do understand why this isn't such a simple thing for Smashwords to contemplate. One of the problems with the Internet as a whole these days is that so much of the content is user-generated (and you could put Smashwords in that category) but there is almost no real curation of the content. That requires real human beings who know at least something about the subject matter to sort through it, and who could afford that?

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  6. Great post Erica. I knew we were over at Smashwords but I didn't notice where Under the Gun was.

    I recently did my self pub and placed it under gay erotica and gay and lesbian fiction. I think you can only pick 3 categories.

    I hear ya though. A lot of LGBT is not categorized correctly. Wish they'd all fix it across the board

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  7. I have ranted on this subject before, not just with regard to Smashwords but generally. We're supposed to have equality of orientation. In the UK it's actually illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, but it's a load of bull when it comes to literature.

    Take a look in the bookshops. Where are the books with GBLT characters? They're stuffed together on a shelf hidden away at the back.

    I was once told i was irresponsible for listing a story as Contemporary Romance when I 'should have' listed it as 'gay' or 'm/m' because people searching through the stories/books were entitled to assume they were straight unless otherwise informed and might be offended. what the hell?? Anyone else smell homophobia?

    Sorry. This is just a HUGE red button for me.

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    1. I know! I walked through B&N in Albuquerque and didn't find a single m/m title. Was hoping to see something by the big guns there, but nothing.

      Don't worry about ranting, this is a huge neon-red button for me as well. It's also illegal here in Iceland to discriminate, so I'm finding it very hard to "sympathize" with countries where there's actual open discrimination taking place. Doesn't matter on which platform - open racist/homophobic remarks on TV/street signs or inequality in online cataloging.

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  8. I have to chime in because I share your frustration with the gay=erotica thing. My book contains no descriptions of sex at all, besides mentioning that sex took place, and it is consistently labeled as erotica. I think this is all based on some old fashioned notion that the very idea of men being intimate is pornographic. I even wrote a snarky blog post about this: http://lauraleeauthor.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/how-to-be-a-pornographer-without-really-trying/

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    1. Jeez, I'd go ballistic! But yes, you're probably right. It's probably not that the retailers are deliberately trying to discriminate, it's probably more that they're unenlightened. Well, I'm going to do my best to try to enlighten them (via letter, which tons of people before me have probably already done...).

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