Monday, May 07, 2007

Author Discrimination: It Touches Everyone Who Picks Up a Book.

Discrimination against authors affects everyone. That discrimination can start a chain of events that moves along on the momentum of complacency, and eventually prevents that book from finding its way into your hands.

Laura Baumbach, a M/M romance author who attended the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Houston, Texas dealt with this very issue a few weeks ago. She has written about it on her Blog.

Once you're done reading her entry, go to the comments -- the RT defense is interesting, to say the least.

The more I thought about this situation over the past week, the more troublesome it seemed. Ms. Baumbach writes M/M romance, which RT claims is not their "target audience." As a result, RT had no problem removing her promotional materials from the convention tables -- at the convention she paid to attend.

The first question that pops to mind is this: If M/M romance is not their "target audience," why in the world would RT accept her money and then run ads on her behalf, promoting her M/M romance novels? And why would they accept her money to attend a convention, where, presumably, their "target audience" will not be interested in anything Ms. Baumbach has to offer?

Ca-ching, ca-ching, baby.

About the promotional materials, I wonder: If she wrote straight erotic romance, or even F/F romance, would her materials have been removed? If the photograph on her promotional materials was of a naked woman tastefully covered with a sheet, would it have been removed? I seriously doubt it. However, a naked man tastefully covered with a sheet? Apparently we cannot have such things available for viewing, especially at a Booklover's Convention filled with consenting adults.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The problem is much bigger than the double-standards in this situation.

If you think this doesn't affect you, think again. If you read books, discrimination toward an author at ANY level of the publishing game directly affects you. Tasteful promotional materials not allowed at a networking function like the RT convention? That means less people know about that author's work. That leads to less opportunity to get the word out to you. That equates to less sales, which means bookstores won't pick up the title as readily. That means an empty space on the bookshelf, filled with another book which has been deemed "more appropriate" by some powers-that-be. Those powers-that-be are made up of people who don't know you at all, who assume you like what they have deemed "mainstream." Your choices are suddenly limited.

The sad part is, you wouldn't even realize it unless the author kicked up a big fuss, long and loud and rowdy, to let you know someone ELSE chose for you -- long before you had a chance to choose for yourself.

It happens more often than you can imagine. The only way to fight against it is to make your voice heard, loud and crystal clear, and hopefully the voices of bigots will be drowned out by the voices of those who truly give a damn.

You don't like M/M romance? That's fine. It's your choice. But that's the key -- it's your CHOICE. How would you feel about having that choice taken away from you?

Ms. Baumbach has my full support, and I hope she has yours, too.

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