GayRomLit and ‘Must-Have’ Authors

Apologies for the double-post today, but this one couldn’t wait. I’m sure some of you by now have seen the recent press release from GRL regarding the registration for October’s con in Atlanta. For those of you who haven’t see it yet, here’s the highlights.

GayRomLit is an annual reader-focused retreat dedicated to the celebration and advancement of LGBT romance. Designed by authors for readers, GRL’s mission is to connect readers to the authors they love and the ones they have yet to fall for within a safe, supportive, affordable, and fabulous environment. Our motto is that GayRomLIt [sic] is where romance comes out and the tribe comes together. [Emphasis mine]

That’s a noble and exciting event. Who doesn’t get a bit giggly meeting someone whose books they’ve devoured? I get the warm-fuzzies just getting a tweet from some authors, so if I were to meet them in real life no doubt I would be reduced to a big pile of wibbly fangurl goo. And all across the web, in both reader and author circles, excitement has been building about GRL. I know a number of authors who planned on attending – not just as an author, but as a reader – to meet their own heroes of our little genre, and I was even toying with the idea of attending myself.

However, imagine the disappointment this morning when we read on…

The GRL organizers are united in our insistence this cost fall as little as possible as the true stars of our show: the readers. We want readers to spend their money on books, not airfare, hotels, and registrations. We never want to see readers turned away because of the event’s cost…Authors cannot be the main anchor for the conference, but they too must bear their share of support if this is truly to be a reader-focused event.

So wait, what, authors and publishers are footing the (majority of) the bill for the con? Okay, I can see the point that this is reader-focused and keeping the entry price low will encourage them to attend but let’s face it, us authors aren’t millionaires. Personally, if I were organising an event whose costs were starting to look prohibitive, I’d scale back somewhere. Change the venue; change the catering; go easy on the pretty logos and the all-singing, all-dancing website and get the whole thing a bit more streamlined – but whatever, I’m not organising it.

What was GRL’s solution?

Since one of the most overwhelming comments in the surveys was that readers (and authors) would like to see the author number capped, we’ve had to redesign what being a featured author means at GRL and make sure that the increased fee is worth paying by customizing spotlights more mindfully. We’ve also taken the list of must-have authors that you the readers have given us and are doing our best to pre-register them before the general author registration begins.  [Emphasis mine]

So let’s make sure we get this straight. What GRL are saying, in a nutshell, is:

  • The event was getting too expensive for your average reader to attend, and publishers alone aren’t covering the cost so authors are going to have to chip in.
  • Authors who attended last year thought there were too many authors there, so the number of authors allowed to attend has been capped.
  • Out of the authors allowed to attend, the organisers have a ‘must-have’ list that they are going to pre-register for the event to ensure their place is guaranteed.
  • The rest of us can go fuck ourselves.

Sorry, editorial! But that’s kinda how I’m reading it. The event is too expensive, author participation fees are therefore going to increase (but they haven’t said by how much) and despite the fact that as an author you’re funding the damn thing, if you’re not on their special list then you’re not allowed in. Explain to me how that fits with their opening statement:  Our motto is that GayRomLIt [sic] is where romance comes out and the tribe comes together.

I think anyone who has ever dabbled even slightly in the wonderful world of m/m knows that this is a cliquey genre at the best of times. There’s always an in-crowd. This attitude just serves to encourage that, and readers and authors alike are outraged this morning. Who, pray tell, compiled this list? GRL say it came from a questionnaire handed out at the 2012 con, but I’ve spoken to an awful lot of attendees who didn’t see it. There’s also the small matter of the authors who have published books in the year since the last con that won’t have had a chance to be included. That list, by October, will be twelve months out of date.

Then there’s the fact that one man’s meat is another’s poison. Some of the best books I’ve read were by authors with only one book published, or who have zero clout in this genre. Doesn’t mean they’re not wonderful authors, and it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t melt into aforesaid goo if I ever got to meet them. What gives anyone the right to say who the ‘must-have’ authors are for me?

There’s also some wider questions regarding this event (which, I admit, I’ve heard of but not paid a massive amount of attention to prior to this year when people I knew started talking about attending).

  • GRL is run by authors, by their own admission. What is the extent of their involvement financially, and are they on the magic list?
  • Is GRL an event run for profit? If so, who profits and how much money do they make (or forecast making this year)?
  • Is GRL affiliated with any third party publishers and/or organisations? What is the extent of their involvement if it is?
  • Do the ‘must-have’ authors still have to pay the standard registration fee that the other authors will be charged? Do all authors get the same publicity at the event?

If the organisers are arbitrarily vetting the very attendees that they claim will be shouldering much of the burden of the event, I think a bit of transparency is in order. Sadly, both GRL’s blog and website are pretty opaque about matters managerial and financial. Their Facebook page is no more forthcoming, either.

Don’t mistake me, I think events like this are a great idea. I’m sure the organisers have worked tirelessly to put it together, always with the best of intentions. But there is a world of difference between organising a get-together and running a business. And if I’m going to pay through the nose to attend an event that promotes our whole genre then I want to be sure that’s what’s happening. From where I’m sitting, it looks far more like I’d be paying to host a promotional event for the organisers and their friends to the exclusion of all others. Right now, I can think of better ways to spend my money.

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13 replies on “GayRomLit and ‘Must-Have’ Authors”

  1. Carole-Ann says:

    Oh, well said!

    I’m only a reader, but am still embarrassed by this faux pas. Any author on the pre-register list will feel awful, and will probably refuse the invite because many of their “friends” have been left out in the cold. It’s still a ‘small world’ of m/m writers and I feel sorry for every one of them that this has happened.

    It would be very interesting to find out if there are any financial differences for the pre-register authors and any others 🙂

    Thank you for this, Kate
    *Hugs*
    Carole-Ann

    • Kate Aaron says:

      I also think the line between ‘author’ and ‘reader’ is a lot less distinct than some people seem to think. Yes I’m an author, but I’ve got 2000 m/m books on my kindle. I read literally hundreds of books last year, paid for with my own money, and I’ll read as many again this year. Don’t we have a voice as readers? There’s still authors whose work I adore and who I would love to meet.

      And yes, I’d love to know what the registration fee (if any) is for the 30 “must-have”s. Especially as the authors are subsidising the entry fee.

  2. What’s got me curious is this new “each to their own ability” thing with the publishers.

    I’m wondering if the super-special-snowflake authors who will be invited just happen to be the headliners for the publishers who pony up the most money.

    That could be my bitter, paranoid, inner conspiracy theorist talking.

  3. This isn’t even taking into account the readers who may decide not to attend because they’re a fan of the “smaller” authors. Why would they want to pony up the cash if they don’t get to see their favorites? Sure, they’ll get to find out about other authors, but I know that I wouldn’t want to pay out the nose to go to a convention where I won’t even get to meet the authors I most want to see.

    • Kate Aaron says:

      Absolutely. GRL say they’re putting the readers first, but they’re denying them the opportunity to meet the authors they want to meet because they haven’t made some arbitrary list. And whatever happened to discovering new authors at these events? It’s a real shame for all who wanted to attend.

  4. Well, I’m thoroughly disgusted. Yes, it was originally designed as an author retreat, hence the name Gay Rom Lit Retreat. I convinced two readers to pony up their dough and room with me at GRL this year because I went last year. I think it’s wonderful to have readers at these things. I talk to authors and readers every day.

    And, as you so eloquently said, you are also a reader. Hello?????? (echo) We all began as readers. I read over 1500 MM books in my Kindle and I paid for every darned one of them. Just disgusted. Did I say that? Just disgusted

  5. I’d considered attended this year for the first time, but couldn’t because of previous vacation plans. Not too sorry now, though! You bring up some great points, especially re: financial transparency.

    I can understand the need to cap the number of authors, although as you noted, many authors (including me) are also readers. But sure, cap the number of official author registrations if it’ll help con organization, etc. I can understand that. But who thought it was a good idea to publically state that there’s a preferential “must-have” list of authors? I mean, seriously? Anyone who thought that would end anything but very badly must be new here to planet Earth. This is basic stuff. People don’t like being excluded. It upsets them and makes them angry. This is as it has ever been, and ever shall be!

    • Kate Aaron says:

      There was an author cap last year as well, and I don’t remember anyone complaining about that. An author cap, in theory, is a sound idea – especially if you want to move the purpose of GRL to becoming more reader-focused. However, there are ways and ways of going about implementing that cap. The heavy-handed method GRL adopted managed to insult both the authors planning to attend, and the readers who wanted to meet them.

  6. Louisa Bacio says:

    Hmmm, I missed the press release. Does that mean I’m not even on that list? 😉 I’ve been to the first two. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was going to make this year. Three conferences in Georgia was going to bit much for this SoCal author. I was going to pass on RWA Nationals, but since I’m serving as President of my local chapter, I kinda have to go.

    I hope it all works out for all authors, and all readers, alike.

    • Kate Aaron says:

      I hope it works out, too. In the past all I’ve heard is praise for GRL, but I think they need to be much clearer than they have been about what their purpose is.

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