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.