Erin and I are just back from RainbowCon and trying to catch up with everything in the many lives that we both live. But I wanted to get down some quick thoughts about what we learned from the event, while they were still relatively fresh in our heads.
1. Everyone wants to be welcoming — not everyone knows how. That’s okay. This is basically what it says on the tin, and is directed at me as much as anyone else. Connecting with pre-existing communities is hard. Letting people into pre-existing communities is hard. This went for the con, where it often seemed like everyone already knew each other, and our own little group of friends and partners.
3. Swag is super cool, but I am not sure it matters in the end. Lots of people brought incredibly cool giveaways designed to get people’s interest, start conversations, and retain their attention, but I was overwhelmed by the stuff I needed to bring home, the stuff I didn’t feel good about throwing away, the stuff I didn’t need cluttering my apartment, and a general sense of horror at the environmental impact.
4. On the continuing issue of paperback demand.
4. On the continuing issue of paperback demand.From the beginning people have told me people don’t buy paperbacks in this genre. I have largely not had this experience, selling well at a number of events. This was the first time that paperbacks didn’t sell well for us. We did have some sales, and our digital numbers were fantastic during and after con, but we brought too much stuff on the plane. There’s a real difference I’ve found in how people buy paperbacks in the M/M romance vs. gay lit spaces. Also, look, no one has room in their luggage.
5. Some books need to find the right audience. Other books just need to find the audience. We knew this, but we keep learning this. Love in Los Angeles works for particular readers, some of whom are in the M/M audience space, many of whom are not. The Love’s Labours books are way more accessible to way more people, especially in the M/M space. So there it’s less a matter of finding the exact right people and just letting folks know it’s out there. We are still trying to figure out how to do both. Everyone can say that their books aren’t quite like everyone else’s books, but specificity matters. And we’re still working on that.
6. The wall betwee F/F and M/M needs to stop. I get it. Not everyone who reads M/M wants to read F/F and vice versa. But the disparaging remarks, the disgust about bodies that don’t turn you on (and I notice this directed at female bodies and F/F and M/F fiction more than at male bodies and M/M fiction) really needs to chill out. Also debates about whether lesbians or gay men have it harder out there. These things aren’t clear cut. Can we all at least act like we’re on the same team regardless of how wide or narrow our reading tastes?
7. Identity and writing LGBTQ (romance) fiction. I’ve written about this before, and the issue isn’t going away for me any time soon. I do think anyone should write anything and hopefully do research and figure out how to write the stories they want to write as best they can and then the audience and marketplace and reviewers will make decisions about how that went. And look, I get it really sucks having to keep what you write or read a secret. I am trying to have all the sympathy in the world about that. And I do get how such things could give a straight person who reads LGBTQ fiction insight into the experience of being closeted. But it’s not the same thing, and I would like it if sometimes people could be a little bit more thoughtful about this.
8. Professionalism and family atmosphere — I think we need to think about how we can have both. My nature is to default to a certain sort of professionalism. I over- rather than under- dress. I speak in a businesslike way. I prepare for panels. This isn’t good or bad, because sometimes it’s a defense mechanism. But I really think that while I have to work on the friendly and accessible thing, our community as a whole would benefit from some more attention to professionalism. Family/community atmosphere and professionalism don’t have to be in opposition. We can be accessible and familiar and a well-oiled machine. We just all have to do work to get there.
9. “Everyone is interesting.” Author Heather Rose Jones said this to us when she joined us at dinner out last night at the conference and it really stuck out to me, both because it’s completely true, and because it’s a way to come at what’s socially/culturally foreign to you without judgement. It’s a way of listening, and spurring on conversation, and I wish we had had that conversation at the beginning of the con instead of the end. Because let’s be fair, I was absolutely out of my element in a number of ways at this event, and I didn’t always know how to navigate it.
10. Managing expectations. Basic life skill. Expect nothing. Seek everything. Rejoice in the results.