Eliza Andrews is in the house. As of writing this post, she wins in the category of longest title featured on the site: ANIKA TAKES THE LONG WAY HOME UP SOUL MOUNTAIN. And, she’s giving away one copy to a very lucky winner. Details can be found below.
Please welcome Eliza Andrews.
Lesfic Authors (and Readers), Unite!
Have you ever heard the public radio segment titled “This I believe”? It consists of various types of people who read essays about one belief they hold dearly that informs their lives. One belief that I cherish dearly is that fiction has the power to change lives.
I know that writing and reading fiction has changed my own life, sometimes in dramatic ways. I could write several posts just on that topic alone, but I will spare you the autobiography and stick instead to having us think specifically about how lesfic has the power to change lives.
– When people aren’t out yet or are working through their coming out process, reading and watching LGBTQ literature and cinema can be extremely important. They can connect with people like them; they can open a window into a world that they want to explore; they can process their own complex feelings by reading or watching someone else process their feelings.
– When LGBTQ people live in isolation, such as in a family that rejects their queer identity, in a town where LGBTQ people are invisible, or in a country where being queer is still physically dangerous (cough, the United States, cough), queer fiction gives them a lifeline to hang onto, a connection to a community they don’t otherwise have access to.
– The more mainstream LGBTQ literature and cinema that’s out there, the more society starts to shift its attitudes towards queer people in general. Most of us have probably lived long enough to see dramatic changes in attitudes towards queer people; let’s keep that momentum going.
Lesfic Authors, We’ve Got to Do Better at Working Together.
Before I started writing in the lesfic genre, I wrote in mainstream young adult, mainly focusing on urban fantasy. I got a one-star review once on one of my novels, principally because the reader objected to the fact that my protagonist was a gay teen starting to work through her coming out process. That review made me realize that I was avoiding writing LGBTQ books, because I somehow thought that writing mainstream fiction with mainly straight characters was what I “should” be doing. When I got that review, I was like, “You know what? Screw this. I’m going to write for people like me.”
But when I came into the lesfic genre, I discovered some things that surprised and disheartened me. A. E. Radley touched on some of these points in the IHeartLesfic.com post about her new Lesbian Fiction Directory, but let me bring out some of her points more directly:
1) We should be in cooperation, not in competition, with one another.
Even if you are an extremely prolific author, putting out a book every six or eight weeks (!), your readers can devour your work faster than you can write it. Therefore, when you support another author, you are not supporting your “competition,” because a reader can easily read both your work and another author’s work faster than either of you can put out another novel.
Instead, you need to see supporting other authors, and projects like A. E. Radley’s directory, as networking — you introduce your audience to them, they introduce their audience to you. In turn, both of you reach more readers and increase the visibility of the lesfic genre as a whole.
In the YA space, authors seem to understand this. They are enthusiastic about working together on almost everything, including, for example, producing multi-author boxed sets. I’ve watched them perfect their process to a science, using these boxed sets to (very successfully!) make themselves USA Today bestselling authors.
But why have I never seen a multi-author boxed set of lesfic authors? What’s the reluctance in networking and working together all about?
I started a Facebook group called the Lesfic Marketing Alliance to bring together authors who want to network with each other, and it has certainly borne some fruit, but I’m gonna be honest with you: Getting authors to participate and cooperate is like herding cats or pulling teeth — or herding cats and then pulling their teeth. But why? We should be working together more, being as innovative as other genres, putting together work for our readers that lift the genre as a whole.
2) For the love of pete, get more professional with your marketing.
Look, my fellow lesfic authors, I got nuthin’ but love for ya, but some of your book covers look like you designed them in Microsoft Paint. Heck, maybe you *did* design them in Paint!
I have this feeling that, for too long, the lesfic genre in literature and cinema has seen itself as second-class, and so it has been content to produce second-class work. I mean, is there anyone out there who can’t name at least two or three lesbian movies that didn’t leave you with the sick feeling of disappointment for Our People as a whole?
It’s like we’ve been conditioned to accept things that are second-rate, giving a pass to things we normally wouldn’t accept because we feel somehow obligated to support bad art just because it’s been produced by our fellow queer women. So we get second-rate covers. We get authors who refuse to invest the time and money to learn about proper email marketing or professional websites. Occasionally, we get an utter disregard for editing. And then there’s one of my personal pet peeves: Authors who post their books again and again to the same few Facebook lesfic book groups even when it’s a well-known marketing fact that screaming again and again “Buy my book!” via social media is a losing strategy. Doing it once to announce the arrival of a new release, okay, that makes sense. But several times per week, week after week? Really? Please don’t tell me that’s your entire marketing strategy.
Authors, I am down on my knees, begging of you:
(1) Unless you are an actual Photoshop expert, invest in a professionally designed cover.
(2) Learn about email marketing from experts like Nick Stephenson or Bryan Cohen.
(3) Invest in a professional-looking website, such as by buying a premium WordPress theme (WordPress is *not* hard to learn).
(4) Start thinking about how you can network with other authors. Lez be innovative!
(5) If you don’t know how to do some of these things (like creating a WordPress or similarly professional website), ask your fellow lesfic authors to help. Join a group like the Lesfic Marketing Alliance, or another group. Band together to make things better.
3) Stop thinking that this genre is small or contracting. It’s big and it’s expanding.
In that lesfic Facebook group I mentioned above, there was some discussion a while back about whether or not the market for lesfic is expanding or contracting. I can answer that easily: It’s expanding. I don’t have a shred of verifiable data to support my claim. I just know that it expands if we work together to make it expand; it contracts if we won’t work together, if we won’t improve the professionalism of the genre as a whole.
There are **plenty** of LGBTQ readers and straight readers out there who want lesfic stories — my guess is that there are probably more than ever before, mainly due to technology. Sites like Amazon make it easier than ever to reach our readers. But we can’t produce a product that, when held up side-by-side to a straight romance, for example, falls short in terms of cover quality, marketing professionalism, and editing.
If we get stuck in a “poverty mentality,” thinking of ourselves as an oddball little niche genre, content to get table scraps compared to books with primarily straight audiences, then yes, we *will* contract the lesfic genre and we *will* get table scraps.
Okay, sorry. I’ll stop ranting now.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. If you’re offended, feel free to yell at me in the comments section, but also ask if you might be offended because my rant applies to you.
The bottom line is that talk is cheap. Excuses are cheap. Rather than discussion and excuses, I’d like to see more of you take action. I’d like to see more authors doing things like A. E. Radley, as she creates her innovative lesfic directory, or Harper Bliss and her wife Caroline, as they work together on the MyLesfic.com project. I’d like more of you to join the Lesfic Marketing Alliance, and those of you who are already members to help innovate and create new projects we can work on together.
To those of you who already understand this message and are working to raise the bar in lesfic, thank you sincerely. To everyone else, get on board and grab an oar. We’ve got some rowing to do.
ANIKA TAKES THE LONG WAY HOME UP SOUL MOUNTAIN
The last thing Anika Singh wants is to go home to Ohio, but when her mother is diagnosed with cancer, what choice does she really have? She’ll go home if she has to, but she won’t stay long. Because all Marcine, Ohio, has for Anika is bad memories.
But between her ex still living in town and the dark-haired beauty she met on the plane (who’s just visiting), Anika starts to ask herself hard questions. Questions about her past, questions about her future. And then there’s the biggest question of all: Is it true what they say, that you can never go home again?
When I started thinking of a new pen name to write fiction featuring lesbian protagonists, I commandeered the name of an ancestor. Eliza Frances Andrews was a southern belle who lived through the Civil War as the privileged daughter of a prominent plantation owner. She became a relatively well-known novelist, essayist, and — get this — botanist.
Borrowing her name is somewhat tongue-in-cheek; Eliza was a hard-core racist and I can only imagine what she would have to say about LGBTQ people. This is my reimagining of Eliza, therefore — an Eliza 2.0, a GenX / Millenial version who grew up after women’s lib and the Civil Rights movement and Stonewall. Perhaps a 21st-century Eliza would grin at me and say, “Right on.” Perhaps the 19th-century Eliza is rolling over in her grave — if she is, call it karmic justice.
Enter here for a chance to win a copy of
ANIKA TAKES THE LONG WAY HOME UP SOUL MOUNTAIN
Thanks Eliza for stopping by.
Best of luck to everyone who enters the giveaway.
Have a great weekend!