Saturday, May 05, 2007

What a week for Romance Land

It's been a great week for blog watchers :

The RT conference finished up, and when everyone got home they found out about Laura Baumbach and other authors/publishers involved in m/m publishing being treated unfairly. I've read a couple of her books, and they have been nice reads, but I'm going to be a touch cynical--and I'm NOT siding with the Hyatt or RT here, Ms Baumbach should have had as many rights as every other conference goer--but Ms Baumbach couldn't pay for advertising this good. I'm sure, like Carol Lynne of this weeks Ben's Wildflower fame, her books have been flying off the electronic shelf.

I feel a bit bad for Carol Lynne. Reviews done by some reasonably prominent bloggers (not review sites, but personal blogs) have been fairly scathing, and have in turn exploded into an all out knickers-in-a-twist series of rants against Ellora's Cave. This has little to do with her personally as she's at the whim of her publisher and editor now she signed on that dotted line, and with a dirth of 'EC is the big bad nasty' and personal attacks against EC staffers, I can't help but think that this bad publicity, while good for this book because everyone's snapping it up to see what all the fuss is about, is not going to be so good for her next releases when everyone goes 'oooh, I remember her and that big EC stink, she sucked'.

The old adage says bad publicity is good publicity, but in this instance I can only see it as just being plain bad. I read her first book in this series, and while I didn't jump up and down, I had planned to get the next (I'm a martyr for a series ... well, except for Anita Blake, I just had to stop), and I will (cause I'm a series whore--bad or not). I really hope she gets a chance to work with a good editor who can help her improve her craft, not leave her open for more ridicule.

And that moves us on to the 'Ellora's Cave, WTF?' section of the week.

Karen Scott
was the naughty blogger at the center of all the scandal. She started the ball rolling with her review of Carol Lynne's Ben's Wildflower, which morphed into a 'EC sucks lately' rant by readers. Karen followed up on her commenter's replies with a new post of her own, which asked the big question 'WTF is up with EC lately?'. This in turn bought out the Big Guns of Romance Land, aka Kathryn Falk, Lady Barrow, owner of RT mag, who stated, if I may paraphrase as the post was very long winded and rambled all over the show "As women we need to be nice to one another. If a book is not good, you must must suck it up, forget about the money you just spent and smile and tell the author how wonderful it was."

Yes, well...

Of course there is the whole problem that anyone, can be well, anyone out there in blog land. A new name is only a gmail account away. The claims made in the now infamous post by Ms Falk needed confirmation, so some Smart Bitches reached out and touched somebody, and were unfortunately left with more questions than answers, even though they went direct to the horses mouth. Other bloggers got in touch with the head offices of RT in an effort to confirm or deny culpability, and were floored by RT's response that they agreed with the poster--bloggers are nasty, nasty creatures and indeed need to be wiped from the face of the earth. Alright, I made that up, that wasn't the word for word response, but as a reader, that's the impression I was left with. And my RT subscription bill is sitting right beside me on the table...

Now this is where it starts to get tricky. RT also have a finger in the Laura Baumbach incident--they (in this instance Carol Stacey) continue to insist that their readers are not at all interested in gay romance (erotic or not)--and pulled out the 'If she gets such a bum deal from us why does she continue to advertise with us or attend our conference' line. And I agree with all the posters, despite the grief she gets from that publication, RT mag hits a target audience (though with that cynical hat on again, I wonder how much is advertising effect and how much is the gossip mill grinding--either way RT is fucking expensive, somethings making it worthwhile for her).

Then it gets a little more convoluted--Lady Barrow is being published by Ellora's Cave with their new Lotus Circle Imprint, and is hissing at all comers like my Siamese at the new kitten we got this week. I think I read that members of EC are at a retreat with her, recovering from RT last week.

Okay, I'm feeling decidedly left out here, I want to be in someones pocket damn it!

I also have absofuckinglutely no idea what The Lotus Circle is about. Does anyone? If you do, please, please let me in on it. I had thought initially that it was to be a new take on world building--the publisher has created a world and then you create a storyline withing that world (which revolves around psychic stuffs in this instance)--but after seeing the website, I have a feeling that is not the idea at all.

Claims of interference in ms have been leveled at EC by some parties, and that they have taken a stance to 'dumb down' literature for the masses by removing commas, colons, and semi-colons left and right. (Hell, I should fit right in judging by all the little red comma's B has to place all over my ms's, though I'm sure they'd kick me right back out for over generous usage of semi-colons). If you want a little insight to the EC machine, take a gander at Tina Engler's guide to authors found in the back of the Authors guide found on the submissions page. I have to admit I raised eyebrows at a few things.

Personally, as a reader who spends literally thousands (please don't let on to hubby how much I really spend) on books a year, and would have spent a good, oh, easily $500 bucks at EC over the last few years, I'm going to jump on the crap bandwagon--though I see now that a certain editor might be the source of my discontent. I used to buy at least a title a week, usually 2 or 3, even 4 or 5 if BDSM wasn't the predominant genre that week, now I'm lucky to buy 2-3 a month (though I see this Friday's releases have some authors I like reading, I'm going to blow that statement out of the water). An over abundance of BDSM turned me off to begin with, now it's other things.

If I didn't love my little laptop like it was my second child, I would have done a traditional wallbanger with some of the crap I've bought from EC recently. There has been more than one that I've though should have been marketed with the Exotika title attached, because it was no more than porn wrapped in a thinly veiled story. I know, as a writer, I shouldn't be saying boo about the biggest ePublisher out there, but as a reader who very rarely goes a day without reading a book (or two, or three), I really want my voice to be heard.

I've made the decision that if I think it's crap--no matter who the publisher--I'm going to complain. It's not likely to get my money back, but at least it might prompt some people to do some thinking.

Unlike Ms Falk, I do care about wasting my money on bad books. And as an author, I would like the courtesy of people telling me they thought it was bad--but then I think I might be in a minority on that front, for some reason I'm a bit of a masochist about wanting to improve my writing skills.

So it was quite the week, huh? Even my hubby laughed at some of the antics, and I think he's close to asking if he can read Ben's Wildflower after hearing all the reviews I've read to him. Considering he's never read a full ms of mine, Ms Lynne is one up on me!


Tempest Knight said...

I didn't know about this until someone posted about it on Romance Divas. What a hoopla! As for RT, it seems that its refusal to deal with homosexual (gay or lesbian) romance stories have made a few epublishers pull their ads from them.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I've been following this and think that everyone, especially those of us in America, SHOULD speak up about what we think. Hello, Freedom of Speech.

That said, there are a million issues here. The biggest is that EC has a reputation as a great e-publisher to maintain and they should be doing everything they can to uphold that reputation. They run a business, after all, so it's all about revenue. They owe it to their readers, their writers, themselves, and any investors to bring us the best possible product.

Then again, we ALL owe it to ourselves, our readers, our friends, our families; etc. to constantly challenge ourselves and raise the bar as to what "the best" means.

I hope that doesn't come off as prudish; I mean it more as a challenge.

Emily Veinglory said...

I took the Lotus Circle thing as world building but it veers periodically into the territory of genuine spooky fruitloops stuff. It blends genuine occult non-fic with fic in a perplexing way.

Anne Douglas said...

Perplexing is about right, Emily. And Susan I don't think you're wrong to expect a certain standard both in what you read and what you produce. Makes perfect sense to me.

Gina, Book Dragon said...

Re: Carol Lynne - Men in Love series. After reading the first book, I expected something similiar from the rest. The only reason Ben's Wildflower had the m/m warning on it was because the neighbors were unable to keep their hands to themselves. I liked the first one better just for that but I'm a sucker for m/m/f

I will NEVER tell an author I liked her book if I didn't. I'm trying to tell them when I do.

I too use to purchase 2 or 3 from EC a week (yikes, my husband does know how much I spend on ebooks!) but I've moved most of my purchases to other epublishers.