drag queens

Gay Halloween; E-book Sales Level; Death of Pen Names

Gay Halloween

My last official post on Halloween for the next full year, I promise. But I saw this article titled, How Gay is Halloween, and figured I’d post one more time. There are a few LGBT historical facts I found interesting as well as an account of how gays wanted to be visible in public post Stonewall.

When Lee started the parade in 1974, gay men were just beginning to gain real militancy. The Stonewall riots were a recent memory, and gay activism was still in its nascent stages. The gay community wanted to be gay in public. Mainstream culture wanted them to be quiet in public. A Halloween parade, then, was a perfect solution for everyone, because it permitted the gays to be as loud as they wanted under certain conditions. For one wild night, the rules of American gender would be temporarily suspended, and gay men could wear all the glitter that they wanted. But come the following morning, the tiaras were put away as gay men prepared for 364 days of heteronormative winter.

The only thing I’d like to add here is that NOT all gay men take Halloween all that seriously. Tony and I used go to Provincetown on Halloween when our one dog was younger and we didn’t put on costumes and we weren’t concerned with being “public.” We were there. We were gay. We had fun watching the bad drag and wearing heavy coats on The Cape. But Halloween isn’t a highly significant holiday for us, at least not like it is for some gay men. And we are by no means closeted gay men. I think it’s important to point these things out as many times as possible so people who are not gay understand there is a great deal of diversity within the gay community that is often overlooked. And let’s face it. Who gets more media attention? The gay attorney who goes to work in a suit, drives a Mercedes, and goes out to a great restaurant on Halloween night to avoid dealing with annoying trick or treaters, or the gay man who puts on lipstick and earrings for Halloween? I’m not being glib about this either. There’s nothing wrong with lipstick and earrings. It’s just not for all of us.

In any event, the article is interesting, with some solid facts.

E-Book Sales Level

The blog post I’m linking to now is long, but it gets into a few interesting points about the e-book boom we’ve experienced in the past few years, self-publishing, and how some authors who were making six figures are not seeing those same numbers anymore. It’s interesting for both authors and readers. But take into consideration that with all pieces like this it is only one person’s opinion and isn’t based on anything solid, and the author admits this openly.

I can’t say this definitively. I could be wrong. This is where I’m going out on a bit of a limb, making a prediction based on intuition and only a smattering of anecdotal evidence. But I’ve now heard enough from writers all across the genres that despite working harder and smarter, putting out more titles, getting better, promoting the smart way, they’re seeing a general decline in sales per title, that I can no longer dismiss it. It’s not seasonal. It’s not temporary. Yes, in a business like this one, there’s always going to be exceptions, individual writers bucking the trend but as an aggregate, the long tail affect has finally arrived. The early adopter eBook bounce is over.

Speaking from my own experience, because of the sub-genre where I focus, I’ve remained basically even with sales for the past five years or so. But I’ve always concentrated more on building a small readership, knowing that what I write is not going to appeal to the masses…at least not yet at this point in my career. In other words, I’m in this alone, and I work alone. I’m a career writer, not a social planner.

The author of the post also gets into the future, and what may or may not happen:

 But if you’re a professional writer, either full time or part time, one who wants to be compensated fairly for his or her work just like any craftsman, things are going to be different going forward. 

Then he gets into quality, and makes it clear his opinions are subjective. The only problem here is that I’ve already seen several comments about this post, and quality, where people who have a problem being subjective have misinterpreted this and they make it sound as if just because an author is prolific he or she doesn’t produce quality books. And that is subjective, highly subjective, and I think it’s important to understand that all authors work at different paces. And those who work slowly can put out some pretty low quality horseshit books, too. I’ve read few.

I had planned to comment more on this post, however, I decided not to do that because it’s an opinion piece and the author of the post makes that clear in several places. But the one thing I would like to comment on is that I would like to see this need to label e-books as something different or unique from print books disappear. E-books are books just like print books are books. This need to differenciate between the two is getting tired.

I also think it’s going to be important for all authors who want to remain relevant in the future to figure out ways to keep reinventing themselves all the time. Publishing nowadays moves at a much faster pace than it did ten or twenty years ago. And in order to keep up with that pace it’s going to mean constant evolution for authors.

Death of Pen Names

This post is also written by the author who wrote the post I linked to above. When I saw it listed on his side bar I couldn’t resist mentioning it. I just posted about this topic recently, once again, because I saw an author in the m/m genre in a video introducing himself with a pen name and it took me by surprise. I couldn’t figure out why he would do that (use a pen name), and I think the blog post I’m linking to now backs me up. I also mentioned a few of my own pen names, something I wouldn’t have done a few years ago.

The post I’m linking to here is a long one, but very interesting. He talks about why he’s going to use his own name now, and why he’s releasing back list titles that origianlly had pen names, with his own name.

It was a bit of work, but it was worth it to me. I can’t deny that maybe a little bit of ego was involved, too. So sue me. My name is my brand. I don’t know what that brand is, exactly, except I can tell you this: You may not like everything I write, but you’ll always get my best effort. I hope that’s enough.

I recently did this myself with several back list titles when e-publisher loveyoudivine.com shuttered its web site after many years in business last June and the rights reverted back to me. I had a few titles with them in different sub-genres and at the time we thought it would be best to use a pen name. I don’t see the point anymore, and I’ve released them with my own name this time. And I’m going to talk with one of my publishers about putting my own name on two books that have pen names.

You can read more here. As I said, it’s a long post, but worth checking out if you’re an author, especially if you’re already branded in one genre and you have a readership. Taking on a pen name is like taking on a completley new career. And unless there are obvious reasons, like with J.K.Rowling, I’m starting to think it’s pointless to do unless you truly want to take on a whole new career and distance yourself from everything you’ve done in the past.

Gay Dad Pens Toys R Us; Straight Guys Avoid Gay Guys; Drag Queens as Role Models

Gay Dad Pens Toys R Us

A gay dad has penned an open letter to Toys R Us, and the beginning of the letter is interesting because he talks about gender roles, especially with regard to the heteronormative traditional roles straight men and women have played in society. In other words, we are taught straight dads go to work in the morning so they can bring home the bacon. Straight moms stay home and take care of the house and do mom things. And even if moms don’t stay home and take care of the house, straight moms and dads provide something that two gay dads can’t provide to children. Then he gets into studies that disprove all this nonsense.

The main focus of the letter is that companies like Toys R Us promote gender politics, and most of us don’t even realize it. Think fast food restaurants that have toys for kids: there’s a boys toy and a girls toy. They even ask you which one you want. I know this because Tony and I have many nieces and nephews. And I’ve always been put off when they ask me that question.

Mega conglomerates like Toys R Us are making sure that it won’t be a “woman’s world” for a long long time. This SHOULD be a woman’s world. Women make up almost 51% of the United States population but in store marketing clearly tell little girls where their world is. It is a pink land that exists in between the easy-bake-oven kitchen and the frivolous glitzy fashion world, and no where else. It is far from a woman’s, or future woman’s world, if we define that world as one of choice and pursuit of individual skills, aptitudes and talents.

He makes points about the girls’ section being frilly and pink, and the boys’ section being rough and rugged. He also links to an organization called Let Toys Be Toys, which is an organization in the UK that has actually gotten Toys R Us to just put toys out on the shelves as they are, without gender classification, so kids can choose what they want instead of what we tell them to choose.

You can read the message in full here. It’s an interesting piece for anyone who has ever wondered when their little boy told them he wanted to learn to cook instead of shoot guns or play football.

Straight Guys Avoid Gay Guys

I have no links to this part of the post. The open letter above reminds me of some of the subtle unconscious forms of discrimination I face daily as an openly gay man. For example, I have a few straight male “friends” I’ve met online over the years and they’ve always been friendly and very accepting in private. However, when it comes to interacting with them on social media in public they always go blank. They interact with all of their straight buds and women friends, but when the gay guy makes a comment on facebook they go dead silent as if he doesn’t even exist. And the gay guy who comments doesn’t even have to do or say anything flamboyant or over the top. He could just write a nice sentence that has no hidden meanings, and he’s still ignored, really, as if he doesn’t even exist. And that’s because the straight guy doesn’t want his straight buds and women friends to know he’s associated with the gay guy. Trust me, it happens all the time and gay people are always sensitive to that brand of discrimination.

I know a straight male blogger who had a highly successful blog going for a while. It was even mentioned on Huff Po and a few other mainstream publications. He’s a very articulate straight man who takes pride in his home, his car, and his property. He’s attractive, works out, and has a killer body he’s not shy about showing off in public on social media. But, he’s about thirty and he’s still single. I commented a few times on his blog to offer a few positive remarks about what he’s doing and he was polite, but kept his distance. And then a few other people commented, offhandedly in a harmless way, that he keeps such a great house and is so articulate he could be gay. I watched this closely to see his reaction when his gender role was challenged. It was obvious he wasn’t pleased, and he defended himself by slamming stereotypes. He was spot on correct about the stereotypes, however, he eventually shuttered the blog with a very weak excuse.

So this mind set isn’t just something that happens with Toys R Us, where the straight male is supposed to be the big tough guy and shun everything pink. It begins with places like Toys R Us, in childhood, and continues for the rest of our lives. And believe me, I don’t think the straight men I talked about in this post are by any means anti-gay. They really are great guys who all support gay rights. They just don’t want any of their straight friends to know they could possibly be *too* friendly with the gay guy. That would give the wrong impression, and challenge everything they’ve been taught to believe. It would make them look bad. I actually have to think before I comment: I know where I’m not wanted and I don’t want to cross the lines.

Drag Queens as Role Models

In keeping with the theme of gender classification, this next article deals with a mom who would rather have her daughters look up to drag queens as role models than Disney princesses. I can almost hear the cringing from the straight men I know online that I mentioned above who go blank with gay men who aren’t even slightly effeminate.

In this article, Disney princesses make this mom cringe, but drag queens give her a sense of hope for her daughters. It’s one of the smartest pieces I’ve read in years.

When it comes down to it, I respect drag queens. They are artists. They are able to conceptualize an idea and transform themselves — without the help of magic, I might add. They are risk takers. They are punk. But Disney princesses? They are a man-made franchise created to sell cheaply made shit to our daughters. They are a perpetuation of the stereotype of the weak, dumb woman who obediently waits for a man to come along and make her valuable. Between the two I’ll always promote the big-wigged man crooning “I’m Every Woman.” Werq.

You can read more here.

As a side note, I have known a few drag queens personally and I’ve always found them to be some of the toughest most determined people within the LGBT community.

Photo attribution can be found here.