ConDFW went off without a hitch last weekend. A modestly attended con, but still an attentive one, it left me with ample opportunity to talk with readers and other writers. Most of my panels were well attended, and I picked up several new blog and twitter followers.
All in all, a big hooray.
There were lots of small presses in attendance as well as authors (like yours truly) that publish through other small presses. There were some indie authors as well, and quite a few set up tables in the dealer’s room alongside bookstores selling the wares of larger presses. I did not join them as I hate sitting still for hours, and for someone who only has two books available, I don’t think I’d see the sales needed to justify the cost. Some of those who had several published books seemed quite busy.
Even to someone like me who loves my small press and has had a wonderful experience, there is a whiff of legitimacy about books from large presses. Their authors don’t have to hawk their own books. (But they do have to do all their own marketing online.) To a lot of people, this makes them seem more…real.
Never mind the fact that I know for certain that my books are sold at major bookstores around the country. They’re just not sold at those stores in the south, where LGBT prejudice is still very easy to stumble upon. But it was because my books weren’t available at the con that I think many people automatically equated me with “not as good.”
We all know this is shit. As the big houses continue to coalesce and falter, small houses rise. And you can get stories from the small houses that you can’t get from the large ones. (Like lesbian princesses, for example. As a side note, there are definitely other gay fantasy main characters, but their stories are usually tragic in some way because of their gayness. Finding a no-big-deal tale like mine is a little harder. Just throwing that out there. ^_^)
Many small presses continually put out quality work, and people know this, they acknowledge it, and still that legitimacy stench comes creeping out. One person at the con (who I know is in favor of small press) expressed the opinion that small houses must be easier to “get into” than larger presses, like they’ll take anything that comes along. When is the last time you ever heard of a publisher being desperate for things to publish? Yet small presses seem a healthy target.
I fell into the trap myself, watching people pass over small press tables in order to spend their hard-earned cash at the bookstores. People had told me many times over the weekend how entertaining I am. They loved my buttons and my cover postcards. I can hope they’ll buy the ebook or order the paperback online. But they ambled right up to the stores and handed over their money.
I suppose some of it could be subject matter. Though my books aren’t graphic sex-wise, some people get weird about two women falling in love. But I have to wonder how much is that legit-vibe. I even thought, Gee, I have to try and sell something else (something non-LGBT) to a major publisher again, which means trying to get an agent, which means boarding the rejection train, a pit of despair from which many writers never escape.
It would mean throwing all my hopes and dreams and hard work at the feet of a crumbling industry, all for the hope that a bookseller in Texas would deign to carry me at SF cons.
Well, when I put it like that…
Writers, if you’re published through a small press or if you publish your own work, do you ever feel this way? Readers, do you pass over indie or small press books because you assume the quality is lower, despite what your own experiences might be?
As another aside, my time with Bold Strokes is and has been fabulous, and I hope to keep publishing with them for a long time to come as I have many many LGBT stories to tell. And they are one of the largest LGBT presses and one of the largest small presses there is. I guess I’ll just have to form a thicker skin when it comes to comments thrown around at a con. 😉 And I’ll have to turn more people on to LGBT fantasy stories, one reader at a time.
Another another aside, this was one of the first times at a SF con (as opposed to a lesfic con) that someone showed up to see me. Thanks @shadowriver, you made my day. ^_^