Monday, August 01, 2011

Ho Lee Zhit Says . . .

"Author, be careful what you wish for when it comes to your backlist."

Early on in our careers, we scribblers are led to believe the following: One of the benefits of achieving some modicum of notice in the bookworld is that readers, if they like what we're writing now, will ferret out the fiction we've written in the past.  Sounds good, eh?

Yeah, in theory.

Problem is, we're not always terribly proud of what we've written in the past.  Maybe it's kind of rough around the edges. Maybe it reflects a mindset we've long since discarded, a mindset that isn't reflective of what we're currently producing. Maybe our older material just sucks sewer water through a straw packed with flesh-eating insects.

What got me thinking (and cringing) about this subject was a royalty report I just received from one of my former publishers. A surprising number of titles populated the list. Not a huge, knock-me-on-my-ass number but bigger than I'd anticipated, considering I haven't had a release there in quite a while. And why haven't I? Because I don't write m/f romance anymore, erotic or otherwise. (There are other reasons, too.) So . . . it appears some of my beloved readers, and I mean the readers of my m/m stories, have been fishing in the oft-polluted waters of my backlist.  {{{shudder}}}

Don't think I'm not grateful for their interest. I'm VERY grateful. But I'm also embarrassed. I don't want their impressions of the old stuff coloring their impressions of the new stuff. A couple of my erstwhile publishers wanted lots o' sex in their stories. And, readers seemed to favor certain tropes and subgenres back then. And . . . hell, I confess I went through a phase where I thought it was more important to write to be read than to write to be true (to myself, that is).

I have some oldies floating around that I'm not too ashamed of. I think Plagued, for example (which introduces Adin Swift to the world and Jackson Spey as his friend), is a damned good vampire yarn. Cemetery Dancer isn't terribly bad, but it would've been better without the head-hopping and the extra and detailed sex scenes I was "asked" to insert. There are a few others.

By and large, though, my m/m fiction is far superior to my m/f fiction, much of which feels like a none-too-appealing backside. Oy.  

18 comments:

Chris said...

Aww. *pats KZ consolingly* I won't go rummaging around in the m/f backlist, I promise! :)

K. Z. Snow said...

Thank you!

K. Z. Snow said...

I mean, it's not ALL bad. :)

Tam said...

Ah, the downside of fame. That and the naked groupies following you around beggging for attention. ;-) Hopefully they understand it was a different time and a completely different genre. Must feel kind of weird though.

Val said...

Maybe our older material just sucks sewer water through a straw packed with flesh-eating insects.

It can't POSSIBLY be that bad! Take the backlist rummaging for the compliment that it is -- readers are eager for more fiction from you. :)

K. Z. Snow said...

Tam ... *cough* ... fame? Uh, no. But a small handful of brave and loyal souls seem to have searched out the products of my sordid past. ;-)

It does feel weird. I just don't connect with m/f romance anymore -- the sexual lingo in particular.

K. Z. Snow said...

Oh Val, I am grateful. Extremely so. I just don't want these readers to be disappointed, dazed, and confused. :)

The fic isn't uniformly crappy -- most of it has its good points, at least sporadically -- but some of it makes me blush now. For various reasons.

Katrina Strauss said...

I understand what you mean. For every backlist title I consider a "hidden gem", others are hidden for a reason! But just as we don't have much control over what people will read once it's out there in the wild, we don't have much control over what they won't read, either! But then who knows what will resonate with a reader or peer?

Lily said...

It is a compliment that they're looking for more of your works. But if it helps in any way I won't be digging around for them. M/F just doesn't interest me now. :)

K. Z. Snow said...

You said it perfectly, Kitty. But time and changing circumstances have made it difficult for me to distinguish between the gems and the clunkers. ;-)

Val said...

Whoa, that green backside in the photo -- THAT sucks sewer water through a straw packed with flesh-eating insects.

K. Z. Snow said...

Lily, I'll give you the same response I gave to Chris. :)

Tracy said...

It's hard for me to read m/f by an author that I know of as an m/m author. I just don't want to go there. Now I have read a 1 - maybe even 2 - of your m/f and it wasn't as bad as you think. Not up to your m/m writing but not bad. :) Chin up my friend. :)

K. Z. Snow said...

That backside represents my backlist, Val Or how I fear some readers might view it. Eep!

K. Z. Snow said...

Tracy, thank you for both your courage and your honesty. :)

K. Z. Snow said...

Just wanted to add, I've felt liberated since writing m/m, whereas I'd always felt somehow constrained writing m/f. Not sure why that is. Different character dynamics? Different publisher guidelines? Don't know. But I strongly suspect an m/f romance with virtually no on-page sex wouldn't be as appreciated as, say, Whistling in the Dark has been. Readers in this genre seem to have a different set of expectations, or are maybe more open to variety.

Lea Sinclair said...

Mea culp. I'm one of your backlist scroungers, but I really enjoy your writing style. I wish that you still wrote m/f romances along with m/m. As long as you keep writing Jackson Spey books, I will be happy. The first I book of yours that I read was Plagued. I loved the characters and the smart writing, so I started hunting down your other titles. I even found Hoochie Coochie Man! So I hope you will forgive me for being a die hard fan of yours.

K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, Lea!

You are a sweetheart -- and an exception to the rule. Many m/m readers are put off by m/f fiction, especially when they're used to certain authors writing gay romance. They might sneak a look into a backlist, but they often end up disappointed. It's all a matter of one's perspective and preferences, I guess.

There a very sweet, smart reviewer on Goodreads who hasn't read any of my Jackson Spey books because she seems to think there's a female sex partner or love interest in every one. (!) I don't know where she got this idea, but she made it clear she doesn't like women in her man-on-man romances.