Friday, February 22, 2013

A Modest Proposal . . . or Three

Let me say straight up that I've never been to Gay Rom Lit. My spending $2,000 to $3,000 on a conference just ain't gonna happen until FedEx delivers that sugar daddy I ordered. But I've read countless posts over the past couple of days (and I suspect you have too) about how this year's GRL is being handled, or mishandled, and how ironic it is that six top-tier authors have proved such dismal communicators that they've managed to offend a considerable number of their peers.

Seems to me some changes are in order if GRL is to run smoothly in the future and avoid being known as GRRRR.

Any thinking person can easily understand the need for cost management and registration caps. So, how to address these issues? Here are the most logical options.

  1. Book the con at larger, more accommodating venues. Considering that's easier said than done, let's move on.
  2. (This is something I suggested elsewhere.)  Make it clear well in advance of registration that a limited number of spaces are available for readers as well as authors. Then proceed to accept registrants on a first-come, first-served basis. This is the most equitable approach, because it levels the playing field for everybody. However, organizers have made it clear they're resistant to taking this route because it could glut the con with relatively unknown authors -- and those aren't the ones readers want to meet.
  3. (More and more, I'm convinced this might be best solution.) Refashion GRL. Rather than putzing around trying to define author "tiers" and figure out how to divvy up spaces among them (which, let's face it, only generates resentment), make GRL an invitation-only event for authors and an open-registration event for readers. This means, of course, the vast majority of writers in the genre will be left out. But really, so what? We small fry all realize we can't compete with the big fish in this pond. And we all know there are other gay-lit meets we're welcome to attend. Organizers have stated over and over again that readers go to GRL in the hope of meeting the genre's superstars. They become flustered and disappointed (so say the organizers, and they should know) if ID tags they want to see are lost in an ocean of names they don't recognize.
So, based on the multitude of contradictions I've seen as organizers stress out and their CYA impulses reach record levels, and the hurt (as well as fear) on the part of "ordinary" authors, and the indignation on the part of readers . . . in the name of all that is sane, I encourage organizers to adopt option #3. Make GRL a reader-inclusive event that centers on fan favorites. This is the only way to ensure that all attendees will get what they want out of it.

I find this the most manageable and profitable way to go. And the most honest. What do you think?


Tam said...

I was to GRL year 1, but I'll be honest, it was more of a vacation with a con tacked on than vice-versa, and I was a pure reader then. :-) I did not go last year because I went to the UK Meet instead which was more conferency and billed less of a "schmooze with celebs" type event. Both have their upsides and serve different purposes and target groups.

I would have no problem with the third option. Big fan events, like ComiCon or FanFest (or whatever it's called) don't let every sci-fi actor/author/artist sign up (there may be a certain number of open spots) but the big names are invited specifically to draw the crowd. I'd love to go to ComiCon but only if I can see some of the celebs I want to see. I don't want to meet the guy who played Engineer number 3 in Star Trek, I want to meet Spock, either one really.

So I think maybe we have to determine what GLR is. Is it a fan event where readers can meet and spend time with their favourite (and popular) authors? is it an opportunity for less-known authors to find new readers and promote themselves? Is it an opportunity for authors to learn something like marketing techniques or discuss more "work" oriented topics?

Each type is equally valid and needed I think. But they can't all be run the same way. Perhaps because there haven't been a lot of events for GLBT lit, the community kind of came up with this great idea of getting together (which is a great idea) but it didn't really have a defined purpose that could be refined or duplicated. That tends to come as events grown and morph into their natural shape. That can be painful and maybe that's happening now. Hopefully this will create some clarity about the real purpose of GRL. Either way, someone is going to be upset, but I suppose you can't please all of the people all of the time.

K. Z. Snow said...

I agree with everything you said, Tam. GRL has grown to the point where it can't be everything to everybody. Trying to make it so will only drive organizers crazy and piss off more and more people.

So why not eliminate all the secrecy and equivocation and coyness? Send out invitations to X number of authors each year, and let readers fill up the remainder of the space.