Thursday, October 4, 2012

Giveaway: Guest Author Aleksandr Voinov Looks Back On His Predictions For The M/M Genre


Today we're happy to welcome Aleksandr Voinov as a returning guest at Rarely Dusty Books. He's here as part of Riptide Publishing's Blog Party to celebrate their first anniversary. Congratulations, Riptide! 
Let's give the stage to Aleks, who brought some great prizes to win for you and has some interesting things to say about the developments in the M/M genre.



Thanks for joining us on the Riptide Publishing First Anniversary Blog Hop Bash! All month long, we’re bringing you guest posts and interviews from your favorite authors, artists, and Riptide staff. As a thank you for helping us celebrate, we’re also giving away $10 in Riptide store credit to one lucky commenter at every stop! Simply leave a comment below by 11:59pm on Sunday, October 7th to enter. Be sure to check out our complete tour schedule to find out where else you can enter to win—one Grand Prize winner drawn from commenters at all the stops will also win a Kindle that we’ll load with every book we publish in 2013!

Plus, check out our anniversary sale—All October long, backlist titles are 15%-50% off!

Today, we have a guest post from author Aleksandr Voinov:

2012 – What a year it has been!

They say you shouldn’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, but we’re close enough to the end of the year that we can at least do a (very) cursory headcount. About a year ago, Rarely Dusty Books asked me for a post on where I saw the genre going; so let’s see how well my crystal ball worked. Here’s the old post >>

Here are my predictions:

1) More big names in the m/m space are going to self-publish. Josh Lanyon is already putting stories directly on Amazon. Others will follow.

I got that one wrong, or rather, it came with a twist. Several big m/m writers never submitted to publishers in the first place and started out self-publishing. Dani Alexander, Vicktor Alexander (clearly something magic about that name!), and Daniel A Kaine all went directly through Amazon and seem to be doing all right in terms of sales and popularity. Compared to other new guys starting out with a traditional m/m publisher, they certainly don’t seem to be at a disadvantage. So, that change is being carried, apparently, by newcomers. Who would have thought.

2) Other authors are more likely to migrate to friendlier contracts. Friendlier contracts being: No ROFR clauses that force them to stay with the publisher; a bigger slice of royalties (why sign your book away for 25% if you can make 50%?); contracts that run out faster (three or four years rather than seven or “lifelong”). 

I think I got that one right. I’ve been privy to discussions on an unofficial author loop where a large amount of authors complained of their contract terms and swore to rather disembowel themselves with a spork than to ever again sign the legal equivalent of a loving knuckle sandwich. Authors wisen up slowly, but when they do, things get interesting. Anecdotally, I’ve been approached by three different authors in the last month or so to advise them on their contracts, which is a great deal more requests than I normally get. Most of those contracts were as author-friendly as a shiv in the balls, so some publishers are still trying to pull stunts.

3) All other things being more or less equal, editing and good covers are becoming more important.

I stand by that, as that’s the feedback I’m hearing from “our” authors. Regardless of recent bleating in the mainstream press about how e-books are killing cover art (really? I mean, REALLY?), covers remain important and authors are aware of that. Even the self-published authors in our genre are hiring editors, so editing is important and will remain important to deliver a good book. I’ve recently heard rumours that one of the big m/m publishers is cleaning up their act in terms of editing after a huge amount of negative feedback from, bloggers and reviewers about slipping standards. I can’t vouch for the veracity of these rumours, but anecdotes from several sides seem to support my theory.

4) Quality control will get more and more important. 

Right now, I struggle to find evidence for that. Maybe it’s my optimistic nature that made me write that, but, to be honest, I think I’m seeing just about as many badly-edited and badly-written books as I used to. I hope I’m wrong, and I’m optimistic that we’re all trying to make the genre a place with more quality books that are written well and packaged and marketed well.

What struck me in the last 12 months or so, BTW, was the assertion that readers are getting tired of naked torso covers. I bet we’ve all seen the kind of cover that’s on the Fifty Shades Trilogy: not one semi-naked bosom, not one naked torso anywhere in sight.

Right now, there’s a flurry of rebranding going on, as het erotic titles are stripped of their lurid bodice-ripper images and made to resemble the Fifty Shades trilogy as closely as possible. While I’m already getting tired of the now omnipresent minimalist black cover with one single suggestive item on them, it’s much easier on my eyes overall, so I’m applauding that at least. I do wonder when the m/m romance/erotic romance genre takes a leaf out of that particular book, but we’ll see. Right now, there’s no scarcity of mutilated torsos.

Another thing I saw happening this year (again, it’s anecdotal). I attended the UK GLBTQ Meet in Brighton a few weeks ago, which was organized and run by UK-based m/m writers, and featured guests from the States (like Jordan Castillo Price). And despite all the envy and jealousy and back-biting I’ve seen in the genre (and which is definitely its ugliest aspect at times), the meeting, seeing people face-to-face and coming together for a shared purpose really, in my book, made an enormous difference.

I think maybe the nasty people are just louder or so disruptive that they drone out the vast sense of comradeship and mutual support that is also in the genre, and, I daresay, more pervasive and powerful than our few toxic black sheep. Well, the nasty people didn’t attend, and what was left was a large room full of writers, bloggers and even that rare species, readers, who talked, laughed, networked and overall had a great time.

While Europe (and I count the UK as part of that) is a little behind the US in organizing our “scene”, I do feel that the meeting galvanized the Europeans quite considerably, and I’m curious what that will bring. We’re definitely onto something good here, and we now have a strong basis on which to build. We at Riptide are definitely glad to be part of this and support it any way we can. I can only imagine that it’s going to grow and prosper from here.

On to an even more awesome 2013!
~

45 comments:

  1. good things are happening in the m/m genre and I am so glad. Covers matter in all genre and so does editing. When you pay for a product like a book, you expect a certain standard. I review/blog and I was more lenient on self-pubs in the beginning, but now the whole self pub thing has been around the block a bit and gained popularity, it is time for those writers to get with the program so to speak and give quality in all areas. thanks for visiting!

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    1. Sharon - Thank you! And - I completely agree. I cannot bring myself to read a book that is teeming with errors. I do read a lot of excerpts, and if there are errors (or just plain bad writing), it's a no-buy for me.

      I also think reviewers calling out bad editing and atrocious covers is a service for readers AND publishers. I know that the backlash of reviewers against *some* publishers has had an effect.

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  2. As a reader I never gave much thought to the behind the scenes drama that seems to go on in the publishing world...I really find it interesting & I'm glad I'm on the outside looking in :)

    Thanks for the great post
    fangirlmom@gmail.com

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    1. FanGirlMom - It can be... intense, but I think I envy you a little there. I get to see far too much. :) Thanks for visiting!

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  3. That first point is very interesting and I can see why new authors may be tempted by the self-publishing route. I've spoken to authors who just don't want to be tied down by publisher contracts and if you can get the support and publicity to make sales, and if you have the technical written know-how to produce a clean manuscript with no mistakes (or afford to pay an editor), then why not? These days self-publishing is becoming less of a dirty word. However, if you are an author with strong ties to a good publishing house, and if you rely on the knowledge of their editorial staff, then I can see why even well known published authors would want to stay with their publisher.

    Rebranding comes and goes. Remember all the vampire books which suddenly stopped having pictures of vamps on the front and instead had the red/black theme similar to the Twilight books? That seems to have dropped by the way again. Mind you, I'm not weeping over the loss of naked torso covers :).

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    1. Jenre - Absolutely. We're in the phase of "no longer one size fits all". And I can totally see that IF cover, editing and layout are done to a good standard, how the self-pubbers in our genre can carve out their own paths, and all power to them.

      I can also see that many authors prefer to have the support system/platform of a publisher (I do, but I'm increasingly doing this on my terms - I co-founded Riptide because it married all the support I wanted into one shape). However, I do think that publishers who only offer crappy covers and bad, cursory editing will be increasingly threatened by self-pubbers who simply do a better job AND keep all the money. It's certainly interesting times. :)

      Yes, I remember the vampire rebranding wave. And then lots of influence on the wider YA genre from Mockingjay, too. It's the "me too" wave, though I find those covers less offensive than the PhotoShop jobs done by somebody's five-year-old nephew. :)

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  4. Really interesting...I do see more than my share of badly-edited ebooks these days (and just BASIC stuff, like the wrong use of homonyms and so forth), but the good ones have been really impressive.

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. Vitajex - Same here. It's good you can't strangle the author through his/her book at times. I'd definitely be tempted at times. :) Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Editors! Please dear Lord, every author should have a decent editor before they release their product to the masses. There should be a rule! And quite frankly, if they don't, then they should be called on it in the reviews.

    Aleks, your posts are always a great read and I always come away having learned something. :)

    evaine13@gmail.com

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    1. Evaine - I agree that reviewers should call it out. However, I've received some pretty crappy edits from publishers that I could have hired in better from somebody I know. So it's not just the self-pubbers, though there's a clear problem. Several self-publishers I know get top talent to edit their books that is way out of the pay grade of some m/m and m/f publishers out there. Thanks for stopping by! :)

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  6. I love reading blog posts by Aleks - they're always interesting, frequently mean I learn new things and tend to make me think. Right now I'm curious about how things will change over the course of the next year. I'm hoping that the nasty cat fights will stop, but I think that one's a bit of a pipe dream really.
    And I can hope that quality control will improve! I'm fairly tolerant of editing slips but even I'll notice the big stuff and that can throw me out of the story.
    As to covers...I love some of the covers I've seen lately; there are some very talented artists out there.

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    1. Hi Pointy! Yep, I think the overall trends are intact. And regarding the back-biting, it's my theory that many (maybe all? I certainly did...) authors go through a phase where they feel all other authors are their competition and enemies and then it turns into Battle Royale out there. After a while, many settle down and realize, nu-uh, it ain't so, and then become supportive, well-adjusted members of the wider tribe. At least that's my (optimistic) theory. :) (That's certainly how I developed...) Thanks for commenting!

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  7. This is a fascinating post. As a new author in the genre, I'm still trying to wrap my head around all the ins and outs of it, and this is very informative, and intriguing to see what I missed before I published.

    (no need to enter me in the drawing; it's a weird quirk, but I feel presumptuous as an author not paying for other authors' works, so I will be buying instead!)

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  8. Amelia - If you need any help at all (or just want an opinion on something) - feel free to shoot me an email and I'll see what I can do. I can be opinionated, and I'm never saying I have *all* the answers or even the *right* answer, but at least I'd be happy to share experiences and maybe point you in the right direction. Email is vashtan at gmail dot com. Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. Happy Birthday Riptide! :D

    You made some good predictions there and some of the others - well they may come along yet. Covers are improving, thank goodness and I've noticed fewer editorial mistakes over the past year [tho' i may just have been lucky].

    UK Meet was brilliant, very inspiring. As were you, Aleks. Thanks for taking time to chat. You really gave me heart.

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    1. Elin - Thanks! I really hope that editing is getting better, or maybe I'm just reading more books from people who are taking the necessary steps to ensure I'm not throwing my Kindle against the wall. These tend to be the most diligent, hard-working authors, so there's much to be said for that.

      Regarding covers - I really think there's a huge amount of cover artist talent out there and the work that LC Chase, Jordan Taylor and Reese Dante have been doing is nothing short of Herculean. :)

      Re: UK Meet. Awww, thanks. It was lovely meeting you. Next time, again, just with a bit more time, okay? :) The only thing I regret is that I didn't have more time to have longer conversations. But I think we can all be very optimistic where things are going. So much talent and energy. We're in a fantastic space.

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  10. I really do hope certain publishers and authors will or have realized the importance of good editing and better covers. Also, I do wish blog reviewers would mention it in their reviews if there are a number of editing errors to give the author a heads up.

    Although a naked male torso is nice to look at, it does get rather monotonous to look at if most every cover is like that from the publisher.

    strive4bst(At) yahoo(Dot) com

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    1. Jbst - Yep, same here. Though I've stopped buying from that particular publisher a long time ago. I'm too much of an editor, I can't unsee the problems. (I wish I could.) And yes, I think reviewers should point out editing issues. A few typos always slip through, but things like it's/its, there/their, etc, are IMHO unforgivable.

      Also, there's a limited amount of "naked torso" stock available. I'm pretty sure I keep seeing the same four or five images, slightly differently arranged. Since I remember books far more by cover than artist/title (I'm visual like that), that leads to a confusing muddle in my head as they all blend together.

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  11. First of all, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on epublishing with us, Aleksandr! It's great to have you as a guest again. :)

    I value high quality, good editing and beautiful covers as much as every other reader of m/m romance. When it comes to trying out new-to-me authors I'm more likely to choose a book from a publisher I know and trust to deliver good quality than from an unknown publisher or a self-published author. There are a few publishers in this genre that I go to again and again for good books. Riptide has built a name as a publisher of quality books during the first year of its existence I think. Congrats on turning 1!!

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    1. Janna - Thanks for having me over. It's always a pleasure. :) And, yep, Riptide absolutely embodies what I want as a reader, too. I buy a lot of books and get ticked off quite badly when I pay good money for a badly made product. And as an author, I can't help but feel that my author colleague was let down by people s/he trusted to help her/him make a good (or even, better) book.

      How often have I heard authors complain about awful cover art - and at the same time, we're forced to smile to the audience and pretend we're "thrilled" about being able to "unveil my awesome new cover". That's what gets me - the author ultimately pays the price of publishers cutting corners. I just don't believe that's a good model. Ah, preaching again. :) It's the reason why we started Riptide - we want to do a proper job, for ourselves, and for our readers and authors.

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  12. Great post. Thanks!

    gisu29(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  13. This was quite an interesting and informative post. Thank you for teaching me a few things.

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

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    1. Hi Booklover - thanks! All just my opinion, of course. :) Though I found it interesting to revisit my predictions. :)

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  14. Thanks for your insider analysis of publishing trends in the genre. And, oh,, you mentioned covers, my pet peeve! Naked torso covers have become a marker for questionable quality, I'm sorry to say. I called them over waxed gym bunny covers, and they have an amateurish hacky look that makes me avoid the book.
    (The cover of Dark Soul is evocative and stirring, in contrast).
    brendurbanist AT gmail DOT com

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    1. Urb - Actually, you're right. When I see a naked torso (lots of tanned, white abs, no head, no groin, just ridges of muscles) these days, I now get immediately distrustful ("Just why are they trying to appeal to my hormones? Would my brain be so disappointed?") Some publishers keep claiming that "sex sells", but having no boobs and ass on Fifty Shades sure didn't ruin those sales records. :)

      (Jordan Taylor is a genius and a cultural treasure. All the work she's done for me - Dark Soul, Incursion, Skybound - just makes me drool. And that's my brain, not my hormonal glans...) :)

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  15. Thanks for the insight...very interesting.
    I am not a big fan of the naked torso cover. Most of those guys aren't my type so they do nothing for me. Mostly over muscled too :) chellebee66(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Michelle - Same here. It all looks like exactly the same guy, which just makes my brain hurt in a weird "I'm trapped in the cover-related Groundhog Day" way. :)

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  16. Thanks Aleks for the post. What a day for you, busy, busy.

    Seeing the posts about editing and assumptions. When I first stumbled upon this genre, I 'naturally' assumed that all the books had experienced a male editor/content reader. I was shocked (lol) when I found out that wasn't so!! I still chuckle and shake my head at some of the absurdities printed. Oh well,....it's entertaining at least! 8) Long live the magically appearing condoms!! ROFL

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    1. Reggie - Quite busy! :) I think my favourite is the "magically lubricating anus" and some other weird assumptions people have about anal sex. Sometimes, I wanted to write only one line in a review: "Do have some anal sex, please, before you write such nonsense. Alternatively, ask somebody who's had anal sex." (I do believe in research... :) ) These days, I'm hoping to squash those things in edits (though I haven't had to step in yet - all or authors are doing their research, whichever method they choose to do it right. :) ).

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  17. Very happy to see some of your predictions come to pass and I hope more progress will be made during the next year. Quality editing makes such a huge impact on my enjoyment of a story.
    melora.derryth(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Melora - Same here. I'm probably worse than many readers (I am a corporate editor, after all, and have worked for years in journalism, writing and re-writing copy so it's sleek and elegant), but I just don't believe in dashing out a bad product on the grounds of "ah, they won't be able to tell the difference." I think it's disrespectful to your customers, for one, and disrespectful to yourself, which is almost worse. If people are not taking seriously what they are doing, should they really be doing it? Thanks for stopping by!

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  18. Happy Birthday Riptide and congratulations.
    Yvette
    yratpatrol@aol.com

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    1. Yvette - Thank you! :)

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  19. Apparently there is nothing coherent I can say on this matter that hasn't been said already, I'll just add that that happy bubble I live in is now made of bulletproof glass after being at the UK Meet! :)
    Also, this was very uplifting. Thank you! ^^

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    1. Aija - Excellent! Everybody has a right to their bubble. I'm definitely taking good care of mine. :)

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  20. I'm honored to have been mentioned and I think it's awesome that you were so right on so many different things there. I definitely do think that authors are becoming more aware of the trends and letting go for the need to always have naked torsos on covers. The M/M romance genre is becoming much more sophisticated and gearing itself up to be in the major leagues. I think that's awesome.

    And Happy Birthday to Riptide Publishing! What a great 1st year!

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    1. Vicktor - Thank you! And even you now go a diversified way with Silver and the self-publishing, which only means everybody's in flux and we're experimenting with what works, what doesn't, and what is the best for us personally. :)

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  21. I definitely see self publishing as a way for writers to start their careers, but I also see the problems with self publishing .... Editing the manuscript for one..... But self publishing is definitely a great way for authors like Josh Lanyon, and Vicktor Alexander to get read and recognized.

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    1. runriggers - Josh Lanyon and Vicktor are both really good example, bracketing the genre very nicely. One is one of the daddies of the genre (Josh has been around forever) and is universally known and is now collecting his rights back after many very prolific years, so he's monetizing his backlist (I think there are some releases that are not backlist, but I might not have kept up very well recently).

      Vicktor's just starting out in many ways (so's Dani), and did it all by himself. Both models can absolutely work, regardless of where in their career a writer is. Personally, self-publishing is not for me because I need the support platform that a publisher provides, but I'm looking at being exclusively or near-exclusively at Riptide.

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  22. LOng life to Riptide (and the MM genre in general)!
    MC
    contact at mchoule dot com

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    1. MC - Thank you! We're certainly going from strength to strength. :)

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  23. Congrats!!!

    gisu29(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  24. Nice great! Thanks for sharing! Congrats to you! Happy Birthday!!
    shadowluvs2read(at)gmail(dot)com

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  25. Happy Birthday, Riptide, and for providing a great alternative to Amazon!

    I don't buy books for their covers, but the M/M genre is a a bit too "literal" for my taste.

    I'd say an editor AND a proof-reader are essential, but that's just me. But why settle for even a small number of inevitable errors if there's an alternative? I know authors with 3 or 4 editors, none of whom can or will proof. One more thing to watch for in the future...

    Always a pleasure, Aleks, organized mind and all that...

    Tracy

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