Friday, October 3, 2008

Gay stories and ebooks ... big possibilities for both

As we launch the advertising for the Keegan list which I spoke about yesterday, we're looking at the the whole landscape of indie publishing with fresh eyes -- or at least old eyes aimed in new angles, seeing new things.

Gay books are a fascinating niche in so many ways. Any other genre you can think of is restrictive -- SF will always be SF, historical will always be historical, and so on. But "gay stories" as a genre ...? Let your imagination off the leash.

Adventure? Sure. Talking heads? Fine. Fantasy? Great. "Hard" SF? Terrific. Historical? You bet. Mystery? Mmm. Crime story? Oh, yeah. Thriller? Ancient Greece? Cops and robbers? Martian colony? World War I, or Vietnam? Boy Band luv story? Drugs'n'sex'n'rock'n'roll? 1930s Berlin? Russian Mafia? Doctors and Nurses? Cowboys? Towtruck war? Courtroom battle?

In fact, "Gay stories" is the only genre I can think of that is not really a genre. ANY plot can be shoved into this one niche if it satisfies the basic criteria: does it have some gay characters? Do they do and say gay things? Does the story tackle gay issues or themes in a positive way?

Given three "yes" answers, the writer is let off the leash, and a good time should be had by all. Now, publishing the material is another question entirely, but opportunities galore are springing up these days, for writers and publishers alike.

With retail under the economic kosh worldwide (poor sales figures, no matter what you're selling, apparently; it could be cars, cameras or carrots, and people everywhere are bemoaning the state of the retail environment), ebooks might be the answer to a prayer.

I've had a love-hate relationship with this beast, the life form known as the ebook, for yonks. The major problem I had with them was the price of the readers: $1,000, here in Australia, for a hand-held gadget that puts reading in your hands, the same as a 10c photocopy (yes, yes, I hear the arguments, I know them all). But, seriously, a thousand bucks for an ebook reader?!!

However, things are changing, and they're changing fast.

On a whim, I took a look around the other day, and ended up on eBay.

These guys, by HP, are changing hands for a couple of hundred ... which makes a difference. A couple of hundred is doable, while you'd have to put a thousand dollar item so firmly on the back burner, it'd probably stay there.

For a couple of hundred bucks, all you'd get at an Aussie bookstore would be about right normal-size pocket-edition paperbacks, or six, maybe seven trade size paperbacks, or five, maybe four hardcovers. Otherwise, get thee to a used book store and hope they have what you want in stock.

At a good ebook store, though, you could get anything up to 20 or even 25 novels by writers like Bear, Sheffield, Silverberg and Gerrold ... not to mention a grab-bag of new writers who deserve to be given a go, but are never going to get one if it's left up to the bookstores who subsist on bestsellers.

Hmmm. I fid myself looking at these gadgets much, much more seriously now.

Which means that I (like rapidly growing numbers of other readers, not to mention writers) are looking at ebooks with a lot less skepticism. Till recently, I really haven't had a use for ebooks. I like to curl up with a BOOK -- and I suspect I always will.

However, if I can get a Greg Bear or an Arthur C. Clarke for $6 apiece, I can always curl up with a doohickie. In other words, the doohickie is starting to look attractive ... and I'm looking at PDFs with more interest.

Speaking of PDFs, for the publishers (or wannabe entrepreneurs) among you, it's well worth taking a look at this:

Thanks to "The Blue Suit Team" for commenting on one of my posts a few days ago, where I spoke of POD as "megatrend," something I really do see happening.

Indie publishers and writers, imagine this: you've zipped your material into PDF form; it's going out there as an ezine or anthology, in which you might even have sold some ad space already. How's about keyword-contextual ads by Yahoo, popping up when a reader clicks on an ad in your PDF? "Ads for PDF" is a free program, and as I said, well worth a look.

It's probably not the kind of thing you'd want to option if you were publishing a single work (a novel or novella) where ads could quickly become intrusive ... the again, this potential for intrusion never stopped magazines like Analog, F&SF and Azimov's from shoving commercials into fairly short story. But if you were publishing a magazine-style anthology, why not? One is so accustomed to ads these days, readers certainly wouldn't object, and revenues earned by online ads might easily keep the price of ebooks down ... could even make the little fellows free, if readers understood why the damned ads are there. They're not there for fun, nor for the sheer beauty of them.

And now ... work is calling. THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE are waiting, with an end-October publication date looming rapidly closer. Good gods, it is the third already? My blog posts might become a little more brief in these next weeks, as the galleys occupy my time and attention: bear with me ... and trust me, the book will be worth the wait!


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