A situation arose yesterday that caused me slight anger that quickly gave way to bemused befuddlement (I don’t like being angry at anything, so usually I get over it as quickly as I can). But I felt the need to share this, not because I am trying to call anyone out nor am I trying to accuse anyone about anything. I felt it should be discussed. Be forwarned, I am not looking to have my ego stroked, so if you leave a comment, don’t worry about saying things like “Sorry to hear that!” or “They don’t deserve to read BOATK!”, because, while appreciated, it’s not the point of this post. This is meant to open a dialogue that is smart and free from any vitriolic name calling or back patting. So keep it cool, yeah?
A well known and respected m/m review website (not to be named here—if you’re DYING to know, you can find the discussion on my FB page from yesterday; really, though, it doesn’t matter in the end) listed last Sunday in their post for the upcoming week that they were to do a review of BOATK. I was excited/nervous/happy that my book would get getting another review from a site, and I was thankful for it. One thing I’ve noticed is that I have been extraordinarily lucky when it has come to BOATK because of the reviews I’ve gotten, both from review sites and readers. I never expected to get the reaction I’ve gotten and still pinch myself, not really believing it is true.
But then life happened and I totally forgot that this was to occur. As you may know, I recently got a house and that has been sucking up ALL of my time and between that, working 40-50 hours/week and trying to meet my daily 2K word minimum that I do for my WIP, I’m sure you can see I don’t have a lot of time. For ANYTHING. So I’d forgotten that I was to be reviewed on this site. Until yesterday afternoon, when a reader emailed me, stating that BOATK was NOT going to be reviewed on this site for one simple reason, the following sentences from BOATK towards the beginning of the book:
I needed to feel close to someone right then, feel them old me, feel their heart against mine. For just a few moments, I needed to forget the aches, forget about the future, forget about the past. As I entered her, I saw stars exploding all around me, and they were bright, and they were loud.
Yup. They chose not to do a review of BOATK because it contained three sentences of straight sex which, by my opinion, is not explicit in any way shape or form, nor is it of any real consequence to the plot. BOATK is, after all, a gay love story and ends as such. Unbeknownst to me, apparently this site has a policy about reviewing books that include ANY mention of straight sex. While that seemed odd to me, hell, it’s their website, they can do whatever they want, right? Yeah, it’ll obviously limit what they choose to review, especially since a significantly used trope of m/m fiction is a guy who was once straight/curious/bi suddenly finds himself wanting a man when, at one point, he had a girlfriend. Are we to assume that while he was dating said woman, that he was celibate? Or are we to assume that of course they had sex, but that it doesn’t need to be mentioned? How much fiction will this site allow their viewers to miss, just because it has an ounce of straight-ness in it?
I was angry, as I’ve said, if only for a moment. How stupid is that? I thought. Whatever, I don’t need them! But then that led to embarrassment on my part, thinking just who the hell am I to believe I deserve a review from this website? I’ve written ONE book and who knows, maybe that one book was a fluke and I’ll never match its success. So what if this website reviews pretty much the same authors over and over (and over) again? Maybe if I build up my catalogue, I can have the same. I wouldn’t be complaining then, I’m sure! I told myself to get over myself and move on.
But then something happened within a half hour of posting this on FB. Once. Twice. Three times. Four Times. FIVE TIMES. I received private emails from five different authors who have had their books review at this site who indicate they had the same amount of “straight” content in their books as in BOATK, if not more, and their books were review on the site. As a matter of fact, there was one prolific writer who the website indicated that they were “making an exception for” and warned at the beginning of their review that it contained not just m/m content, but other content as well.
I got up this morning and to find that even more authors had responded to my FB post, saying the same thing, that their m/m books had straight sex, but that they were reviewed still at this site.
That, ladies and gents, is what bugs the crap out of me. Not that they chose not to review BOATK, because again, I’ve had some great reviews already and I appreciate that more than I could say. What bugs the crap out of me, is that this policy seems to be dependent on who authored the book. I’m not saying that those reviewed did not deserve to be reviewed (and believe me, they did; I’ve read some of the authors that wrote to me and I can say with ease that they are fantastic books), but why do you make an “exception” for certain authors, who by their own admission had more explicit hetero-content, but choose to not review others? It seems to me that it causes a great disservice to readers who may not get to hear about titles that the site refuses to review, because isn’t that what it’s all about? Helping readers find new titles to read?
My new book out in February, This Is How We Burn the World, has a somewhat similar scene in it. I was asked by someone on FB if I was going to change that now. I laughed hysterically, to the point where I was sure I was going to go into apoplectic shock. Hell no I’m not going to change it. Why the hell would I consider changing something just so I can get a review somewhere? If you begin to write to please specific people, or to make sure your book falls under a site’s qualifications for review, then you may as well just give up. So no. I’m not going to make any changes to it, nor will I allow that site’s policy to affect my future writing. If something fits into the story, I am going to put it in, consequences be damned (or, at least, until my editor tells me I’m nuts).
Do I think they need to change their policy? Definitely. Who knows why they have this to begin with (especially given how fluid it seems to be) but in the end, it really doesn’t matter. And if you find out what the site is, don’t go writing them nasty comments on their message boards, because that’s not the point of this post, nor will it get anyone anywhere. I myself will not be visiting the site again, not just because of their decision not to post a review of BOATK (apparently, according to a note under the site’s upcoming reviews for this week, the person who was to review it “really liked” BOATK. Hurray! And that’s not me being facetious, I’m happy she liked it), but because I think their policy is whack and I’d rather get reviews of books I want to read from sites that don’t seem to carry this prejudice and bias. That is my choice, much like it was their choice not to review BOATK.
A comment made yesterday on the matter made me laugh, saying while we knew there were straight bigots in the world, who knew there were gay bigots? While I definitely don’t think that’s the case, it still made me chuckle and helped me to get over it and myself. Another comment made was how, in the end, word of mouth is what sells a book, not “official” reviews. I agree with that 100%. Word of mouth is everything in this business, and you all have been the best reviewers I could have hoped for.
Now, I turn it over to you. What do you think? Is the site’s policy fair and do you agree with it? Or do you think it needs to be changed? One possibility, obviously, is to have a disclaimer on each review of a book with “hetero” content. I mean, how hard would that be, really? DISCLAIMER: BOATK HAS A TWO SENTENCE PARAGRAPH OF IMPLIED STRAIGHT SEX. ZOMG! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!!! Sound off below!