Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turn, Turn, Turn

Two years ago at Saints and Sinners, the GLBT writer's conference in New Orleans, I got to spend some time chatting with Catherine Lundoff, my editor on Haunted Hearths and Sapphic Shades. One of the hot topics was the miserable state of GLBT publishing. Catherine grew up in publishing, so she has insight most of us don't. While I lamented the demise of Haworth, Suspect Thoughts (I have no idea what their status is. Ian and Greg aren't communicating with anyone) and Carroll and Graf, she pointed out that it was nothing new. She said that another indie press would fill the space.

Since then, Lethe Press surged to life. Circlet Press, which I thought as on the ropes, had come back strong with forays into e-publishing and some well-received anthologies. (I wanted very much to write for a couple of their anthologies, but simply couldn't make the stories work.). Logical Lust is back in e-publishing and in print after being in limbo for a while. The biggest news to me, and one I'm cheering on, are the moves Bold Strokes Books are making. At the WeHo Book Festival, Felice Picano stopped by to chat at the booth I was working. He told me that Bold Strokes is re-releasing some of his backlist. Until that moment, I didn't realize Bold Strokes, which has been the voice of lesbian literature, had expanded into gay literature as well. So when Trebor Healey was lamenting that all his books were with defunct presses, I suggested he talk to Bold Strokes.

Steve Berman of Lethe Press and I chatted a bit via e-mail about the struggles of GLBT publishing. It's never going to be easy. Shelf space for small publishing houses is almost non-existent at bookstores. That's a blessing and a curse. Large book chains tend to place huge orders, but they return a lot of what they order. Paying the shipping back and forth, plus having to pay to print all those books that get returned, has put a few independent publishers out of business. Amazon is the best bet, but they're brutal too - demanding huge discounts and POD publishers pretty much have to use Amazon's in-house company. Epublishing just about eliminates all this foolishness, but e-books are slow to catch on with the reading public. Still - I have faith it will eventually work out. Or at least the cycle will start over again, and publishers will rise and fall. But the writers will keep scribbling away.

3 comments:

Cecilia Tan said...

Hallelujah. Times are changing, but the readership is still there -- how we reach them is one of the major things changing. Retail in all sectors is suffering from high rents and shipping/overhead costs, not just GLBT stores, and publishing in all sectors is feeling the crunch of rising cost of paper and shipping and the increasing squeeze of Barnes & Noble's dominance. But more people are coming out as GLBT than ever before, and the appetite for erotica is also growing, and moving from a largely male audience to a more female one, too...

We persevere! :-)

Ian Philips said...

Hi, Kathleen! Mrs. Wharton (Ian Philips) here. And just wanted to say thanks for the great post. And let you know that Suspect Thoughts Press isn't dead yet--we just had the wind knocked out of us the last year as we tried to ride the rapids of pre-collapse SF Bay Area rentals and then tried to stay afloat in the open waters of running a bookstore and press. There was a lot of moving back and forth across the country (the back to Northern CA during Saints & Sinners this year) and rebuilding and radio silence (mostly exhaustion and confusion and then plain pondering) as we tried to figure out what to do--fold up for good or rebuild. Being two stubborn old queers, we chose to rebuild. We're working with a new network of wholesalers and distributors and figuring out how to grow sanely and without the "coke" of credit cards this time and more ingenious ways on how to get queer books to queer book lovers (hence the online bookstore).

Kathleen Bradean said...

Ian! Best news I've heard all week. Lovely to see you and Mister Greg are recharging your batteries and looking to pick up where you left off. There's been a void in the Suspect Thoughts space and you know I look forward to reading what you have to offer.