I’ve never been nervous about writing before. That sounds…overly cocky, I know, but it’s not cockiness. It’s lack of giving a fuckness. If I think the plot is sound and the characters are interesting, I write it. I don’t worry about marketability, or who to sell it to. I just write, and I put the tough stuff aside for Future Sue when I go to revise and then query.
But from the moment it took hold, popped into my head and said “oh, this is the espionage story you’ve been wanting to tell all of your life,” I have been scared shitless to write and then publish my Cold War espionage series.
In recent months, my emotional ground has shifted. I’ve gone from being afraid of writing the Big Gay Spy Series (the BGSS for short) due to backlash, to being hungry for it, eager to make them rage with my words. But the fear I had before didn’t vanish–it shifted. It moved from “I am afraid to write this book” to “I’m afraid of a publisher fucking it up.”
The BGSS has been called a lot of things already, first and foremost being compared to The Man From Uncle. To which I respond, “Yes, but with monsters and magic and weird shit–and gay.” And while I keep falling back on “this is a book about gay men in the 1960s dealing with period typical homophobia” it is, at its core, a supernatural spy series. It’s The Man From Uncle meets Hell Boy, with a comedic undercurrent of jazz music and cat and mouse games.
(And really what’s wrong with being compared to The Man From Uncle? ITS. AMAZING.)
And while I want this book to succeed without worrying that I will somehow screw it up on my own, I’m terrified that a publishing house will pitch it differently, will muddle what I want to be nothing more than an entertaining escape into the 1960s spy scene, into something far more melodramatic just to sell books. This is a spy novel with gay men, and I’m worried that it will get marketed as LGBT first, spy novel second. I want someone to open this ebook on their device of choice and get sucked into a car chase to the beat of Glenn Miller and a man who is something of a monster, only to realize later that he’s also not straight at all.
And if you don’t get what the difference is–its huge. It’s enormous. It changes the comp titles, it changes where it fall on Amazon, it changes the intended audience entirely. If all three Amazon categories pin it to LGBT, then Action Adventure, it limits the potential visibility, completely undercutting its ability for mass appeal. In doing so, this book will be found only in the LGBT section, and suggested along with queer romance titles. Which would be fine if I were writing a romance, but I’m not. And the mistakes I’ve seen in marketing LGBT action adventure series are not coming just from Big Five, but from indies that I know and respect. And it has me wondering, can I trust anyone with this book?
I’ve never been worried about marketing a book like this before. Everything I write is pretty straightforward, leaving very few alternative allies to pitch it under. Sigil is demons and sociopaths saving a world they’re continually unsure about every damn day, Purga is southern gothic monsters with a mentally ill lead and a whole lot of bad choices, and Dan Thompson could be billed as queer and it wouldn’t lose the audience because its YA and YA is infinitely more progressive than adult. The only concern I’ve ever had is “please no ladies in leather with tramp stamps book covers.”
Though I keep getting these little bits of self doubt and nuggets of advice from author friends who I look up to quite a bit–I have to remember that while I am younger, that doesn’t make me foolish, doesn’t make me any less capable of making this choice for myself.
So I’ll say it again, and hopefully for the last time–my espionage serial will not be trad pubbed. Because I don’t see any sense in wasting time querying a series of 35K or less novellas that 99.9% of trad pub doesn’t give a fuck for because it’s not long enough. Because I don’t trust a publisher not to fuck up what should be a very simple concept–a funny action-packed Cold War era espionage with queer men and elements of the supernatural. I am not writing this series to teach a lesson, or to have some great morality tale tucked away between the lines; I’m writing it because I want to.
And I don’t need any other reason.