Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas…
elena minor writes fiction, plays, poetry and commentary. Her work has been published in Poetry Midwest, Prism Review, BorderSenses, Vox, edifice WRECKED, The Big Ugly Review, 26, Quercus Review, Segue, Chicanovista, Facets, Banyan Review and Frontera and has new work forthcoming in Segue and Diner. She is a past First Prize recipient of the University of California at Irvine’s Chicano/Latino Literary Prize in drama, a past second place winner for poetry in the Sacramento Public Library’s Focus on Writers contest, and a past second place winner of the Facets Fiction Contest. minor has been, in addition, a short story finalist in the Pirate’s Alley William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition, the Elixir Press Fiction Chapbook Awards, the Phoebe Fiction Contest, and the Cutthroat Rick DeMarinis Short Fiction Award. She holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. minor is founding editor of Palabra, a magazine dedicated to Chicano and Latino literary art. For information on submission guidelines and subscriptions to Palabra, you may send an email.
◙ Sandra Rodriguez Barron’s first novel, The Heiress of Water, has just been released by Rayo/HarperCollins. She's received much praise including from Isabel Allende who says: "Sandra Rodriguez Barron's exuberant prose yields an immensely entertaining reading experience. You are fraught with the certainty that she is a gatekeeper of the secrets of the sea." It has also been chosen as a Borders Original Voices selection for fall 2006. I’ll have more on Sandra soon.
◙ This holiday season, why not consider a gift from UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center? Journals, books, T-shirts, caps and mugs…perfect for that Chican@ or Friend-of-Chican@ on your list. See all the CSRC has to offer by clicking here.
◙ Speaking of gifts, have you visited Chicano Style yet? There are six stores in California or you can shop online. ¡Ajua!
◙ The December issue of Somos Primos is now live. It’s dedicated to Hispanic heritage and diversity issues and is produced by the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research Celebrating which is celebrating its 20th Anniversary.
◙ Red Hen Press has teamed up with the Geffen Playhouse to create a series of Monday night readings and conversations at the Geffen. Red Hen Press Managing Editor Kate Gale is the host of the new series. And tonight, December 11, Carolyn See and John Rechy share their "Los Angeles Stories."
◙ Marcela Landres has all kinds of literary news online. Of note:
INTERNATIONAL LATINO BOOK AWARDS
Early Bird Discount Deadline: January 31
Full Price Deadline: March 16
Sponsored by the Latino Book & Family Festival. Authors can nominate themselves and self-published books are eligible. For guidelines, visit http://www.latinofestivals.com/home/
◙ I happened upon an interesting article in Publishers Weekly (December 4, 2006) by Marta Acosta, author of the hilarious novel, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula (Pocket Books). I asked her if we could republish it here on La Bloga and she kindly agreed. Here it is in its entirety:
Being labeled "women's fiction" may not be such a bad thing
by Marta Acosta
When I was seven, my dad took me to the Mystery Spot, in the redwoods near Santa Cruz, Calif. I dropped a marble on the floor and watched it roll uphill. I could not get my brain around the fact that the marble was defying the laws of nature as I knew them. I feel just as baffled now to learn that everything I thought I knew about book marketing is wrong.
I've always written for a diverse audience. Readers of my humor and feature articles are men and women, young and old. When my comic novel, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, was published this summer, I was surprised and irked to see that, according to the book's jacket and marketing, Ihad suddenly become a writer of women's fiction and its subcategories (I'd thought my book had wider appeal). Let us ignore my predilection toward irkiness and focus on my presumption that these categories drastically limited my book sales by ignoring men as potential customers.
Art is all well and good when one has a trust fund, but I write for money, and sales are important to me. I did a little research on marketing. I expected to find evidence that everything that rises must converge, everything that goes up must come down, and that gender-specific marketing reduces readership by half.
Just as I was swayed by the optical illusion that the marble was rolling uphill, I trusted the perception that marketing my book only to women would limit sales. In both cases, my intuition was wrong.
The debate about gender in literature--men write fiction while women write women's fiction, chick lit, romance, etc.--has been going on for too long. Discussions always focus on whether women writers are being denigrated by having their novels placed in gender-specific categories. But people rarely talk about the reason for these categories from a sales perspective.
I talked to Joel Vincent, a marketing consultant in San Jose, Calif. He explained, "There's definitely a philosophy that satisfying one set of customers 100% is more effective than toning down your appeal to that segment in order to be attractive to other customers." When I expressedmy skepticism, he agreed that it seems counterintuitive to neglect huge groups of customers, but insisted that going "whole hog" with your most likely audience is a far more successful strategy.
Katy Munger, author of the Casey Jones comic mystery series, pretty much concurred: "As much as you hate being stereotyped or labeled, how do you stand out in a huge, overglutted market?" Munger considers herself a crime fiction writer, but her novels have been shelved in various sections, including mystery and chick lit.
These categories are determined by book merchandisers, not publishers, critics or authors, I learned. Vincent, who specializes in wine marketing, pointed out the role that snobbery plays on both the production and consumer sides. At what point does a writer choose perception of artistic merit over increased sales? "For artists, it's a very personal thing," Vincent said. "[But] if I wrote a book... I'd want to be in the chick lit section."
Nathan Barker, owner of Kayleighbug Books and Scrybe Press, publishers of sci-fi, fantasy and horror books, reiterated the popularity of such books: "Romance and chick lit outsell all other genres by almost five to one. Many great speculative fiction and comic titles are being releasedas 'chick lit' these days." According to Barker, in the last five years, more horror has been published in the romance genre than in the horror genre.
Barker thinks this odd categorization will eventually help speculative fiction, because "the lines are blurred, the books sell more, and the authors get paid higher advances." Still, I wonder how many men will pick up a novel from the Love Spell imprint because they're told it's a great werewolf story?
Finally, Barker told me, he goes through books to find out which ones are actually paranormals or horror novels being marketed as romance, "in an attempt to restore [those books] to general readership."
General readership... that's all I wanted in the first place.
Marta Acosta is the author of the comic, women's, vampire, chick lit, Latina, horror novel, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula. Her next book, Midnight Brunch, will be published in May.
◙ Speaking of ethnicity and literature, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg (pictured), in an article published in The Wall Street Journal, offers the following headline: Why Book Industry Sees the World Split Still by Race. The subheadline is: In Many Stores, Black Authors Are Shelved Separately: Convenience or Disservice? Trachtenberg uses African-American horror novelist, Brandon Massey, as a primary example of this conundrum. It is a fascinating article and well worth your time. Not surprisingly, most of the issues are applicable to Latino/a writers. Massey calls having his books stocked in the African-American section "a double-edged sword." Massey is pleased that he can direct readers there but wonders if such placement "limits my sales." You may read the entire article here. I also suggest this interesting interview of Trachtenberg on book publishing and blogging.
◙ Just learned that Melinda Palacio profiles Reyna Grande in the new issue of Ink Byte.
◙ My holiday book list for children and teens appeared in yesterday’s El Paso Times.
◙ All done. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadre at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!