Saturday, 30 April 2016

Booktrope Closure

At about ten o’clock last night I was pretty smug with myself. I’d spent the day working on the latest edits for my next book and I’d spent the last hour doing a #writestorm with a couple of my favourite authors, managing to get within a chapter or two of finishing my third book. All of this was set against a backdrop of good sales for April, another successful promotion for The Running Game, and lots of ambition and planning for the future.

By eleven my world, and the worlds of many others, turned on its head when we received the shock announcement that Booktrope, my publishing company would close with effect from 31 May 2016. This means that my second book Border Lines will not be published with them and that they will unpublish The Running Game at the end of May. Like many I absorbed the news in a state of despair, confusion, and anger.

I worked solidly on my own for four years, working on self-publishing and building a reputation and portfolio that would appeal to publishers. After less than a year the achievement I have made is now being reset. Or is it? I’m seeing a lot of confused authors out there – hell I’m one of them and we’re having to contend with a mixture of feelings and apprehensions. But we need to look at this as not a step backwards, but a dodge to the side.

If, like me, Booktrope was your first publishing company (and the only publishing company that I am with under L E Fitzpatrick), the rug has been pulled from under our feet and we are in free fall. But is this so uncommon an occurrence that we have any right to feel hurt and shocked? Small publishing houses are closing all the time, we’re in an economic downturn, and this is not about art, this is about business. It’s a horrible situation for authors and team members involved in the production of the projects – they are all hard working dedicated individuals who will suffer because this company is closing. But businesses go bust all the time and the one consolation for many of us is that we can still take our books and self-publish.

In light of what has happened I think it’s also important to evaluate my position with Booktrope and what they provided to get me where I am to fully comprehend what I have lost. Aside from the prestige of being with a recognised publisher which would allow me to advertise with certain organisations such as the Thrillers Writer’s Association (which I volunteer for anyway), what – dare I say it – has Booktrope ever done for me?

Firstly they provided me with a team of professionals to work on my book. Jessica, Ashley, Majanka, Cindy, and Bella, all helped reshape The Running Game into the story it is now. All these girls have also just lost their jobs with Booktrope. I know that some of them work privately and those that do will forever have my business because I believe in their talent and abilities. Those that don’t, may decide to and will also always have my support. Aside from putting me in touch with these awesome ladies, the hard work was all their own and there is every chance we will work together again and possibly more to their benefit and mine.

After that they provided me with some promotion which I would in turn pay out of future royalties. At the same time I have also paid and set up my own promotion which has been more successful and which I paid for upfront from my own pocket anyway. My main success came from Bookbub, who I discovered through Booktrope, but was only eligible because I had so many reviews (over 30) and this I achieved before I even signed with the label. In fact I put all this down to my indie marketer Alina at Eyes on Books. I could do Bookbub on my own and I will do.

So aside from prestige what have I lost? And even with returning to self-publishing (because in the short term that is my only option for my Reacher series) is the “publisher” name all that important? I know my MS is of publishing house quality, I know my cover is amazing. I know the work I continue to put in will match or even exceed that of Booktrope. My reviews are good and plentiful, my exposure so far is far reaching and consistent. I’m also beginning to learn that going alone provides you with security and stability. I am in control, not only of my books but my career. I gain a bigger percentage of my royalties and, in theory, I have a lot less legal issues to deal with. Maybe, just maybe this is a good thing. Or at the very least I can make it a good thing.

Right now I know there are hundreds of Booktrope authors and team members trying to work out what to do and where they stand. I know this because last night and this morning I’ve been talking to lots them publically and privately. I’ve even been talking to other authors and publishers not affiliated with Booktrope who are as shocked by these events as I am. And there has been a consistent trend. We are not alone. The supportive messages I got today are undoubtedly just a fraction of what authors are getting across the world, and these words of encouragement need to be our fuel for moving forward. This is our passion, our very reason for getting up in the morning, and a business has no right to destroy that for us. So don’t let it.

Over the course of the next four weeks there will be talks and tribulations but there will be an outcome and it is up to us as authors, as editors, as proofreaders, as designers, and managers to make it the best it can be. Hell, set your sights high and make it even better than it ever could have been with Booktrope.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Back of the Bus

Last year, as a mother of a 7 year old boy, I experienced a moment of relief when gay marriage was recognised in the UK and then later in the US. I don’t know if my son is gay (currently kissing is the grossest thing in the world), but up until last year a part of me worried that, if he was, he would lose out on some of the opportunities and privileges a heterosexual male would get. But the laws are changing – at least they were – and it felt like one less thing to worry about as a parent. If my son is gay, his husband will be recognisable by our government and country, he will be able to have a family, legal entitlements etc. I had a hope that by the time my son was a man, he would live in a world where who he was didn’t dictate what he was entitled to.

So news of North Carolina’s bathroom law feels like a kick in the teeth for progress. What’s more is the sudden eruption of hatred and prejudice being pushed online under the guise of child protection. The amount of people openly saying “I have nothing against transgender people… but if it’s them or my child I’m gonna pick my child…” As though in some way transgender people have any impact on the health and welfare of your child. No, this has nothing to do with children. This is all about ignorance and bigotry.

First off – public toilets are for the purpose of the general public to relieve themselves. Women’s toilets are cubicle based - that’s right guys, we don’t actually sit and watch each other pee – while men get both urinals and cubicles. This means that a transgender woman with a penis will likely be hidden behind a cubicle along with the rest of the girls. A transgender man with a vagina is very unlikely to use a urinal, meaning he’ll be in a cubicle also. So unless you are scrutinising the undercarriage of every individual using a public toilet (and if you’re inclined to do this you have your own issues that need addressing) it is unlikely you will know that you are peeing beside a transgender person. So stop fucking worrying about it. They’re not thinking about your business, stop thinking about theirs you big weirdo.

Secondly let’s talk about safety. Here’s a thing that people really need to start understanding. TRANSGENDER HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SEXUALITY. It’s not a perversion, or a sexual desire. It’s not about sexual gratification or fulfilment. Transgender is being born psychologically one gender and physically another. If you struggle with this think of a baby that is born needing a new heart or other organ – their bodies are defected and need to be surgically corrected. The only difference is that a baby with defected organs suffers physically, whereas a transgender person suffers mentally. Your son or daughter could be born transgender and this would not affect their sexuality.

Unfortunately, we have shot ourselves in the foot when it comes to educating bigots about transgender issues by linking transgender people with the Lesbian, Bisexual and Gay movement. Bigots and homophobes see LGBT and assume it’s all about who you fancy and who you sleep with, when in fact, for transgender people, their plight and struggle in our society has nothing to do with their bed partners – at least not initially (of course there’s still massive prejudice when it comes to transgender romance but one step at a time). Sometimes I do wonder if separating transgender from the LGBT community wouldn’t help those struggling to grasp the concept of gender identification, but the support and positivity around LGBT (which fantastically is growing and growing) probably outweighs any negative association.

The fact of the matter is that a law abiding transgender person is of no threat to your children or yourselves, just like a law abiding non-transgender person is no threat. However we have this strange idea that implementing a law to prevent the “possibility” of abuse will somehow protect ourselves. I go back to “I’d rather protect my children over the rights of a transgender person.” We have something similar in the UK at the minute. Our disabled citizens are being persecuted financially because of non-disabled people wrongly claiming disability benefits. So our government has made it nearly impossible for people to exist on disability living allowance. And, while people with crippling health issues are starving in their homes, the benefit cheats are finding new ways to play the system. The North Carolina bathroom law is going to have the same affect. It will persecute the law abiding transgender populace and will do nothing to prevent deviants being… by definition deviant.

This law is not going to stop a man sneaking into a public toilet and raping a woman or child if he is inclined to do so. It’s not going to stop a woman abducting a child while the child’s mother is in the neighbouring stall. It’s not going to stop drug users shooting up in toilet stalls. Or prostitutes taking their clients to public toilets. This law is not going to protect you or your children and just like the disabled in our country, you are persecuting people who have done nothing wrong and making their lives significantly worse for no good reason.

One of the most frustrating things as a Brit when seeing the uproar about this issue, is that America, especially pro-republican America, is a country that favours guns. This is a country where educated white men have repeatedly gone into schools and fired upon innocent children. This is a country which refuses to compromise their gun laws because it impacts their rights as Americans according to the constitution. But when someone “different” to their understanding needs to pee, they have to be persecuted because children may be in danger. It’s a double standard. It’s hypocritical. And above all else it’s totally wrong. This is supposed to be the land of the free – but only if you were born in the right body, with the right skin colour.

So far to date, since transgender people have been using public toilets as they feel appropriate, they haven’t attacked, or hurt anyone. In fact, it’s the transgender community that need protecting from regular Joes in public bathrooms. A transgender woman who is forced to use a male toilet is far more at risk from rape and beatings than any child using the same toilet. But you know, they’re getting abused so our children aren’t…. wtf??? This law is total bullshit and the people subscribing to the “security” issue are being na├»ve and foolish.

The western world has a dubious history with civil liberties and it’s frustrating that we can take two steps forward only to then take a massive leap backwards. We’re hiding behind a fundamental that people can’t argue with – child protection – when really what we should be saying is: WE DON’T UNDERSTAND, TEACH US AND LET’S MAKE THIS BETTER FOR EVERYONE. Sadly instead what we’re telling the LGBT community – what we’re teaching our own children – is these people are different and they should be treated differently. They don’t deserve to have the same rights as us. They shouldn’t use our toilets… maybe they shouldn’t use our shops… maybe they should eat in different places… go to school in different schools… maybe we should make them sit at the back of the bus… This could be your kid, your grandchild, your niece or nephew. And this is how you want to protect them. This is how you want their future to be….

Some really good articles with statistics etc: