Last week was an interesting one in blogland, that’s for certain.
I think there were two different hooplas (can hoopla be plural-ed?). I was only following one of them. But something caught my eye last night about the other hoopla.
Now bear in mind, I haven’t followed this incident, I wasn’t at RT and I haven’t talked to anybody about it so my understanding of the events may not be complete. But from what I can tell, here’s what happened.
There were some promo posters up at the hotel in Houston…(it was Houston, right?). Several of them were fairly explicit, either featuring M/M or M/F in …hmmmmmm…. risque situations. Book covers, blown up to poster size. Some complaints were made and the M/M poster was taken down. Supposedly the complaints were made by businessmen or business woman to hotel management and management in return either took them down or had them taken down. Only the M/M, though, if I understand the gist of this.
Okay, now before anybody skewers me or attacks my right to have my own personal opinion…read the rest of the post and try to understand the thoughts behind the opinion.
The only thing I think the hotel did wrong was to not remove all posters that were in public view. Yes. All. M/M, F/F, M/F, M/M/F, M/F/M,F/F/M…. All that were in the public view, if they were explicit.
Why do I feel like this….
That’s easy. This was a hotel. Hotels cater to business people and vacationers. The hotel has an obligation to make sure their customers aren’t made to feel uncomfortable. The explicitness of the posters (which tend to be pretty big) made some of them uncomfortable. Now me, personally, if it was just ME, I probably just would have ignored something that made me feel uncomfortable. But… throw my kids into the equation, would I have said something?
Yes. Emphatically. And it doesn’t matter what the subject matter on the poster was, which is why I say I feel the hotel should have either moved ALL the posters out of public view or removed them period. RT is usually sprawls out into conference rooms so this material could have been placed where the only people who saw them were the people attending the convention.
Chances are if these posters were in a place where business travelers could see them, families would too. And is a poster featuring a couple (no matter the sexual orientation) in a sexual clinch really appropriate for kids to see? No. It’s not.
Whether you have children or not, picture yourself walking thru a hotel on a family trip, hand in hand with a six year old boy. Six year old boys WILL see those posters if they are in the public eye. Do you want to be the one explaining that poster to that six year old? They will ask. Is six years old really mature enough to exposed to that sort of sexual material? No. I don’t think any sane, intelligent person can honestly and rationally answer that question any other way.
Does this mean it’s your responsibility make sure underage readers aren’t exposed to your material? No…that is the parent’s job. However, when you’re in public, I do think you need to take some responsibility. Parents don’t lead their children around blindfolded so keep it in mind when you do your promo stuff. It does boil down to respect. You can write what you want. If erotic romance offends some people, they don’t have to read them or buy them. I can understand that. But sexually explicit posters aren’t something a person can really avoid seeing, or keeping their kids from seeing, if it’s right there in the public. Anybody who has ever tried to keep a child away from something they shouldn’t see knows just how hard this is. But it’s not really fair to expect that mom to grab her child and leave so you don’t have to worry about that poster.
My thoughts on the entire subject would be that the hotel would be perfectly in their rights to request that any sexually explicit material either be kept small and inconspicuous or that they not be allowed in the public areas…ie:hallways. Keep them in the conference rooms. Things like bookmarks and magnets are much easier to keep out of public view because they aren’t RIGHT THERE~bookmarks and magnets aren’t so big that you can’t help but see it.
Is there a way to avoid this sort of thing in the future? Yeah, but it would take work on part of publishers, compromise on the part of authors, forethought on the part of the hotel.
They need to understand that there is a way to be sensual without putting a couple in a naked clinch. Those sort of covers make a lot of readers uncomfortable, even if they are romance lovers. I can’t exactly say nekkid covers make me uncomfortable but I don’t like them. I just don’t. If it’s something I wouldn’t want my kids to see, I won’t buy it. If it’s a cover for one of my books and I don’t want my kids seeing it, chances are it’s not going to be a book I promote much…books I promote, I keep author copies on hand and if I can’t keep it in my office due to the nekkid people on the cover, then I won’t promote it that much. It will end up in a box in the attic and I’m too lazy to go fetch it every time I use it as an book giveaway. This is why I request, when I can, the covers be sensual…not overly sexual.
I’m not the only mom who reads romance so I know I’m not the only mom who has bypassed a book because it wasn’t something she wanted to risk her preschooler seeing. I’m raising my kids to understand that the books mommy reads are grown up books and they don’t go messing with them or trying to read them, but that teaching doesn’t keep the baby bratlet from grabbing books off the shelves and dragging them around the house while she’s on her mischief hunt. Since I don’t want her dragging out books that her older brother and sister can’t see… I just don’t buy them.
There’s a cover up on Sybil’s blog that even if it’s the best book in the world, I won’t buy it… not something I’d want my kids seeing, especially the two that can read! I’m certain I’m not the only mom who’s going to see that title and go, huh?
Especially those who write erotic romance, need to understand that what we write is going to make some people uncomfortable. You’re entitled to write whatever you want. But the general public is also entitled to not feel so comfortable about it.
If you want people to respect your right to write whatever, then you have to respect their feelings on it, whether they like erotic stuff or not. Respect does go both ways. I have friends who know what I write and yes, it makes them uncomfortable. Do I call them narrow-minded over it? No. They are entitled to their opinion. Do they call me an immoral slut because of what I write? No. They respect my choice. Respect…goes both ways.
When you’re doing your promo material, yeah, you want to catch the reader’s eyes, but you don’t want to totally alienate everybody else. Some of those everybody elses might be potential readers. And even if they’re not, they are entitled to not like what they see on your promo material. If you’re lucky enough to write for a publisher that gives you some say…try requesting a cover that isn’t so explicit, it will singe somebody’s eyelashes just looking. Save the singe for what’s between the covers. This is especially important if you write for smaller houses. Larger publishers (usually) tend to keep the steam level on the covers to sensual rather than overtly sexual just because it does make stocking and shelfing them a little less of an event.
One thing I regularly request of my epubs is that the couple be clothed, and I do mean clothed, not just undies. I’ve been very lucky, too, I think I have some of the best looking covers, sensual, romantic…and nothing I feel the need to totally hide for fear my daughter or son might see one laying around. I also request no clinches. We’ve all seen the bodice ripper covers and even romance writers roll their over those.
When you’re doing up your promo material, think about where you’re going to be. Most booksignings are done in public places and public places tend to have … KIDS… is that poster something a five or six year old ought to see? If not, and you do it anyway, chances are you’ll end up losing potential book buyers. I go to bookstores family in tow…and again…I’m not the only mom who does. If you have something on your table that kids shouldn’t see, I won’t come up and talk to you. This even applies at RT because that booksigning IS open to the public. That hallways ARE open to the public. Open to the public means just that…
By all means, you want readers to come and investigate, but there are some who won’t come over if the poster is featuring a nekkid clench-fest. If they don’t come over and check it out…a potential reader lost.
The management of these places need to be aware beforehand of what they are hosting. They need to think about their guests and keep the best interest of all in mind. If it’s a places where young kids, conservatively minded people are going to be, then they have the right to request explicit material either be left at home or kept to a minimum. I’ve been to several group signings where the bookseller requested no overtly sexual material and I understood perfectly.
So those are my feelings on the subject. Agree or not, I’m hoping some people can understand why sometimes less (nekkid, steam, etc) can actually translate to more (potential readers, potential buyers, potential royalties).
FYI, some of this isn’t going to apply to ebooks…ebooks themselves are much easier to keep away from kids, just by the nature of being ebooks. But the promoting ideas do still apply. Will I read erotic romance ebooks? Uh… yeah, I write them so of course I’ll read them. But if you’re promoting your books at a place where I might have my kids, and your table is filled with huge, nekkid posters, penis shaped suckers and handcuffs, then I’ll bypass your table. That right there can translate to lost sales. Meeting an author makes that author stand out in my mind and standing out is one way to get your book bought.