Today I am very excited to welcome K. Piet from Storm Moon Press, here today to tell us about their new trans* story, Pearl. Welcome!
As marketing director of Storm Moon Press, I work hard to promote every title our press puts out. I schedule interviews, book guest blog posts and promo spots on other sites, spread the word about new releases, and send out copies of every story for review at every relevant review site I can find. Every so often, however, a manuscript crosses my proverbial desk that poses a challenge in the way of marketing.
In the case of Pearl, our newest short story release by Kelly Rand, the challenge wasn’t in it being cross-genre, but in the simple fact that Pearl is a trans* romance story. There are a few unique problems that come about when you work with trans* fiction. Now, I’m not saying no one should write it—far from that, as I love trans* fiction—but for those who do write it, there are some elements that sadly make marketing an uphill battle. Here are my top three, and keep in mind, these definitely shouldn’t be seen as deterrents, but rather as challenges that we can work to overcome in the GLBT genre.
1. Sites that won’t let you call it trans*
This might be something people don’t think about, but when you’ve written a trans* book, there are many websites that don’t have categories you can check in order to properly label your book. Trans* characters naturally cross boundaries that the gender binary has formed in our society, so it isn’t surprising that a lot of sites don’t yet recognize them. It pushes a lot of buttons for some people, and that means that when you go to categorize your book, you’re left with inadequate labels that don’t quite cover the diversity within trans* fiction.
In the case of Pearl, you have a cis-gendered woman (biologically female who identifies as such) becoming involved with a transgender man (biologically female who identifies and lives as a man). Because most sites don’t have a trans* option, this title might be forced into the categories of heterosexual romance or lesbian romance. Both of those are very inaccurate, and they create a couple problems. Both might mislead readers who are fans of either lesbian or het romance, and that’s definitely a no-no when you can avoid it through proper marketing. Secondly, you have the more lingering problem of those labels erasing the trans* element, which just perpetuates the invisibility of trans* people and trans characters within the GLBT genre (not to mention society at large).
2. Sites that don’t review trans* at all
Every review site and blog is different, and that means that there are some places your book won’t get to go in the way of promotion. This should really come as no surprise. After all, you wouldn’t take a science fiction book to a website that only promotes westerns and expect them to give you the time of day (unless you have a cross-genre storyline like Firefly; there are exceptions to every rule). With trans* fiction (or with any part of the QUILTBAG, really), there are going to be sites that don’t cater to your chosen part of the spectrum. It’s problematic, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with a site not agreeing to review or promo your book, whatever the reason.
Now, I do want to point out here that there is a difference between a book just not being within the blog/website’s chosen audience and being refused by a site based on phobic behavior. Now, I’m not saying the two are completely mutually exclusive, but the main difference is that there is often false advertising involved on the sites that end up being phobic (be it trans*-phobic or homophobic or even anachrophobia). If you’re trying to market a trans* book on a site geared only toward M/M romance, then that site has grounds for refusing to promote your book. If, on the other hand, your post or promo is being denied because it contains trans* content and the site openly preaches it’s GLBT-friendly? That’s the site not living up to the expectation they’ve set on their blog. Sorry for the mini-rant there, but I just want everyone to understand that you have to keep a level head when you’re promoting and not take offense at every decline you receive. Not all of them are ill-meant. Sometimes you’re just not quite the right fit on a blog, and that’s all right! That’s when you search for a better place to promote, which can be difficult, but is rarely impossible.
3. Marketing to a limited market
When you narrow down the topics within any book, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in a niche market if you are going just for the people who are most likely to enjoy every element of your book. Of course, in the case of trans* fiction, this narrowing can be very limiting without any other elements (for example, having a trans* historical erotic romance like Pearl). Putting a book out there with all those elements can seem like an impossible marketing feat. The solution to the problem is usually quite simple, though, so don’t panic! Were you panicking there for a second? Well, don’t! I’ve got you covered on this one, too. ^_-
When you find you’re boxing yourself into too small a niche, then try dividing and conquering. In the case of the trans* historical erotic romance, don’t think of it as only being bearable by those who love trans* and historicals and erotic romance. Instead, view it as being a possible find for anyone who likes trans* or historicals or erotic romance. If you think of broadening your audience by reaching out to those three separate markets, suddenly your story might not seem as daunting a task to market. You never want to mislead anyone, of course, but there’s no problem taking your story to a broad smattering of places for promotion. The worst they can do is say no, but you never know when you’re going to find a gem of a place that gives your book a chance to reach that broader audience!
K. Piet is the Marketing Director of Storm Moon Press and the co-author of both Catalyst and Other Side of Night: Bastian & Riley. She can be found on her website Kpiet.net or on Twitter @k_piet.