I recently became aware of a Facebook group called “GLBT Writers and Readers”. The group description reads:
“To offer support and encouragement for all GLBT Writers, whether they are published or not. And for all GLBT Readers because we love them. Ask and answer questions about writing, publishing, and reading as well as have general discussions. As a community we can only stand if we help one another.”
I am a gay reader. It sounds like it might be interesting, so I joined. It’s too soon to tell whether I will enjoy it.
One of the first things I noticed is much of the activity comes from authors promoting their own work. I think that is terrific. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a writer trying to sell books and the opportunity to get some extra information from them can enhance the pleasure of reading their work.
So, I was not surprised when I saw a post promoting a book called The Phantom Lover by Norman Filler. Billed as a “High Fantasy Erotica“, the Kindle edition was available FREE (!) from Amazon. Having only recently discovered Kindle for iPhone, and always a fan of free stuff, I clicked the button, the book appeared on my phone and I read it, mostly while on the elliptical machine at the gym.
The book is interesting enough. I won’t review it here other than to say it is a hetero-erotic short story crafted on a framework of indigenous African mysticism. I’d suggest there is a strong feminist message as well. There are four reviews on Amazon and they are raves so who am I to say otherwise.
What intrigues me is why someone would promote straight erotica in the GLBT Writers & Readers group? Even if the writer is a member of the GLBT community (no idea), he is promoting his book to a group of readers likely to be uninterested. I imagine I am a fairly typical gay reader. No matter how well written, I am not likely to be enraptured by the romance of “… their first and most holy act of union” taking place on the floor of the rainforest nor titillated by descriptions of him plunging “into the silky slippery dampness“. I was not offended. They didn’t do anything I haven’t done, though he appeared to enjoy it more and be much better at it than I ever was. Mostly, I was just mildly bored. I’m pretty sure that is not what writers of erotica are going for. I think it is supposed to be, you know….erotic. For this gay male reader… not even close.
I asked the person who continues to repeat the Facebook post, in a very polite and non-judgmental fashion, what the nexus was between the book and the group. I have not received a reply.
I would never begrudge any author’s efforts to promote sales but I cannot see a rationale for promoting ones work to a group unlikely to be interested and then making it available for free. I would have been irritated if I had paid for a book billed as erotica to GLBT readers and gotten The Phantom Lover but, at least it would have made sense as a marketing strategy. Having gotten it free, I am not annoyed, just confused.
Is there some benefit to moving greater numbers of units through Amazon? I suppose there is promotional value in touting a large number of downloads so soon after publishing. But I don’t think you can call it a ‘best seller’ if none of them are actually purchased.
A friend had one theory that seems to have merit. Perhaps the number of units downloaded affects how high the title appears in Amazon’s search results. If true, I can see the value; especially in this case. An Amazon search yielded 32 pages of listings for books called; The Phantom Lover, A Phantom Lover, or just Phantom Lover. (Note to self: get more info on how copyrights work.)
On the subject of ‘bait & switch’, I find it interesting that the lovers on the cover appear to be Caucasian while the hero and heroine in the book are Africans from Malawi. I am sure there is market research that supports that decision.
I wish Mr. Filler well for the success of his book. I can honestly say I liked it more than 50 Shades of Grey. It’s not better…. but it is shorter.