Thursday, May 9, 2013

Guest Blog: "You Don't Want to be Known As a Gay Author" by Mark Allan Gunnells

You don’t want to be known as a gay author. 

I was told this by more than a few people in the biz when I first started publishing. I didn’t take much offense, as I understood what they were trying to say to me. At the time I was publishing mostly horror and fantasy fiction, and my publishers were worried that the typical heterosexual fan of those genres might be put off if they thought my stuff was excessively “gay” and might shy away from my stuff.

I understand it, but I don’t agree with it. As a gay man, I don’t shy away from stories that deal with heterosexual characters. My gay characters I think are relatable to any reader because I believe much of what humans encounter in life transcends things like sexuality, and there is a commonality that we all share. And that being said, I don’t believe you have to be able to directly relate to a character to enjoy that character. It’s sometimes fun and interesting to read about characters who lead lives drastically different from your own. Are there people out there who will refuse to read a book by a gay author no matter what said book is about? Sure, but I like to think they are becoming the minority.

In the end, the fears some of my publishers had turned out to be unfounded. My books didn’t blaze up the best seller’s list, but sales didn’t seem to be impeded by my use of gay characters. In fact, the primary audience for my books has been heterosexual horror fans. I even received some notes from readers that said they really appreciated the way I take typical horror scenarios and set-ups, and cast them with characters that are not usually represented in such fiction.

So being a gay author didn’t seem to hurt me with the straight audience.

And then came my newest published novel, THE EXCHANGE STUDENT. With this one, I’m stepping outside the horror/fantasy genre. The plot of the novel does have a sci-fi element, involving time travel, but at its core, the book is a love story between two young men. There have been love story elements in other books of mine, but this is the first one where that takes center stage. I had a blast writing it, and am very proud of the work.

But found myself unsure how to go about promoting it once it was published. I hope that some of the readers of my horror/fantasy books will follow along on this new journey, but I fear that the romance-heavy aspect may make some of them think twice. So I feel I may have before me the task of courting a whole new audience.

Which is exciting but also frightening. For pretty much the entire time I’ve been publishing, I’ve marketed to a predominately horror audience. I’m familiar with the message boards, the Facebook and Goodreads groups. I know certain reviewers for horror stories, and places I can guest blog. I had a whole system set in place for each new book.

And now I have to start from scratch. It is daunting…but as I said, is also kind of exciting. As an author I don’t want to become stagnant, don’t want my writing to become stale. I want to write different kinds of stories in different genres, to stretch myself, expand my literary horizons. Which means I must meet the challenge of promoting to different audiences depending on what I’m publishing.

And luckily I know folks like Rick who are generous enough to give me guidance, advice, and even the use of their blog. I’m finding new sites, new reviewers, new groups, and hope I will be able to reach a new audience for my work. Romance readers, gay readers…horror readers, straight readers…all are welcome.

You don’t want to be known as a gay author. 

I’m fine with it, as long as I’m known as a gay author with range.

THE EXCHANGE STUDENT can be purchased at:
Barnes & Noble
AllRomance Ebooks
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  1. Congrats on the new book, Mark! You've just found a new reader. ;)

  2. I enjoyed the post I do not do horror well I don't do a lot of horror ( Rick is sorta hardcore for me but he does it very well) I do romance mostly I love sci-fi, BDSM, romance, Historical BUT it has to be Gay I am a straight female. I will check out your "The Exchange Student" When I feel frogy I will try on of your horrors.
    Here is to many sales.

    Rick my man you may have turned me on to another writer good work.