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Monday News: Fabio retrospective; Racine man banned from all the libraries...

The ending cover was an Edgar Rice Burroughs book titled “The Beasts of Tarzan” but I totally read it as “The Breasts of Tarzan.” Huffington Post

Lo says that Levithan’s work is paving the way for more LGBT characters in mainstream fiction. The door might open with gay white boys but behind them will be the lesbians and the transgender kids as well.

Berkley and Avon will be publishing m/m romances, one from Karina Cooper and another from ZA Maxfield. The late March release by JR Ward “Lover At Last” will feature a gay romance between two longstanding characters.

Is this parenthetical inclusion or one step forward? Malinda Lo

The Amazon bestseller list that is being scrutinized is the print side. On the print side, it looks like you may only need to sell about 8,000 copies to get the on the list. On the digital side, the number is higher by a factor of at least two, if not five or six, according to numbers I’ve been told by indie authors.

There are two reasons this data point is significant. It either means that print book sales are more depressed than anyone wants to report or it means that Amazon’s market share for print books is much less. But it’s not a significant data point to indicate that it doesn’t take much to get on the Amazon print bestseller list.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Christine M.
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 06:26:38

    I had a look at the Huffington Post article/slideshow and you know what I like about those Fabio covers? He’s *looking* at ‘his’ lady. Like, lost in their eyes. Their gazes are locked on almost all the cinch/couple pictures. No floating pecs or heads or anonymous torsos. Fabio’s all about the lady in his arms. I know there’s been a lot of discussions about bodice rippers in the past on this blog but to me, Fabio’s covers express (a part of) romance whereas a lot fo the comptemporary covers don’t.

  2. Ashley
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 06:31:14

    I read that Malinda Lo article and I don’t agree with her. I don’t think parenthetical inclusion is enough. It’s great that Levithan’s book has that cover and has so much buzz, but the entire idea that inclusion will eventually reach everyone else after the white guys bothers me. Why in this day and age are things still this way? And really, the pessimist in me thinks this book will only pave the way for more books like it, meaning more books about white males, while everyone else is still waiting in the wings.

  3. sula
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 07:12:22

    So I see that Robin is quoted in this new article in The Atlantic. . Interesting read.

  4. cead
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 07:29:08

    @Christine M.: I’m with you. From a sort of technical perspective, I like the artistic style of the more contemporary covers better, but most of the modern couples, there’s something missing, no matter how they’ve been posed. A lot of the time, they look disinterested or bored. But Fabio really manages to sell passionate absorption in his lady. It just… works. I think that’s part of what makes him so hot. He’s not my type at all, in a strictly objective sense, but you kinda get the feeling that he’s always going to be all about his lady.

  5. cleo
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 08:34:39

    @sula: Thanks for the link – really interesting article.

  6. Gwen Hayes
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 09:38:32

    The Racine library was my first library visit. I have some great memories of it…none included a frapping man, though.

  7. Gwen Hayes
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 09:45:29

    Has anyone read books written by Fabio?

  8. John
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 10:34:22

    Levithan’s cover is a step forward. I don’t think it deserves to be free from criticism, but if the book is about two white males and the publisher thinks that it has the authorial platform to take this cover risk…I say go for it, because LGBTQ teens need it. It’s a shame that our culture starts with white males with everything, but that does seem to be how things progress, and I’d rather progress to the point where we can include all types rather than NOT create this cover and take even longer to reach the point where we can see kissing on covers.

    So, while the criticism and discussion is important, I think we need to be concerned about the bigger picture (normalization of non-heterosexual sexualities for younger generations) before we can tackle all of the sub-issues going on within it. They are all important and need to be discussed, but this cover is a step towards something, and that’s a start.

  9. Jane
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 10:37:39

    @John: Thanks for giving your perspective. I wanted to know what you thought of this so I am really glad you came and commented. So wise for your years, John!

  10. cleo
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 11:07:43

    @John: Thanks for this. I tend to get up in arms about the slow progress. Your comment reminded me that when I was a teen in the 80s, the only LGBTQ character I remember encountering in all of the YA that I read (and I read A LOT of YA) was somebody’s gay brother, with AIDS. Oh, and I vaguely remember a YA where the main character (a girl) kissed her best friend (also a girl) but I don’t remember anything beyond that, except that both girls were embarrassed. And I’m quite sure they didn’t start dating.

    In retrospect, reading about LBGTQ youths could have helped me – I wasn’t ready to label myself as bi, but I was actively checking out both boys and girls in jr high. Reading about someone else in my situation might have made the whole thing less baffling (or at least made me feel less isolated – hard to avoid being baffled by sexual feelings when you’re 14). When I got to college and started figuring it out and actively looking for books about lesbians and bi-women, what I found was mostly written in the 70s or earlier or SF/F (and thank goodness I found it). It’s great that we’ve come so far, and important not to stop.

  11. Brian
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 11:11:50

    Guess I’m out of touch. I had to look up what frapping was.

  12. Ridley
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 11:28:25

    The door might open with gay white boys but behind them will be the lesbians and the transgender kids as well.

    It doesn’t need to be this way, and it disgusts me that this is how it usually goes. Why should everyone else have to wait their turn behind white men? Was there a dearth of white male narratives I was unaware of?

    This “wait your turn” BS is a problem I and others have with feminism. Saying “we’ll get to you later, after we get what we want” to everyone not straight, white, cisgendered and able-bodied only reinforces oppressive structures. It’s selfish.

  13. Sunita
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 11:53:51

    @Ridley: I’m having the same problem with this. We have had LGBT lit fic and LGBT mysteries for decades now, and they’ve been published by major presses. And we’ve had LGBT YA published since the 1970s. I think it’s great that this cover was greenlit, but are we supposed to be thrilled that white young men are leading the way forward in cover art choices? And that because David Levithan is a great guy and an ally of the larger LGBT community, it’s terrific that he’s the leader, and someday all the people not represented by the cover will get their shot, as long as they are patient? It sounds like the same old song.

  14. aragingquiet
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 11:56:47

    Yeah, I’m about 120% done with being told to be satisfied with good enough. Do you know how long gay white men have told queer WOC to put our issues on the backburner? And forget about even paying lip service to trans people, I feel like Gay Inc would prefer they didn’t exist. Experience shows that promises to get to us eventually are bullshit. Hell, even MLK Jr wrote about this crap. Same song and dance on a different day.

  15. cleo
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 12:43:08

    I don’t think Malinda Lo is actually saying that “that Levithan’s work is paving the way for more LGBT characters in mainstream fiction” – I think she’s saying that his success could help / does help other queer YA authors, including queer authors of color like her, get a wider audience (and that’s why she’s not mad about this cover).

    The sad, disgusting truth is that white men can often get things done, because of their privilege, that non-white men cannot. It took David Fucking Levithan, writing a book about white gay boys, to get that book cover. If I had written a book about queer girls of color (oh wait, I did), there’s no way I’d get a cover of them kissing, even if kissing was super important to the story (which it was!).

    And also: David Levithan, who seems nearly indestructible in the industry because of his connections and experience, is way better positioned than a queer author of color to take the hit if Two Boys Kissing tanks.

  16. Kris Bock
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 13:36:54

    Of possible interest connected to the Amazon bestseller question, I recently blogged about Amazon sales rankings compared to Bookscan sales reports:

    With children’s books in particular, school and library sales can be important – and not show up on either Amazon or Bookscan. Where a book is sold (bookstore, online, ordered directly from the publisher) can make a big difference in how a book’s sales are reported.

  17. Lada
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 15:48:33

    Thanks for the link to that article @sula (couldn’t reply, for some reason just kept going to article). Thoughtful and appreciated that the 50 book was never once mentioned.

  18. hapax
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 15:52:59

    While I would love to see more diversity in LGBTQ fiction, including the covers, and I do love Lo, both for her fiction and her advocacy — I think that her post does a real disservice to Levithan and the cover.

    The actual story behind the book and cover photos, if y’all don’t know it, is here:

    Short version: Levithin based the book on two REAL LIFE “white gay boys” who decided to protest marriage inequality by earning the Guinness World Record for “longest kiss.” The cover shot was not studio produced, but taken by one of his REAL LIFE teen fans, and features not models but two REAL LIFE “white gay [high school] boys.”

    So when Lo decided (admirably) to take aim at a particular (and regrettable) trend in YA literature, I think she chose a really unfair “poster child”.

    Personally, I suspect we are going to have a real hard time purchasing (let alone displaying!) this book in the YA section of the public library of my (VERY conservative) home town. About the *only* way we are going to get it through is not based on the whiteness and the boyness, but on the real-life-ness. (Uggh. Forget that horrible neologism, please!)

  19. Cervenka
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 17:30:26

    I have a real problem with the assertion that we should be happy that a straight “ally” is opening doors for YA GLBT fiction, while at the same time ignoring the YA GLBT fiction written by actual GLBT folk. There’s multicultural YA fiction with main GLBT characters, and it’s good stuff, but because it comes from GLBT publishers, it’s largely ignored.

  20. Jane
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 17:31:04

    @Cervenka: David L is a gay man, isn’t he?

  21. Cervenka
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 17:49:08

    Y@Jane: You’re absolutely right. I missed that. Thanks for correcting me!

  22. John
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 17:52:40

    @Jane: Thank you. I was so delighted about this cover (and the story behind it – as hapax said, this is based on a true story and is in fact an LGBTQ teenager’s photograph of two boyfriends kissing, though I do not believe these are the two that broke the record) that I felt like giving my two cents.

    And don’t get me wrong – I hate that this privilege exists and think it’s utter shit that the publishing industry is following it, and only because Levithan has pull as a popular white male author (and an experimental one at that – he is perhaps more experimental as a YA writer than most). But, honestly, I don’t even see small LGBTQ presses putting kissing covers on their YA novels – hell, I don’t see many YA novels period that have kissing on them, so I don’t think this type of cover is the best to complain about.

    I just hope this will show publishers that they need to step up their game. I would be beyond delighted to see PoC LGBTQ protagonists of either gender kissing on a cover, and I think many teens would be totally fine with it. It’s a matter of the publisher taking the chance and ignoring the fact that they may (or may not) lose sales because of the cover.

  23. Rachel
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 20:05:32

    First time commenter here–

    I’m a little puzzled by the anger about the David Levithan cover. I don’t think it does much, if anything, for inclusion of LBT YA, but is it doing anything harmful? Lord knows, I’d like to see more fiction with lesbian characters in particular, but why is a book about white gay boys the problem, rather than the 5 bazillion books about straight white boys?

  24. Sirius
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 20:53:00

    @Rachel: I do not know about anger. I know I will grab the book the moment it is out. I enjoy his writings and knowing the real life story behind the cover I would grab it even faster.

    I suspect that people are saying (and I could be wrong of course) that it would be nice if say gay YA books by this writer for example would have black teenagers kissing for example:

    or this book by the same writer

    Having said that, I have no idea if the author wanted kissing on his covers in the first place, but I think it would have been awesome if he did want that of course.

    I hope it is okay that I am linking the books here. I really liked both books by the way. Battle for Jerricho features a teenager who by the end of the book realises that he is truly bisexual – I know it should not be such a rarity when a teen realises that he likes boys and girls, but sadly I do not see it in too many books.

    Anyway, my two cents.

  25. Ridley
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 23:41:44


    Lord knows, I’d like to see more fiction with lesbian characters in particular, but why is a book about white gay boys the problem, rather than the 5 bazillion books about straight white boys?

    That’s an enormous assumption you’re making.

  26. Susan
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 01:42:10

    I wasn’t much of a romance reader when Fabio was such a big deal, so those covers (and some of the authors) were new to me. I quite liked many of them. I was taken aback that every single model had a head. Not a Headless H/H to be seen. Disconcerting, really.

  27. Angela Booth
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 04:00:20

    (Sigh) Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Love those Fabio book covers. They certainly take me back. I remember the covers, but don’t remember the books. I need to see whether any of them are on the Kindle yet.

  28. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 08:02:58

    I’m not sure I follow the controversy. People are upset with Lo for celebrating this cover as the first of its kind while also pointing out white male privilege? She’s not saying parenthetical inclusion is “enough” or telling anyone to wait their turn. We’re not supposed to be thrilled about white boys leading the way, but this IS the first cover ever to show two gay young people kissing. It’s not the same old dance.

    What is Lo supposed to say? F you, Leviathan!? She’s pointing out positives and negatives and opening up a conversation.

  29. cleo
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 09:10:21

    @Jill Sorenson: Thanks for this Jill. I was starting to feel like I read a completely different post by Lo than everyone else did. I thought she wrote a thoughtful reaction the Two Boys Kissing cover.

  30. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 13:57:32

    Here’s an example of the same old song and dance about LBT:

    It doesn’t sell
    It doesn’t get submitted
    (romance publishers)

    It doesn’t interest me
    There isn’t much out there
    (romance readers)

    I’m sure all of those things could be said about Gay romance before it became popular. Should readers run out and buy books to pump up a subgenre they aren’t interested in? No, but publishers, especially those who specialize in GLBT romance, could make an effort. Authors won’t submit to publishers who don’t have a track record for LBT and don’t ask for it specifically. If there is no attempt to acquire or represent LBT within GLBT, the category should be called m/m or Gay Male in my opinion. I find it pretty annoying to see so many lists of “Best Gay & Lesbian” etc. with no lesbians.

  31. Rachel
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 21:42:04

    What assumption am I making? (If it’s about whether there are lesbian characters in Two Boys Kissing, I worded that badly, and apologize. I meant I wanted more stories centered around lesbian and bi women, rather than stories with major or minor lesbian characters).

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