Today I'm so proud to welcome Elisa Rolle. Everyone in the LGBT world knows Elisa - or should do. Everything about Elisa is here: www.elisarolle.com but let me just give you a quick overview.
- Her Livejournal and blog has a multitude of avid followers;
- She produces uncountable, highly-regarded reviews per week of LGBT literature;
- She writes fascinating posts on LGBT history, past authors and interesting photographic insights into countries, most recently New York and south USA (I see she came to Portugal in 2002!)
- She produces annual lists of top novels and top readers;
- She single-handedly conducts the annual Rainbow Awards , which are awarded for excellence in LGBT novels for that year. This year she had over 300 entries and 100 judges from all over the world to deal with.
- There is a separate award for book covers.
I have been lucky enough to catch up with Elisa in her busy schedule. I pinned her down (excuse the expression) with some rather probing questions about how the Rainbow Awards came about and, among other insights, advice to newbies. Take a look at how Elisa responds:
Sue: I often see Twitters or FaceBook posts with authors announcing, “Elisa Rolle’s reviewed my book!” How does that make you feel?
Elisa: At first it was strange, and I was telling myself, why they are so happy I reviewed their book, what difference is there between my review (which is, btw, more rambling than a real review) and many other similar posts I see around. The most common point various authors highlighted is that I found in their book something that was not apparent, but that was there; something that, sometimes, not even the author was aware of.
Sue: That's true - and I speak from experience. Elisa, this year’s Rainbow Awards for LGBT fiction attracted a huge number of submissions. If it continues to grow like this, will you be able to continue with it?
Elisa: Probably not alone. I have already asked to someone if he/she was willing to help. The problem is that many authors /publishers “trust” me with their books and I feel like I’m betraying their trust if I open the awards to others (of course I’m talking about the managing of it here, since the reading is already very open, more than 100 judges all over the world). It’s a little like my Livejournal, I think it’s not possible to “open” it. If I ever arrive at a point where I’m not able to manage it, I will probably simply close it or change location. The Rainbow Awards, on the other hand, I can probably move, if I find a trustworthy organization.
Sue: I really was astounded this year how well you managed it. Tell us about the history of the Rainbow Awards for LGBT fiction.
Elisa: Many think it was an “answer” to the change in policy of the Lambda Literary Awards (the Lammies), but it’s not exactly like that. I have always had a fascination for literary awards and I myself was complaining there was no real award specifically aimed at Gay Romance. The category in the Lammies was very restrictive, and they are more a mainstream award. And when they changed the policy (even if it was only for two years) they limited even more access for authors writing romance. I love romance ;-) and so I thought it was right to have an award for both print and ebook, for published authors and for self-published authors, despite their gender and orientation. We are not judging the author, we are judging the book.
Sue: Hooray for that! I am amazed at what a prolific reader you are. How many books do you “devour” a week and how many reviews do you write?
Elisa: I slowed down a bit in the last few months, but more or less I read 4 full length novels per week, more if they are short novels or novella. More or less I read 200/250 pages per night.I don’t watch telly or play videogames ;-)
Sue: You've slowed down? I hadn't noticed LOL. Do you read and/or review books other than LGBT?
Elisa: Not anymore. I love history, and I read some essays, but I don’t review them. And I used to read a lot of heterosexual romances, but now I don’t really have time. Sometimes I do, but it's one in a thousand.
Sue: In your opinion, is the LGBT fiction market growing – both in terms of readers and authors? Does this affect the LGBT community in any way?
Elisa: Of course it’s growing. I have an email from a well-known LGBT author who is still amazed to find that, only in October, we had more than 200 LGBT ebook and print releases. One years ago it was probably less than 50. Publishers and authors are entering the marker each day and this greatly affects the community, in a positive and negative way. Positive since there is more choice and for authors it’s easier to find a way to be published. Negative since the quality is a little in “danger” because there is not always attention to details, and for some genres this is really important. Plus I think there is a lot of improvisation, even on the reviewer side: a lot of blogs are opening their pages to new reviewers and, just as for the publishing market, the quality isn't always up to the standard.
Sue: Finally, Elisa, what advice would you give to a writer of LGBT fiction who is just starting out trying to get published?
Elisa: Try to understand if a publisher is right for your book; it’s true there are a lot of publishers but they tend to be specialized, so don’t send your book everywhere, just focus on what you really want. And be careful with your book, even if it’s easier now to self-publish, this doesn’t mean you have to publish everything you write. Before doing that have someone else read your book who is not a close friend or a relative - but someone who will have the courage to tell you where you went wrong. And be humble, accept suggestions. But don't destroy your book: more than once I reviewed a book and found something that wasn’t ringing true, and in the end, it was the editor telling the author to change that point since “it was not what the reader was expecting…” Readership, however, is very different, and so if something is not right for you, it will probably not be right for readers either. Be original, don’t try to write what the “reader” is expecting, write what you like; if you don’t like it then you won't be able to write it correctly.
If you'd like to see what Elisa said about "Perfect Score": http://elisa-rolle.livejournal.com/tag/author%3A%20susan%20roebuck