One of this week’s kerfuffles has to do with changes to the GayRomLit conference. GRL is a conference that brings together m/m authors, readers, and publishers. It’s only a few years old but is quite popular among the online m/m crowd, and many people look forward to attending.
There are two big changes to the author side of the conference. First, the number of author registration slots was decreased from 130 to 100, in order to increase the reader proportion. Second, the registration costs for authors have increased. And third and most controversially, the author slots have been divided into “must-have” authors (who are invited and given guaranteed registration), and everyone else, who now must compete for fewer slots. After considerable negative feedback, the organizers modified the remaining 70 slots, allocating 30 of them for newbie authors, while retaining the 30 “must-have”slots.
The organizers have insisted that the changes are for the betterment of the conference and that only a “small number” have been set aside, with the rest being open to all authors. I think that 30 percent is not a “small number,” but let’s not argue about that. Instead, let’s look systematically at the changes in allocation between last year and this year.
Last year: 130 slots for all authors.
This year: 30 slots are gone from the general pool because of the reduction in the author proportion from 130 to 100. Another 30 slots are gone from general pool because they are reserved for “must-have” authors who do not compete for a slot. Another 30 slots are gone for Supporting, i.e., newbie authors.
Total general pool for 2013: 40. That is a 90-slot reduction in absolute terms, or a 70 percent reduction over last year.
Change from 2012 to 2013: Last year 130 open slots, this year 40 open slots.
Some of those 130 were filled by the 30 “must-haves,” but clearly not all, because if they had been at the conference the complaints about their absence would not have been expressed. Let’s say that 15 of the 30 were there. They won’t be applying for the general pool slots.
So by that calculation, there may be 15 people who won’t be applying for the 40 slots that applied last year.
In addition, some of the authors who qualify for the Supporting Author category will not compete for the general pool. But since the publication requirement is so stringent, it’s hard to say how many were part of the author pool last year (someone has the information to calculate it, but it’s not me). And some who qualify for Supporting will want the Featured Author slot because it provides better benefits for the con.
But let’s be as generous to the new quotas as possible in the calculations and say that of the 130 authors who were registered last year, 60 will go into the “must-have” or Supporting author slots. That leaves 70 authors competing for 40 slots.
Assuming there are no additional authors who want to attend, that’s already 30 authors who went last year who can’t go this year.
But given the way m/m has exploded (and given that Atlanta is easier and cheaper to fly to than ABQ), I think that saying only 30 authors will be affected is an unrealistic assumption. So we can reasonably conclude that many more than 30 authors who want to attend will be shut out.
That’s the change in author pool from last year to this. How about the registration costs?
This year: $350 for Featured Authors and $225 for Supporting Authors. But if Supporting Authors want to be at the main signing and participate in the major author events, they have to fork over $50 and $125 respectively (space allowing).
The organizers state that the costs to authors have been increased $75-100 over last year. I don’t know what the author registration fee was last year, but since there was no Supporting Author category last year, let’s subtract the increase from this year’s $350 fee. That’s an increase over last year of 28-40 percent.
In conclusion, the majority of authors have a significantly smaller probability of registering as authors, but if they manage it, they pay more for the privilege of attending. The carrot offered is more readers, but if it is true that the additional readers are coming to see the “must-have” authors, that may or may not help the non-must-have authors.
I’m not sure why opposition to this has been described as “hysteria” or “insane.” It seems completely understandable to me. If you’re not a newbie and you’re not on the “must-have” list, you’ve had your chance to go to GRL cut by more than two-thirds between Albuquerque 2012 and Atlanta 2013.