Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Homophobia at the Hyatt?

How's that for a headline guaranteed to grab attention? Good. You should be paying attention.

Last week, the Romantic Times Convention was held at the Hyatt Regency Downtown in Houston, Texas. For those who haven't heard of it, this is a huge event designed to put authors, publishers, fans, agents, editors, romance cover models, book lovers, book reviewers, romance-specific website owners, librarians, and romance aficionados of all sorts together for a week or so of fun, mingling, marketing, and networking. It's a blast for all involved--I took a train there to spend Friday just soaking up the atmosphere, since I couldn't attend the entire event.

It's also a major, huge, ginormous, important, *add other impressive adjective here to express mega enormity* marketing opportunity.

Authors spend months planning and procuring their promotional materials for the RT Convention. They spend hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars on them. They put together bookmarks, CD-Rs of book excerpts, posters, giveaway baskets, pens--you name it--all in the hopes of attracting new readers.

So, since one of the biggest reasons authors attend this convention is for promotion--in fact, the RT Convention website even states, "Enter to win dozens of prizes provided by authors and publishers and take home lots of FREE promotional materials including bookmarks, buttons, magnets and much more" which shows that the convention organizers fully recognize the importance of this aspect of the event--why would one author's tasteful promotional items be removed from "Promo Row" without notice?

Because she writes gay romances, apparently.

No, really. I'm not kidding.

Laura Baumbach has written award-winning gay romances which have attracted a strong fan following. Her promotional items featured this poster:

None of her other promotional items were risque in the slightest--and this poster, besides being hamana yummy and hot and, IMO, completely brilliant, was NOT the hottest offering on Promo Row. (I'd have to give that honor to the cover image of a naked woman on her knees in what I can only describe as "blow-job position" in front of a naked man.) The only indication that Laura Baumbach writes hot sexy man-love on most of her promotional items was the website address,

You should visit Laura Baumbach's blog because she tells the story way better than I could ever recount it. I especially like the "piss off" she got from the Hyatt's ***CUSTOMER SERVICE MANAGER***! Gee, wish I could've gotten away with that sort of "no, I don't want to deal with you, goodbye" dismissal when I worked customer service. Truly, nothing says "We care about our guests" than getting told to blow by the person in charge of dealing with complaints. Well done, Hyatt. Your commitment to service is evident has impressed me deeply.

(Not sarcasm--I can see exactly how committed they are to service, and I am deeply, and unfavorably, impressed.)

You've just got to wonder why this happened at all. It truly does seem like homophobia, until I look though the promo materials I chose from Promo Row on Friday. I have items from:

  1. Amber Quill Press--who publish gay romance.
  2. Aspen Mountain Press--who publish gay romance.
  3. Freya's Bower--who--you guessed it--publish gay romance.
  4. Author Island--a website which promotes, amongst others, authors of gay romance.
  5. J. J. Massa--who writes both straight and gay romances.
  6. Love You Divine Publishing--who publish gay romance.
  7. D. Musgrave--who writes lesbian erotica.
  8. Stephanie Burke--who writes gay romance.
  9. Plus many, many lovely items showing scantily clad men and women in suggestive poses.
And I hardly picked up anything, people. I'm already a fan of tons of the authors whose materials I passed by, and elected to leave on the table for others to pick up. (Plus there might've been more examples--my German Shepherd was attracted by the lavender-scented bath sachet stored in my bag that one author gave away, and she not only ate it, but demolished several bookmarks, a magnet, something that might've been an excerpt booklet, and one very shattered CD-R in the process. Darn dog. I was really looking forward to using that sachet, too.)

But back to the point--if this was a move against homosexual romance, why did they only remove Laura Baumbach's promo materials? That doesn't compute. If it was a move against suggestive images, again, why leave all these others, including the one of the woman giving a hum job? That makes no sense, either. This strikes me more as a move against her personally. Why? Did she spit in someone's coffee? Did she spill ink on someone's hair? Did she make the heinous mistake of wearing the same dress as someone else? Apparently the only ones who know, aren't talking.

Either way, it's going to be a cold day in Hell before I stay at the Hyatt again. Intolerance cannot be... er... tolerated... um, there's got to be a better way to phrase that, but you know what I mean. They don't give a crap that I'm mad, but they will notice when my money doesn't go their way. I'm waiting to hear Romantic Times's explanation, too, because I understand that when Laura Baumbach brought her complaint to them, they did jack shit. This convention is expensive, people. Authors go with a reasonable expectation of equal treatment and fairness. If they'd yanked Nora Roberts's bookmarks off that table, you can bet your fluffy tutu RT would've interceded. It's inexcusable that RT left Laura Baumbach to swing on her own.

Now go check out Laura Baumbach's books, buy a few, and enjoy some hot manlove. It's good stuff. I hope that getting a (rather ranty) spotlight here will help to replace some of the promotional time she lost due to the Hyatt's dumbass move. (That's also why the links with her full name, in case anyone's wondering why I never just say Laura!) She's a classy lady who handled the situation with calm logic and professionalism... too bad that Hyatt didn't do the same.

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