When I started them, I had no real plan or agenda. I wanted an award that was aimed to all LGBT fiction and non fiction, but of course I have a penchant for romance, and that is clear on the number of submissions I receive for that genre. It’s not that I push them, it’s only that, reviewing mainly Gay Romance, that is the genre where my name and the Rainbow Awards have more following. But in any case, the Rainbow Awards are open to all genres, and indeed this year, the number of submissions for Contemporary General Fiction and Sci-Fi/Fantasy is almost the same, if not higher than Contemporary Romance and Erotic Romance. Plus Mystery/Thriller and is almost the same than Parnormal/Horror (that has a good share of Paranormal Romance submissions inside). So I think the balance is even on regards of genre. Not the same for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender categories, where of course Gay is having the lion share, but I’m working hard, really, to have more Lesbian, Bisexual and above all Transgender submissions, it’s not easy, but I’m working on it.
So why this long introduction? Because I have to accept the idea I cannot continue alone in managing the Rainbow Awards; I told the same last year, but then I thought, if I start a little earlier, maybe I will have more time… and instead the submissions almost doubled and again I’m at the same point. I hope, since this is actually a good thing, next year will be the same, but me too will be the same, 1 person managing 147 jury members, almost 500 books, I don’t know how many publishers, more than 30 categories… not possible, really.
There is who offered to help, and to the single person, I have always said no, not since I don’t trust other people, but since I think these Awards need a solid structure, lot of labor and love, an organization. I found an organization, and I liked what they told me; I feel the Awards will gain from this partnership, and viceversa. There will be changes, of course they have to happen; I fought some of them, but to other I had to agree they were good suggestions.
The main change is that, there will be a submission fee; this is probably what I fought more than anything else, but I asked opinions, and the answer was pretty much the same: when you publish a book, the initial cost for the author is so huge, that your fee is really nothing in comparison. But in any case, the amount of all fees is not enough to pay the work of the jury, we are so many, and so what to do with this money? Aside from a little share that will go to administrative expenses (having an organization it means having also an official guidelines, so maybe the counseling of a lawyer, some shipping cost, things like that), I decided the majority (I hope 80/85%) will go to charity. It has to be decided how to pick the charity, and my idea is to change every year, but the most important thing is that who is paying the fee will know that the money will be used for good.
In addition to the charity, I'd also like to select a public library and/or organization to donate all finalists and winners books, again a different library every year. My idea is to first ask to the publishers to donate 1 copy of their books, and then, to buy the rest with the fees (but knowing that money is going to charity, I'm sure the publishers will donate the books!)
The second change, and I think that is good, is that we will have a live Awards Ceremony, and we will give a prize (I’m thinking to some pretty glass/Plexiglas plate, see the above administrative expenses and things like that) to the winners. It means also that we will have a list of finalists and one winner for each category, so the managing of the reading phase will change also, but I will delayed further explanations to when I will post the new Awards Guidelines (in March 2013). Again, the partnership with an organization it allows me to have the live Awards ceremony, they will help me in managing and organizing it, I couldn’t have done it alone.
Related to the introduction of the fee, is the third, and final change: submissions will be of the author not the publisher (unless the publisher is not willing to face the fees for their own authors). I hope this will not discourage the long list of publishers who were long-last participants to the Rainbow Awards (Bold Strokes Books, Lethe Press, Kensington Books), I hope they will forward the Awards Guidelines to their authors and ask them if they are interested to participate. From my side, I want to assure that, all people involved are doing it out of love for LGBT literature and with the intent of making more visible good books to potential readers, so I think it’s a win to win situation.
As a final point, I want to highlight that, to balance the partnership with an organization that is genre oriented (i.e. it’s focused on a specific genre, while instead the Awards are multigenre), I first of all ask and make sure the multi-genre nature of the Awards will be preserved, and second I thought to introduce new “blood” to the Awards: at today I asked, and they agree, to Patricia Nell Warren, Keith Hale, Aaron Fricke, Felice Picano, Brent Hartinger and Vincent Virga to collaborate in different capacities to the Awards; the how and when it has to be define, but I’m sure these wonderful authors will be a perfect addition to the Rainbow Awards team.
So, next year, bigger and stronger? Do you think it’s a good change? Comments are welcome, I’m open to suggestions and/or critiques, it was not easy for me to arrive to such decisions, but believe me, my first thought was to preserve the Rainbow Awards for the future.
P.S. I will disclose the name of the organization when all legal aspects are straightened out, but if they want to come forward, I will welcome them ;-)