Here’s the thing: there are several LGBT book publishing categories available to authors and publishers now, but none of them refer specifically to aces.
The categories are used by distributors and retailers to ensure that books are shelved appropriately. The idea is that a cookery book on “How to fry an egg” won’t turn up in the “How to keep poultry” section. There are two main lists. One is produced by BISG, the Book Industry Study Group. It’s called BISAC. The other is produced by BIC, short for Book Industry Communications. It’s called Thema. The lists aren’t static. For example, in 2018, two new LGBT categories were added to the BISAC options, one applying to books with a bisexual focus, and one to books that are trans in focus. But where does that leave aces? Where does that leave my stories and me?
The protagonists in my latest tale, Ace in the Picture, are, as always, four gay, polyamorous men who are (a) involved in fighting crime and (b) working out the intricacies of their relationship. I could dip into a variety of current fiction categories to describe the genres. For example, BISAC offers both LGBT/Gay and Mystery and Detective. Thema offers an interest qualifier relating to Gay People.
But, but, but… this time, there’s an important secondary character, a detective sergeant called Nick Seabrooke. Nick is asexual. According to BISAC, the queer alphabet stops at the T of LGBT. There isn’t even a “+” or a “Q”. So, in the BISAC publishing world, Nick Seabrooke, asexual detective, doesn’t exist. Thema does offer up a Q added to LGBT, but there’s nothing specifically ace. I’m doing Nick, and asexuality, a disservice if I allocate these codes to my book and assume that they cover him too.
As there are no specifically ace categories, there is nowhere to promote an increased awareness of what one type of asexuality might look like. (One type: I know that there are many types of ace.) This seems wrong to me.
I’m trying to do my bit. I contacted the Book Industry Study Group, explained what I saw as a problem, and asked them to consider including an asexual BISAC coding in 2020. I had a quick response. I was sent a form to complete with a request to submit information about relevant titles, publishers and ISBNs. I posted a request on AVEN, the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, seeking suggestions. (I’ll be honest: I like to write but I’m not an avid fiction reader so I needed some help. A big thank you to the people who responded.) I’ve also written to BIC (awaiting a response) and to anyone else I can think of who might help or be able to suggest a contact. (I’m seriously lacking contacts in the publishing world.)
Any future changes will be too late for me, though: I’m hoping to publish early next Spring. Meanwhile… I’m not going to rely on the LGBT codes for the new book. I might not even use them, and opt for “Love and Relationships” (and “Mystery and Detective” ) instead, placing words like “asexual” into the keyword sections of the metadata that goes to distributors. How distributors use metadata… that’s another (very moany) story.
Any other ideas, do please tell me.
Ace in the Picture will be self-published via Rowanvale Books, hopefully on 31st March, 2019 http://www.rowanvalebooks.com