26 June 2007

REPOST 10/11/2006 Hoping INTELLIGENCE wins out!

This is one of those times when you hope people are going to be smart and are afraid that they aren't going to be.

What is the situation? A DEMOCRAT running for Comptroller in Texas by the name of Fred Head apparently needs HIS head examined. His main complaints about his republican opponent (and keep in mind that I am an independent from MA, so I could care less about either of these people from that standpoint) are her age and her "pornographic" writing past, which he states she shows no remorse for, making her unpalatable for public office in a Christian state like Texas. Obviously, by his account, she is out of touch with Christian morality. Beyond the fact that Mr. Head seems to be out of contact with his home planet of late, let's look at the facts.

No matter that Mr. Head has chosen to use some backwoods definition for pornography (which I might note that he SAYS is on his site, but if it is, it's hidden well away from the book in question), I choose to use the SUPREME COURT of the US's definition of it. They state that pornography is "prurient, with no redeeming qualities."

So, what did Ms. Susan Combs write? A romance book, put out by the now-defunct Kismet line. It is...at most...lightly sensual, which the excerpts on his site prove. They gloss over many of the details of sex, do not include graphic terminology, and they aren't all that hot. No offense to Ms. Combs, but looking from inside the industry out, I can make these distinctions. Even if the rest of the book is more of the same or slightly more heated, it doesn't make the cut for erotic romance, let alone erotica or porn.

Romance sells in excess of 50% of the fiction market, according to RWA numbers. It has sold around that much for many years, probably as far back as the release date of this book...1990.

Let's look at MORE of the insane commentary by Mr. Head. This stuff is a gold mine for someone looking to study political mudslinging marketing.

He states that Ms. Combs is egotistical, because her name appears on every other page of the book. I've been in print many times, and here's a news flash for Mr. Head! The author has NO SAY over whether or not the publisher places her name on the even-numbered pages. That is a marketing and design decision and is out of the hands of the individual author. All of my books have this as a matter of course.

Mr. Head claims that Ms. Combs is hypocritical, because she stands on a side of sex education that SEEMS counter to her book. Let me explain something to the clueless Mr. Head. Romance books of this type (there ARE YA romance books, but let's discount those for a moment) are NOT written for children, marketed to children or sold to children. I'm all for abstinence in youth and responsible sexuality in adulthood. I am all for teaching children how to be safe and encouraging them to refrain from sex until they are adults. That does NOT mean I see anything wrong with romance books geared for adults.

For that matter, I will refrain from any discussion of premarital sex save to say that it happens in life, it's been a staple of romance novels since at LEAST the 60s...probably earlier, and it is highly unlikely that most adult men alive today never dabbled in premarital sex...or extramarital sex. They exist, but they are the minority.

Mr. Head complains that Ms. Combs has made no public apology for her writing pursuits. That implies she SHOULD. Whether romance books are to Mr. Head's tastes or not, they are legal, tasteful (admittedly a subjective call, but so are all of his...and a lot less vehement than his are) and popular. There is no reason for Ms. Combs to apologize for a single thing.

He further capitalizes on her comment that she is sorry the company is out of business, since she can't make any more royalties on the book. She's right. From a marketing standpoint, this is a gold mine for Susan Combs. Why? Because Mr. Head has made the fatal error of thinking this sort of a smear campaign against an author WORKS.

Get this through your head now! Banning books, burning books and putting out countless rants in the press ABOUT particular books does a couple of things. It gives free publicity to the author and books in question and it raises sales. Sadly for Ms. Combs, the book is no longer in circulation to reap the benefit of those sales.

Ms. Combs... If you have your rights back, you might want to reissue this book in e-book and POD with an indie press to reap those benefits, since it seems Mr. Head is going to continue to bless you with this publicity. At the very least, I would take him at his invitation to write MORE books. He'll promote those for you, as well.

It might seem I am being sarcastic here, but I am not really. This is a sincere point being made. The idea that GIVING someone publicity for something you don't want others to buy is ludicrous, unless you are proving the item is physically dangerous.

Oh, and it was ARROGANT of her to say that it's too bad the book is out of print, because she can't make royalties on it? I think not. It proves that she has a decent understanding of the economics of the situation, much more understanding than Mr. Head has of it. Maybe that is an indication that she's the RIGHT person for the office of comptroller, after all.

Not that it matters to me, since I'm not from Texas.

Good luck to Ms. Combs, and may you triumph in this battle and not become another Claude Pepper, who lost the US Senate race against George Smathers (NJ) in 1950. It is said that the speech that killed Pepper's candidacy included the following from Smathers to voters in FL. (This is from the report by Time Magazine on the issues.)

Claude Pepper is an extrovert. That means he possesses outgoing and engaging personality. And the problem with that is what? Only that the voters didn't know what the word meant, IMO.

He practices nepotism with his sister-in-law? Okay...that one COULD be bad, if he got her a government job, but if she joined the family business or was given a college education from his funds, there is nothing wrong with helping a family member. Since Smathers gave no details, one cannot judge that one.

His sister was once a thespian in wicked New York City. A thespian is an actor/actress. Again, the only problem here is that they didn't know what the term meant and assumed the worst based on the context.

"Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy." Oh, the horrors! Considering the fact that celibacy means he didn't HAVE SEX with anyone before he married... Again, they didn't know what the words meant and guessed, based on Smather's tone and the context.

This is one time that I HOPE the people are smarter than they were in 1950. Just because someone screams fire does not mean a fire is anywhere in the vicinity.

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