What are some upcoming trends for 2014?
I wish I could predict what’s ahead. If anything, there’s an absence of trends as far as I’ve seen. Put another way, the kind of books that sold well for me, say, three years ago still perform well, such as the new biography In Bed with Gore Vidal [by Tim Teeman], which looks at the author’s sexual and romantic lives. When it comes to LGBT books on the whole, I’d also say that the same kinds of books continue to sell best, including memoir, humor, erotica and anything by a big-name author.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’d like to see more nonfiction, especially self-help and memoirs addressing controversial issues like addiction, alternative sexual lifestyles and surviving childhood sexual abuse. When it comes to fiction, I’d love to see more work by writers of color and stories that take place outside of the LGBT community or within communities within the LGBT community. Often what happens is, I come up with the idea for a book that I feel gay people need and go out and find an author/editor, as was the case with Leaving the Rest [edited by Leslie L. Smith], a book of personal essays by gay men in recovery.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
For a while, I kept seeing a novel in the mail about a planet where everyone is gay except the slaves, who were, of course, heterosexuals. I can’t say if it was the same author or a series of them who’d recently seen Planet of the Apes and been inspired. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find neighborhoods that are mostly gay, much less a planet, to be pretty dull.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Despite all the political and cultural advances in the U.S. around LGBT issues, we still remain an underserved community in most ways, including when it comes to books that speak to our lives, our concerns and our history. You can look up a topic and find dozens of titles that address it but not one that looks at that topic from, say, a gay male perspective. Earlier this year, I brought out What Every Gay Man Needs to Know About Prostate Cancer [edited by Gerald Perlman] because most of the literature on prostate cancer assumes the reader is straight, and consequently, practically nothing exists in print for gay men and their partners. Some people may wonder why a separate book for gay men is called for. Suffice to say, the prostate plays a larger role in the lives of gay men, and our needs are therefore different from heterosexual men.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Part of the role I play as an editor is to help enlarge the dialogue, so to speak, taking place around LGBT issues both inside and outside of the community. To look at the news, you’d think all gay people want is a spouse and children. A man marching in New York’s Gay Pride parade with a small child had on a T-shirt that read: “Family is the New Gay.” While I support everyone’s choice to start a family or not start one, I find these narrow definitions of ourselves as a community, at the exclusion of all other issues, such as healthcare and workplace equality, to be limiting and for me personally disempowering. My work then becomes about trying to create a bigger, more enriching definition of ourselves through books.
Don Weise has 20 years of publishing experience, the majority of which has been devoted to LGBT literature. He’s served as publisher of Alyson Books and senior editor at Carroll & Graf Publishers. Don was named by Publishers Weekly as an industry “Change Maker” and has been listed among Out Magazine’s “100 Most Intriguing Gay Men and Lesbians” of the year. He’s also the editor or co-editor of Black Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual African American Fiction; Fresh Men: New Voices in Gay Fiction; Time on Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin; The Huey P. Newton Reader; and The Long Walk to Freedom: Runaway Slave Narratives. He’s currently the editorial director for Magnus Books, an imprint of Riverdale Avenue Books.