First Proposal

As some of you already know, I’m doing my dissertation on asexual publishing, as part of the academic requirements for completion of my MA in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University (one of the leading courses on publishing in the UK ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

I decided I will blog everything I can on it, in order to get as most feedback as possible, both from inside and outside the asexual community. All comments are welcome.

This is what I submitted today in order to register for the research methods seminar:

Provisional Title:

Asexual Publishing: Does it Make Sense?

Brief Synopsis (c.100 words)

Asexuality as a sexual orientation is still poorly known. It is an identity in the making. However, the asexual community is growing by the hour: Besides the 21,000 English-speaking members, the community interacts in other 15 languages and is fighting to see itself represented in a society where sex is mainstream. Publishing, as influential and powerful media, would play an important role in this quest for visibility. This dissertation aims to provide a framework for publishers to determine if asexuality is a profitable subject for new editorial proposals.

Research Objectives (add more points if necessary)

  • To determine the different audiences for asexuality-related publications
  • To determine the size of a market for asexuality-related publications
  • To determine types of content that can be considered asexual content
  • To compile a list of past popular publications that could be considered asexual but that have not been labeled as such

What resources and/or skills do I need to complete this work?

Constant and open communication with members of the asexual community, through a) the official website www.asexuality.org and, if required, b) assistance to some of the regular asexual meetings currently held in London and in other parts of the UK.

Organisation skills are also necessary to be able to categorize the different kinds of suitable readerships among both inside and outside the asexual community.

What are my motivations for doing this dissertation?

I identify myself as asexual and personally understand the need for asexual representations in popular culture.

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20 Comments

  1. julie said,

    February 1, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    My first comment would be that it should not be within the objectives to determine the size of the market, or at least, nothing that involves determining how many asexuals there are in the UK. Why? Because, precisely, as asexuality is poorly known, counting all people that could identify as asexuals (hence potential customers) is virtually impossible. Also, as asexual publications won’t necessarily be targeted to asexuals, but to sexual people alike, it could be targeted to the general reader. In that case, how to determine the size of that market???

    The aim of asexual publishing, as I see it, would be to:

    1) raise awareness on asexuality and
    2) make a profit.

    I think that this dissertation should target a more cultural objective, less focused on the possible profits, or else I should find a way to show the business would be profitable without having to tell how many asexuals there are in the UK.

  2. julie said,

    February 1, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Another remark that just popped into my mind is that asexual publishing is not about avoiding the subject of sex. In fact, the most popular topic on the AVEN forums… is sex! That should be rephrased, or explained when I say that asexuals lack of representations in a society where sex is mainstream.

  3. mandrew said,

    February 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I know that you’re currently at the early stages of this, but I find the proposal to be incredibly vague (to some extent, it should be.) What kind of publishing are we talking about? Book(s)? And if so, fiction, non-fiction informational, or non-fiction biographical/autobiographical (possible single authored, possible multi-authored)? Or are you thinking about some kind of asexual-themed periodical? There are already a number of main-stream media articles on asexuality, usually introducing the topic to people, often treating as though it is somehow exotic (as that sells better). AVEN seems to get a reasonable constant source of media requests, and every year, there are number of these, some more major, some more minor. How is what you are proposing different from the various one-shot sorts of articles that already exist (and will continue to be produced)?

    • julie said,

      February 1, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      Hey!!! Thank you for writing. Yes it is vage, this is actually just the very, very, very first step towards having a decent proposal (this one is just meant to be a formality, the actual proposal won’t come out before a couple of weeks and it should be 1,500 words long).

      I’m thinking books. I’m thinking fiction. It is basically about having representations present in popular culture that appeal to a wide readership. However, I might be getting it wrong. Actually, the exact nature of the publications is precisely what the dissertation will try to shape. Research has to be done before submitting editorial proposals. That is precisely the aim of the research: What can be sold? What is profitable? What kind of readership is interested and in what kind of publications?

      Yes, there is a lot of media coverage and articles already present out there (for more than 7 years we should recognize), but if you ask around you… still very few people know about asexuality (like, people still doubt it exists. I am young, I am in publishing and I am in the UK, and still, my classmates make funny faces when I tell them about what my dissertation is about). Im proposing the ground for more aggressive mass market proposals. Not just special interest articles that would be read only by a few.

      Hope this answers your questions and thanks for the input. It is precisely the kind of criticism I need.

      • mandrewliter said,

        February 2, 2010 at 2:24 am

        That does clarify some of my questions. I guess that my next big question would be “Who is going to write whatever it is that you propose?” Is your program designed for people who want to write? Or for people who coordinate between authors and publishers? If you would have to get people other than yourself to write things, you may have some very serious problems. (Just look at threads trying to get AVENues submissions.)

      • Helena Hamilton said,

        February 29, 2012 at 6:08 pm

        Hi Julie,

        I’m currently working on a Uni project about asexuality and wondered if you’d be free to have a chat about your findings? It would be great to speak to someone who has done so much research, and has been through the experience of realising they are asexual themselves.

        Give me an email if you’re interested – I’m studying Journalism at Bournemouth University – don’t be put off by the Journo part, my project is about positivity and exploring the reasons behind why asexuality is so puzzling in the minds of the general public.
        Anyway have a think and let me know if you’d be up for a chat.

        Thank you for your time,

        Helena

  4. February 1, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Good idea. I think it’s great when asexuals combine whatever they’re working on with asexual visibility.

    It’d also be good if you could keep us posted on the brief highlights of your research. Although, like Julie, I think ascertaining the number of asexuals is very difficult. AVEN members would probably be a good guess, since all AVEN members have some interest in asexual issues, even if they’re not asexual, and a lot of asexuals have been on AVEN at some point (though there are also, apparently, a large number of spambot accounts, so only the Mods have the real data) while Bogart’s 1% don’t always know the label asexual.

    If you’re looking at fiction, there’s also a lot of complicated issues about whether normal sexuals might buy the book, even though it’s about asexuals, but I assume you’ll have the information to deal with all that.

    • julie said,

      February 2, 2010 at 1:16 pm

      Thank you! I will certainly get in touch with the admons to see if they can provide me with data on active members!!! That should be useful ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. julie said,

    February 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    mandrewliter, for some reason I can’t reply you properly, so I just do it as a general comment:

    โ€œWho is going to write whatever it is that you propose?โ€

    Good question. Well, maybe very naรฏvely, I have the impression that an issue as asexuality develops itself spontaneously in terms of literary creativity. Just as any (other) LGBT literature. I feel it is just a matter of time before we see asexual works pop all around us.

    I know the issues of ANEVues (being one of the writers that never submit things they promess) but as this will aim to be a business, I hope people will be more comitted to write longer pieces of work. But again, I might get it wrong. It might be worth asking if there are already finished fiction works (or memoirs) out there in AVEN. We might be pleasantly surprised (or not?).

    Good point.

    BTW I’m on a publishing course, not in a writing course, so, no, even if I will be very motivated to write, that is not the aim of my work at my Masters. My work here has to do with anything involved with making a book happen, from the business and/or production point of view, i.e. any stage of the whole process that begins from the moment we receive/commission manuscripts from/to authors to the moment we place the physical (or eBook) in the shelves for selling. This involves the need for exploring the market and current trends, maybe analysing and proposing formats, and having a guess at its profitability, and that is exactly what my dissertation is about.

  6. julie said,

    February 2, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I just thought a second ago that the readership thing… it’s a chicken and egg issue. Like… there will be more readership the more visibility there is, and then, visibility will increase if agressive editorial proposals are successful, which will only happen if there is enough enough visibility and thus, readership…

  7. julie said,

    February 2, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    OK, I also need to think what to make of the already published works featuring (possible) asexual characters. There is a list on AVEN. (Did they have success? What audiences were they targeted to? What did they sell? What would be difference between them and new editorial proposals? Would a general strategy to sell new editorial proposals include some of these titles? i.e. Sherlock Holmes? Does this destroy my whole idea? Arrghhhh!)

  8. Elizabeth said,

    February 12, 2010 at 12:48 am

    I think this is an excellent idea, and I hope to see this come to fruition! I actually work at a library, so I wonder if perhaps once your dissertation has been published whether it would be possible for the library I work at to procure a copy. But that will come way later! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I have to admit I’m a bit concerned about putting the focus heavily on fiction, as I’m not sure whether asexual fiction would be popular or easily marketable to the general public in the same way that nonfiction might be, at this stage. I suspect that most asexual fiction would be dismissed as unrealistic or just a product of thought experiment, and asexuality still seen as something that isn’t real. It may do some work for visibility, but my personal view on it is that at this point it time, works of nonfiction on asexuality would be more successful at showing the public that there ARE people out there who don’t experience sexual attraction, REALLY, right now! By the way, I’m not thinking about nonfiction in a sort of dry, didactic, “this is what asexuality is” kind of way, but in terms of personal essays, memoirs, very much CREATIVE nonfiction that people can connect with. I think that this kind of writing has got to pave the way before asexual fiction will become widely accepted. My feeling on it is this: we’ve got to tell our truths as facts before telling them through lies, or else people will still tend to dismiss them.

    That’s not to say that works of fiction about asexual characters is without value, but I think the value will increase once there is something out there that really allows the public to grasp that it’s possible to be asexual and captures what it is like to navigate the world as an asexual (which of course is different for different people). To some degree we have newspaper articles and blogs doing that now, but they lack the power of a longer published work which has been carefully refined, edited, and marketed towards spreading awareness.

    • julie said,

      February 13, 2010 at 7:21 pm

      Hi, Elizabeth. Thank you for your contribution. I see how much interest you’ve put on writing this piece :-).

      I do see your point and I will surely think of it. Anyway, finding that suitable genre or genres is precisely the aim of the study (fiction is my example, really). Right now, I don’t know what would work best. I am not supposed to know. If I knew, there wouldn’t be a point for my dissertation. Against solid numbers, succesful trend evidence and rigorous analysis on the whole, I should determine if there is indeed a readership and a market for the books. Books could end up being targeted to asexuals or sexuals, or both alike. I don’t know.

      Of course one has suggestions and favourite candiates. I lean to fiction basically because it is what gets the most attention from popular media (unless it’s a celebrity autobiography we’re talking about) and has the most potential for other right agreements (serialisations, TV and film, etc). Wouldn’t it be nice to have an asexual Bridget Jones with a bunch of asexual friends?

      But of course, SHORT memoirs, essays, critics to popular culture, I think, can be gotten more easily, as there are already a lot of blogs with great pieces. In fact, I’m positive that with what is available online, one could easily assemble one very interesting non fiction book of asexual memoirs. Now… who would buy it, right now, and why? I pretend to answer that in 5 months.

      And yes, hopefully my work is worthy and a publisher picks the idea. That’s the whole point ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. sittingpugs said,

    February 28, 2010 at 4:45 am

    I feel it is just a matter of time before we see asexual works pop all around us.

    Depending on the genre, would the target audience read a work of fiction where none or at least one of the characters look for love or engage in activities between consenting adults? Sure, just go to the children’s section of a bookstore. It’s filled with asexual narratives. ^_~

    But on a more serious note, you’ve got a hearty task ahead of you. I can’t help but wonder if you might benefit from getting feedback from someone in PR or advertising. The idea that “sex sells” should be amended to “no sex can sell too.”

    • julie said,

      February 28, 2010 at 3:00 pm

      Well, what you mention was one of my biggest blocking stones when thinking the whole thing. I came to the conclusion that what I need to do is NOT focus on narratives where sex is not present (because, at the end of the day, sex is also part of the lives of many asexuals, and a big part on our discussions, and then it just be avoiding the whole issue); but narratives where other types of desires are present, and presented alongside but not necessarily, with sex.

      I can’t stress long enough that asexual discourse and lifestyle is not about avoiding sex. That is a generalization that causes more confusion than anything else.

      So, yes, proposing stories with other topics has been already done and would not add much to asexual visibility. Proposing characters that contest the supremacy of sexual interests, however, does. My focus is on asexual representations. Depictions of real people for whom sex does not (necessarily) play a vital role in their lives.

      Feedback from PR and advertisement could be indeed very useful, Thank you for the tip ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • sittingpugs said,

        February 28, 2010 at 5:32 pm

        I canโ€™t stress long enough that asexual discourse and lifestyle is not about avoiding sex. That is a generalization that causes more confusion than anything else

        I agree with you there. I’m more of a non/demisexual; I’ve been going to Aven off and on for a few years…I’ve read about the variety of contemplations and frustrations that asexuals experience. One of the common questions or issues, which you’ve probably come across too, is that there’s more to life than loins.

        Good luck with everything!

      • March 1, 2010 at 1:15 pm

        Julie, that last comment was complete win, in oh so many ways.

  10. J.O.Vaughn said,

    March 18, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I was looking over my own works and realize that even while I have characters who are in love and want to be together I never go further than enjoying one anothers company (a kiss or two) because that’s my personal limitation. I have never had a character who said, “I AM ASEXUAL!” And the characters I have written about who don’t like sex usually have some alternative motive like suffering from PTSD due to sexual abuse.

    Do you think a book featuring a person declaring asexuality would hold more weight written by a asexual? I mean it’s one thing if the book is so popular the author is interviewed and says something like, ‘Oh, I just wanted to explore this world of asexuality…’ like it was some theory, instead of, ‘It comes from personal experience’.

    Anyway, since I see I’m rambling, I just want to say good luck and I hope you are a success in publishing. I found this topic by chance on AVEN and I hope you keep me updated.

  11. Cazz said,

    November 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Just wondering if a fictional book based heavily on personal experience would help somehow. All I did in the book is have a character that is asexual and is based on me and tackles real life issues throughout the book. At the end of the book, I could add a section saying which parts were made up and which were weren’t.

  12. Anonymous said,

    January 25, 2016 at 4:03 am

    Hi Julie,

    I am writing a novel, where the main character is an ace. I am trying to figure out who would be interested in reading or publishing a book with an asexual lead. I was wondering if you published your research?

    Thank you,
    Sarah


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