Jeff and Will kick off the show with a review of The (Fake) Dating Game by Timothy Janovsky.
Michael Evans, an author and co-founder of the subscription platform Ream, discusses the rising trend of author subscription programs and Ream’s role in bringing readers and storytellers together. Michael shares the inspiration behind Ream, and the valuable resources available for readers looking to support their favorite writers, and for authors considering building their own communities. He also talks about features coming to Ream in the coming year.
Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Monday, January 29.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- The (Fake) Dating Game by Timothy Janovsky
- Episode 434 – Timothy Janovsky’s Time Traveling Rom-Com on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Jeff Adams on Ream
- Michael Evans Interview
- Michael Evans: website | Books | YouTube
- Ream website
- Divergent by Veronica Roth
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- Emilia Rose: website | Ream
- Storytellers Rule the World T-Shirts
- M.A. Wardell subscription on Patreon
- Gregory Ashe: Advanced Ashochism
- Resources for Authors:
- Nashville on Amazon Prime Video
- Please Report Your Bug Here by Josh Riedel
- Race After Technology by Ruha Benjamin
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast Links
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Coming up on this episode, we’re going to be talking about subscriptions and how they can be a great way for you to connect with your favorite authors.
Jeff: Welcome to episode 445 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Jeff, and with me, as always, is my co-host and husband, Will.
Will: Hey there, Rainbow Romance Reader. It’s great to have you back for another episode of the show.
Book Review: The (Fake) Dating Game by Timothy Janovsky
Jeff: Before we get into our interview and talking about subscriptions, I have to tell you about Timothy Janovsky’s latest, which is actually the first book from Harlequin’s, new Afterglow imprint. Now, Timothy gave us a little tease about this back in episode 434, and I instantly knew I’d have to read it because you’ve got fake dating between game show contestants.
And fake dating and game show comes right through in the title of this book, which is called “The (Fake)…” and “Fake” is in parentheses …”Dating Game.” Now in “The (Fake) Dating Game” we meet Holden James, who has recently lost his mom, and he’s still working through that grief. And he’s also had a breakup with his boyfriend of a number of years.
All of this though, doesn’t deter him from taking a trip to Los Angeles because he’s going to audition for the game show “Madcap Market,” which is Timothy’s fictionalization of the classic game show “Supermarket Sweep.”
Holden’s gotta find somebody to audition with him though. Initially, he reaches out to somebody living in LA who was a friend of his boyfriend, who he believed was also more of a friend to him then maybe they actually were. When he is turned down there, it comes back to the concierge that he’d met earlier when he arrived at the hotel that he’s staying at. Holden and Leo have the best meet cute as there’s this whole exchange when Holden is trying to book a restaurant to actually go meet that friend at. The sparks and the chemistry are already happening before they ever hatch the fake dating scenario that they end up in.
And why the fake dating for the game show? Well, you see “Madcap Market” only auditions people who are already in some form of relationship. It could be mother/daughter, brothers, a romantic relationship, whatever it is, there’s gotta be a relationship there. And this is all very important to Holden because he was gonna do this with his mom. It was always a goal of theirs to be on the show. They watched the show together when he was a kid. And now he feels like he’s keeping a promise to his mom to come out and be on the show. So, he needs Leo for that.
The chemistry that Timothy gives us between Holden and Leo is absolute gold. These two are so tuned into each other. Even in the early days, they’re like really paying attention and listening to the other one. It’s all under the guise of getting their backstories down so that they know what they need to say when they’re on the show, but it’s a lot more than that. They actually listen to each other about the problems that they’re having. While they’re not giving their entire history to each other, they’re giving enough where there is obviously the care that starts to form.
As they keep seeing each other, they both realize that if this was a slightly other scenario, that maybe they really could be something. But you know, they’re just supposed to be dating for the game show. And eventually Holden is supposed to go back to the East Coast and go home. And of course, they both know that they’re carrying a lot of baggage, and this may not be the best time for a relationship.
And as they’re kind of navigating through their whole fake dating thing, they do start sleeping together, and really having some sizzling, hot sexy times. Timothy really turns up the spice level here to a just dizzyingly awesome degree.
And I really like how Timothy builds the story and how, in almost a true Hallmark movie fashion, that the person who was broken up with comes back into the story later. It really throws Holden off that this happens, and it really sets up an interesting final act of the book that I’m not gonna spoil at all. I will simply say that I thought Timothy really brought everything together so well, and I was so just blown away by the transformation that Holden has on the other side of the events that happened in LA. It just helps cement how much of a fan that I am of Timothy Janovsky’s with how this story capped off, and how Holden and Leo grabbed onto their HEA. So, so good.
I continue to just be excited for whatever Timothy’s gonna bring out next. I do highly recommend that you pick up “The (Fake) Dating Game” by Timothy Janovsky.
Subscribing to Authors
Jeff: Okay. Now let’s get into some talk about subscriptions. This is actually something we’re gonna discuss for a couple of episodes because while it isn’t a new concept for an author to have a subscription available on Patreon, Kofi, or some other platform, it has certainly exploded in the gay romance space over the past year. Subscriptions are now becoming commonplace alongside authors selling books directly to readers from their websites and doing Kickstarter campaigns to launch books and other special editions. In fact, it seems not even a week goes by anymore where there isn’t an announcement about authors starting a subscription.
And in fact, I’m one of those authors actually making an announcement because as this episode drops, I’m launching a subscription on Ream where I’ll be sharing chapters from works in progress, and where people who are reading those works in progress can actually get the final books before they go on sale. Plus, my entire backlist is gonna be available to read there too, including a couple of exclusive stories that aren’t available anywhere else. In addition, I’ll be offering a discount for anything that you might buy directly from my store too.
So, I’m launching with a work in progress that is a second chance romance between a hockey player and a ballet dancer. This was actually a story that I had in an anthology a couple years ago, and I’ve been working on expanding from the anthology because the story really needed some more room to breathe. I’m really looking forward to sharing this. If you wanna check out the first couple of chapters for this story, you can also follow me on Ream, where the first couple of chapters are available for free. You could find that at ReamStories.com/JeffAdams.
And in addition to the stories that I’ll share there, I’m also gonna be posting about how the writing is going, what I’m reading, what might be coming up on my writing calendar, and whatever else I’m inspired to do. This will become my community. I’ve never had a Facebook group as an author, but I’m excited to build a community on Ream where everyone who is there is into books, into reading, and it’s all happening without any of the distraction of the millions of other things that there are to do on sites like Facebook. I hope you’ll have a look and follow along as I create some new stuff this year. And again, you can find all of this ReamStories.com/JeffAdams, or you can get the link that I’ll leave in the show notes.
Now, you might be asking yourself what Ream is. They’re a newcomer to the subscription scene having launched in mid-2023. And what makes them really awesome is that it’s a platform that’s built by authors to have features that would be great for authors and readers. We’ve been watching them grow and are really excited by what the team is doing there to make a great place for authors and readers to make online communities and talk about books.
And since we know that Ream, and perhaps the idea of subscribing to an author, might be new to you, we asked author and co-founder Michael Evans to come talk to us about how Ream was created and the features that it has that makes it a good place for both authors and readers to be. Michael also shares what’s planned for Ream in 2024, and there is some really cool stuff there that’s gonna be coming out with some new and exciting features. We also discuss why readers might consider subscribing to their favorite authors and the cool things that he’s seeing authors offer.
Michael Evans Interview
Jeff: Michael, welcome to Big Gay Fiction Podcast. I’m so excited to have you here to talk about subscriptions.
Michael: I’m so excited to be here. You’re amazing, Jeff. Love your podcast. Love everything you’re doing. Just grateful to talk with you all.
Jeff: And feel the same about you. We’re really big fans here of the platform that Ream’s become. And that’s one of the reasons we wanted to have you here, was to introduce our listeners to Ream, because it is a new player out there in this subscription space. To kind of kick us off, tell the listeners who you are, because I suspect you’re gonna be new for most of them.
Michael: This is actually a really cool moment because I’m a science fiction author and now for the last six years have been indie publishing. On the reader end of things, it’s you don’t always know how authors are publishing. But when you jump onto the author side, you’re, oh wow there’s a pretty big world of difference between being a trad author and an indie author. And I’ve always been on the indie side of things and have loved it.
It all started for me being obsessed actually with “Divergent,” “Hunger Games.” Those two specific series. I just fell in love with and needed to start writing myself. And now I’m very passionate about community building, always have been. And saw that being an author, on, specifically I was in Kindle Unlimited writing mainly on Amazon. There was a lot of limitations for that platform, both in terms of, for me as an author, but also what I could provide my readers.
I wanted to be able to actually be able to interact with my readers, to be able to get their feedback on my stories, and to be able to have a close relationship with my community. On Amazon. I didn’t even know who my readers were. I had no way of contacting them. I didn’t know.
And what I ended up figuring out is that my readership was much older than I thought, which was actually a beautiful thing. But I would’ve loved to know that and not have it figured out after years of stumbling. I thought my audience was mostly people like me, middle school kids, high school kids, reading dystopian fiction. But it ended up being mostly adults who were in their forties, some actually in their sixties and seventies, and they were reading my books and connecting with me over emails when I finally started to get that insight to my audience.
But I was, wow, what if I was able to actually have that. Again, that closer relationship, breaking down the barriers between author and reader. And yeah, from there I actually did YouTube for a while, which is pretty funny. Then I got into live streaming.
People will say, we all have different hobbies. So, I don’t know how much people have gone on platforms like Twitch and maybe watched gaming streams there. But I actually was a livestream creator in the sense of I would do scavenger hunts, manhunts in different cities. Really interesting way to be creating online. But I guess bottom line, I’ve always told stories. I’ve always created, and that experience really showed me the power of connecting with an audience of building a relationship with my fans.
And I loved it. I got hooked on it, but then I went back to writing and realized how difficult it was. I was writing my next young adult dystopian book, getting ready to publish. And I just felt really disenchanted with the options in front of me and that’s when I met Emilia, Emilia Rose, who is one of the co-founders of Ream with me.
She is an amazing steamy romance author, and when we met I was, wow, you’re doing something special. She was having an audience where she was able to basically create this VIP fan club for her readers. They were able to get early access to her books before they were published elsewhere. They were getting things like art. That was beautiful, really interesting art. There was even the ability for readers to get book boxes, swag, and things of this nature. And I’m like, you’ve created a mini-Disney for your readers. And that is so cool. I didn’t even know that was possible. And I’ve always been fascinated by the creator economy and the possibilities that creators have online to be able to create just immersive experiences for readers all over the world. And I finally met someone who was doing this.
And when we chatted, I realized that it was really difficult and that we could make it and help it be a lot easier for her and her readers because a lot of the existing tools and platforms that you do use to connect with creative people online aren’t actually really designed for reading. They’re not designed for readers. And we were like, well, what if we actually did that and created a space that authors can build basically a VIP reader club and offer any experience that they want to their readers, whether it’s early access to their books, whether it’s behind the scenes content, whether it’s bonus novellas or even things like signed books and merchandise.
How can authors do this in one place that is easy to use for them, but also easy and fun to use for readers? And that’s where we created Ream, and we added a lot of fun things to the platform that we wish were possible other places. You can comment on the paragraphs in Ream. So, it’s that social aspect where reading becomes a multiplayer experience.
Authors are able to make separate community posts to update you on how their books are progressing, on the new stories that they’re releasing. And I even see people do things like polls where you can start to vote on the names for characters and vote on different locations and the settings. It’s amazing. And ultimately, it’s all about the relationship between an author and their readers and the incredible things that come from that.
So that’s the arc of what’s happened. I lived this journey of being an author and a reader. And saw an opportunity to create something that could be a better and more fun experience. And have been lucky enough to meet a group of people that wanted to do it with me. And now that group of people is not just me and my co-founders working alone in a room, but thousands of authors, tens of thousands of incredible readers who are on the platform and supporting authors. And it’s just been the coolest experience and a dream come true.
So that’s a little bit about the full background of how I got to where I am today. And it’s weird, it’s cool. I didn’t expect this in my life. But I’ve always been one to follow my passion and want to just see where that takes me, and I hope we can help others do that too.
Jeff: We should say that you mentioned when you were talking about the writing that you were doing, that you thought it was only for people who were like you, middle school teenagers. You left out the fact that you started writing as a teenager, publishing as a teenager, and that now you’ve launched Ream with your co-founders and you’re still in college. You’re a very young entrepreneur who’s done all this while going to school at the same time.
Michael: Yeah. I’ll say something about reading that’s pretty interesting. I think that I credit most of how I’ve learned to, again, start a company, do all these… start publishing stories too, like, reading books, whether it was fiction or nonfiction. I’ve always been a voracious reader. I read about one to two books a week, and that’s what kind of… I learn a lot. And then from there I am like oh, that’s a crazy idea, maybe I can actually do it.
And first those ideas were, maybe I could write stories, maybe that’s possible. And surprise myself when I figured out I can write something that was half decent. But then, you know, now surprise myself again when you keep experiencing and learning more and you’re like, wow, there’s so many cool things that this world has to offer, and it feels like all of it’s on like the other side of a story.
Jeff: Hence storytellers rule the world. For people who are watching the video, they see your T-shirt.
Michael: That’s true. Yes.
Jeff: And it is one of your driving forces and philosophies I think is storytellers rule the world.
Michael: Yeah. 100%. 100%.
Jeff: We’ve seen subscription’s becoming more and more of a thing from a reader standpoint. You know, they think about Kindle Unlimited there. That’s this type of subscription right there. We all subscribe to our streaming services and listeners to this podcast have the option to subscribe to our Patreon to get some bonus materials and help us be able to transcribe episodes, for example.
What is it about this that has caught on so much inside the reader community suddenly? Because even the week that we’re talking in middle December, M.A. Wardell, and Gregory Ashe, who are authors who I am big fans of, have launched subscriptions. The week this comes out, I’m going to be launching my own subscription. What’s made this the minute for subscriptions to start delivering new and different things to readers more than we’ve seen in the past?
Michael: Yeah, it’s amazing question. I think there’s probably two big factors. I think the first is that after Covid we’ve seen the world change a lot. And before Covid, I think the place that stories and online storytellers had in their life was much different than it is now. Before Covid, a lot of us were adjusting to this digital world, but a lot of social institutions that exist, whether it was community that we’d have at our work for people who were traveling to work, working in person. But there was community that we had with friendships and family. A lot of that got broken down in the two years of the pandemic and a lot of it actually hasn’t come back. Whether it’s working in a office. Whether it’s people moving different places and life shifting. And all of a sudden, we’ve seen us just spending more and more time in this digital world. And it’s not always the best thing.
I think what we’ve seen a lot of times is that our mental health can be affected when we’re spending all the time online. That it can feel very lonely, for people of all different ages, can feel very lonely. And we’ve actually seen the rise in, whether it’s anxiety, depression, especially loneliness, increase exponentially over the last several years to the point that it’s really one of the biggest problems, period, that we have as a society.
And it’s really sad. It’s a thing I felt personally. I mean most of my friends are online. I go to college. I’m surrounded by people all day, but when I’m in the lunchroom, most people are looking down at their phones. Most people are not talking to other people. It’s strangely difficult to meet strangers when living in a city nowadays. And I know I’m not the one that feels that way. So, we’re all a prisoner to these technologies in a way.
And I think part of why we’re seeing individual creators start memberships, start these VIP experiences for the readers, and readers actually want to participate and want to be a part of it is because it allows us to break free from this endless algorithm, from this endless world of stories and be a part of something. Be a part of a community, be a part of supporting someone that we care about. Be a part of experiencing something that isn’t just the experience everyone else gets. Something special. And whether that’s early access to stories or bonus content, whatever it is.
And it’s really awesome to feel special. And it’s really awesome to actually be treated like you’re special. And we’re so often just treated like another number, another reader, another this, in all the things that we do. It can very easily feel like the world has objectified us. And part of being a part of a community, part of being a part of a membership is actually having that space to not only say, this is what I care about and I’m gonna show the world that, but also be cared for in return and get that extra VIP experience. What we like to say is readers first.
And I think the second thing comes down to actually, in terms of when we talk about readers actually paying to subscribe to authors, paying monthly in these memberships, it is interesting because there are readers subscription programs already, you’re right, like Kindle Unlimited. The biggest difference is if you’re going to subscribe to something like Kindle Unlimited, you get access to unlimited books, but you’re not actually getting access to any one thing in specific. It’s just all these books you have to sift through, find the stories you like.
And with something like an author’s subscription that’s specific to them, if you’re a fan of an author, if you really like their work, one, a lot of times it can be actually cheaper than going out and supporting that author outright. If an author has their backlist available at $10 a month, you can start to binge that author’s work and that would be much cheaper than if you’re buying a la carte in a retailer. Or a lot of people who are reading on serial apps, a lot of people on Ream, and they’re publishing chapter by chapter on the serial apps, books can be really expensive. And oftentimes authors price themselves much more reasonably on a platform like Ream.
And the other big thing is that we’re more aware, right? We’re paying $5 a month to a creator that we care about, to an author and getting access to their books before they come out, getting access to all these amazing things. And that’s a great experience. We also understand that we’re directly supporting them. And when we go to a place like Amazon, when we go to these other retailers where we’re not able to support the authors we love directly, oftentimes it’s a little disheartening to see that, oh, I really love this author, but and I want them to be able to… when I’m paying this book, I want them to get the money. But when there’s all these middlemen taking away that share, it makes it more difficult.
But I mean, that’s why our motto’s storytellers rule the world and really trying to decrease the barriers between readers and authors, both from a community level, which I just talked about why that’s something I think more people are doing. But also, from an economic standpoint. Knowing that your money’s going to support your authors in a higher degree is I think a thing to feel really good about. And I think those are two reasons we’ve seen it grow. And , I don’t think we’re gonna be in a future, even as someone who runs a platform and runs a community that’s trying to help authors and readers be able to benefit from memberships and benefit from having this monthly access to creative works, I don’t think we’re gonna live in a world where you’re subscribing to every author that you read, or at least paying at the same time. I think we’re gonna live in a world where it’s a world of “and.”
We’re still gonna be able to buy our books. These models will still exist. But there’s also a world in which it becomes more and more popular for the creative people that we do really wanna support, that we do want that behind the scenes access to, that we do wanna get their books early, that we do wanna access their back lists, whatever it is, that this becomes a better way to support and a better way to engage with the stories you love.
So, I think it’s definitely not everything’s gonna shift to this. It’s a world of “and,” and it’s growing.
Jeff: And I think we see the “and” a lot in just creative stuff overall.
Jeff: I have the option to buy the basic book or the basic CD, record album, download, whatever we want to call music these days. But then I can also get the special edition that’s got bonus tracks, or the fancy cover, or the special edition that’s at Barnes and Noble today. And this seems to feed into that. So, when you’re really into a particular author you can get more, but you can also choose to just get the book that’s at Amazon, if that’s your preference.
Michael: And I think what we’re also seeing now more and more too is on a platform like Ream, it’s not you can only pay a monthly to subscribe to authors. Most readers actually are following authors that they enjoy, and authors are publishing work to them as a follower for free that they might get some of the chapters early, they might be able to get some of the behind-the-scenes access. Now, maybe not all of it. And that makes sense because we wanna support our authors and it’s a great thing.
But it’s a world in which you can still get a lot of these things, try things out, discover new authors. And that’s something that now Ream, when this goes out, will have live is the ability to actually discover new authors on Ream, to follow them, to get into their stories. And you don’t have to pay for that. You can just check it out. And then when you know that you really like an author and that you know that you want more, then of course, it’ll help the author a lot to be able to upgrade and to be able to be a part of that and to get all that access. And then you get all the amazing things inside, but you don’t have to do that unless you really want to. And you’ll know that because you can follow an author for free and still get some awesome things too.
So, it’s a definitely a world of “and” in multiple ways because you can still support authors, still be involved in their community, still experience all these amazing things we’re talking about even for free.
Jeff: The free concept is something that fascinates me too. The idea that you can follow because Ream’s got this. Patreon added it relatively recently, the idea that you could follow for free and have it tagged that way. And I have to wonder if this also starts to get people out of social media because one of the issues that I always hear with authors who run groups comes back to the algorithm where the Facebook algorithm loves to suppress things. And I’ll see in my notifications “you’ve missed 10 things in the group.” I’m like, how did I miss 10 things in the group? And so, then I have to go over there and read them instead of just seeing them come up in my feed.
And especially with Ream, since the emails can go out, I know when my favorite author does something because the email kicks out and then I know it.
Michael: I think we’re broadly shifting. And what we’ve seen, and I think all felt, is this word, “attention economy.” I’m sure that’s a word that a lot of us have heard before. But it’s basically that our attention is the new capital that everyone’s fighting for and being monetized. And this is what we literally see when you talk about social media. Current social media platforms are built off this attention economy model. And what ends up happening, and we all know this feeling, as you open up, I’ll use Facebook as an example, you open up Facebook and you might wanna check in with friends. You might wanna check in with that reader group that you’re super interested in. You might wanna see updates from your favorite authors.
And also, other things too. I mean, we all do other things besides just reading, although reading might be our biggest hobby. You might be using Facebook for other things. But regardless, you have these intentions that you want when you go to Facebook. But Facebook’s goal isn’t to serve your intention, it’s to grab your attention.
What that often then leads to is, oh, you got this, this is obviously so stereotypical as an example, but there’s the cute cat video and I got dragged into it, and now you’re in this endless scroll of reels, right? And you looked up, 20 minutes go by. You’re like, well first of all, what did I just do? Second of all, that was my free time. I could have been talking to friends, family. I could have been reading a good book and I went there. Right? That’s not fun.
And obviously the best feeling is when you’re sucked into a story, and it consumes every moment. You don’t even open up Facebook. But we’ve all felt that feeling. We really wanna get into a new story, or we wanna do something else. And it feels Facebook’s sucking us in.
But I think where we’re seeing this shift broadly towards what I’ll call the “intention economy” instead of attention, is, how do we help someone? How do we help a reader when they enter into a digital environment, not grab their attention, but instead give them what they want in that moment. And following, when you choose to follow an author on Ream, you’ve marked your intention. Your intention is, I wanna hear more from this person. I wanna read their stories. I want to get updates on their work. And then, because now we know your intention. We’ll give you just that. And that’s where it is just a different, total mindset shift in how a social platform can be built.
And that’s also where we go back to storytellers rule the world. Our goal is to support you as the author and your intention is actually very shared as a reader. And the reader’s intention, right, is to experience great stories. Okay, great. And the author’s intention is to give readers great stories. That’s what most authors wanna do. And that shared intention, when we can really harness that, it’s just a seismic shift in how other platforms operate. And I think that, in many ways it’s more of that interaction is already happening for a lot of authors on Ream, and a lot of authors are moving their social medias to Ream, and a lot of our future updates will be on making that experience better for readers and authors so that one day my vision for Ream is that a reader opens up Ream and this is their reading world. All their authors are here. All the updates they want in their books are here. This is their place to experience stories and know that this is a safe place for you. You’re not gonna be dragged out into a million ads. You’re not gonna see all this… Stories are political in nature, but you’re not gonna see all these political ads, right? You’re not gonna be dragged away into some wild corner of the internet that you don’t wanna be in. You’re in your world. The stories that you enjoy. And for so many folks listening, I know that happens to be LGBTQ fiction. It happens to be romance stories, all these amazing things that oftentimes too, as you mentioned…
How do I put it lightly? Facebook… I’m not getting accusations here, but Facebook literally, its algorithm literally does deprioritize certain types of content. And a lot of it happens overlap with the types of words and things that are mentioned by readers and authors that write LGBTQ fiction, that write m/m romance and it’s problematic. But Facebook, because they’re a huge platform focused on serving everyone, I get it. They have these algorithms that have to filter and censor more things. But when you build a world designed around intention, you can give yourself and others what you want. And that makes it a little bit more of an open ecosystem, but not open in a vitriolic way, but open in a safe way because you’re choosing where and how you want to interact. Just like, let me click the follow button. I wanna follow these authors.
I know it seems simple, you just get to follow authors for free, and that gives you stories and access to other things. But it’s definitely a big change in how we think about things because when you follow an author on a retailer like Amazon, you get an update when they release a new book. Okay? They don’t even… newsflash to readers, authors don’t control those emails when they go out. Authors have no idea when they go out. And most of the time they don’t come out on the day that the book is released. That’s another odd thing that you might have noticed actually getting these emails.
But, on a place like Ream, authors get to control that. They get to say, oh, this is when I’m gonna update my readers. And they can share different types of updates with you as a reader. It’s not just new book I’m gonna sell you, but, like, hey, here’s some behind the scenes content. Here’s this awesome update. I want your opinion or feedback on my next book. And that kind of, again, VIP experience, it’s just really not possible other places and that’s what makes a place like Ream really special. That’s what makes the whole concept of membership really special. And that’s why we’re really excited about something like following that allows anyone to be a member.
Jeff: Ream has the social reader, which is to me one of the most fascinating things that inside the platform. And I think it’s analogous to the idea that you can note stuff if you’re reading on a Kindle, and that other people can see that when they’re reading, but you gotta know how to do it. And a little bit Goodreads where you can leave a bunch of notes inside of a book’s page. But this puts it all right there on the screen. Everybody can see it. It’s there for that social kind of interaction. What led to that because I think it’s a really fascinating thing to almost create community reading and sort of a community book club that you just have there because everybody’s getting to leave a comment.
Michael: I think that community book club is a great three words to sum it up. And I think that is the goal is to be able to create those environments. And it honestly came from Emilia Rose. She’s written a lot on serial fiction platforms and a lot of Ream is a great place to read serials. You can read novels on Ream, but Ream’s also a great place to read serials if you’re into serial fiction. And a lot of those platforms were more interactive, not quite at the level of Ream, but more interactive. And then when I started publishing on YouTube. After writing all these books and seeing how little interaction there was there. It was so much fun to be able to get comments on every YouTube video and be able to know I can create something and get that feedback very quickly. And then to know that I could interact with my viewers and be able to actually create better videos because of that. Because I know how they’re thinking. I know what they’re feeling and responding to.
And, furthermore, then when this got taken to my experience live streaming, when I was live streaming, it was super interactive where not only could people comment in real time, and I could respond to them. People were also coming up on stage with me. So, the show wasn’t really about me live streaming. It was about us together as a community. And it just got me thinking how much fun being online is when you get to actually experience it in multiplayer. And we wanted to bring that experience to reading because it just felt like you can get the vibe that we wanted to create a social platform for reading.
That’s what we wanna do because we wanna be able to bring communities together. We wanna be able to help break down the barriers that exist between readers and authors, both financially and both from an interaction, from a social standpoint. And designing that social reader does exactly that.
And it also helps us in a longer-term goal that we have, which is that we really believe that readers are, and their opinions, their voices, all of you who are reading stories, you’re what’s really driving the publishing industry. Storytellers rule the world, but it’s readers first. That’s one of our mottos, right? It’s one of our foundational principles. And what does it look if we put readers first? One, we have to know what you all think. What your experience is. And authors get to do that very easily on Ream.
But also even further, more than that, with this whole concept of book clubs, with this whole concept of readers being able to comment inside of stories, it’s not that farcical. In fact, it’s going to happen there’s gonna be readers who are trusted because of the comments they make inside stories. We enjoy those comments. We want more of them. And all of a sudden, we want to see, like, what story is this reader reading next, that we enjoy their takes on stories, that we enjoy reading with them. And one of the long-term goals of Ream is not to be the next Amazon or the next big retailer because that’s lame. It’s to empower a thousand independent bookstores to exist online. What does independent bookstore look online? What does an independent book club look online? I think what you’re seeing now is the beginnings of that. We’ll be able to create the future of it together.
And that’s both the short term and long term behind why we chose to do that. And it’s something that, I mean, we just think is super fun and that’s, I mean, that’s always what matters at the end of the day is creating something that could be fun for all of us.
Jeff: One of the other things that I think helps set Ream apart in the subscription space is, much like Smashwords set itself apart for being a place where people could write more steamy, more taboo kind of content, Ream also allows authors to essentially write whatever kind of fiction they’re writing without some of the restrictions you find on a Patreon or another platform. Was that always part of the foundation ideas as well?
Michael: Yeah. That was one of the big problems that Emilia faced on other platforms is that they weren’t designed for fiction, both from an experience standpoint, you can’t actually go and read books on Patreon, you have to go between the different posts is very clunky. But also, from how they handled moderation. When you have a platform that’s trying to moderate all different forms of content and is not just focused on reading you have that issue. But then another issue is that, frankly, these big platforms don’t often really care about niche communities. They actually want to get away from it. They want to be a mass platform. They don’t want to be branded as having steamy content, as being a quote unquote adult platform.
And Ream’s none of those things. Ream’s a reading platform. But Ream also recognizes that there’s amazing stories and readers who love consuming content that is steamy. That does include things that might be taboo at times. And that on these other platforms that again are focused on reaching mass markets that have these moderation issues but also don’t want to cater to these audiences, which is sad, but it’s true. We can feel that sometimes as readers. If you tell your family I’m into these kinds of stories, they might look at you and be like, really?
And we wanted to create a place that doesn’t feel like we’re looking at you like, really? But like, no, this is awesome. The platform’s called Ream, for God’s sake, right? So, I mean, that’s what we wanted to do. And because Emilia has faced this beyond firsthand. The kinds of books I read and wrote were a little bit more like socially acceptable. And that’s only because that’s what I was interested in. Being a straight white guy, you have a certain privilege to in society. But when what you read or write isn’t quote unquote normal, which doesn’t mean it’s not normal, it just means some, probably white guys, think it’s not normal, that doesn’t make it any less awesome. But in certain places they care about you less. But on Ream, because we’re bootstrapped, because we’re made by authors for authors, this is who we care about. Because let’s be real, I mean most authors, we’re all weird, writing in our own corners, doing our own things, and reading.
I didn’t grow up… I was never the popular kid. I’ve never had a ton of friends. We’re all the ones who are quote unquote not normal. And that’s what makes reading special. You need a place for all of us to come together for us to really be able to do what we need to do and to be able to get each other. And I think that, as silly as it sounds, Ream’s just a piece of software. I’m not trying to make Ream sound some living, breathing being that’s staring at you while you’re reading. That’s really creepy. But the people who created Ream, me, Emilia, and Sean, who is our lead developer, we get you. And we’re building Ream to hopefully give you that experience, give your authors that experience because we’ve faced for so long what it’s like being places that don’t get us. And that’s a lonely feeling if there’s ever a lonely feeling.
Jeff: You collect a lot of data behind the scenes with Ream, because you’re looking not only at Ream, but you look at the other platforms too, and what’s going on there. In your experience, what do you see that are the most popular things that readers like to get in their subscriptions?
Michael: That’s a good question. It’s interesting because that’s the number one question authors ask. And readers just tell us because readers generally know what they’re interested in, right? So, I’ll frame it as this generally readers, when they really enjoy a series from an author, wanna try and get the next book in that series faster. And you could think about it like a Hollywood screening where you go in, and you get that red carpet access to the movie before anyone else does. That tends to be pretty popular for people.
But also, what’s pretty popular is getting, whether it’s bonus content, behind the scenes, maybe there’s two characters in specific that the romance wasn’t fully explored inside of the book, but you wanna see more of that, right? Maybe the author wrote a secondary novella that goes along with it. That is also quite popular. Getting more immersed into the worlds.
And then, particularly with a lot of authors who are writing LGBTQ romance, who are writing m/m romance… I know for me as a reader, I identify very strongly with the stories I enjoy. It becomes kind of part of who I am and a lot of us want to rep that, want to literally wear that. So, merch becomes pretty popular, other types of swag because it’s amazing to feel like you’re a part of this world that you love and actually having that world be in your world on your shirt, or whether it’s maybe a hat or other types of things like that are quite popular. So those are the big things we see.
But, at an individual reader level for everyone listening, whatever interests you in a subscription and being a part of a membership, it’s gonna vary actually, depending on the author. You might have one author that you’re like, I don’t really care if I actually get their books early, but I really need to know what happened to these two characters and I would love to get this bonus scene. You might have another author that you’re like, I need their books right now. You might have another author that you want to binge their whole back list, and they have their back list subscription. Another author that you’re like, are they coming out with merch related to this world or this character? Because I would kill for that merch.
And then you might have other authors that you’re like, I am actually not here for any of that. All that’s cool, but I’m not here for that. I’m here because I really wanna support this author and because they got me through a tough time in my life with this story. And I know that an extra five bucks a month, an extra whatever it is, will help them out. And it feels really good to give to someone that you care about and that’s your way of showing that care.
It doesn’t have to be the only way you show that care. The way you show that care might be commenting on their stories positively, and it might be sharing with other readers. There’s a lot of other ways that you can show authors who care. But yeah, I think that’s what it typically goes back to.
Jeff: As we look into 2024, this episode drops in the middle of January. What kind of cool things, I mean, you’ve got the social reader. What can you tease readers who are using the Ream platform about things that are gonna start to enhance their intake of stories even more?
Michael: Yeah, so I think the biggest one that really should be live when this goes live is discovery on Ream. And there’s some really big things that we’ve done with it to make it a way better experience for readers. Honestly, I did not think we were gonna go this far with it, but it’s basically a full relaunch to the platform is how big this update is. It’s by far nothing even comes close. Our biggest update yet. And will probably be our biggest update for… I mean, we have other big updates plan, but this one’s really big.
So, what does it look like? Well, when you’re a reader on Ream, you’ll be able to access top lists and you’ll be able to access rising Reamers, which are authors who are up and coming in the platform and stories up and coming in the platform. And you’ll also be able to search for stories. And when you do that, how we’ve designed that system, it’s intuitive and you can see the covers, you can get into the stories that way, start reading immediately because a lot of authors set their first few chapters public so you can just get in and start reading the book. That’s fun. That’s awesome.
But how we actually let you discover stories is much more detailed than any other platform. So, we have a huge system of sub genres that Arielle Bailey, one of our team members at Ream built out. And she’s super into the fandoms super into genre really. And it’s a system of, I think, 300 or so genres and sub-genres that are built out. But in addition to that, there’s also a romance pairing system where, let’s say you want to experience a story that’s m/m. You can do that and filter all the different top lists that exist in Ream. If you want a romantic suspense story, you could then filter and see the top stories or the rising Reamers by that, right? So, you can filter by romance pairing. In addition, you can filter by diversity. So, we have a whole section of diversity filters that you can click. It’s just super, like one click. Oh, now I can sort top stories by BIPOC. I can sort top stories by LGBTQIA+. You could sort top stories by. sensory impaired. We have all these different categories. And they’re not too overwhelming. They’re actually very, we narrowed them down to be encompassing and easy to use, but really cool so that you can actually create your own custom bestseller lists and rising Reamers lists automatically.
And you can do the same thing when you’re searching for stories too. It works the same way. So that if you want a very specific, I’m looking for, maybe there’s this specific trope you want in this specific setting and then this specific sub-genre, you would type in the trope, you type in that, which author, that’s tagged separately. But then you could drop down and say, well, what does it look like if that trope’s m/m? What does it look like if that trope only has BIPOC characters? What does it look like, et cetera. And you could just go and do that.
So, going back to intention, we wanted to try and give readers a really granular ability to be able to share, what is their intention? What stories are they looking for right now? And if not, if you’re like, I’m just here. What we’ll do, which is great, is on the homepage is a trending stories at the bottom. All of that’s basically gonna be an endless scroll of stories that we think you’re interested in based off of the other things that you’re searching for on the platform. So, if you’re just like I want to check out new things, I don’t want to think. We all are in that moment. We just wanna see new stories. We’ll show you new stories too. And those will hopefully be based off of stories that we know that you’ll probably enjoy. And it’s just an effortless scroll that makes it very easy to see new titles from new authors and test out new things that you might enjoy. So yeah, I think that’s the biggest thing.
But outside of that, I’m really excited in 2024 for us to launch the ability for authors to bring their Facebook groups to Ream. That’s one of our big launches. It’s gonna come towards the end of the year. And it’s gonna be all about helping readers post inside of author communities. Readers being moderators in author communities. And really have the ability to build your own reader communities on Ream where you are able to take the lead, not just authors, but you’re able to take the lead too. You’re able to start the conversation. That we’re really, really excited for. We’re also, for listeners specifically, going to be releasing audiobooks on the platform as well. And I think it’ll be a very good experience, audio on the platform. And I’m very excited for that too. So yeah, those are I guess, three of our big releases.
Jeff: That’s awesome. As both an author and a reader. I look forward to all of that.
Now we’ve got authors and aspiring authors who are also in the audience. You’ve got great resources for them if they’re interested in learning more about subscriptions, maybe thinking to start their own. Tell us a little bit about what you’ve got for that segment of our audience.
Michael: So, for authors, we have an overwhelming amount of things. The best place to go is subscriptionsforauthors.com, or the Subscriptions for Authors Facebook group. And if you sign up for our mailing list, there’s a pretty in-depth welcome sequence where we’ll send you all free things that we have to help you. We have a podcast called “Subscriptions for Authors.” We have fireside chats that we do monthly, basically webinars that are on YouTube about different areas of subscription. We have an author personas test where you get to see what is the best way for you to start and lead a community of readers and start your subscription as an author.
We have an award show that we did last week, and you were at, which was a lot of fun. We do now fun things like our blog where I’ll write essays on publishing, but basically all of it is at subscriptionsforauthors.com and it’s really a choose your own adventure. I think you could literally spend over 150 hours consuming what we have there. It’s a vast library of resources. But that’s where I would start.
Oh, we also have a free book too. That’s all about subscriptions. You could find it on any retailer, called “Subscriptions for Authors.” You could also find it on YouTube or Spotify that you can listen to the audiobook for free. And that’s a good primer if you’re interested in getting started. But we have a whole world. We have our own little mini-Disney for folks who are interested in learning more.
Jeff: Yeah. Besides your “Subscriptions for Authors” book, I’ll also shout out your book on the creator economy too. ‘Because I found those two, I read them back-to-back, and they were really helpful as I was thinking about my journey to start a subscription. So, people should check that out too.
Michael: I’m grateful you liked it. I am working on a new book now. Well, I’m working on two. I’m working on a collection of the essays that I wrote, that will be more like putting it all together in one place. And some essays I haven’t released before. But then I’m also gonna be releasing a book next year called “The Sovereign Author,” which will all be about like the new mindset for authors to succeed in this new generation of publishing. So, I’m very excited for “The Sovereign Author.” I think it’ll dive deep into mental health, which I think will be pretty fun.
Jeff: One of our patrons, Kati, has a question that also leans a bit towards the business side of things. They were curious about trad published authors and subscriptions and kinda what goes into what they can offer since they’re also bound to a publisher who might control more of the rights to the story than an indie author might have?
Michael: That’s a very good question. From our conversation with tread authors, they usually can’t offer early access to their stories. Why is because the publisher, typically they’ve signed a deal that the publisher has rights that series and future books in the series. So that publisher probably doesn’t want that released ahead of time. Sometimes authors can get special permission, but usually that’s not allowed. Bonus content’s tricky. It’s tricky. Usually, special permission has to be garnered there. Sometimes it’s easier to get special permission for bonus content than it is for the actual main story itself.
What we mostly see authors doing is having, whether it’s short stories unconnected to their main series, so they’re writing something a little bit separate, doing behind the scenes. They might be doing art, things that are not directly the IP that they’re working with their publisher on. Typically, the writing and work that their actual publishers publishing for them is not gonna be able to be involved in their subscription in a substantive way.
Jeff: Now we can’t let anybody go without getting recommendations. So curious, I mean, as we’re talking, you’ve basically just finished finals, so it’s hard to say what you’re gonna recommend here, but what have you been reading or watching recently that our listeners might wanna check out?
Michael: That’s a great question. So, one I really enjoy, but it’s like an old show, but I just finished it recently, called “Nashville.” I love…
Jeff: That’s a classic.
Michael: Yeah, I love that show. So, I’m a big fan of that show.
In terms of reading, I read probably different than most of the audience here, but this is an interesting book that does intersect with the topics I talked about today. So there, there is a chance that someone is interested in checking this out. So, basically the actual author of this book was one of the first employees at Instagram. So, he helped build Instagram. And the story is called “Please Report Your Bug Here.” Fascinating story. I really liked it.
And then another book, this one’s nonfiction that I think y’all would like. And again, it’s in typical me fashion, a little bit related to technology, but I think it’s really interesting is called “Race After Technology” by Ruha Benjamin. And early we were talking in our conversation about who is our digital world built for and different environments that might not be built for specific audiences and the limitations of that. “Race After Technology” is all about that. And honestly, I mean, it’s somewhat depressing. It’s somewhat mind blowing, but it’s really, it’s like one of those things that I think you need to read. I wish everyone read that book because it’s really important to get an understanding of that. And I think that for so many folks here who are in the queer community who are also reading and writing similar things. You’re going to be… you’re gonna relate heavily to “Race After Technology” because as we know, similar themes extend in the queer community. And it’s, like I said, mind blowing book. So those would be my recs.
Jeff: I’ll have to check that out.
Michael: You would love the book. You would love it. Yeah.
Jeff: So yeah, I’ll be picking that up shortly after we’re done here.
So, Michael, what’s the best way for people to keep up with both you individually, and the things that you might be doing even outside of Ream, and then also with Ream itself.
Michael: Well, to keep up with Ream itself, I mean, the best place is reamstories.com. You can create a free account there. And we’ll keep you updated on things that happen on the platform, and you can also go check it out. So reamstories.com is the best place to go.
If you wanna learn more about me, most of my time really is spent on Ream at this very moment, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
But you can learn a little bit more about me at my website. It’s just mevansinked.com. So, you can go to either of those places. I recommend you check out Ream. That’ll probably be more interesting to everyone here. But if you do wanna learn a little bit more about me, that’s where you could go.
Jeff: Awesome. Michael, thank you so much for coming to talk to us about subscriptions. We look forward to hopefully even more readers coming to whatever platform to support authors and read more stories in the coming year.
Michael: Yes. We always love readers, and readers keep everything alive for us authors and us authors are readers too, so we’re right with you.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, head on over to the show notes page for this episode at BigGayFictionPodcast.com. We’ve got links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: Thanks so much to Michael for spending some time to talk to us about subscriptions and Ream. It’s really incredible watching how Ream has debuted in the past year and how they are out there to help authors and readers connect with each other.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next, on Monday, January 29th, we’re going to be continuing our discussion with three authors who are running their own successful subscriptions.
Jeff: We’re gonna be joined by Charlie Cochet, Nora Phoenix, and Victoria Sue, and we’re going to talk about why they started a subscription, what they’re providing, and what they’re hearing from readers in their communities.
Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself, we want to thank you so much for listening, and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kinds of stories we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then, keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.