Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional







July 2016
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#89: How to Own a Room (or crowd) with Robbie Samuels

How to Own a Room (or crowd) with Robbie Samuels


Jenn T Grace:              You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 89.


Introduction:              Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You'll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You'll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven't yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn - with two N's - T Grace.


Jenn T Grace:              Well hello and welcome to episode 89 of the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and in line with the last half dozen episodes or so being interviews, I have another interview for you today. I'm so excited to welcome Robbie Samuels to today's podcast, where we really dive deep into personal branding from a networking type of component, or from a networking aspect. So we talk about what it means to strategically network, and volunteering, and how to work a room if you will. And Robbie's business is around helping people do just that, helping them network with sessions. So he's a public speaker, he does a session called The Art of the Schmooze as well as a variety of other types of sessions and speaking engagements, which all focus around building great relationships and strong and welcoming communities. His website is so I'm really excited to basically just dive right into today's episode where you will learn a lot about networking, and how that can be good for your business whether you are an introvert who might be afraid to show up to a networking event, to the very outgoing extrovert, and everyone in between. For any information that Robbie and I talk about in today's episode, you can go to and that is for episode number 89. And without further ado, here is my interview with Robbie.

                                    Alright so let's just start if you will by telling the listeners a little bit about yourself, what you're up to currently, and then we'll just dive into some things about personal branding.


Robbie Samuels:         Thank you so much Jenn, and I appreciate being on your show. So a little bit about me. Well I am currently a work-at-home dad to a five and a half month old which is the first and foremost thing on my mind. The work part gets a little bit in quotes because I'm still working out the schedule of what works while having an infant. But also focusing on my business as a professional speaker, and that mainly is that I get asked to come and speak to companies, to nonprofits, boards of directors, et cetera to talk to them about relationship building. And my most requested session is called Art of the Schmooze. And so we can dive more into the different topics I do later, but part of building that business which I started on the side as sort of a side hustle in 2009, and then went full time in 2015, part of that is working on launching a podcast called On the Schmooze where I interview leaders from different sectors, and ask them about how they've built their professional networks and stayed in touch with people, and what success looks like for them. And I'm also blogging regularly on the topics of relationship building, networking tips, et cetera. That's kind of where I'm at currently.


Jenn T Grace:              Nice, okay good now I have about fourteen questions which I knew would happen. So to start, how did you come up with the topic of the On the Schmooze? Like how did that form and evolve?


Robbie Samuels:         On the Schmooze as the podcast or Art of the Schmooze the session?


Jenn T Grace:              The session first, and then I think the podcast we can get into next.


Robbie Samuels:         Sure so Art of the Schmooze actually came about- I was running a group that I started ten years ago called Socializing for Justice, and this is a cross-cultural, cross-issue progressive community and network in Boston that really brings together likeminded progressives. And about a year in to organizing that, I recognized that there were regulars who came to all of our events. They weren't focused on only one type of event, they came to everything. And I was concerned that this group was going to become very clicky. And we've all experienced coming into a space for the first time, we've assumed that everybody else is best friends, nobody else is new, and it's very awkward as a newcomer. So I wanted this to continue to be a very welcoming space so I invited the regulars out for coffee and we started chatting about what it takes to make that kind of welcoming space. I asked them if they would come fifteen minutes early, and they said yes. I asked them if they would maybe help out at the front door in a more formal role of greeting or helping with nametags, sure. And then I said for that first hour, go out of your way to meet someone you don't know. Like just try to meet some of the new people and introduce them to the other regulars, and they said, "Sure we could do that." I said, "Okay then after that just kind of mingle and work the room," and that's where I got a lot of angsty responses because the room that I was talking to was filled with people who were shy and/or introverted, and so the idea of floating a room, chatting with strangers was the antithesis of a good time for them. So I started coaching one-on-one, started sharing some tips. I'm an outgoing extrovert so I wasn't trying to teach them how to be me, I actually don't really want the world to be filled with more outgoing extroverts. I think there's enough people who speak with very little prompting and take up a lot of space. But I did want them to be seen, heard and respected when they arrived in a room, and to be part of creating this welcoming culture. And it worked. The training evolved from there because speaking one-to-one was not a good use of my time, and I guess that was probably around 2007, 2008 that I first created this training, this session, and it evolved until 2009 I started getting paid to do speaking engagements on a variety of topics, and that has become my most requested one. And it's helped such a wide array of audiences really be more present and mindful and strategic about their networking too. So it's about body language, and eye contact and business cards, but it's also about just taking that time to figure out why are you going to this event in the first place? And then going from there. So it's chock full of information, two hour interactive training, and I love doing it because really people clearly remember a lot of the content which is so rare in a training.


Jenn T Grace:              No kidding, right? So how did you take it from this free offering you were doing with your people, and then you moved it to this one-on-one coaching situation with people, and now fast forward to 2009 you're able to get paid to be doing this. What made that leap really natural or maybe unnatural for you?


Robbie Samuels:         So what's funny is that, Jenn I love doing professional speaking because I've always loved doing public speaking. When I was in college I was on a speaker's bureau, and I did a variety of trainings, and there was this gap of about a dozen years where I just didn't have a topic. So when the opportunity came to create this and share it, I started to share it from like 2007 to 2009, I was just sharing it with any organization locally that I thought would benefit. So lots of really, really small grassroots groups I kind of met with and helped them out. In 2009 a former colleague of mine- actually not someone I worked with but someone I'd known years ago, and I hadn't actually lived in the same state in probably seven or eight years. She reached out to me and said, "I know that you're doing these talks on networking, and I know that you are a fundraiser," because that was my profession, I was working a nonprofit organizing fundraising events doing major gift work. She said, "Will you come to D.C. and do a fundraising training for my board of directors?" So my answer of course was, "Um yes," and then I went and created a training called Fundraising: Getting Past the Fear of Asking. And I went down to D.C., this organization offered me $200 which was very little money in the world of speaking but I'd never been paid before so I also was really excited. They paid my plane ticket and I shared a hotel room with my friend. And when I got there, it was actually the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association so they were doctors, and they were there for their convention, and they have to talk to people about membership. So fundraising wasn't something they felt very comfortable with, but they were having a break and I went in, and I got a chance to meet all of them, and one by one I memorized their names and when they sat down around the table, and were about to begin, I said, "Oh we should do introductions," and I said, "Oh allow me." And I then introduced each of them one by one around the table.


Jenn T Grace:              And how many were there?


Robbie Samuels:         Eighteen or so.


Jenn T Grace:              Jesus that's awesome.


Robbie Samuels:         And they sat up straighter and just were like, "Whatever you have to tell us Robbie, we will listen."


Jenn T Grace:              That's awesome.


Robbie Samuels:         So that was my first time being paid, but what I did strategically was that when I billed them, I billed them $400 and then applied a 50% referral discount, and I did this because I knew that I needed to get my own mind around the value of what I was offering. And so they only were budgeted to give me $200 but I billed them $400 and then put a 50% referral discount so that the total was $200. And for the next year whenever someone asked me about doing a training, I said, "Oh my usual fee is $400," and then I slid it to whatever was comfortable for their budget because I was still working a lot with really small grass roots or volunteer run organizations. And then a year later this organization, I said $400, they said great without blinking an eye. I was like, okay. And I then increased it to $600 and again spent another year sliding it to whatever was comfortable for people. And then a year later it went to $800, and now it's gone on up. So really a lot of that is that the content for those trainings has gotten better in the years since I started doing this in 2009 because they're way more robust, I've presented it dozens and dozens of times. But it's also my own belief in my own value of what I can offer an organization. So I think that's a trick into how do you sort of move into being an entrepreneur and believing in what you're offering. For me I had to kind of put a value out there, and then allow the dollar amount to be settled along the way.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah I feel like that's definitely something that I find a lot of people are stuck on. Is 'what am I worth?' And I feel like people get stuck in how to value that, especially when you're looking at speakers. And I know you're part of the National Speakers Association, and I believe it says that you're a professional member which means that you are out there speaking a lot in order to be qualified if you will for that level of membership. So I think that a lot of people, they'll go from doing it for free and then immediately think that they have to jump to charging $5,000 for a talk. And you just clearly outlined that going from zero to $5,000 is not the avenue, but it's a matter of incrementally going further and further with what you're comfortable with, which I think you'll see more success if you gradually do it, rather than sticking a flag in the sand tomorrow and saying, "I'm now charging $5,000 for this" because your mindset may not actually be caught up with what you're asking, in my experience anyways.


Robbie Samuels:         You know Jenn, I've learned so much more about mindsets since 2009. I think every training that I've purchased online about online business, and being an entrepreneur starts with mindset. But I agree with you, that is what I was trying to do at the time. I also think that the client list has to really change for me to be charging $5,000. And so I'm pivoting now into working more with corporate organizations versus smaller nonprofits. So like right now my client list is more larger nonprofits and corporations, and it's exciting because it's a totally new market for me to be connecting with, and of course their ability budget-wise is very different than a really small organization. I feel like I want to have a nice balance portfolio though, where I still can offer- particularly on a local level where it's not involving a lot of travel, I want to offer these skills to organizations that I think will just benefit but couldn't otherwise have me come in. And one way I've done that is foundations. So for me, a foundation will have me come in for a half day or full day of trainings, and they'll invite all of their grantees, and so they're getting to bring me in and do this sort of like assistance, technical assistance, and capacity building, and it's great because the funding is actually coming from the foundation and the grantees just get to benefit from it.


Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. So for me, I have a similar setup that what you're describing where I do a lot of corporate engagements, and you can get paid good money for corporate engagements. So mine right now on average are right around like $9,500 for a corporate gig. That is not something a nonprofit in any way, shape or form could handle, but I feel like to some degree it's almost like my ability to give back when I do work with that smaller audience, but just because you're working with a smaller audience doesn't mean that there aren't ways to capitalize on that time in the room. So you can ask them in advance if they would send out emails to their list of people, however many that might be, or if you have a book to have them offer- give you the spotlight to kind of pitch your book to the room. So there's a lot of ways that even if you're only making $300, or even if you're not making any and it's completely pro bono, there's still ways that you can ask them for things because they're usually more than happy to do that because they understand the value that they're getting at no charge.


Robbie Samuels:         And actually speaking of that Jenn, even when I've slid my training- I no longer do completely zero, but I've slid it to like $100 for a lower organization, or $250 or something just to kind of- I want them to be committing to having me come in as a professional speaker, but I also let them know what my top rate is so that they know what they're getting. Because I think that sometimes when it is free, and this is also true for anyone who's attending and not having to pay to attend, they often don't commit the time in advance of what they want to get out of it. So when I'm brought into some audiences where they pay, I ask them if they looked ahead of time to research who I was. 'Did you Google me? Did you get a sense of what I was going to be talking about?' And more hands go up because they committed their own dollars, even if it's a little bit of money. But if it's a free event and I ask that question they're like, "Well I was just told to be here."


Jenn T Grace:              And that's the same thing for everything, right? So if you do someone's telesummit online for example, and there's all of this amazing content- because there are a lot of telesummits out there, and a lot of webinars, a lot of online content that is really amazing, but if you're not paying for it the chances of you taking action on it are so much more greatly reduced. Versus if you're like, 'You know what? I just signed up for this person's course. It's three months, it just cost me $1,000.' You bet your ass people are fully committed and all in on making sure that they get every possible minute of value out of that particular program. And it's the same thing with showing up to speak, I totally agree.


Robbie Samuels:         Yeah, mindset.


Jenn T Grace:              Totally is mindset. So in terms of mindsets, and balancing the fact that you're now a stay-at-home dad. So Grant is young, and so how are you finding that you're able to grow your personal brand? And one of the reasons why I wanted you on the show is because if you go to your website which is and that will be in the show notes, I feel like you have- it's really succinct and very clear as to what you do, who you are, the types of clients that you work with. But how are you finding that growing your personal brand is kind of balancing with fatherhood right now? Because I can't imagine- my kids are seven and nine and I still have challenges at times. So having a five and a half month old is definitely a challenge unto its own. So how is that working for you right now?


Robbie Samuels:         Well I think part of my personal brand is that I am a convener and a connector, and I can't turn that part of me off. So when there was a new challenge of being a new parent, I basically dove right in. And so in August before my son was even born- he was born in mid-December of 2015, in August a few months beforehand, I actually started an online Facebook group for parents with children around my kid's age. And it is now over 400 members and we're hosting a monthly baby clothing swap and other socials, and cross-promoting a lot of great content, as well as having an amazing online support system. So by doing that and making an effort in the first few months to really show up with him to a lot of different parent groups, I've now established myself in a very short amount of time within this sort of parent network in Boston. So wherever I go, someone says- they either know me or they know of me and they say, "Oh I'm in your group. Hey everybody, this is Robbie." So to me that was really important because as a work-at-home, stay-at-home dad I knew that during the week I was going to be around a lot of moms. And so this is sort of a weird catch 22 of being praised for being a dad for doing little things, but being ostracized on the playground on the other hand. So now by offering, by being someone who hosts and convenes people, and creates value, I'm just practicing what I'm preaching in 'Art of the Schmooze,' and with all my training material, and all my blog posts and the podcast that I'll be launching, which is to offer, offer, offer before you ask. And it's wonderful because people know what I do, they're learning a little bit more about my business, I'm quite certain that as we get past the only knowing each other because we're parents, we'll start to know each other's work and professions, and there will start to be connections there as well. And so that's been something I've put a lot of energy into in the last year, is establishing sort of these foundational support networks because I want those for my family. And it's basically me practicing this philosophy of abundance. I'm at the point now where if I can imagine something that we might need for our family, I can put it out there to these different groups, and somebody will find it for us and respond, and offer to just bring it to us for free. So that's been a part of my personal brand; people now in this new sphere now know me. But really my personal brand has been a lot about that. Like Socializing for Justice, the group I mentioned earlier is turning ten years old this year. No one is paid to run that. We've had a few hundred events, we have almost 3,000 members, and it's all run by small donations that people give at the events. And it's been a wonderful sort of place to meet people, I met all my best friends, I met my wife through this, and again it's been really about offering before I ask. So when I launched my business sort of formally in 2015 after working for ten years at the same nonprofit, and saying, "Okay I'm going to take a side hustle, and I'm going to go into this full time," this was before my son was born, I was able to really do that without feeling like I was on my own because I had so much support and there were so many people who had just been like waiting for me to do this. So I think my personal brand is not just topic-based which is networking and Schmooze, I think people know me, but so many people thought that Socializing for Justice was my full time work because that's how they knew me. They didn't even know I actually had a very full- more than full time career that was separate from that. So I think offering is a big part of my brand.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah and it makes me think about ways in which people can continue networking outside of the traditional networking opportunities. So I think that what you're talking about is really important for people just to build more relationships that have meaning and value. And I think this probably might be specific to some industries probably wouldn't make sense for this. So actually maybe they would. I'm just thinking about how you have your parents' group, right? So there's 400 people in it, it's an opportunity for you to build new relationships with people outside of a transactional 'I'm trying to sell you' environment. But rather like you said, over time you'll start to develop those relationships and if you happen to need an attorney, granted there's guaranteed somebody in that group who's some kind of practicing attorney for some particular part of law. So it's kind of like a- it's a different way of looking at networking. So I would wonder if you were to give a tip to somebody, because this obviously comes really natural to you, to be the convener, to be the person who's putting together- putting bodies in a room and getting them to connect and work together. So for somebody who might be in introvert, or not even fully a shy person necessarily, but somebody who this is uncomfortable for, so somebody- a client, type of client that you've worked with in the past. What's one or two tips that you would give to them to help them be more of a convener so they can take advantage of networking opportunities where they least expect them to be?


Robbie Samuels:         I think it's wonderful. One thing is to realize that networking is just a matter of being in the world, and present, and aware of who's around you. So it doesn't have to be at a formal event. Someone I know wrote about their experience of having a conversation like online with the DMV, and that it dawned on her in that moment that that was networking. That they ended up into a whole conversation that they actually discovered a connection in the time they were standing around together, and it's just being open to that experience is a piece of it. The other thing is that I actually think convening and being a host for me is actually a way to overcome a fear that I have of not belonging. So I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like, 'Hm I'm not sure if these people are going to like me. I don't know whether I belong here.' And particularly in the context of being a dad in a new parent space knowing that there aren't going to be a lot of dads wherever I go during the week. That convening parents in this way was a way for me to become known, and for people to appreciate what I have to offer because I am giving them a space to connect online, and then by hosting these monthly baby clothing swaps, I mean we're all benefitting from those resources being shared. And similarly with Socializing for Justice, by starting that it gave me a reason to talk to other people wherever I went in Boston because I had this resource to share, and all the regulars started doing that as well. It gave them sort of an opening of something to talk about. 'Oh you're new to Boston? You might want to check out this group. Oh you're looking to promote your events? Oh here, this group can help you.' They would be very clear ways into the conversation. Now you don't have to start by launching a whole huge group or anything like that, but you can whether online or offline create sort of these niche conversations. And one way to do that offline is something that I've done a lot with my good friend Dorie Clark, and I know you interviewed her earlier on this podcast. But we co-host dinners together, and she's really taken this to an art form. But we started doing this years ago, and we each would invite three or four colleagues and go out to dinner, and just like have a loosely- sort of loosely defined conversation that allowed people to bring more of their full selves, and that's the important part. Is that it's not so strictly business because when people find shared passions, they're both really, really into yoga, that actually can break down barriers much faster than finding out they're both lawyers. So creating opportunities like that are great because as the host of that small dinner gathering, even if you're a shyer person and have a hard time really kind of wandering into an open networking event, this is different, these are people that were hand selected to be here with you, and your whole role is to help them feel welcomed and comfortable. And so it really shifts things in your head, you become that host which is I think a mentality that we can all bring with us wherever we go.


Jenn T Grace:              I could not agree more. I was thinking about- when you were just talking about being a host, I remember when I first started learning about chambers of commerce, which is now an actual ten years ago, and I remember going to events and being somewhat frozen in fear of like I didn't know where to be, I didn't know where to go, I didn't know who to talk to, I didn't know anybody, I had travelled halfway across the state to get there, and it was all very awkward to me. But within a couple of months I'm like, 'You know what? My happy place is sitting behind the registration table because now I'm in control and I'm able to talk to every single person who comes in the room, but I have a purpose and a reason to be talking to them.' So I feel like for me it was just a matter of like how can I take this really awkward situation and find a way to network with people in a way that didn't feel threatening to me? And it happened to be helping people find their nametag. It seemed so simple, but for me it was a complete game changer because then you're able to follow up with people after the fact and say, "We only got a quick chance to say hello when you checked in, but I'd love to have coffee with you." So I think it's a matter of finding little ways to take yourself from being completely frozen and afraid of the situation that you're walking in, and making it easier and more attainable. And I think your idea of just having a couple people together that you don't know, and then- like you said it really comes back to mindset of being like, 'Okay my job here is not to be networking. My job here is to make sure that everyone else is networking.' But really when you're helping other people network you are yourself too, and it's just completely like you're fooling yourself, but it works.


Robbie Samuels:         Yeah Jenn, I talk a lot about the difference between inviting and welcoming. So as event planners we sit around and talk about who we wished attended our events. 'Oh I wish there were more of X people,' and we brainstorm where those folks might get information about our event. And so we send the invitation to new list serves, or post it on new bulletin boards, et cetera. And then those new folks and other folks arrive, but no one actually greets them. You know they sign in, they get their nametag, they circle the room, they look for an opening, they don't really find one, they stand around awkwardly, and then they leave shortly after. And then the next time we get together as the event planners we talk about retention, and how- well what can we do to keep these people that we made this effort? What could we do? And the answer to what we could do is put more of an emphasis on the welcoming than the inviting, and that's where 'Art of the Schmooze' was training our regulars to be hosts. Because it can't just be me, the person who booked the room, who greets people because often the person who booked the room is also dealing with AV, or catering, or some- getting a banner hung up. They're distracted in that time period when the first awkward newcomer arrives, which is usually even a few minutes before the official start time. So that's why we ask our regulars to arrive fifteen minutes early so that the event was sort of already happening when those first few newcomers arrive not knowing where to stand and what to do. And re-coach them to talk to those new folks and introduce them to the other regulars in the room. And just by doing these couple of things, and asking them to play this host role, it awakened within them this like sense of purpose in the room. Like I now have a role, and so matter how shy they were or how introverted and exhausted they found this sort of being in a space with a lot of people, they started to see, 'Oh there's someone standing off by themselves-' and they used to ask me permission at first. They'd be like, "Robbie should I go talk to them?" And I was like, "Yeah, that'd be great." Now they just do it. They just go over, and they chat with them, and then they introduce them to someone else. Now that's really different than if you really are that brand new person. If you're a guest and you've never been here before and you go and talk to the wallflower, you might have a great conversation, but neither one of you knows anyone else in the room and that's going to be a really difficult ending to the conversation. So I always ask people to be really mindful when they walk into a space, are they a guest like as in they're brand new, or have they been there a few times? And I think if you just show up three times within a space, within an organization’s events, or within an industry's events and you kind of get to know people. At that point you can really start to think of yourself as a host, and the way you kind of mingle in that room is going to be different.


Jenn T Grace:              And now how do you think connectors fit into this? Because I know for myself, and so since I'm networking primarily in LGBT environments it's a much smaller community, even in a larger city like Boston. But for myself I know that my style is usually if I just start talking to somebody random, which I typically have very little problems just going up and starting a conversation with somebody. But if I hear them say something that triggered a thought about a conversation I just had, I will walk that person from where I am to that other person and be like, "They two of you have to connect," and I will just go through the room and continue to do this, because I feel like to a certain degree you have to be mindful of your time, and there might be 100 people in the room and you want to be making sure that you're having conversations that are helpful to further your own agenda if you will. I don't like using that phrase but you know what I mean. How do you find that people who are natural connectors, or people who aren't natural connectors but would like to be, how do they fit into this equation, and where is their role?


Robbie Samuels:         Well so Malcolm Gladwell talked about connectors, and they know a lot of people and they like to connect them. And so some of us very naturally fall into that category, and you and I both do. And so exactly how you described the scene, I do that but I also have introduced two people who are just standing next to each other, and they assume that there's a reason I did that and they ask each other questions until they find that connection, and then they'll come running over excitedly saying, "Oh how did you know we both went to southern California schools?" You know so I think that it's interesting that I created a space where people are looking for those connections. On the other hand I think everybody has the ability to be a connector, and I'll give you a quick example. I was at a huge conference, 18,000 people, there was this like after party / networking event with like loud music, dark lights, not conducive actually to networking. The first person I chatted with was a college student, I haven't been in college in a decade or longer, so on the surface we had very little in common. And we chatted for a few minutes and at the end I said, "You know I don't know very many people here. Is there anyone you think I should meet?" And he got really excited, and he told me someone's name, and I said, "Oh that's great. I'd love to be introduced." And he grabbed my hand, and he dragged me through the crowd up to his intern's supervisor who was the Communications Director of a nonprofit that I'd wanted to get to know. And he introduced us, and I said, "Thank you so much," and I turned to the Communications Director and started chatted with him, and the student walked away all peacocked, 'I just did that. I just made that connection.' And how many people did he need to know in the room to be a connector? Just the one. And the other piece of this story is that you can't discount people because they're students, or assistants, or receptionists, et cetera, because they're all working for important people who have interns, and assistants, and receptionists. So he got super excited to make that connection, and it helped me leapfrog in this very large, loud crowd over to a good conversation. Like you said, you want to try to talk to the kinds of people you want to talk to. And that is my philosophy. I want to- that's my way of ending a conversation, if I'm in a room and I don't know a lot of people I ask that question, and otherwise I'll ask the reverse. If I'm hosting I'll say, "You know, I know a lot of people here, is there anyone you want to be introduced to?" And I'll just offer that, and that's a nice way to wrap up a conversation gracefully, but also help them or you kind of leapfrog to what hopefully is going to be another meaningful conversation.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, absolutely. I love the direction that we've been going in this conversation. One of the things that I'm thinking about is the fact that you grew your brand very organically, and I feel like mine was the same way. Like it just- there was very clear this led to this, which led to this, and now here we are. For someone listening to this who- so you know it's the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast. So in thinking about personal branding, and then also thinking about the LGBTQ community, how has the LGBTQ piece influenced what you're doing or not influenced what you're doing?


Robbie Samuels:         Well I wanted to work- when I moved to Boston in 2002 from New York, I wanted to work for a mission driven progressive organization that hosted multiple annual events. And I did a lot of contract work in my first couple years in Boston working at a number of different LGBT and HIV/AIDS healthcare organizations before I ended up at GLAD, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, formerly Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders based in Boston. And I think that the strategic volunteering that I did to get those first few jobs was really important. Volunteering for the health organizations doing outreach, volunteering at the AIDS walk, and this was all before I actually moved to Boston. I was coming every other weekend to do some sort of volunteer effort. So I think strategic volunteering was important, and then here I had this job where I was working at an LGBT mission driven organization, and I did that for a decade so I didn't feel like I needed to focus the rest of my life within that sphere. But for me I guess the way it influences me is that I'm an out trans man who is out online, I'm out when I do my trainings I talk about it, I talk about it in the context of feeling like a unicorn, and that we all know what it feels like to be a unicorn. You know like, 'Wow I didn't know unicorns existed. Can I ask you lots of questions? Hey what's it like to-' and there's a downside to being unicorn, to being sort of put under that spotlight, and that we don't want to do that to other people when we meet them. We want to avoid questions that are actually about something that someone can't choose. Like height, or skin color, or hair texture. But we want to more focus on things that people do choose, like their funky sunglasses, or the scarf they're wearing, et cetera. And so I do talk about it and I feel like my activism around LGBT, queer, trans politics has actually been to being an out professional, and to be out as a person who's organizing a cross-issue progressive community movement in Boston so that it wasn't like a singular focused issue-based organization when I started Socializing for Justice, but it was this like multi-faceted space that was extremely welcoming to queer and trans people, but it wasn't exclusively about queer and trans people. And we host an annual dating while progressive event on Valentine's Day and we use the exact same networking tags that we've used at our other major events. One says, 'Ask me about,' and the other says, 'I'm looking for.'


Jenn T Grace:              I love it.


Robbie Samuels:         There's no like check these different boxes if you're this and this, and if you're looking for this and this. It's like you throw a bunch of people in a room and they meet people, and they find connections, and they find friendships, and I love that like we're co-hosted by a number of progressive organizations including the Queer Poly Women Organization, and I just think like part of my activism is creating these spaces that allow so many different kinds of identities to be present. Because for most of us, most of the time when we're out in the world, we're only really able to be seen for one of our identities, and we're not able to really bring forward the complexity of who we are. So I want to create spaces where we can bring more of our full selves and share that, because that's actually how I think we form really strong connections.


Jenn T Grace:              And in that vein I guess then, that's really being authentic. It's being authentic to you, it's being authentic to your brand, and because it's authentic I feel like that's probably why you're seeing the success you're seeing because they get what they get. Like you are who you are, you're not trying to adapt or modify for different audiences, you're just kind of all in everywhere. Is that a fair statement?


Robbie Samuels:         Yeah I think about this also, about what do I post on Facebook? And my Facebook is public so you don't have to be friends- I don't know all my friends anyway is my thought pattern, so I thought why close it to friends only? So I get involved in some political conversations, I get involved in some issue conversations online, and for me I'm of the vein if you're not going to work with me because of my points of view, then that's okay.


Jenn T Grace:              Amen to that.


Robbie Samuels:         I don't want to like twist myself into a pretzel just because that's the pretzel you were looking for, if that's not how I'm feeling. And so it calls to me some people, and I'm sure that it repels other people, but it makes it a lot easier though to sort of choose who you want to work with because they're choosing to work with you.


Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely. I always say that going by the Professional Lesbian is such a gift because it weeds out people that would not resonate with me to begin with. So I don't ever have to worry when I get on a sales call, or a potential client call, and they are the ones who requested, I know that that's not going to be an issue and that's not going to be a barrier. And mind you half the time they are- more than half the time they're hiring me for something LGBT-specific, so one would imagine that wouldn't be the case. But for the times where I'm working with an ally helping them write a book for example, knowing that I go by Professional Lesbian, they know automatically that it's going to be a safe and welcoming environment for them and whatever identity they may be bringing to the table that may not actually be part of the LGBT community, but they have something that's making them fearful. So it gives people some kind of sense of comfort if you will.

So I think that's great because it's really a matter of not wanting to work with people who are disingenuine, right? Like who wants to- we have our own businesses for a reason and it's not to be working with people that we don't like, which is what happens when you're working for someone else. So let's see, so we have probably about five minutes to go here. So for someone listening to this who isn't yet where you are, or yet where I am in terms of developing their brand, what would be the one action step you think that they could take today, right now, as soon as they're done listening to this they could go do X. What do you think that might be to get them at least thinking or headed in the right direction to help really kind of build their personal brand?


Robbie Samuels:         Well I think having some clarity about what you'd want that personal brand to be is important. I was following on Twitter a very well-known woman who works in the intersection of technology, and nonprofit, and mission driven organizations, and every couple of tweets was a cat video, or something like that. And she one day sort of sent out a note and asked people for their thoughts and whether she should separate her Twitter accounts so that her sort of tech, and nonprofit, and mission drive content was separate from her cat jokes content. And the overwhelming response was yes. And so she did that, and so some people follow both, and some chose one or the other. And I thought that was such a good example of being aware of the fact that you have an audience, and as you build that audience they're gravitating to you because of something that you're sharing to the world, but that sometimes the content you're sharing doesn't resonate with everybody. And so starting to be a little more focused or create separate channels for interests that are very varied and not having enough overlap. So I think that's also true on my Facebook page, for instance there's a wide array of what I talk about, but it's within a very progressive frame. You know? I also don't write hateful things, I don't write anti things, I don't allow people to post anti messages. You can write anything for anyone that you want to talk about, but you can't write nasty things.


Jenn T Grace:              It has to be respectful.


Robbie Samuels:         It has to be respectful. I'd rather everyone talk about what they're for in the world, and so many of us are framing our thoughts and our positions based on what we're against. So I think getting some clarity about what is it that you want people to see you for, and then curating what you put out in the world more as you go forward. Start to be a little more curated about what you share publicly, and maybe creating separate channels that have different sort of foci, that's what it is that you are feeling very divergent in what your interests are. People will then start to see what you're talking about and either gravitate towards it or not; that will be how you create an audience. Because I've read about this needing to have 1,000 fans, that's it. If you had 1,000 people who were truly committed to the work that you're doing, and would buy anything you sold them just because you're offering it to the world, then you're fine, you've made it, that is success. No matter what you do, you'll be successful. But it's hard to find those 1,000 devoted fans if your content is a little bit all over the place, because you don't have 1,000 fans in one topic, you have 1,000 fans for three different topics, and that's not 1,000, that's a third.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah that is such good, good information. I feel like we could talk for hours just on this- kind of go down a rabbit hole here. But just thinking about even my content, you would think that LGBT marketing, communications, business would be specific enough, but even with me it's not specific enough. I have- it's very broad, and there's a lot of different people who come to it for very different reasons. So even what you're saying in terms of kind of segmenting things out, even I run into that and you would think that my niche is niche enough, but it's far from. And I think that most people actually have that type of challenge where they think that they're talking about technology, but really when we break down technology just because somebody wants to hear about this type of technology, by no means means that everyone wants to hear about it. So that is definitely a long process I think for people to fully kind of wrap their head around, but to your point, if they're mindful of that from the onset then that's a really good starting point. So as we wrap up, do you have anything that you're working on, and the listeners will be hearing this on July 21st; so is there anything that is on your radar right now that you want to share with the audience, explain to them how to get in touch with you, and whatever means or fashion that might be?


Robbie Samuels:         So I am working on launching a podcast called On the Schmooze where I interview leaders from different sectors and ask them questions about what does leadership mean to them, how do they build their professional networks and stay in touch with people they've met across their career, what does work life balance look like? And I had the good fortune of interviewing about ten people prior to my son being born, and I'm now finally re-focusing my energy and effort to launching that this summer. So about the time that this comes out, I will be either having launched it or will have a timetable to be launching it shortly after, and that's and it's also on my website, which is the best way to reach me. I post blog posts and great content that I just give away. I think it's important to share a lot of value up front, so I have a lot of really great, very practical, implement them today kind of tips on my website that if you're interested in sort of being more thoughtful and strategic rather than wasting your time networking and just randomly collecting business cards; if you want to be more strategic in how you build relationships, I have a lot of great resources and content on my website to help you sort of do that and be more thoughtful in the future.


Jenn T Grace:              Awesome, thank you so much for being a guest, I really appreciate it. And for anyone listening, I highly recommend checking out Robbie's website, and of course getting in touch and listening, especially as podcast listeners, go check out his because I'm certain it's going to be awesome. So thank you so much and perhaps I'll have you on as a guest a second time and we can go into some more depth on some of the things we covered today.


Robbie Samuels:         That'd be great Jenn, I'd appreciate it.


Jenn T Grace:              Thank you for listening to today's podcast. If there are any links from today's show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

Direct download: Epi89_LGBTQ_Interview_With_ROBBIE_SAMUELS.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:05am EDT

#88: Building a Niche Online Community with Dr. Gloria Brame

Jenn T. Grace – Episode 88 - Building a Niche Online Community with Dr. Gloria Brame

Jenn T Grace:              You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Podcast, episode 88.


Introduction:              Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You'll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You'll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven't yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn - with two N's - T Grace.


Jenn T Grace:              Well hello and welcome to episode 88 of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn, with two N's T. Grace, and today I have another interview for you. So this is four interviews in a row, all of which have had amazing content. I really appreciate the feedback that you're giving on the guests, and the topics, and all that great stuff. So today we are talking to Gloria Brame who is a certified sexologist. She has been writing about sex education, sex therapy, BDSM; you name it, she's been writing about it for a very long time. She started the first Internet group back in 1987 that was an online community for people in BDSM. So she has quite a historical perspective of the Internet, how she's used it to grow her personal brand, and her platform, and she's one of the most recognized and cited sources on the topic, which she talks about in the interview, which she really thinks has a lot to do with the fact that she is an academic and she has a PhD in the topic, and it was just a really, really fascinating interview to hear all of the ways in which she's been able to really get her message out there. And she talks specifically about social media strategy, we also talk about the difference between doing traditionally publishing a book, or doing a self-published book. So it's just honestly a wealth of information, and the topic was really interesting to talk to her about. So overall I really hope that you enjoy this interview, and she provides information on how to get in touch with her, but as you're listening to this if you're on a treadmill, or in the car and can't write it down, you can go to and that is for episode number 88 of the podcast, and there you'll find the links of anything we discussed, her books, all that good stuff. But anyway I really hope you enjoy this interview, and feel free to reach out with any questions or comments. Thanks so much and enjoy.

                                    Alright yeah so if you can just kind of start off by telling the listeners who you are, and what you do, and then we'll go from there.


Gloria Brame:             Okie dokie. My name is Gloria Brame. I have a PhD in Human Sexuality. I'm probably best known for being the lead author on a book on BDSM called 'Different Loving' which came out originally in 1993. I just did a 23-year follow-up I called 'Different Loving Too.' I started out just as a kinky person writing about kinky sex from an academic point of view because I was actually an English professor at the time, and that's really my background. But then I found it was very difficult to get any jobs once I've written a book about BDSM. So I decided to go back to school, I got a PhD, I made my dissertation project- I had a research project and a dissertation all about BDSM so you could say I have a degree now in BDSM.


Jenn T Grace:              Nice.


Gloria Brame:             And about a year after I was graduated I became a certified sexologist, which means I'm certified to work in the field of either sex therapy, or sex education, or public sexual health, any of those things. So I hung out my shingle and decided to become a sex therapist, and basically that's how I make a living even though I continue to write and publish books.


Jenn T Grace:              Nice. So when did you become certified, was it 2002?


Gloria Brame:             Yeah. I became a certified sexologist.


Jenn T Grace:              And you started your business shortly thereafter?


Gloria Brame:             Fourteen years ago. Right I had been doing really since the nineties what I guess I would call peer counseling because I founded a BDSM support group online way back in 1987, and before it was called BDSM. But it was for kinky people, and I founded it and I had such a huge membership, and a lot of the people were so encouraged- you know how it is, I was like the leader of the chat so I started doing a lot of peer counselling there because people would start writing me an email. So I started to think about- I really just wanted to write because that's my true love. I just wanted to write, but you really can't make a living as a writer unless you have phenomenal success. Like 'Fifty Shades of Gray' maybe. Or you're Stephen King, or something. But most writers do not make a lot of money. Most of us have to do something to earn money, so instead of teaching I wanted to do therapy, and that's been really awesome.


Jenn T Grace:              And have you used I guess the learnings and the knowledge that you've gotten by working with people one-on-one? Has that influenced what you've written about in any way?


Gloria Brame:             You know I see all of my life, and my life work really, as like just one big bowl that on the very inside, the inner rubber band if you will, is the writing. But everything is built up to a point where I feel that everything is about sex, and everything is about speaking my various truths about sex. So I've written academic types of books like the ‘Different Loving’s are more on the academic end. You know I'm working on a trilogy, I have one more book to write, called 'The Truth about Sex,' which is basically my twenty years of knowledge as a sexologist and theorist packed into three short volumes that sort of re-educate people on sexual diversity as a norm, and not binary heteronormative sex as a norm, because it never really was. And then I also have published some autobiographies where I talk about my sex history, because that's another piece of my work, my belief that what happens to us early in life impinges on sexual choices we make as adults. Not sexual identity, but choices.


Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. And now you've obviously written a handful of books, and right before we hit record I was saying that you must have some insights around how you've really positioned yourself as a sex expert, especially since you're frequently cited- one of the most frequently cited in the world.


Gloria Brame:             I came from a humanities background. I was a literary nerd, probably like many of the writers who are listening, we all start out as readers, and that was really my thing and I never really even went close to the sciences. I was okay in science but I wasn't even interested in it, and after writing 'Different Loving,' which I wrote because for one reason only, I didn't feel that anybody had written an honest book about that type of sexuality, and I was two or three years into being out, and I was really rah, rah, rah and I felt like, 'This is a terrible thing, nobody knows what it's really like.' So I said about writing that book. In the process of writing that book, I totally became hooked on sex history. I mean totally became hooked on my topic. I mean what could be better for a writer? I mean you write what you know, but then the more you know about it, you suddenly realize you want to devote your life to it. And I think what really got me in 'Different Loving' was just going back and reading all these nineteenth century source documents about what people originally said and how they studied homosexuality, or transgenderism, or fetishism, or what they later called sadomasochism; and their theories were completely kooky. And yet based on those kooky theories the psychiatric community has held sexual minorities in this death grip of disapproval for a hundred years. You know? So the more I learned, and the more I wrote, and the more I researched, the more hooked I became, and then I felt like well if I'm going to be a sex expert, I'm going to read everything I possibly can, and that's really what I did for like ten years.


Jenn T Grace:              Wow so you went all in for sure.


Gloria Brame:             I went all in and I didn't write any books during that time.


Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. So now what are the types of organizations or publications that are reaching out to you that are looking to quote you as a sex expert?


Gloria Brame:             Well I've been very academically successful, I've been incredibly successful in my practice, and my first book 'Different Loving' really set me up as an expert in that particular field; in a field where very few people except for pro-doms for a long time were really- most people were not comfortable admitting they were into it. And I was totally out of the closet since 1991 under my real name and everything. And I had a degree. One of the reasons I went back to school and got a degree in sex is because I felt that it would lend more authority to the books that I write.


Jenn T Grace:              I was actually going to ask you that question.


Gloria Brame:             Yeah, you know it's like okay this is just a kinky, poly, bi woman who's writing everything from her perspective, as opposed to oh this is somebody with a PhD in the subject. And I felt that definitely enhanced my ability to get my message out, and I really- I'm not entirely sure how my name has gotten out that much except that I've always positioned myself from the start as somebody who knew a lot about BDSM, and from there it grew, and I have always kept a high profile on the Internet, or as high a profile as a private person can.


Jenn T Grace:              As far as your high profile status, or trying to still have a low profile but being really heavily involved on the Internet, if you were to look back at what you were doing- because I feel like we have technology also kind of complicating things, but also enhancing things at the same time. So the fact that you had started an online group in 1987 is so amazing because it shows how in a sense cutting edge you were then. So have you been I guess keeping up with, or leveraging, or taking advantage of just the wide world of information that's out there right now. Has that helped you?


Gloria Brame:             The main thing of course- and this is where writers really fall down on the job, and a lot of artists, because they don't understand the Internet. Although I don't think that's going to be a problem to anybody under the age of 35 anymore, but I would say consistency and it's fluidity because in the early 1990's I hosted this- I was teaching classes for Netscape. Now does anyone even remember what Netscape was?


Jenn T Grace:              I do.


Gloria Brame:             You know it was the router that everybody used in the 1990's that was crappy and went away. So but at the time they thought they were going to take over the world, they thought they were going to be what turned out to be Google or something, and they had classes. So I was the first person to teach online BDSM, you know what I mean? A few years later Netscape was gone, then AOL merged with another platform, and again a lack of at the time people who had academic credentials to back up their expertise in BDSM. And then we jump ahead to blogs, and then you jump ahead to Facebook and LinkedIn. So I have a consistent presence on every new media platform, or every new platform that has emerged really since 1987.


Jenn T Grace:              Wow I feel like that's impressive.


Gloria Brame:             I tried Myspace, totally not for me. Totally not for a sexologist adult. But you know places like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, I consider essential. And Pinterest. I mean you have to be where there are going to be readers, and I think part of why I have a good reputation is I've also always offered a lot of free content.


Jenn T Grace:              Which is totally key in building a personal brand, is the more content that you put out there for free, and dripping it out to people when you have something that is paid for, I feel like you're going to have a higher likelihood of people wanting to buy from you because you've been giving away so long.


Gloria Brame:             Yeah and my goals as a writer because I used to teach creative writing, was to get myself locked onto routines and disciplines, things that I did every day. One of the hardest things for me was when blogging first emerged, to actually have something to say every day. You know I felt like, 'Oh my God.' You know or even something to say three times a week it felt overwhelming. So for a while like I switched to an all visual blog, after like a couple years of trying to write something new for my blog every day, it became impossible. So I switched to all visual, but by being all visual and being a sex person, I got banned like on all the search engines.


Jenn T Grace:              Interesting.


Gloria Brame:             So I learned my lesson. And now I've switched back to commentary, but now I use my blog- I would say 50% to 60% to promote my books.


Jenn T Grace:              And how often are you blogging? And what is it about? Have you found a new routine that seems to be working for you right now?


Gloria Brame:             I have. My routine is I now share with the public what I did for those ten years of not writing, which was I used to track every single new sex study, and I would take like post-graduate education modules online in sex, and so I was keeping up with everything. I still read the sex news every single day, I just got into the habit. So now I share on my blog. And sometimes really it's just a link. Like today there was a historic event in transgender history in the Philippines. Geraldine Romano, a trans woman, was elected to a Congressional office in Manila. So like that's a big thing. So something like that, all I need to say is congratulations. But there's always something that keeps people coming back to my blog, and of course to the right of my blog are links to my various books, and lots and lots of content to keep people there if they want to stick around.


Jenn T Grace:              And are you finding that Google has been good to you now with the amount of information that you have on your website in terms of ranking high?


Gloria Brame:             Yeah I actually had to write to them and all of that, but I got McAfee to take me off their banned website list.


Jenn T Grace:              Oh wow.


Gloria Brame:             And that was really important.


Jenn T Grace:              That's a big thing.


Gloria Brame:             Because you couldn't read me in other countries. I'm still banned in some countries, but that's okay. It's the nature of my work. When you're writing sex books, and talking frankly about sex, and you're not coming from a heteronormative perspective, you should expect to encounter pushback and censorship.


Jenn T Grace:              Now how does that play out on Amazon for example? Do you have any pushback or problems with them carrying your books?


Gloria Brame:             No, not so much on Amazon. I really don't. I haven't had any problems. You know again, I think some of it has to do with your credentials. I'm really grateful I have the credentials, that's all I can say. You know I'm really glad that I'm so nerdy that I could stand going back to school at age forty and getting a degree in something.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah.


Gloria Brame:             Because the payoff is that I do think that mainstream media are always going to be more comfortable with somebody who has the PhD or Dr before their name, or some kind of impressive to them credential, whether you're the founder of something, or whatever it is. And that's how my name has spread I think.


Jenn T Grace:              Do you think that that was partly why McAfee was willing to take you off their black list so to speak?


Gloria Brame:             It was, I'm sure of it. I was able to say, "Look go to my site." You know I stopped running the images, and I went back to just talking about it, and I said, "Well please look at the totality of my site. I'm a sex therapist and yes, I talk about frank things in frank language, and there it is." And they de-demonized me. They unblocked me.


Jenn T Grace:              I feel like that's a victory. Yeah that's a big one.


Gloria Brame:             That is a big one. But again, you know if the women and men listening to this are planning to do let's say erotic fiction for which they don't need any kind of degree because it's all about your creativity, but if you're doing that kind of- it's going to be hard to get noticed and branded.


Jenn T Grace:              And now-


Gloria Brame:             Whereas if you write self-help books you might be able to do without the degree.


Jenn T Grace:              I was going to say- yeah my audience is definitely more of the nonfiction side of things who might be writing some kind of self-help book rather than some fiction-related stuff.


Gloria Brame:             Yeah. So I would say that part of branding is making sure that people associate you with what you do, and not just erotic writer which is- but like something more specific like Queen of the Lovology Institute- pardon me, I think there is a Lovology Institute. But you know, something like that, something that is memorable.


Jenn T Grace:              So they think your name and they think exactly, very specifically what you do so that way they can find you when they're looking for you online.


Gloria Brame:             Right you know there are plenty of my peers, and colleagues are sexologists, but I always put that out there. Because it's not that common a word but it turns out to be a word that everybody sort of understands.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah.


Gloria Brame:             And sort of like they're involved in sex but it isn't too dirty because they're helping people.


Jenn T Grace:              I know you throw 'ologist' onto anything and it seems like it works.


Gloria Brame:             Yeah.


Jenn T Grace:              Do you think that if somebody were to be starting to do something even remotely similar to what you're doing now without having that PhD that they may encounter any type of resistance like you faced earlier on? Or do you think some of that's been a little bit lifted.


Gloria Brame:             Well it depends on where you go. Like for example I'm very, very frequently quoted but when I've tried to get 'The Truth about Sex' published, no mainstream publisher wanted to touch it because they felt that it was just too far out. They felt it was too far out for me, and this was like back in 2010 or 2011 to be saying that sexual diversity was normal. You know? And they felt- at least one place, that had marketing- at a place that had formerly published me said, "I can't sell a dominatrix in today's environment." Whatever that meant. You know because I've never hidden that I'm involved in BDSM as a topic. So it depends on what you're selling. If you're a lesbian and you find a sympathetic lesbian editor who wants to publish articulate books, you know about the lesbian experience, you may not experience any pushback. But if you go someplace mainstream and they're like, "Oh well we already had two lesbians this year," you know what I mean? You may experience marginalization, pushback, people not really taking you that seriously, and for me since all of my stuff is like cutting edge, you know I feel lucky that I actually got my first book through a big publisher. And in recent years I just moved to self-publishing.


Jenn T Grace:              I was just going to ask you about that. So when the big publisher shuts the door in your face, the solution is to self-publish. Can you just talk a little bit about that experience compared to the traditional publishing experience?


Gloria Brame:             There are a lot of great things about self-publishing and there are a lot of great things about commercial publishing. I don't want to discourage people because the bigger money usually is to be made in big publishing, although again I'll note 'Fifty Shades of Gray' I think started out as a self-published 'Twilight' fanfic and I believe sold enough copies on Amazon that it got a publisher interested. That happens once in a blue moon, but it does happen. Mainly the advantages of going with a commercial publisher are very simply- and you need an agent to get into a commercial publisher by the way, because I operate only with an intellectual property lawyer, I don't have an agent anymore. Fired them, too. You have to have an agent, an agent takes 20% of your money, all your money. The advance, residuals, everything.


Jenn T Grace:              How about services that you provide, or other products?


Gloria Brame:             Right that they provide. But they can get you into- they'll know who to send your manuscript to, hopefully they'll know the right people to show your manuscript to, and they have an in with those people so those people will actually read your manuscript. So if you send a manuscript in blind, you may never get read. You'll never get higher maybe than a reader for the editor who is a grad student or something like that. You know? But if you can get through in commercial publishing, they'll do all your publicity, they'll create your publicity campaign, they'll tell you where to show up, they'll sign you up for any book signings and readings, they'll do all of that. They'll do all of the backend work on copywrite and production. You may not even get a choice in the book cover they slap on you, but maybe. You know and they take all of that stuff, all the financial end, and the creative end of production, and they do it all for you. So basically you submit your manuscript and other than having to re-edit it to their like several times, you kind of work for them once they pay you for your book. With- and you also have your best chance, finally the most important thing is distribution. They distribute your book across the country, and make sure it gets on Amazon. If they like it enough they'll really push it harder and try to get book sellers interested.


Jenn T Grace:              So in your experience, the 20% that the agent would take, did it seem worth it for at least the ones that have gone through that traditional publishing route?


Gloria Brame:             Yes, it does. You may not be happy if you're not seeing a big number and what you end up with is really not that great, and then you may really resent 20%, but overall the value of getting into a commercial publisher, you know there are many positive things about it. Unfortunately there's also a tremendous downside to commercial publishing. And the first downside of course is that it's very hard to get a book published, and even when you do, if they tell you to change it, you have to change it. And my first book, 'Different Loving' was really censored, and at the time I accepted it and I don't think I would today.


Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. And how much did it take away from what you were talking about from that censorship standpoint? Did it like really dilute the message that you were trying to convey?


Gloria Brame:             I don't think it diluted the message itself, but it definitely diluted what the sexuality was about and how extreme it could get. Because they made us remove a chapter on people who into some really edgy, edgy play. And anywhere there was really edgy play, they wanted it to go. So to somebody who's in BDSM that edgy, edgy play didn't seem that edgy, but to straight people it scared the bejesus out of them. So- and lawyers said, "You know we're going to see a million lawsuits on this, and blah, blah, blah."


Jenn T Grace:              Interesting.


Gloria Brame:             So we let them cut us down, and you know the basic message is this stuff's okay, and then we just weren't able to include all of the interview material and that was kind of sad. And one chapter had to go on edge play. So you know that was sad, but then I found even when I wrote a very mainstream book called, 'Come Hither,' which was like a basic introduction to the community, and how you can tell if you're kinky, and it was really like a fun book for couples who were talking about kink together. Even there, you know with a different publisher, and even though they signed up with me because I had written 'Different Loving.' You know they really reigned it in, and their PR plan for me fell apart when the editor and then the head of PR left. New people came in, and they didn't really care about my book. So that's the peril of being at a big house, is that even when you land that contract, in the end you may not see the money you were expecting because if they pay you up front you have to earn it back in sales. And not a lot of books earn back their advances; that's why publishing is in shitty shape. You know it's very hard for them to make profits these days on book sales. And with self-publishing you have total intellectual freedom, and total creativity, it can be the book you wanted to write, but the downside is you have to do everything yourself. You know if you sign up with like- the place I signed up with actually treats me like a publisher not a vanity press. In other words I don't pay them anything and they do things for me because I was a known entity and they felt they could sell my books. So my deal with them is 50/50 profits. I don't invest anything, and they don't charge me anything, and we share profits 50/50 down the line from the day the book starts selling. I pick the cover, they do the copywrite stuff in the background, I have to do all my own marketing.


Jenn T Grace:              Interesting. So they'll take care of all the logistics if you will.


Gloria Brame:             They take care of all the logistics. This particular company works with you if you can submit a cover, they can suggest a cover, they have volumes and volumes of clip art, they can design with you or use your designs. They will also make sure to file for all the important copywrite and ISBN data for your book, they do all of that stuff.


Jenn T Grace:              And do you find that there are-


Gloria Brame:             And they get it on Amazon, they get it on all of the online book stores, Barnes and Noble, and they do a digital version as well.


Jenn T Grace:              Do you find that there are a lot of companies similar to what they're offering? Is this kind of a new- it's not even really a new frontier but you know what I mean.


Gloria Brame:             It's not even a new frontier, no. There are lots of places and the degree of your own autonomy there is according to place. Like I believe some sites you have to fill out all the paperwork and you're just using them to print your book literally. You know? Or you can go to Amazon which I believe now has its own print-to-vision for authors, and you can work directly with Amazon and make sure it gets on Amazon automatically. Or you can use a service where you would pay a nominal fee like $300 to $1,000 depending on the level of service, and they give you a la carte services like, 'Well we'll do this, and we'll do that, you can pick all the way up to- we'll give you a fancy cover design.'


Jenn T Grace:              So are there other benefits to the self-publishing road other than what you described?


Gloria Brame:             Well for me I prefer it because A) I will always write niche books. In other words I doubt I'll ever have- my books will have ever have universal appeal even though my blog may. Because you know on my blog I write about women's sexual health, and just everything that is newsworthy in the field of sex. But my books are really pretty specific to a more queer, and then sometimes BDSM perspective.


Jenn T Grace:              So knowing what you've been talking about, for somebody who- maybe they're just starting out, and they're just trying to figure out the lay of the land for how they can make their name synonymous like we were talking about before with what it is they do. What do you think the number one thing, or the first step that would be worthwhile for them to take, into really kind of building their online community, which is what you have. It seems like you have a really big online community.


Gloria Brame:             First I would recommend before they go to their blog, is that they start building their social networking platform that they believe will be a great place to promote any free content they're going to be doing. So like if they're going to be posting covers of their book, they want to have a Pinterest board. Like I have a Pinterest- in addition to all my sex history, and [Inaudible 00:30:05] pictures, and kittens, of course there must be cats. But I mean in addition to all of that I have a board devoted to 'Different Loving,' you know a Pinterest board. And all my book covers as I'm designing the book, or any pictures of people who are in the book, or anything like that goes on that board, so that's one place. I have a Tumblr account, all my blog posts go there. My blog posts auto-post to a Facebook fan page which is dedicated only to my work. My LinkedIn page which is dedicated only to my work; I will not use LinkedIn anymore for chat or even for networking because I didn't find that it did a damn thing for me.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah for your industry.


Gloria Brame:             But what does do a thing for me is when I post a blog post as an article on LinkedIn, you know? In other words just making sure that word of my free content appears everywhere, and on Twitter. And there's a program you can use called


Jenn T Grace:              Yes I've heard of that before.


Gloria Brame:             Okay.


Jenn T Grace:              How are you using it?


Gloria Brame:             I use IFTTT and I advise it for anybody who wants to get writing and news of their books out in a very targeted way. IFTTT is an online software program that allows you to automatically re-post your post from let's say Twitter, or from your blog, to all of your other social media. And they actually have a much wider range of social media platforms than I ever use because I'm not on everything, you know? But you could probably use it to- if you're on everything you can- you just set it up one time and then every time you post on a particular place, that particular content will go out to ninety social media platforms. And you may only get one or two hits on some of them, but it's worth it.


Jenn T Grace:              It's still exposure, right? It's still getting your message out.


Gloria Brame:             It's exposure and you keep doing it, and you can't really rely on other people these days to promote you, or that a single promotion in any one place is really going to change your life. It's just not like that anymore because the Internet is drowning in content.


Jenn T Grace:              So as the Internet is drowning in content, how do you think the best way to stand out in this kind of flood of information? Have you found any particular way that seems to work for you?


Gloria Brame:             Well I find that- I've shifted a lot. I mean I'm constantly adapting. Like the reason I ended up with IFTTT was that I just spent a year casually just sort of browsing media impact on my numbers. You know? Just sort of watching to see what was more effective, what seemed to get more hits to my website, where was I selling more books? And I found like Twitter was useful for that, so whereas I used to use Twitter for the usual kind of banter that people get into, or personal things. I never got into what was for lunch, but you know what I mean. Yeah just like random comments on Twitter. I stopped that completely. I only use Twitter now as a promotional tool for my free content and my work. Period. No chatter, no nothing. Because I think that in such a busy world people really need to know who you are, and what your identity is. It's like you know Kim Kardashian, what's her brand really? Well it's being Kim Kardashian but I think it's having insane outfits and always looking perfectly coiffed. You know? Or deliberately looking great when she's disheveled too.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah.


Gloria Brame:             So I mean it's all about looking good.


Jenn T Grace:              So what I'm hearing, and you're saying that you're using Twitter to put out content, it's not always asking for something- for people in return. You're just saying, "Here is my free information."


Gloria Brame:             You know like when I say 50% to 60% promotes my stuff, like today I'm writing a thought piece on redefining BDSM that's going to go up on my blog a little later this afternoon. And there were opportunities because they were relevant, opportunities to talk about an opinion that I had in one of my books on this subject. You see what I mean? So I'm not doing a big promotion for my book, I'm not going to include a big picture of my book, or anything like, but among the various things that I'm linking to including other people's articles and thoughts, I'm including a link for my book.


Jenn T Grace:              Yes I think that's the key.


Gloria Brame:             I feel that in exchange for getting people to see that there's a link to my book, they're getting five or six paragraphs of provocative reading that they don't have to pay for.


Jenn T Grace:              Yes. Yeah I think that's the key. So you're not telling people to just go out there and start spamming people saying how great your book is, you're giving valuable content that's related to what your book is providing, and everyone's winning because you're giving out stuff. You've spent time and energy writing, and writing well, that you want people to see that free content, which then just gets your name in front of them more often.


Gloria Brame:             Yeah, you know I'm sixty years old, I'm like a different generation and I'm really uncomfortable praising myself. I'm really uncomfortably going and saying, "I'm the greatest-" you know whatever I may think at home with people who love me and forgive me, whatever flights of fancy my ego may take here. I think it's really rude, and crass, and ugly when people just get up and start telling you how fucking fantastic they are.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah for real.


Gloria Brame:             You know it's just like- and who's the judge of that? You and your mother?


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah. There needs to be a balance for sure.


Gloria Brame:             So I don't do that. I mean I do believe that my work contains important stuff, or relevant stuff, or fun- whatever my books contain, I will push the content, but I'll push the content by showing rather than claiming, if you know what I mean. I'll give them some content to show what I'm talking about. However that said, I will say that on Twitter, I don't know if it's not a hit on my blog, but on Twitter and on my Facebook fan page they like getting promotions. People respond positively to promotions. They don't on LinkedIn, not nearly as much.


Jenn T Grace:              You're paying attention to your audience. I think that's so important is that you're not just splattering it.


Gloria Brame:             So seeing that people will like or even love when I create- I create a lot of funny ads for my book, so I'll create a funny ad and even there I hope it's not just 'go and buy my book,' but 'here's something that will make you giggle, and please buy my book.' Or 'here's an excerpt from my book, don't you want to read more?' That kind of thing.


Jenn T Grace:              That makes a lot of sense.


Gloria Brame:             And I don't do it a lot, I do it a couple times a week because I have seven books that I really want to sell.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah so we're already getting over forty minutes here so I would love to have you spend a couple of minutes just talking about your new book that you were mentioning, and letting everyone know where they can find more information about you since we're really kind of talking about your community, and all the places that you are. I'd love for people to be able to know exactly how to follow you should they want to.


Gloria Brame:             Well I'm really easy to find, just Gloria Brame into Google and you can find me on Facebook and Twitter or and once you get to my website you'll see my blog link and you can subscribe to it, or you can- anything that goes on my blog goes out to social media, so if you follow me @DrGloriaBrame you'll see links to all of my free content. Now the new book, I wasn't sure if I wanted to ever write a sequel to 'Different Loving' to be honest, because it was an enormous, enormous task and it took three people almost three years to write that book.


Jenn T Grace:              Wow.


Gloria Brame:             So I couldn't do that now, I couldn't commit three to six years. One of our collaborators died in the interim, et cetera, et cetera. But what I did want to do is I really got interested some years ago about doing like what happens to people after they've been in the scene for twenty years? Because I first got involved in like 1985 or 1986, now it's 2016, I'm still involved in my community to some degree. I don't really appear many places anymore, I don't attend conferences much because I'm older and I have my BDSM community in my home with my partners. But so I've evolved enormously even in terms of how I play, or how I live. One of my partners is a woman, you know that was kind of unexpected, I thought I would be partnered with men. So you know things really changed and I really wanted to know how things changed in the lives of other players, and I was in touch with- I don't know about a half dozen or more of the original interviewees over the years, hooked up on Facebook. So I decided that was the place to start. I was going to start not by trying to look at the overwhelming phenomenon of BDSM online that has completely transformed our community, but first to go and see how many of the old interviewees I could find twenty years later. And I found about twenty of them which was awesome.


Jenn T Grace:              How many were in the original?


Gloria Brame:             The original was like sixty or seventy that appeared in the book.


Jenn T Grace:              Wow that's a good percentage, yeah.


Gloria Brame:             And for this one I actually found more, I found 25 but some people had withdrawn, a number of people had died, and some people just didn't want to be in this book. They were living very different lives and they didn't want to be defined as BDSM publicly anymore. So I added to those nineteen, twelve people who hadn't been in the book who were a lot younger, but who also had been at least- had at least twenty years' experience. And so our youngest participant was a woman of 37 who started out when she was 17. And I decided that the best way to chronicle like what had changed in the BDSM world- because that was the real question, is where are we as a community now 25 years later, was to chronicle it through individual stories. So I did in-depth interviews with 31 different people across all of the orientations; trans people, trans men, trans women, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and straight people. And then I went and I did on Facebook general community surveys where I asked like 200 BDSM friends to contribute their answers to a range of questions on BDSM subjects. And that was like my research base; using those interviews and then all of the rafts of community dialogues as I called them about different subjects like what does consent mean to you, or what's your bottom line in a relationship, or what have you learned? I asked everybody I interviewed in depth, 'What would you say now to the person you were 25 years ago after everything you've learned?' And then from there I just treated it like a sexologist by looking at some of the science that submerged in the twenty years, how the culture has changed in the twenty years, how growing acceptance of sexual diversity means that we couldn't even count the number of people in the BDSM worlds if we counted like every fetishist out there, et cetera, et cetera. So that's really what the book is about. It brings 'Different Loving' circa 1993 into the 21st century.


Jenn T Grace:              It sounds fascinating.


Gloria Brame:             Where we now- what has the journey been like, what's our real history, with some predictions of mine on what future sex will be like.


Jenn T Grace:              Wow that sounds really interesting. So if somebody were interested would it make sense, or would you still recommend that they read the first one and then read the second one?


Gloria Brame:             You know it really depends on the person. You know if they're a BDSM-er they probably want to start with number one, and then go to number two. If they're coming to BDSM as scholars or just people who have friends involved who are just kind of interested in it, DL Too is the 21st century of BDSM. So it's kind of like do you want the whole historical perspective? Because the original volume really goes into the history- like I'll have a chapter on bondage and then we look back to ancient practices, and what people have written about BDSM, what they had written about it in the seventeenth century, and the nineteenth century, and so forth. The new book is definitely rooted and based in the 21st century.


Jenn T Grace:              Wow.


Gloria Brame:             And it's a look back at where we were and where we are.


Jenn T Grace:              It sounds really interesting just from the historical standpoint of it, just to get a lesson.


Gloria Brame:             Yeah it's really cool to me because I feel it's- I mean the next best thing to a real longitudinal study, which has never been done. You know I mean it's just never been done that you look at this particular sexual population and then you come back to them twenty years later, and interview many of the same people, and find out how massively their lives have changed without their sexual orientation changing.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, wow that's so interesting.


Gloria Brame:             Yeah I mean a lot of them are just doing all new things, things they weren't doing, and many of them have partners they never expected to have.


Jenn T Grace:              Yourself included, right?


Gloria Brame:             I can't tell you- like a lot of people have become poly, something that would have been really out of the box twenty years ago.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah this is really interesting. I have a client who does a lot of work in terms of education around the poly community, so I think that she would love this book, so I'm certainly going to send her to your website. She probably already knows about you for all I know.


Gloria Brame:             Yeah one of my favorite interviews was a woman who had been married like two or three times, and they'd all failed, and she was really depressed, but she also had this secret life as a spanking fetishist. She had done movies as a spanking fetishist. Well- and that was her interview, was based on she's this star of spanking fetish movies back in the 1990's. But now when I meet her in 2015 I guess was when I spoke with her, you know she couldn't find anyone, she couldn't find anyone, she finally said, "That's it, I'm done with straight marriages." And then she met a man and his female partner and she fell in love with both of them.


Jenn T Grace:              That's awesome.


Gloria Brame:             And now they're a three way marriage. They found a place to get married as a three, as a triad. And she said, "I never would have imagined I could be this happy. Who knew?"


Jenn T Grace:              That's so nice to hear, right?


Gloria Brame:             I mean she vaguely knew she was bisexual, or so she thought until she fell in love with a woman. So you know, people's lives- I think that once you allow yourself to be sexually free, that you know, the potentials for your life are just genuinely transformed.


Jenn T Grace:              I think it's just trying to not put yourself in a box or feel the need to label yourself, which is something the LGBT community certainly struggles with in a lot of ways.


Gloria Brame:             Correct. You know?


Jenn T Grace:              Wow so for folks-


Gloria Brame:             It's funny because the blog piece I'm writing today is about I'm tired of people defining BDSM as bondage and discipline, dominance and sub- you know because actually most people, I don't even know how many people still even do bondage and discipline. People have moved on, they've evolved, you know? And the reality was, is while it was a very politically effective acronym to use, you know because it seemed to unite us, you know millions of us don't do any of the stuff in that thing, and being defined- as the gay rights movement knows, being defined by the things you do in bed sends a really creepy message.


Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely.


Gloria Brame:             As opposed to who you really are as people. You know or your right to have dignity and equal rights in society.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah labels do us a disservice.


Gloria Brame:             So I think even there, I mean we're still growing.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah, absolutely. I feel like this interview has been so good because I feel like just having such a historical context for even social media, you're bringing so many very perspectives to us, and also just knowing about your book. So for people who- I know that you had given your website, is there a different place to send people to get your books, or still just straight to your website directly?


Gloria Brame:             I have a shop on my site but of course the cheapest option is Amazon, and you can just type Gloria Brame into Amazon and hopefully my author's page will come up with- oh that's another place every writer should be of course, is have your own author's page on Amazon, have your own author's page on Goodreads.


Jenn T Grace:              Yes absolutely.


Gloria Brame:             So I have an author's page with a bio and a picture of me with a flower I believe, looking very mature and professional.


Jenn T Grace:              That's awesome.


Gloria Brame:             And there it is. I would appreciate and love if your listeners would support my work because I'm out there.


Jenn T Grace:              Absolutely. Been putting yourself out there for a while. Well I sincerely appreciate your time today, this has been great and I'm sure my listeners are going to love this.


Gloria Brame:             Thanks so much Jenn, it was a great interview.


Jenn T Grace:              Yeah thank you so much.


Gloria Brame:             Alrighty.


Jenn T Grace:              Thank you for listening to today's podcast. If there are any links from today's show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.


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