Monday, June 02, 2008

Emily gets out her hobbyhorse (or is that 'high horse'?)--veinglory

Not very long ago you would see gay romance described by epublishers in terms such as 'alternative lifestyle', or listed as subjects they would not consider in the same grammatical breath as rape and child abuse. Fortunately that has rapidly become very rare indeed. Now works are labelled simply as gay, lesbian, menage, transgender etc and publishers are more likely to be debating the correct contextual use of more ambiguous terms like queer. Those who remain uninterested in publishing gay fiction usually list it as a genre beyond their remit, not a taboo they abhor.

I do, however, continue to discover some throwbacks. I saw this promo post: "Writers Exchange E-Publishing is thrilled to announce that the Reader's Eden Ezine is now online. Our thanks to our editor Sean McLachlan for all his work in getting it ready." And went to find more about Writer Exchange Epublishing. Whereupon I read:

"* Romance - This includes sweet or sensual but no erotica, homosexuality, beastiality [sic], non-consensual relationships or undue crudity. This can also include straight romance or multi-genre (ie mixed with paranormal, time-travel, mythological creatures etc) - We are particularly looking for vampire, werewolf and other paranormal romances."

My usual comment about this phrasing, if you don't see the problem right away, is to encourage you to substitute the name of your ethnicity, religion or some other demographic variable in the place of homosexuality in this sentence and see how that feels, having a basic romantic orientation slipped in between 'too much sex' and 'bonking sheep'. To publishers I advise, no matter what you personally think of homosexual behavior, please please please just limit your comments to something like: "we are not seeking erotica or gay romance at this time" and be done with it.

To my eyes they also doth protest too much about not being a vanity publisher, whilst specifying that to appear in print one must pay a fee, and strongly urging authors to buy a specific book before submitting. They seem to feel it is only vanity if the money they require or request goes in their own pocket. That may seem perfectly logical to the publisher but from an author's point of view money is still flowing away from the writer. That puts one in a category other than conventional commercial publishing, no matter what you call it.


Nonny Blackthorne said...

I remember when Wild Rose Press was new and had similar phrasing in their guidelines. They changed it once enough people complained, but that it was even thought to be categorized with incest, rape, and bestiality severely put me off. I don't mind if a publisher isn't interested in gay romance, but it's one thing to say that and quite another to lump gays and lesbians with rapists and pedophiles. Considering that I have identified as a lesbian in the past, this is a very personal matter to me.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should bring this up, since there was recently a bit of confusion on a forum with a new press lumping all M/M with erotica. I, and a couple others, had asked if they accepted M/M, since it wasn't in their guidelines, and they came back with "We're not looking for erotica."

I get that a pub might not want M/M books, but I'd rather they just say so rather than A. ignore a question about it or B. make the mistake of categorizing M/M as erotica. Reminds me of in the not so recent past when gay romance was automatically listed under the highest heat factor, regardless of whether it had erotic qualities.

Just ruffles my feathers, is all.

veinglory said...

That issue makes me rant at length. Even if they consider two men together to exist only as a interest item for female readers (as opposed to, oh, the whole scope of gay fistion based on the existence of real homosexuality) there ... is.... sweet ... gay ... romance. And there has been sweet M/M within that specific subgenre from the beginning. So I share that irritation.

Anonymous said...

I don't advocate the phraseology...I caused a stink with The Wild Rose Press over theirs, actually...but I know Sean personally and I'd hate for this to cause him grief, when these aren't the terms HE has stated, but those of the parent company.

veinglory said...

I wouldn't mean to imply anything, that was just the notice that got me snooping. I could edit that out if it looks like I'm implying anything?

Sean McLachlan said...

Sean McLachlan here, editor of Reader's Eden Ezine. Yes, the lumping of homosexuality with things like bestiality bothers me too, and I'm talking to the publisher about it.

I do not believe that Sandy means to put gays in the same category as child molesters, but Sandy is a Christian, and the Bible is quite clear that homosexuality is a sin. I am an agnostic, and personally I don't care what people's sexuality is as long as it's consensual.

As for the issue of paying for POD fees, that issue was decided long before I came aboard (i.e., a month ago) and I consider it a separate issue than how I run the ezine.

Sandy Cummins said...


This IS the publisher.

To clarify, I put a listing of what I don't wish to publish. Erotica covers gay and straight romance, however, gay fiction can include sweet, sensual and erotic. I was not interested in publishing any of those, therefore, they needed to be named separately to erotica.

I was not meaning to imply that homosexuality is equivalent to bestiality. It is simply a list of things I won't publish. Erotica is on that list, are you implying that I am calling erotica equivalent to bestiality?

As for the other issues:

1. Vanity presses earn their money from author fees. I earn my money from book sales.

I do not see one cent of that setup fee, it goes to the POD supplier. In fact I lose a little bit each time because of paypal fees.

I only do print because my authors asked me to do it. I am an electronic publisher, completely uninterested in print. However, my authors wanted the service. I pay for the isbn numbers out of my pocket, I spent the time reformatting the books for print and organsing the covers to suit print at my expense.

However, I am unwilling to risk the solvency of the entire company to pay for the setup fees. We are charged about $100US per setup fee, we have nearly 300 books - I cannot absorb that kind of expense. Especially for books that will probably not earn out their setup fee, or if they do, who knows how long it will take?

Many electronic publishers have gone out of business because they tried to be all things to all people and then went bankrupt. I look to the long-term future of my company and am not willing to risk it for the sake of paying for setup fees.

My authors can get their books done elsewhere in print, they can do it themselves or they can get me to do it. I do not force them, it is not a condition of getting their books done electronically. Personally I wish we didn't do print at all, but the authors want it, so I gave it to them.

That does not make me a vanity publisher, it makes me a responsible business woman who will not risk the viability of her entire business for the sake of not offending some people outside the company.

2. As for the book I recommend. I don't even publish that! It was a book I read that impressed me greatly and covered a lot of the mistakes I saw time and time again in submissions and could cost the authors an acceptance. If an author isn't willing to learn their craft, then why should I invest my time in reading their substandard work?

You will note that I only recommend that people read it, I do not REQUIRE it. It was merely me trying to help the authors so that they were more likely to be accepted, either by me or by another publishing company.

If you have any further questions about my company feel free to approach me personally, I actually know the answers.

veinglory said...

I think you will discover that is not how many (most?) writers define vanity these days. Also as an exercise in different perspectives. Some blogs are investigative reporters, most are just reporters. That is, we comment on things we see.

I have commented on why that type of listing is considered politically in correct/insulting (based again on perspective) and why most publishers no longer do it. Several in fact changed this phrasing based on author input.

I read your whole site and understood why you charge fees and why you phrased things the way to do. My comment is that whilst that remains your policy you may (or may not) realise that a lot of authors, and possibly readers, will be put off. You might find the discussion about set up fees relating to Whiskey Creek (here and at informative. The defended the practise for years. Then they changed it. their new structure is equally low input but still avoids violating Yog's law.

Seeley deBorn said...

[i]I cannot absorb that kind of expense. Especially for books that will probably not earn out their setup fee, or if they do, who knows how long it will take?[/]

Well, aside from the lumping and POD fees, we now have an idea of sales.

Sandy Cummins said...

I am not going to rebut everything stated here, as everyone is entitled to their opinion, I just wanted to point out one thing the poster may not have thought of.

This is in regard to the sales comment. Until recently my authors/cover artist got 60% of all sales, and the editor gets 10%, so WEE gets a MAXIMUM of 30%, and if two editors worked on it we only get 20% of the sale.

So to earn out the $100 setup is working on that percentage, not $100 worth of sales, at 70% it would be $300 in books to earn out the setup fee, and obviously higher if there were two editors.

Seeley deBorn said...

it would be $300 in books to earn out the setup fee,

At $7.50 each that's only 40 books.

From what I understand most epubs have different royalty rates for print books. I expect it is to compensate for setup fees.

Sean McLachlan said...

Sandy has decided to change the wording of the guidelines to make them clearer and avoid causing offense that certainly isn't intended. The part in question now reads:

"We do not publish: erotica, homosexual romances (you can have homosexual characters in your stories, but we do not want romances featuring homosexual relationships). We also do not want stories that contain non-consensual relationships, bestiality, or undue crudity."

veinglory said...

I appreciate her going to the effort of rewording that section.