“It’s been making me think afresh about the problem of scarcity, and how books and other fictionalised narratives with non-straight non-white non-guy protagonists carry so great a weight of hopes—because there have been so few of them, comparatively, that it’s not like you can just shrug and find another with a protagonist that reflects these aspects of your identity if you don’t like it.“”
To say that “not publishing damaging books is censorship” is to start from the presupposition that the industry is publishing a balanced amount of books across the full spectrum of diversity. In that scenario, eradicating one part would be “censorship”. But that is not happening. What is happening is that we continue to broadly publish white people and white stories. When there was pushback about diversity, we started writing stories about PoC and other marginalized groups in an effort to prove we were Good White People. It’s only when we fuck up and get criticized that we cry Foul.
Apparently now is the time for uncomfortable truths because I’ve just had it.
How many posts have I seen that talk about fanfiction ‘setting the bar higher’ or about how ‘unoriginal’ published fiction is? How many posts have I seen where someone’s saying “I wish someone would write about X thing that subverts some popular trope!’?
Trans Cinderella? I have a friend who’s written that. Books about people who are actually, for real, bi or ace? My publisher has whole categories for those. How about ABO? Or werewolf stories that aren’t about sex and dominance? Hell, I’ve written that. Enemies-to-lovers? Mecha-wearing cops? These people are some of the most creative and welcoming and kind people I’ve ever met.
And nearly daily, I see fandom deride us like we’re somehow other. And look, I get it. In large part, I think a lot of the pushback is the inaccessibility of publishing in large houses, and the way that those large houses churn out the same tropes over and over again, while enforcing and maintaining the societal status quo.
But hey, those are large presses. Those are The Big Four. There are so many smaller, younger, more inclusive presses running around now, not even to mention self-publishing.
If I read a book that I absolutely love and I immediately develop a writer-crush on that author, 9 times out of 10 I say to myself “I wanna be friends” and then we become friends. It’s great. Authors have no chill about each other, none at all, I love it.
So when I finally caved and came to tumblr and started getting involved in fandom, it was like a bucket of cold water to the face when I found out, over and over, that fanfic writers and readers wanted nothing to do with me and my original fiction. I mention that I’ve finally been writing again, someone asks what pairing, I say it’s orig fic and the immediate disinterest is nearly palpable. There’s the continuous parade of posts talking about how no one ever writes about this, you never see books about that, I wish there was a book like this, with this, not with that, and every time I see those posts I become an incredible combination of sad and indignant.
Because these books do exist, these authors and publishing houses do exist. These editors and artists, they exist. I know because I’ve worked with them, I’ve emailed and tweeted them, I’ve published with them. These posts and this attitude are willfully ignoring and erasing the industry that’s closest to your own works. Do you think mainstream publishing and The Big Four, do you think they’d accept ABO? Do you think they’d accept triads with an ace member? Do you think they’d accept trans love stories? Sweeping epic fantasy where the main character being gay isn’t the driving force behind the plot? Or sweet and fluffy contemporary romance? No, they wouldn’t, because on the whole mainstream publishing, when it deigns to include us, is pretty much only interested in killing us.
Fandom needs to understand that there are queer spaces in publishing too, and we are not the enemy. It really sucks to try to fit in with the people you think will understand you best and have it made clear, time and time again, that you’re still too other for them.
And it is because of these explicitly queer spaces in publishing that the big New York houses are beginning to adjust and allow for more diversity in all aspects. We can make a difference, but we do it by reading and supporting what’s there, not denying it unless it comes from a pre-existing property.
Stop Using the Harry Potter series’ Original Publication Dates as an Excuse for Rowling’s Diversity Fails
Every time I talk about J. K. Rowling’s current and continuing diversity fails, someone always has to show up to remind me how she “couldn’t write diversely because it was 1997”.
Without fail, people are more invested in protecting Rowling from criticism she will never see or care about than in acknowledging the way that her writing has continued to erase marginalized people while allegorizing their struggles in order to pad her plot and make her characters more interesting.
Even if I knew (or cared) more about the realities of publishing when I was seven years old, the fact of the matter is that JKR managed to put a ton of atypical things in her “kids’ series”. She wrote about the violent effects of racism and blood supremacy as well as child abuse and children coming of age in a war torn world.
And yet, she “couldn’t” include more than eight characters of color or any queer characters who made It to the end of the series alive or who were queer onscreen?
The “it was 1997” excuse for Rowling’s diversity fails only holds a scant bit of water when it comes to looking at the body of her work. Other writers wrote queer characters into their works, other authors managed to have diverse children’s books during the same period that Rowling was publishing her books.
If you like what you’re reading and want more you can:
Whenever authors talk about how much they hate “forced diversity” and how annoyed they are that readers and bloggers now expect writers to create that they call “unrealistic” worlds where people who are not the default (by being queer, POC (or the fantasy/sci-fi equivalent), and/or not being cis), I always want to laugh.
Or ugly cry.
Romance readers and authors get a lot of derision thrown their way. So much so that many have a mental checklist that runs every time they read mainstream media articles about romance or the people who write it. We know that even the most well-intentioned pieces will use terms like “bodice ripper” and make mention of Fabio; some will praise the genre for moving past the days of clinch covers and…
If respecting another culture and being exposed as a racist is keeping you from writing, then that’s on you and your lack of ability and you’re own ignorance hindering you.
You wouldn’t have to worry about getting dragged if you had the capacity to do it gracefully. I’ve been dragged plenty of times but it’s never been an issue because I understand my view of the world is limited and allowing others open my eyes to other perspectives isn’t something I’m scared of, but something I welcome.
But that’s me, being a bottom level, barely even trying, decent human adult.
I am so tired of writers (both fan and professional) saying that they’re “scared” of writing diverse characters and cultures because of the backlash they’ll get if they fuck up.
This is a thing I’m seeing in multiple genres and multiple communities and it’s so annoying –
Instead of even bothering to try and respect the diverse world we live in, these authors instead want to be cradled in a bubble where no one ever critiques anything in their work even when it’s problematic. Because of the very unlikely chance that they might get threats or yelled at (when fandom and publishing history shows that the fans of color calling racism out are the ones most likely to get doxed or have their legal names connected to pseudonyms).
By Ariel Richardson
When I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to work in children’s literature but I had no idea how to go about doing so. What does this thing called editing actually involve? How does one get started in the industry? Where should I look for job postings? Feeling pretty lost, I spent every spare moment over the course of several months researching the answers to those questions.
Since I love chatting with people just getting started in the industry, but don’t always have the time to do so in my day-to-day, I wanted to share some resources I find valuable—and resources I regularly pass along in informational interviews.
This is a competitive industry; landing your first internship or your first job can be tough! I’m hoping these tips will help you out on your path.
What kinds of jobs?
There are SO many cool jobs within publishing. Here are just a few of the many departments: Editorial, Managing Editorial, Design, Production, Digital, Marketing, Publicity, Subrights, Sales, Web/IT, Contracts, Finance, and Operations. Do you love international travel? Perhaps Subrights is the right fit for you. Do you lust after foil covers and painted edges in the book store? Perhaps Production is where you’re meant to be.
Although this post is about working at a publishing company, I want to point out that there are so many other jobs within the book pipeline that may also be of interest: artist (writer/illustrator), agent, reviewer, blogger, bookseller/book buyer, librarian, reading specialist/teacher, and professor. Publishing wouldn’t exist without these smart and passionate partners.
So often I’m asked whether you need a publishing or copyediting certificate or a masters degree to get a job in publishing. Definitely not! Publishing is a mentorship industry—the only place you can really learn the job is on the job.
But extra credentials can help your resume stand out from the pack by showing your commitment and knowledge; the other perk is that your time in a relevant educational program can be incredible for networking! When you graduate, you may suddenly have friends at major publishing houses, and when you need help, they’re only a phone call away. Only pursue if you’re interested, but if you are, you have a wide variety of options to choose from.
You can consider a publishing course—usually a time commitment of one to several months—like the publishing courses at Columbia, Denver, and NYU. You could consider a copyediting certificate (usually made up of several courses, often offered online) from places like Editcetera or UC Berkeley Extension. And finally, you could consider an advanced degree, like a masters in publishing at NYU or Emerson, or a Children’s Literature masters at Simmons College, and many more.
Someone posted a “Can you write romance even if you hate read it” question in and erotic authors subbreddit, and Gods Alive, save me from the assholes who picked up a romance novel from the dollar bin once and now consider themselves experts. I wouldn’t have stepped into it if I thought it was going to be more of that, but dammit, you’re erotica writers, you’re supposed to do the goddamn research!
Even worse is the woman saying, “That’s why I write m/m! I just can’t empathize with female characters ever!!! So I just basically write m/f and switch the genders of the female and its so much better!!!”
HOLY INTERNALIZED MISOGYNY, BATMAN.
When I was working that particular field you could always tell which authors were there because they loved romance and passion and writing, and the ones who thought they were too good for the genre but hey, it’s easy money right? And it’s totally only a matter of time until their other, more legit work picks up, just as soon as someone realizes their genius…so in the mean time lets do something easy yea. Because that’s totally how that works.
Except it’s not.
While the former authors would go on to have a loyal fan base and be a joy— let me tell you— an absolute joy to work with, the latter would invariably be the ones that flatlined in terms of sales, and then blamed it on editing.
We had after all, removed the “best parts” of their story. The really steamy, totally sexy, nitty gritty…completely unacceptable and horrifying rape scenes which they thought passed for “power play” and “domination”, while those of us given the task of vetting the work sighed and retched into our keyboards, and politely emailed them the house terms of publication again, as well as the gentle reminder that in no way would we ever print something that could be misconstrued as non-con or harmful. We were a safe space house. I’m glad to say they still are.
It was a major problem in the m/m side of erotica too (which fun fact, were predominantly written by women for women according to our sales team), and to my knowledge those kind of issues never arose from male authors writing for that sub genre, usually because they were on the LGBTA spectrum and knew what a healthy m/m relationship was supposed to look like. This isn’t to say that women can’t write good m/m erotica that can be enjoyed by actual gay men, I’m just saying your average m/m story written by women like the above isn’t even going to pass the salt let alone the muster (—d, badumch. I’m sorry I’ll show myself out.) as anything other than objectifying fantasy for the straight gaze.
You could also tell the writers, which sadly more often that not, were other women, who had some serious internal misogyny to work out. Presumably with a crow bar.
They were the ones who tended to write the stories about having affairs with married men and painted the wives as ugly nagging shrews and the men as poor put upon blessed souls in need of sexual rescue by the beautiful, totally cool, not a bitch at all “hero” who invariably always moved on in the end because she was too good for anyone. Sometimes the other women weren’t even married to the Male of Interest, they were just other women in the background, and all of them were inferior and subhuman to the MC. And god forbid you pointed out that the MC was a bit…shall we say…unlikable as a result, because then you were sullying the genius of their work. After all, you weren’t the creator, you were just there to fix the formatting or something, and besides, it’s Only Romance, it’s not like anyone takes this shit seriously.
At which point we’d forward the correspondence to the chief and I’m told by the girls who worked directly outside her office, you could hear the high pitch cackle from behind the closed door, and then the story would vanish from your virtual work station and so would the author, never to be heard from again. After all, why should we waste precious time and resources on making your work fit for public enjoyment, if you’re going to come into our house and shit on the rug and act like you’ve just done as a favor. Why? Why would we do that when there are authors out there who love what they do. Authors who want to tell good stories and spend hours describing the beauty of human interaction through witty repertoire, subtle innuendo and some frankly amazing fucking.
There is nothing inferior about romance as a genre. And it really fucking pisses me off when people pick up a book that is meant to be enjoyed lightly on some sunny or rainy afternoon and holds it up next to something else like Game of Thrones and says “well this one has dark and depressing elements in it, just like real life, so it must be inferior to this” and completely miss the point that Romance, is a type of Fantasy too. The happy hopeful kind that human beings want to be told, that out there somewhere problems are trivial, love is real, and men know where the clitoris is and don’t mash it like a quick time event.
Stop Shitting on Romance. Jesus Christ, how hard is it not to be a dick about something.
THIS THIS THIS THIS.
Romance is literally the only genre that everybody thinks they can write even if they have nothing but contempt for the genre. “Oh it’s easy! They’re all the same anyway!”
Listen, buster, romance readers may be voracious, but stupid they are not, and they can smell a fake on the first page. If YOU don’t love it, the audience is most definitely not going to, and romance is all about invoking emotion in the reader.
Every single time I see one of these posts (and I’ve seen several) it’s always a guy convinced he can make a quick easy buck writing mommy porn. Every. Time.
And here’s some example articles:
Both people can obviously write, but they thought they could print money from romance and crashed and burned. Both still got no idea what they did wrong.
Here’s a hint TRY READING SOME OF THE GENRE YOU WANT TO WRITE.
I’m a huge fan of people in publishing giving us inside into like this and okay, this is actually super related to what I’ve been talking about with regard to fandom and slash shipping.