Tuesday 8 October 2013

Q&A - Publishing Over Time

Discuss getting LGBTQIA fiction published. Do you think publishers have changed their attitudes over time? Thanks to Zoe Marriott, Suzanne van Rooyen, RiaAshley Chunnell, Sean Cummings  Charlie Morris, Illjolras, Harriet Flight,  James Dawson and Daniel Kaine.

Zoƫ: I honestly don't know. I first started working with my publisher in 2005, less than ten years ago. I first included a QUILTBAG character in my writing in 2009, less than five years ago. I'm very much working in the modern era. I've never encountered any homophobia or any reluctance to publish work that featured QUILTBAG characters from anyone at either my UK or US publisher. But I was once asked to change the main romance in a novel from one between two girls, to a hetero relationship. I was told this was because my lesbian characters were unconvincing and hollow, rather than because there was any problem with having a lesbian relationship in the book (indeed, there was another lesbian couple in the supporting cast, and that was accepted). But I've never been sure how much that request was really about my inexperience in writing a gay romance and making it convincing, and how much was down to an unconscious lack of empathy/interest in gay characters as romantic leads.

Suzanne: Oh yes. Following a recent agent and editor Twitter chat where industry professionals tweeted their wishlists, there were many calls for LGBTQIA fiction, specifically NOT coming out stories. While positive, I wish there didn't need to be a call for it, the same way editors and agents don't specifically request stories with black characters simply because authors are already writing those.

Ria: Little by little, yes, things are changing. But not as quickly as I'd like. Some publishers will still steer clear of LGBTQIA characters for fear of generating controversy and hurting sales, which unfortunately leaves limited options for where a book can be published. Some publishers specialize in characters like that, which is great, but often those publishing houses focus solely on romance. Which sucks for the fantasy writer who has gay and trans characters in the spotlight but aren't writing something with the express purpose of them getting it on.

Ashley:  I self-published "A Melody in Harmony," so I'm really not sure. I hope publishers are very open on the genre.

James: No-one has ever suggested that Kitty, Delilah or Ryan should be straight. In fact, Ryan started life as the 'best friend' because I thought my publisher wouldn't want a gay main character. How wrong I was! My editor identified Ryan as the most compelling character and insisted he be brought centre stage. I can only speak for my experience and my publisher has been overwhelmingly supportive.

Sean: The thing that's missing from this discussion and I believe it's an important one is the fact that books are published to make money. Under representation of LGBTQIA might well be due to the fact that nobody has yet made a strong business case for more books - publishers invest heavily in producing a book and they want to see a return on investment. If someone can make the business case, then you will see LGBTQIA explode.

Charlie: I am currently writing an MA project about marketing LGBT YA in the UK. My research has shown me that some publishers are definitely open to representative fiction of high quality. More needs to be submitted and put forward via agents! Don't be afraid to try and get your LGBT inclusive book published, but do your research first (Catnip are currently accepting unsolicited submissions!)

Illjolras: I think it's still harder to get LGBTGIA fiction published, but it's slowly becoming more mainstream.

Harriet: "Publishers are looking for good books, not for what sexual orientation the characters are!
If you have a book, and it's finished, and you're are uttermost proud of it, then take it to a publisher.
(Although, if it doesn't get published, then do not worry. There are a lot of people who dig LGBTQIA. Self-publish it, or publish it on the internet!)"

Daniel: Yes, it was. I had self-published two novels previously, and, in all honesty, was going to continue doing so with my future books. But then I made some great new friends at GayRomLit in Albuquerque last year, and they’ve been such a great support. They encouraged me to take the plunge and try submitting to a publisher. After weighing up my options, I chose Dreamspinner Press, and after almost nine weeks of checking my emails every day, I received an offer from them. That was the best feeling ever. Having being through the submission process now, I feel a lot more confident and am going to, hopefully, continue signing books with publishers.

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Nina xxx

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