In the last few days, several things have happened, and while I was not the specific target of the hatred and lies, I was very much affected. And I’m likely going to be affected for the foreseeable future.
Apparently at a recent romance writers’ conference, an attending author (a successful author, with multiple books published through multiple publishing houses) met members of my publisher, Clean Reads.
Before I go on, here are a few facts:
- I identify as a member of the LGBT community (genderqueer/aromantic). If you’re surprised to hear that, it’s because my sexual orientation and status is not something I often talk about publicly. I’m an introvert and I have social anxiety. On top of that, in this day and age, those willing to do so, will use anything they can against you to further themselves and their own causes. As happened here.
- My book Catskin (just released through Clean Reads) was turned down by multiple agents and publishing houses because (and I’m paraphrasing here) it did not have enough sex to be ‘realistic’ for modern teenagers. It wasn’t eligible to be published with a LGBT publisher because it only had a secondary character who was a lesbian. (So I was told by mainstream publishers to ‘sex up the book’ and to turn my main character into a gay guy by LGBT publishers).
- Clean Reads does not publish books that contain premarital sex (unless there is some sort of consequence which is discussed in the book) open-door sex, cursing, graphic violence, or which focus solely on LGBT characters/LGBT themes. They also don’t publish erotica, BDSM, Screenplays, Non-fiction, Poetry, Fan Fiction. All of this is stated on their submission page, just as every publisher posts what they are, and are not seeking in submissions.
- Clean Reads was formerly Astraea Press. The name was changed, in part, due to suggestions that we select a name that better represented the fact that we publish books ‘clean’ of cursing/graphic violence/open-door sex/etc. This is also where our tagline ‘All Story. No Guilt.’ came from, as well as the fact that anyone who reads romance novels is very familiar with the term ‘guilty pleasure’ because so many romance novels in the market leave nothing to the imagination in them. (And that’s okay.)
Remember these facts as you read on.
The author was who met Clean Reads at the romance conference was, at first, taken with us, our books, our members. He very much liked us. Then he read (he claims entirely) our website. And he still liked us. Then he got to the submission page. And he saw that we don’t accept books with homosexual main characters.
According to this author, he felt discriminated against, and offended, hurt, and as if an injustice had been done to him. I am still currently trying to wrap my head around how a successful author who writes a type of book, which isn’t repped by one small press within a world of presses, can be so personally devastated by that fact. But this author insists that he was.
Now, when someone sees injustice, it’s reasonable for them to speak out about it. However, there is a difference between speaking out against injustice, and creating injustice. This author did not speak to my publisher about her submission policy and his perceived injustice in regard to it. He did not speak to anyone at Clean Reads about how he felt.
Instead, he wrote a blog post about my publisher, stating in the title of the post that we were a “Publishing House that Deems #LGBT “dirty” and he published the blog, shared it on his personal Facebook page, as well as his professional Author Facebook page, tweeted a link to it on Twitter, and urged his readers to share it. He also tweeted about Clean Reads before he’d done more than see them at the romance convention–claiming incorrectly in the tweet that we don’t allow any gay characters. Within the blog post he eventually wrote, this author copy and pasted parts of our actual website, but then inserted an anti-gay symbol in the middle of the genuine portions of our page as if that were how it appeared on our site. He also utilized a photo at the top of the post with a ball cap embroidered with “No Gays Allowed”. It was a short post, which closed with a sentence telling us that we should be shamed for portraying gays as being “dirty” and unfit for our canon of “clean” literature, and that we were–simply because we don’t publish LGBT stories–perpetuating the mindset that the gay community deserves to be discriminated against.
His readers were all too excited to join in on the publisher-bashing.
The character of Clean Reads’ owner was attacked, we authors with the house have been called bigots, and gay haters. Some of the commenters stated that everything in our name and motto was code for “anti-gay”. That our company was “sending the wrong message”. We were accused of “duping” our readers. They stated that the fact that we published books that didn’t portray sex, we were intentionally and subversively “shaming” those who do have sex. We were told that simply because we do not publish LGBT we were implying that it was “dirty”.
Some of us, when we rebutted these accusations, were openly made fun of. When I stated my own identity as genderqueer and aromantic, and said that my own book had gay characters in it, and that I’d always felt welcome at Clean Reads, those facts were completely overlooked (aside for one person who made fun of me for pointing out that I had a minority main character, and a lesbian in my story, telling me that “no one gets ally cookies for that”) In short, the commenters could care less that I was actually one of them or that all of us were real human beings. They treated us with the same acidic hatred that true bigots have treated minorities with for centuries.
Even when researchable facts disproving the author’s claims that Clean Reads does not allow gay characters in their books (namely the presence MY gay character) were offered, he refused to acknowledge these facts, or in any way alter his assertions that we decry all LGBT to be “dirty” and that we were anti-LGBT.
The commenters on this author’s blog (and both Facebook pages) justified their actions by saying we had brought it on ourselves by choosing to not include LGBT stories in our roster. Most telling, was how the author of the article, who carefully titled his own post specifically so as to gain the most attention, and then carefully, and intentionally, copied a section of our website, divided it, and inserted an anti-gay symbol which is NOT on the Clean Reads website, did nothing to assuage the hatred. He allowed his followers to treat a group of people, whom they did not know, as dirt to be stepped on and walked over. He essentially avoided any meaningful discussion aside from magnanimously saying he’d “agree to disagree”. There was no exchange of ideas or position. Rather, the author permitted numerous negative comments–including ones which blatantly made fun of anyone attempting to defend Clean Reads. Then he closed his comment sections making a final statement about how he had “researched” Clean Reads and had “kept an open mind” as he did so, and then had spoken out against us only when he felt he had to.
Only he didn’t “speak out”. He intentionally accused an institute and group of bigotry and anti-gay rhetoric and turned what should have been a discussion into a publicity stunt. A successful gay romance author publicly attacked a small sweet romance press, erroneously stating that we have no gay characters in our books (we have lots of gay characters, and we have gay writers) and that we treat gay people as “dirty” and not worthy of being published, and then he incited his readers and followers to spread the word about us and how we deem LGBT to be “dirty”. The author of the post, and some of his commenters, insisted at one point that it wasn’t that we didn’t publish LGBT books that distressed him, but that it was how we said we didn’t publish them.
Basically, he didn’t like the wording on our website. So he wrote a blog post with a fabricated anti-gay symbol being attributed to our website, and called us bigots.
This is not fighting injustice, it’s creating injustice. My debut was just published through Clean Reads. Other authors have multiple books published here. We depend on Clean Reads and its owner for our careers. I would not be published without Clean Reads. My future as an author is tied to Clean Reads. And I love Clean Reads, and the community of writers I’ve met through it. I am the face of LGBT writers, and I’ve been nothing but welcomed by Clean Reads, its owner, and its writers.
But this offended author just threw our entire publishing house on the public sacrificial table because he didn’t like the wording on our submissions page. There is zero accountability for his actions, accusations and outright lies. He’s closed his comments and will probably move right on with his successful life, having kicked around a small press which competes directly with his own books. Why he did any of this remains a mystery to me, when every publishing house has a list of what they are not looking for posted clearly on their website.
There are numerous publishing houses that do not accept books with LGBT characters and storylines. In fact, whitewashing is still a major issue among larger publishing houses. Yet, this author did not single out any of the big houses. Of course, he would be less likely to have an impact on the function of a large publishing house, while it’s all too possible for him to damage and affect a small press which also conveniently provides a niche market for romance, which is one of the genres he writes.
If the author had issues with the precise wording of our own submission guidelines, publicly attacking, and libeling us was not the mature and socially forward-thinking way to approach the subject. This author has potentially damaged dozens of lives and careers–some of them belonging to members of the LGBT community he insisted he was protecting–and he firmly and openly believes it to be his right to do so, while also handily netting himself a little publicity in the process.
That, my friends, is the epitome of injustice.