Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Fickle World of Publishing

I don't know about you but I'm getting pretty tired of reading guidelines that state they're looking for stories about gay (you know all those capital letters that I can never remember what they mean), people of color, and foreign (to us Americans, I assume) societies.  What bothers me most about this situation is it was created by editors and publishers in the first place.  Yep, they're bending over backwards to fix something they created.

How do I know this.  Well, I picked up a book by Les Savage, Jr. and in the about the author section it says, "Due to his preference for historical accuracy, Savage often ran into problems with book editors in the 1950's who were concerned about marriages between his protagonists and women of different races--commonplace on the real frontier but not in much Western fiction in that decade."

In the E.M. Forster collection "The Life to Come and Other Stories" I found this "...when any editor who rejected a story by E. M. Forster would have done so only for the very reason that deterred him from offering them, and caused "Maurice" to remain unpublished for fifty-seven years:  their homosexual content.".

It seems that editors and publishers always bend to the dictates of each generation's preference in reading material.  They aren't concerned with real life but the reality they believe people want to read.

The saddest thing I read was a diary entry by Forster:

"Have this moment burnt my indecent writings or as many as the fire will take.  Not a moral repentance, but the belief that they clogged me artistically.  They were written not to express myself but to excite myself, and when first--15 years back?--I began them, I had a feeling that I was doing something positively dangerous to my career as a novelist.  I am not ashamed of them...It is just that they were a wrong channel for my pen."

New writers today are told to write what excites them, what makes them cry, or laugh out loud and here is a writer who burned his own words because nobody would publish them because of their content.  I find this a very sad commentary on the publishing world both past and present.  It should go without saying that all types of characters and settings should be acceptable.  After all, that's the world we live in.


Thomas Pluck said...

I grew up in a diverse little neighborhood of an otherwise white, mostly Italian/Irish/German town, with friends and coworkers who were Vietnamese, black, Puerto Rican, Colombian, Jewish, Filipino, Chinese, Mormon, Czech, gay, Caribbean, African, Muslim, Hindi, Bengali, Persian, Iranian, lesbian, bi, and trans. I write about people like me and like them and if editors/bean counters/agents think that is "not commercial" I do not want to be published by them.
If you can relate to vampire or a space alien or a Viking or a neanderthal and you can't relate to any of the others above... you're the problem.

sandra seamans said...

Exactly, Thomas.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Sandra,

Just to say I agree with you. I see the same type of guidelines for submission that you do and often find it frustrating that editors are narrow in their thinking and are not open to quality diverse writing but go with whatever the current trend happens to be.

sandra seamans said...

It always feels like they're stating the obvious, Jacqueline.