Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Or you could just hum along, I’m not picky.

Yeah, yeah, I know, that’s not true at all: I am picky, and about odd things. This time, I’m piqued by the “heat ratings” of a potential publisher, because once again same-sex interaction (limited to bisexuals and lesbians; five will get you ten the bisexuals they’re thinking of aren’t men) is relegated to the highest level.

I’m horribly, terribly tempted to write to them and ask if one of my mild/sweet stories featuring nothing more than guys kissing really would require the same labeling as my unfinished deeply explicit M/M/F BDSM story. Ask them why it’s apparently impossible for them to separate “same-sex” from “explicit”.

To use my favorite example of the moment, the end of Chapter Eight of The Slipstream Con is blisteringly hot, achingly beautiful, and completely lacking in ‘vulgar’ details. It features one kiss (between two men) and implicit/implied straight sex — but only the kiss is described in any sort of detail. Does that make it worthy of the highest heat rating?

I know that everyone gets to choose their categories, and to run their railroads as they see fit — but I’d like to see some justification for their choices, particularly when they use wording that makes their motives appear suspect. (That is, I suspect the reasoning goes like this: “hawt lesbians and hawt bi girls = AWESOME!; bi guys (which are urban legends), unattractive lesbians, and gay guys (all flaming screaming queens) = must be hidden under the rug thanks”. Unfair? Oh yes indeed, which is why I’d like the clarification.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to write about two university-age naga boys holding hands and smiling shyly at one another… #possiblygayYA-fantasy #notTHATkindoffantasy

Dearest Publishers…

I know, I keep writing you the same letter, over and over again. I do it because I want to love you, and you're making it really hard for me to do that. 

See, your submission guidelines? They are your cover letter to me, the author. When you put up guidelines that are poorly written, contain misspellings or grammatical errors, or make certain statements (which I will cover in the next section), I do not feel that you would take my writing seriously. 

When your guidelines contain statements like, oh, this:

We do not send rejections. If you don't hear from us, then we didn't accept your story.

or

Due to the volume of submissions … it is difficult for us to reply to everyone. … We can only do as much as time allows.

I decide that you are probably rude and inconsiderate, and I count myself lucky that I discovered this before I sent you anything. 

Unfair? Oh, yes, quite. Inaccurate? Possibly. And that is precisely my point, dearest publishers. I form my opinions and decide to send you my work, based solely on your cover letter–your guidelines–just as you would judge me. 

There is absolutely no reason in the world that you cannot respond to each submission. There is no law stating that you must give a thoughtful, thorough, reasoned critique of each piece that comes into your possession — it's a nice thing to do, should you take that time and effort, but any writer worth their salt doesn't expect one. (I certainly don't, and when I get one, I'm always surprised and grateful.)

Please, take a good hard look at your guidelines and your response policies. Get someone else to look at them, too. Clarify them. Create templates and spreadsheets. Your potential authors do; you can, too.

Sincerely,

I remain,

wanting desperately to love you.