Monday, August 26, 2019

Shaping Submissions via Omissions

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I thought I'd expand a little on something Azalea Dunn has brought up: the issue of how publishers' guidelines and lists of requirements can shape which manuscripts are submitted to them (and, by extension, to some extent, which authors do the submitting of those manuscripts).

For example, here's Glenfinnan's page outlining "What we accept":

So, they're accepting
  • All types of Historical Romance: Highlander, Regency, Medieval, Victorian, Tudor, Ancient, Roman, etc.
  • Paranormal (historical, romance)
  • Fantasy (historical, romance)
  • Time Travel (historical, romance)
  • Historical Fiction (with romantic tones)
  • Contemporary Romance (ie: small town romance, inspirational, sweet, or a bit steamy)
"Highlander" is not a period of history, so this says something about the publisher's approach to Scotland and the Scots. As Azalea Dunn observes, there are other deductions which can be made about the kinds of historical romance the publisher is expecting to receive:

["I mean they say all types of hist rom, but look at what they include.  Eras that are pretty narrowly European.  I mean, they could mean other eras and places but if I was looking for a publisher I wouldn't feel welcome reading this. And they're not the first publisher to frame their historical romance requirements in this way.  Most of the time they use terms like Regency or they'll say Britain and its colonies.  Fine...but that leaves out a good part of world history. And it's subtle things like this that made historical romance such an unwelcoming space for aoc.  I'm not close to being the first person to point this out.  Harlequin got called out for something similar years back iirc. I don't expect any publisher to give me special treatment.  But, if the CEO of a publishing company is confused over why non-White hist rom authors aren't submitting?  This might be one of the reasons. Because if I have to read hist rom submission guidelines and wonder if they'll accept my setting, era, or non-White characters?  I'm not going to feel safe.  I'll feel like submitting will be a waste of my time and keep it moving."]

Which brings me to the final item on Glenfinnan's list: "Contemporary Romance (ie: small town romance, inspirational, sweet, or a bit steamy)". This suggests a distinct lack of interest in contemporary romances with urban settings. Obviously, "small town romances" vary (as Janet discussed here) but as Ridley states, in "your average STC [small town contemporary romance] [...] you have a fantasy world where everyone’s white, straight and Christian and problems are solved by applying Good Old Fashioned American Values." Which, yet again, is likely to pre-sort the kinds of authors who'll submit to this publisher.

[Tweet by romance reviewer Jen, February 2019: 'If publishers don't want their "small town" romances to read as idealized, white supremacist MAGA havens--- then they should stop making every [...] book they promote in that way be about white m/f couples in all white towns and authored by white cishet authors.]


  1. Great post(s).

    One thing: I’ve never seen anyone request historical romances about British colonies. I would have had a hell of a lot more places to send my Australian historical romance manuscript last year if they did.

    1. Thanks! I've been wondering if that was a reference to the Thirteen Colonies.