I’ve been following this thing since late February, when someone I know on Twitter made ominous subtweets about a catfishing scandal (yet again) in the world of male/male romance publishing.
This link from The Salt Miners gives a better overview and details.
Riptide, one of the most outwardly prestigious publishers in the genre, got caught with its racism showing (openly saying they won’t put POC on cover art, because that doesn’t sell). *
A major star in Riptide’s ranks was revealed to be substantially different than what ‘he’ claimed, and (worse) accused of gaslighting and harassing other authors. A senior editor was revealed to have deeply unprofessional interactions with some authors. Other authors have been accused of being ‘in the know’ and covering for or joining in the abuse.
I don’t know any of the people directly involved. I have had personal doubts about Riptide for some time, mainly based on what I considered to be bi-erasure in their writing guidelines.** But since I don’t write for Riptide’s largely contemporary market, it was unlikely I’d ever query them. I’m a fantasy and space opera gal.
For years I’ve suspected that many literary agents and publishers (in both romance and SFF) only jumped on the ‘diversity’ bandwagon to capitalize from it, after they could no longer completely ignore it.
I beg my fellow readers and authors *not* to boycott Riptide. That would only hurt some damn fine and innocent writers. Give the publisher a chance to clean its house.
Be selective as a reader. Buy good books, especially good books written by and about people of color. Stop giving bad books a pass because they’re in your current obsession/trope/fandom. When you read great books by POC authors, review them! Reviews sell books. We all want that, right?
The male/male portion of Romancelandia is already an uneasy alliance between gay & lesbian literary-fic writers, and authors (often women) writing in the erotica genres derived from fanfiction. Each group has its own clubs and causes. There’s scrabbling for territory, fierce infighting, virtue signalling galore, fraud, theft, and a terror of the alt-right and conservative world intruding into ‘our playground’. On its best days, m/m romance is a heady combo of the Wild West and the stock market on a roll. On its worst…well, we get scandals like Santino Hassell.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s do better by each other, as writers and readers.
* I’ve seen this firsthand with other publishers. I had to fight Loose Id a bit in 2012 to get a POC character on the cover of my debut novel. Did it soften sales? I have no idea. I know that for its new release last year with NineStar Press, we focused on only one character (not the POC guy). I can also say I have every confidence NineStar can effectively showcase the POC in my next novels, because the publisher’s lineup already features great POC covers.
** Added 3/17/2018: Back in 2012, I ran into accusations from other writers that Riptide was bi-unfriendly in a specific way. Male/male romances were allegedly not allowed to have either of the main characters be involved in a het relationship, as well. This tended to shut out bisexual and pansexual characters.
At the time I was shopping a very large fantasy/space opera saga with several bisexual characters and some het characters in equally important relationships. I knew a conventional romance publisher at that time would not be interested in the gay and lesbian relationships. I also knew many male/male readers would be equally turned off by my bi and pansexual characters. I trimmed my focus to one space opera novel with two bisexual male characters, and eventually sold that to an erotic romance publisher.
As of a couple of years ago, while beginning to query another mms, I was assured by Sarah Lyons, then-senior editor at Riptide, that the publisher *was indeed bi-friendly*. While she’s no longer at Riptide, I feel her words might offer some clarification of Riptide’s policies (at least from around 2016):
“We absolutely do NOT have a policy of no active het relationships, period, the end, no matter the orientation of the characters.
We have literally just published a het book (http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/…d-the-restless) and have at least another TWO coming next year (only one has been posted so far: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/finding-your-feet; the other is male/trans female).
We also have bi menage books: m/f/f and m/m/f. I am, of course, very aware that poly/triad relationships are not the same as monogamous bi relationships, but I kind of want to show that we have it available.
As for monogamous bi characters in relationships with characters of the opposite gender…no, we absolutely do not have a policy against that. “
[Here is the part that gave me pause:]
“What *might* have happened is generalized content guidance of either “m/m readers generally don’t like seeing a main character in an active relationship with a character (whether male or female) who is not the primary love interest,” or “m/m readers generally don’t like seeing a main character have sex with a woman.” But that is guidance based on sales and reviews of past books and is by no means a requirement or incontrovertible Riptide policy. If the author is given that guidance and chooses to keep the hetero sex in the book, then…the hetero sex stays in the book. We absolutely do NOT have a policy against it. Our only “policy,” when it comes right down to it, is that at least one of the main characters be queer in some way.
And if an author has a different experience — that is, has had a Riptide editor tell them to take out hetero sex, or has had a Riptide editor tell them they can’t have hetero sex in a book — I’d *REALLY* like to know who that editor is, please. So I can correct them. Because that is NOT Riptide’s policy at all. Period.
If an author has a different scenario in mind than those I’ve covered here, please feel free to forward any/all specific questions of “Well, what about this?” and I’ll happily answer them. But, as a queer person who’s been in relationships with both men and women, I’m very aware of what it means to be bisexual, and Riptide would absolutely not require an author to hide or ignore those realities.”
So from this, I took that Riptide’s policies had softened toward bisexuality, but that they were not sure their main readerships’ had. That meant (to me) that books with bi characters might not get the marketing push that some of the male/male star books were getting.
In doing more research around that time (2015-2016) I noticed that most of Riptide’s ‘fantasy’ offerings seemed to fall in urban fantasy & paranormal romance categories. My mms didn’t fit that model. Nor did fantasy and science fiction seem to be a large part of Riptide’s catalog. So I never followed up with a query to Riptide.
I earnestly hope Riptide survives. I hope it grows stronger and even more diverse. The MOGAI (marginalized orientations, gender alignments, and intersex) erotic romance genre has a tendency to go boom and bust, and it seems like we are in a consolidation/attrition phase of the market. We need all the good markets we can get!