UPDATE: I wrote this post yesterday for posting today. Since that time, a significant change to Clean Reads submissions policy has come to light. As of this evening, April 20, there is no longer any prohibition against LGBTQ+ characters on Clean Reads submissions page. I'm very happy to hear this, but the letter to Stephanie Taylor below still applies. I want to stress that my urging her to remove the prohibition against LGBTQ+ characters was written before I knew she would remove it. I just wanted to make it clear that she came to the conclusion before I urged her to do so. And for that, I'm so, so grateful.
We don't know each other. Would it surprise you to hear that I would like to know you? That I would love nothing more than to sit down face-to-face and have a chat with you? I really would.
I want to apologize to you.
I wrote a blog post the other day about your company, Clean Reads. The post was far more widely read than I ever imagined it would be. And that hurt you. And it outraged some of your supporters, some of whom commented on the blog and some of whom wrote to me personally. Some were diplomatic and some were downright frightening, causing great worry for myself and my family.
So I'm sorry if I've caused you pain. I'm sorry if my words caused you any hardship personally or professionally. I believe we are part of the same fabric. All part of the same human race. I would never deliberately set out to hurt you, your business, or anyone.
My post was not an attack, but voicing my opinion on a policy you have that I feel--and still feel--is discriminatory. We can go around and around about this and I doubt we'll ever change each other's minds. Still, I hope that maybe something I say might cause you to think just a little bit about inclusiveness and love and how the stories of all people can be eye-opening and a joy for us all.
I'm not writing to preach at you though. Your feelings are yours as mine are mine and I don't seek to invalidate your feelings, which is why I offer you my sincere apology.
There was a comment left yesterday from an anonymous poster that may or may not have been you. I deleted the comment because that day was reserved for a blog post from a fellow author, touting her new book, along with a personal love story. I offer up my blog space at least once a week to my peers to promote their work because I think when we raise each other up, we raise ourselves up. I thought it was inappropriate to hijack my fellow author's day with this discussion. If the comment was from you, feel free to post it again below. I hope, though, what I say in this letter will put our minds at least in a little more accord.
The anonymous poster tried to get me to understand that Clean Reads means no harm, no homophobia by disallowing LGBT characters in their books. "Anonymous" said that the publisher simply doesn't have the contacts or expertise to properly promote a book with LGBT characters. And that seems noble, at first glance. "We don't hate you; we just can't do your stories justice," is what "Anonymous" seemed to be saying. And I believe that's the heartfelt belief (or at least I hope it is). What I don't think you realize is the message sent by excluding a single group of people from your submissions. The message could be taken to mean, quite reasonably, that gay people are not welcome. That our stories are somehow different so would require different promotional tactics. I urge you to consider that gay characters represent human characters. And their stories are not so very different from the stories of straight people. Gay people, like straight people, love, fight, experience disappointment, revel in joy and, in short, have the same wants and desires as everyone else.
Would it be so terrible to allow submissions that have LGBT main characters, provided they met your other criteria for "clean reads?" You may not even get any submissions of this sort. You may get submissions that aren't up to your editorial standards, which is fine. The bottom line is: you could allow submissions with LGBT characters and still choose not to publish them. But what do you lose by denying simple access to the submissions process? It seems to me you have something to gain and that you could send a message of inclusivity and openness, whether you ever publish a story with LGBT main characters.
Would you please consider maybe removing this prohibition from your submissions policy? Again, not having it there doesn't mean you are going to be flooded with LGBT submissions or that you even have to publish a book with LGBT characters. It just means your heart and mind are open to the possibility of there being a book that might be "clean" by your definition and that could contain people who love the same sex (a quite large and diverse part of the population). That way, you wouldn't send the message that I and other founds hurtful...and it doesn't seem as though it would cost you anything.
Yes, you have the right to publish whatever what you want. You have the right to limit what kind of material and even what kind of people appear in the books you put out. I accept that and accept our differences. I only ask that you respect my viewpoint in return and not try to invalidate my feelings. At the end of the day, it's your business, your choices, and we're all free to make those choices.
Stephanie, I wish you the best, I really do. This is the last I want to say on this matter. If we never see eye-to-eye, I sincerely hope for you joy and happiness.
Rick R. Reed
Thursday, April 21, 2016
An Open Letter to Clean Reads and Its CEO Stephanie Taylor
Real Men. True Love. Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.