Closing of Multifarious Press

I’ve been dreading both coming to this decision and telling people about it.

One of the hardest things for me to do is admit I’ve been a fool. But boy have I ever been a fool in thinking that *I* had it in me to run a press.

I don’t. I really don’t. If it were something as simple as doing the work of editing, making the covers, publishing the books, (which, I foolishly thought was the bulk of running a press) I could totally do all that. I HAVE done all that for my own books.

But it has honestly come down to people. Creatures I don’t understand in the slightest.

A little over a two years ago I saw so many diverse voices going unpublished because there is a lot of lip service going on about wanting diversity, but not a lot of actual books being put out for a lot of kinds of diversity.

Neuroatypicality for one. I have a lot of the skills necessary to get books out there, but what I don’t have is a thick hide. I’m broken, mentally ill, and the VAST amount of censure and harassment I (and my staff) have come under for DARING to want to help diverse voices find publication is just…

It’s a lot. It’s a large part of what caused me to run my head into a mental health crisis. Just wanting to help diverse voices find publication was definitely not enough. Having the skills wasn’t enough.

I’ve spoken about this before, but other peoples’ expectations of who and what I am shouldn’t have changed the moment I opened a press. Their opinions of my staff shouldn’t have changed either, but there isn’t a single person on my staff except perhaps my website designer who hasn’t gotten hassled for being a *publishing professional* because they’re affiliated with my tiny little shoestring press. I’m appalled that it did? How can people be so… short sighted and cruel? But they were. They REALLY were. People will be people and I’ll continually not understand them.

I thought, maybe if I waited long enough on my mental health hiatus that I’d be able to come back to it and finally publish these beautiful stories. I have some that I wanted to publish so badly that are so damned beautiful, and they DESERVE publication. But I just can’t do it. I don’t think, and neither does my therapist, that me being healthy enough to work at the press is likely to happen any time soon, and I can’t in good conscious keep holding up these brilliant authors from looking elsewhere.

When I opened this tiny little boutique press, I had a bit more faith in humanity. Faith in humanity has always been a failing of mine. I’m an optimist, really, though with all I’ve lived through I really shouldn’t be. I thought that people would, well, help a bit more than they ended up doing. I thought maybe we’d get editors who wanted to pen their own lines of diverse titles, I thought we’d get people interested in helping with contracts and legal paperwork. I definitely thought we’d get more than one patron. There is SO MUCH lip service being put to getting diverse voices out there. There isn’t a lot of follow through from people in publishing on it. Sadly. I foolishly thought there would be.

My staff and I were almost immediately swamped with queries. Which was wonderful, but none of us were being paid for reading them and we have to eat, which means that our paid work and our own writing always had to come first. Our patreon for the press remained for the entire time it was open with ONE person as a patreon. (I’ll be returning that extremely generous patron’s funds.)

I’ve considered keeping the press/website open for as long as I have the business license (another year and a half) but it’s cruel to keep holding the hope that I’ll be well enough to work on these stories over the author heads.

I can’t do that and I won’t.

I’m sorry for not being strong enough to do what I said I wanted to do. I’m sorry I had enough faith in humanity that they’d actually do what they said they wanted to do. But maybe people aren’t yet ready for the diverse stories and voices that are crying out to be seen.

I’ve had many people tell me they’re happy to wait for me to be well enough to work at the press again because they believe in the ideal of the press.

I really and truly wish I could say the same. I believe, deeply, that we need diverse stories. I desperately need more diverse stories to read, but when it came down to it? It was me and my staff working hard at a pipe dream.

I believe I’ve contacted all of my authors personally, if I have missed you, I sincerely apologize. My health has not been good for months, and I can only admit the truth of how badly that affects me, it could easily have made me miss someone.

 

 

 

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Authorial Envy, Friendships and how to deal.

It’s a fact of life I think that anyone with a book out is going to (whether we want to or not) compare our books with the ones that big 5 publishing gives the marketing push to.

I sure do. It stinks. I hate it that I compare my books with the ones that have so much monetary backing behind the marketing that it’s so far out of my book’s league.

But how can I *not* feel envy during awards season?

Am I thrilled to see this year’s Hugo Awards going to the extremely deserving diverse authors that they went to? Absolutely! I read and loved (and voted for) a lot of those books.

But my books aren’t ever likely going to be there because people don’t even know who I am. Ninestar press, the house I’m with provides stories that are so well edited, with stunning cover art and wonderful, amazing stories that I need to read. Queer stories. But they’re a small press, and they just can’t compete financially with the corporate monsters that are Big 5 Publishing.

Even two similar authors within Big 5 publishing may have completely different experiences and suffer related issues with regards to feelings. A mid-list debut vs. a star debut for instance.

That’s bound to make any author experience envy, maybe bitterness or anger. So how do we deal with those kinds of emotions? How do we maintain friendships with authors who we’ve often known for years who may have gotten the marketing push?

1) We acknowledge them. Our feelings are valid. It does suck to know your book can’t compete. My name isn’t a household name, but other debut authors who’ve written books almost exactly the same as mine are. I’ve even worked on some of their books with them in the early stages before they got their contracts. My book isn’t well known and theirs is. Why? Their books got chosen to get the marketing push. It’s not even about quality. Corporate publishing is precisely that. Corporate I’ve read insider accounts of how books are selected for that marketing push, and it has nothing to do with quality, story, editing or anything that we reader/writer type peeps think matters in a story. I’ve worked enough in corporate to believe it too. So we need to take our pride out of the equation. It’s nothing that we did wrong, and they did right. It’s just the luck of the draw. Corporate, for whatever reason corporate had for that season, chose THAT book to push into the minds and awareness of readers through the holy power of the dollar. Both books are still good. Both authors are still (likely) great people who have worked damned hard at their craft.

2) We Accept our feelings. I’ve been in therapy off and on most of my life, and one thing my therapists have always told me to do is to accept that my feelings are real and that they’re valid. They may be yucky, messy, and uncontrollable, but they are our feelings, and the first step to dealing with these often unpleasant emotions in this business is to accept that they exist and are valid.

3) This part is important! We Do Not Act On Our Feelings! Publishing is small peeps. Lashing out at people who got the marketing push when you didn’t is shitty behavior. Don’t do it. It’s not the author’s fault their book got chosen any more than it’s your fault that yours didn’t. I’m friends with several debut authors whose books were chosen for the push. Think about what I might have done to my friends if I had lashed out about how much it hurts that my book has 17 reviews when theirs have 500 or more? It’s not their fault any more than it’s mine. It would’ve ruined the friendship, that’s for damned certain. The reason, again, that their books got that many reviews so quickly is because reviewers often get free print books from Big 5 publishers. Some reviewers REQUIRE print books before they’ll review, (which speaks to a bit of bias I’ll try to address in a future post) meaning that small press, again, can’t compete because it costs money to print the books to send to the reviewers. Big 5 presses have their own printers and storage places, most small press and self-pub use POD (print on demand). Mid-list authors with big 5 press might have a smaller allotment of ARCs that will be sent out to reviewers than are allotted to the star debut, again, it’s not the mid-listers fault any more than it’s the star debut author’s fault.

4) So. How do we maintain authorial relationships with these mixed and divided feelings? A couple of things that have worked for me that may work for you.

a. Remember that your friend might be overwhelmed at all the attention, they’re still your friend. Check up on them! Ask them if they’re okay and if they need anything!

b. If you have other friends who are in the same boat as you are, you can talk to them and share your feelings. It’s healthy to find out that many of us feel the same way, and often times, sharing the way we feel can help us not take it so hard.

c. Do NOT take your yucky emotions out on your friend. Try instead to be happy for their success. They did the same thing you did, you both wrote a book and managed to swim through the creative waters to the point of this: YOU BOTH PUBLISHED A BOOK!! Do you have any idea how many people say they want to write a book, but don’t? Who start but never finish? Try to separate the yucky emotions from the honest happiness that you DO feel for your friend. (It’s there. You might have to do some personal work to find it, but it IS there.) I know I’m utterly ecstatic for my writer friends and acquaintances when something goes right for them. My soul feels giddy for them.

d. Success in publishing can be a bright light that goes out very quickly. Sometimes a debut title that makes a big splash can be hard to live up to with the dreaded book two. Your friend might be worried about that so they might need you to be a good friend and not a jealous hell-beast from the bog of stench-envy. I have friendships with some big-name authors at this point, and every single one of them worries that their next book won’t be as well received as the last. That the previous book was their big bright splash on the map of publishing and nothing else will ever be as good. Trust me, they feel it. ALL of us feel it, no matter where in our journey and how successful or not we are. You might too if you ever get to that point. I am damned sure I’ll want my friends if I ever do get to a very high point in my career as an author.

e. I try to put myself in their shoes at every step on the road. What is my friend feeling? What would I be feeling in their place? How would I be dealing with X? What would I want from my friends if our places were reversed?

Empathy. In short. It’s about having empathy for yourself and for your friend.
Now go write your next book (and I’m going to follow my own advice and finish the sequel to my debut, Blood-Bound).


Kaelan is a non-binary author of mixed race from Upstate NY in the United States who currently lives with xyr partner of 20 years and their children in Southern Ontario, Canada. Xie is not represented by an agent.

Xyr family has three cats, a grumpy rescue chinchilla, and a betta fish. Other than writing, Xie freelances as an editor, makes jewelry and spins with a spinning wheel when xie isn’t writing or spending too much time on Twitter.

Xie is non-binary, autistic, mentally ill, and physically disabled. You can connect with Kae on the following social media platforms.

Twitter
Facebook
Website
Email Kae at Kaelan.rhywiol@gmail.com

Not A Romance

Anyone in romancelandia knows that RWA has a stinky track record when it comes to diverse romance of many different varieties. (Or if you don’t, you probably could do some reading to get yourself up to date.)

Racism, homosexual hate, bisexual hate, and so many other forms of dislike and hatred that it’s exhausting to think about much less try to list them all.

I almost canceled my RWA membership this year after hearing how some of my marginalized author siblings were treated last year at the conference.

I ended up renewing it after reading a release they made about a commitment to fixing the problems. I did it because I want to be able to enter my Bloodbound (my most recent release, also polyamorous, also with autistic leads, also kinky) in the RITA next year. I don’t expect to win that either, it’s for the experience. It might final, that one is excellent enough that The Ripped Bodice chose it for display, and it’s more mainstream.

I had entered my Hugo Nominated Ilavani in the RITA awards contest for 2017. I never expected to final, that’s not why I entered.

I entered my story because I believe in it, and I have a bit of a hesitancy about putting myself and my work forward. Entering my book in a blind-judge contest was a good test of that for me.

It actually surprised me that it got some high scores, it got more high than low (lowest and highest scores are thrown out). I’ll be the first to admit that the science-fantasy aspect of Ilavani is not going to be close to everyone’s taste, nor will be the kink or the genetic engineering, or the queer content.

Going forward there are spoilers for Ilavani.

It did absolutely surprise me that one of the judges marked it very low and said it wasn’t a romance.

Whut??

Everyone who enters the RITA has to judge the first round of books. (That was another reason I entered, for the experience of it.)

We have to answer these three questions and give a numerical score of something like 9.6 or 2.7.

Is the love story the main focus of the book?

Is the resolution of the romance emotionally satisfying and optimistic?

Does the entry fall within the category description?

Now for the spoilers.

Is the love story the main focus of the book?

Ilavani is a polyamorous romance with queer, mixed-race, autistic leads. Here’s the blurb (and the links to places you can learn more about it if you’re interested).

The first installment in a long-running, science fantasy series based in a queer, pagan, polyamorous, universe.

3800 years in the future.

Maëlcolm is a skilled BDSM trainer, a spy, and unfortunately, a prince.

Cameron is Maël’s older brother, titular heir to their father’s kingdom and in love with his enby bodyguard, Li.

Kat is a slave. A genetically modified being created for one purpose, and one alone. To please her masters in bed.

Los is a gifted Companion, the only thing that makes him happier than practicing his calling is loving Maël, the one man Los can’t have an official relationship with.

If Maël doesn’t give up his calling and do as the Ard Righ demands, his family loses everything.

If Cam doesn’t do what he needs to do to become worthy of the throne by the Ard Righ’s stringent standards, their family may be executed.

If Kat, autistic, touch-averse, and afraid, chooses to fight her fate, she’ll die.

When an artificial intelligence named ‘the high king’ is at the helm, the cost to human hearts may be impossible to bear.

You can buy it here, it’s serialized due to length, there are five volumes in all.

You can read the first chapter here if you’re so inclined.

Back to my point.

The two princes must save their father’s kingdom, that’s the underpinning plot of the book, which every book needs, something to drive the characters. The focus (what the story is really about) is the two polyamorous romances going on in the book, and more specifically, the formation of the younger brother’s polyamorous relationship.

Cam, the elder brother, is in love with his enby bodyguard Li. Xie can’t give him the only thing he needs, an heir. This is the tension between them, their thing to overcome. Cam falls in love with one of his breeding partners, this is another part of their journey, and a rather romantic one. I show some of the problems polyamorous relationships can have in their story.

The main character is obvious to whoever reads it. Mael is the younger brother, the one who was always indulged because he was the lucky number 13. In Ilavani he has to face the fact that due to political assassination, he’s now in direct line for the throne and it’s a race with his beloved brother Cam to see who can reproduce first. Whoever does, wears the crown, and Mael doesn’t want the crown. He’s autistic and fears he wouldn’t do well with it.

It’s a HORRIBLE time for the gray-aromantic Mael to fall in love. But that’s exactly what he does.

He falls in love with his last BDSM student, Kat, an indentured servant and a recent import to their planet. Falling in love with her makes Mael realize that he’s BEEN in love with his first student and lover Los for decades. (These peeps are pretty long-lived, they’re basically genetically created elves.)

The *entire* character journey for Mael, Kat and Los is about love. It’s about working through the problems and choices they’re confronted with by each of them being in love with the other. So please, someone explain to me exactly how this polyamorous M/M/F relationship isn’t the main focus of the book?

Did the judge even read it? My guess is that they didn’t, or they let a personal prejudice against polyamorous relationships or queer relationships get in the way of a fair score. If that’s the case then RWA *really* needs to investigate that judge and ask for explanations, which is part of the agreement we all signed when we entered our books.

I have massive issues with Christianity, and fade-to-black romances bore me to tears, (I got more than my share of both of those for my judging packet) but I still rated all the books I was sent fairly based on the laid out rules of the contest.

Given that I am not the only person whose book with a marginalized aspect or relationship structure scored low and got a *not a romance* tag, (see here, and here) I think RWA needs to take a close look.

Polyamory is the open, honest ability to love more than one person. This is my *life*. I *live* polyamory.

It’s something a lot of people live, it’s something we’re crying out for representation in our favorite genres of romance and erotic romance.

Someone who can’t accept that, who would call anything BUT a heteronormative, monogamous white man with white woman book NOT A ROMANCE… well, maybe they shouldn’t be judging a contest like the RITA?

If more than one of the five judges had said ‘not a romance’ maybe I’d question as to whether I did my job as an author well enough with that book. But the other four judges ranked it middle of the road or very high and all of them said yes to the questions.

Is the resolution of the romance emotionally satisfying and optimistic?

Ilavani is the first book of a trilogy. It’s still a romance. Each installment is going to (and in the case of Ilavani does) have an HEA (happily ever after) or an HEFN (happily enough for now). Those are the requirements of the genre. A book cannot be billed as a romance without having that. It’d be something like romantic suspense or fantasy with a strong romantic subplot, but it wouldn’t be a romance.

Romance *has* to have that HEA or HEFN. Ilavani does. At the end of Ilavani Mael begs Kat to accept him as he is, a prince, with this horrible burden he has around his neck (spoiler). He asks her to spend her life with him, he frees her. How is that *not* emotionally satisfying? How is it *not* optimistic? Kat is even plotting how to make sure the guys’ relationship stays strong. So it’s not even because the polyamorous aspect isn’t complete. It’s complete enough *for now*.

Does the entry fall within the category description?

The category class I entered for Ilavani was erotic romance. Ilavani is *the* most erotic piece I’ve ever written. It has so much character driven sex in it people have written to me to tell me it’s their favorite bedroom aide d’amour and it’s saved two marriages (that I know of).

Erotic. Check!

Romance… it’s all about the characters, Mael, Kat, Los, Cam, Li, and Mai. These are the two intertwined polyamorous relationships. This is a family of choice. This isn’t erotica (I have no problem with erotica, erotica is awesome, but it’s defined as *the sexual journey of the characters* NOT the *emotional journey of the characters*. Erotic romance is the latter. My book is about the emotional journey, of people falling in love when they shouldn’t while they are trying to save their kingdom as they know it. (While graphically boinking one another’s brains out in various kinky fashions.)

My book is definitely erotic romance.

I question the veracity of this judge’s answers. If it were just me, I wouldn’t make a stink, but with several other authors that I know of getting poor scores and/or the ‘not a romance’ tag for race or for polyamory, or for bisexuality… well. I think we can see the actual problem isn’t that our stories aren’t romances.

The actual problem is something far darker and much more disgusting.

It’s bigotry.