Sunday, June 1, 2014

Selling the Moon Buggy (On Rejections - Part III)

As a follow-up on our running topic of rejections, I wanted to weigh in with a few thoughts. Rejection is typically a depressing subject, but I hope my approach is taken a little more tongue-in-cheek.

These rejections (mine and other peer SFR writers) all seem to have a common theme--beyond the obvious "no thanks," I mean. There's something else there. An underlying between-the-lines sort of message. (Earth to Laurie...are you receiving my transmission?)

I, too, am in the (*sigh*) "I've just been rejected" boat. Now, truth is, I anticipated rejections for a number of reasons:

1) My novel is told entirely from the hero's POV. Although there's a very good reason I chose to tell the tale in this particular way (it wasn't just a whim, trust me!), it's outside the norm for any romance, and a potential deal-breaker for a debut novel. He, he said. So there's strike one. 

2) The story has a government with a culture and economy based on a rather dark side of human depravity that is not going to be some readers' cup of tea. (Bad Ithis! No donut!) These controversial elements may offend/turn off/repulse sensitive readers and amount to a loss of sales. So...striiiiiike two. 

3) The book is somewhat lengthy for a first novel--110,000 words--and though it's not gargantuan (I'm looking at you The Last Hour of Gann) it can be a big downside for a publisher looking to pick up a new author. First-time authors are expensive to kickstart due to not having a ready-made, plug-in audience. The higher the word count, the more the book costs to produce and that hurts profitability. Any debut story is a gamble for a publisher, but a speculative novel that's about 22% longer than the "accepted limit" of about 90,000 words is even more of a long shot when it comes to the bottom line. And there's strike three.

But...fooled ya! every rejection to date, not one has mentioned any of the above being a factor in the decision to accept or reject my work.

So why was it rejected?

Allow me to share one example, since the others said pretty much the same thing. Let's keep this anonymous. I'm not trying to demonize any editor or publishing house here. I know this isn't personal, it's just business. (*sob!*) So...

"And I can see why [another editor] was so interested. The author has a great voice and an energetic writing style—and the world she created was vivid and very well done. However, as I read, I couldn’t shake my concern that the story—while engaging and fun—would just be so difficult to break out in the romance market—at least for me. Because the story is so heavily sci-fi (and not sci-fi lite), I just felt it would be better off in the hands of a publishing house that excels in that market, and while there are romantic elements, the story overall read like a science-fiction genre novel and not a romance genre. So sadly, I am going to have to pass. Thanks so much for sharing with me, and please keep me in mind for any future submissions."

So the problem didn't seem to my writing style, the story, or the world-building. It's not because of the issues I feared with the hero's POV, the dark elements or the longer word count.

It's that the story is unapologetically Science Fiction Romance.

(This is, of course, from the Romance side of the fence. The rejections from the Science Fiction side of the equation said basically the same thing in reverse, either the romance didn't work for them or the science fiction wasn't "cutting edge" enough.)

So the problem, as I understand it, is that these publishers do not see science fiction and romance working together. They must have forgotten that classic commercial about mixing chocolate and peanut butter, huh? Or is it possible that they experimented with the merger and it didn't work out for them? Peanut allergies, mayhap?

Or I think maybe, it could be like this: How New York publishers may see Science Fiction Romance.

If it doesn't look like a duck, and it doesn't quack like a duck, it's soooo not a duck!

Though there are occasional rare exceptions, this "rule" leaves most of the legion of Science Fiction Romance writers in a quandary. Because if Science Fiction Romance isn't Romance, and it isn't Science Fiction, what does that leave?

Only one thing. Something we've said before.

Science Fiction Romance is, indeed, it's own genre. It's not a subgenre of anything, it's clearly in a league of its own.

And maybe we need to start thinking of our Abby Normal genre in those terms. It's different! And "different" calls for reinventing not just the [selling--promoting--marketing] wheel, but the whole darn Moon Buggy. Now, where did we leave those blueprints? :D


  1. I used to get rejections like this for my romantic suspense in the last 90's. RS was considered DOA by NY and look at it now. The really big question, IMHO, is will an SFR book break out big enough for NY while NY publication is still relevant? Because it will probably break out in indie first. Since NY won't give SFR that much of a chance.

  2. Which is why my agent and I just got tired of trying to convince others of what we find so easy to believe--readers have no problem embracing science fiction and romance in the same work, if it's presented to them in the right way. You want it done the right way? Do it yourself.

  3. I agree with both the previous comments and I'm perfectly happy to self publish my SFR's, while doing my best to make the Readers aware we have "the right stuff" in SFR for anyone who enjoys science fiction and romance, in whatever blend they might prefer. Always enjoy your columns Laurie!

  4. Pauline, I really think that breakout novel is coming. It will be fascinating to see what side of the publishing industry it comes from, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see an indie work make it big.

    Donna, I think we're going to see more and more of this in the next few years. This "co-publishing" route has some huge advantages to certain authors. And I'm still happy dancing to know Unchained Memory now has a release date. Yahoo!!!

    Thanks so much for commenting, Veronica. "The right stuff" in SFR. Love that! :D

  5. Entirely from his POV? SIGN ME UP!!!!!!!!! It sounds like my idea of romance heaven.

    Readers like me are another segment the mainstream market can't seem to get a handle on. There's a reason m/m romance is exploding so fast in the book market. We want more of his POV!

  6. Thanks, Rachel! The only other SFR I've seen done entirely from the male POV is Diane Dooley's Blue Galaxy. I'm sure there are others, just haven't found them yet.

    (And good point on the M/M.)

  7. Mine is skewed heavily to him, but it's not 100% him. I'd love to do one that way, just haven't hit on the right story yet.

  8. With mine, there were revelations about the heroine that wouldn't have worked if any part of the story was told in her POV.

    All of my other works are ensemble cast POVs though the POV is most heavily the heroines. Only the first had a need to be written this way.

    It was actually an excellent exercise in writing POV because I had to figure out a way the hero could "see" certain scenes when he wasn't present. It was a real challenge and took a bit of creative thinking but I think it found viable solutions for those situations.

  9. This has got to be SOOO frustrating. YOU like this genre and obviously LOTS of other people do too or they wouldn't be writing it. Why does the publishing industry not see this?? Wishing you the best in your new venture, Laurie!!! Hugs.

  10. Heather, it seems NY doesn't think SF and Romance are compatible, in spite of the success in films and TV. Coupled with the fact that SFR doesn't have the following of genres like Paranormal or Historical Romance, they just aren't buying (except for some very rare cases like co-blogger Sharon Lynn Fisher.)

    Fortunately, there are now other options. :)


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