Dorchester (principally Romance publisher, mass market, medium sized) - who have I gather been having something of a torrid time (and not between the sheets - unless it's paper sheets - and then it's probably newspaper on a park bench) - have dropped their mass market print business and will now be only doing POD and e-books. Depending on whose point of veiw you trust, this either smart (their POV) or the the final countdown for publishing (Joe Konrath)or a bit of a kick in the unmentionables to their authors. The last is undoubtably correct - and Dorchester would probably have to offer me Earth, moon and stars and at least 65% of the Amazon retail price (ie five percent for them to do the cover, editorial, proofs and formatting with - call it not very likely) to persaude me that their new terms were anything but a shafting. Still interesting times. I do see how it would have been near impossible for them to have told authors, without being shredded by creditors, but the result is shredded credibility instead. I predict its demise or possibly incarnation as a vanity press. My deepest sympathy for the authors affected by this mess.
On another tack (and I owe Brendan some thanks for bringing this up last week) there's been something of a storm in the female-reader dominated YA mainstream B-cup (B stands for boys, really), with some young upstart daring to point out that boys don't read much of it, and maybe someone should do something about it. Predictably a frothy foment of furious outrage and suitable brat bashing followed from those at the top end of the status quo at the moment (I am sure they didn't intend it like that, but that -- to this neutral outsider -- was how it sounded.) It was singly funny because if you changed genders it read like the 1960 diatribes of a few crusty old... venerable members of the profession defending all-male TOC's in the SF short-story mags of 1960. When you eventually stripped out the outrage and the self-justification and the outright denial, it came down to well, yes there is a problem. But we're happy in the front of the bus, they don't really mind being in the back of the bus, and they've got lots of old busses where we used to have to travel at the back, and anyway we're still not secure and need to be reaffirmed and we're owed several thousand years in the front... yadda yadda yadda rationalisations for not doing anything and trying to stop anyone else doing it. I guess some folk are always happy with status quo, especially when they are it. Me, I'm really not concerned particularly, except thinking the young woman who brought up it is a poster child for actually being liberated (I don't agree with everything she said, but I admire her for saying it) in the broadest sense. Let's face it: a world where the detriment-to-the-enjoyment-of-reading that gets prescribed in schools is the last fiction 4/5 of all young men, and a lot young women, ever read makes for... a Brave New World. One I'm prepared to strive not to leave to my grandchildren. I'm a strong believer in merit and growing the pie rather than taking from some haves (so they become have-nots) to give to the have nots. But the reality of this is: if there is bigger audience, we should be trying to reach it -- preferably without losing our existing audience and not getting the imagined bigger one either. And let's be honest, women on the TOC's of sf mags made sf better and broader (at least for a while. Worrying representivity too much can start eating into merit, and losing an audience without gaining much. For example if Romance tried for 50% it might end up with 0% audience. On the other hand I don't think it would break Romance as a genre to occasionally publish male authors with male names on covers and male POV or even male characters that weren't stereotype female wet-dreams. There is an audience for a little something different. I'm sure there must be readers panting for a book with a hero with a chest like a tubercular pigeon, and flat feet - but a nice bloke anyway) Nothing which is truly exclusive is terribly healthy for society, long term, in my simian opinion. But that's just my five cents. No, I don't want to be a romance writer or YA-for-young-males writer. I wouldn't mind being able to get one of either into a publishing house (assuming Joe Konrath isn't right) without an automatic rejection, just as I'd like any editor to consider a story on merit, with regard to possible audience and effect on the existing audience when they get offered a sf short, and not to base that on gender or quota.
So how do you guys feel? Are there sometimes when a quota makes sense? Does it matter that say hard sf has more male writers than female? And does it matter that fiction is (because of the elephant in the room, Romance - and it seems YA) at least 70% female written and read? (my own take is I don't care who writes it, but I HATE losing an audience. I want all nice boys and girls to read. I want all not nice ones to read too. And I don't want your creed, politics, color, orientation or gender counting you out (one of the reasons I like the idea of e-books - broader spread). It's not good for our future, both as writers and as humans.)
On a third tack I read Janet Evanovich left her last publisher because they wouldn't give her 50 million advance for the next three books. Holy smoke. I've read a couple and they're not bad, rather formulaically predictable mysteries IMO. I've no gripe with her earning 50 million for that... if people want that, that's what they want, but I'd like know why our Sarah isn't earning 100 million dollars then? 'cause she's a lot better.