Publishing stories of sexual abuse survival

dandelion seeds

This month, I promised a writer I would gather a list of publications and publishing houses that specialize in stories of sexual abuse survival.

Offhand, I feel readers have been inundated with novels of suspense that feature sexual assault in order to justify gruesome revenge, permitting an unambiguous triumph of the victim over the assailant while satisfying readers’ preference for violent content. I’m not sure where this trend leaves quieter books about the long-term effects of incidents of sexual abuse, which often are unresolved. The mainstream of U.S. readers seems to bypass stories if they’re unsettling or don’t have reassuring, fairytale/superhero conclusions. As a consequence, small, independent presses must accept the challenge of bringing the more nuanced works to the public.

Following is a list of website, book, and journal publishers specializing in stories, education, and research about sexual abuse. Many more publishers that are not on this list offer individual books and stories of survival among the wide variety of works they publish.

American Psychological Association

Brave Miss World

HealthyPlace.com

Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Journal of Child Sexual Abuse (Taylor & Francis)

Karnac Publishing

Loving Healing Press, Inc.

My Duty to Speak (Military Rape Crisis Center)

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition

Robert D. Reed Publishers

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Seal Press (Hachette)

S.E.S.A.M.E., Inc.

Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment (SAGE)

Surviving Therapist Abuse

TeenBreaks (Rosetta Foundation)

When You’re Ready

Also of interest

Where to Send Your Writing about Sexual Assault
a list compiled in 2015 by poet and essayist Sonya Vatomsky

Critical Representations of Sexual Assault in Young Adult Literature
The Looking Glass: New Perspectives on Children’s Literature

Sexism and Sexual Assault in Literary Communities
Chicago Review

Survey of Current and Recent College Students on Sexual Assault
The Washington Post & the Kaiser Family Foundation

Please leave a comment if you’d like to recommend a small-press title on the topic of sexual abuse that, in your opinion, deserves more readers. If you don’t know the name of the publisher, I’ll be happy to look it up.

Self-publishing has its risks

I began representing authors late in 2008, shortly after self-publishing suddenly had become incredibly easy and no longer required an up-front contribution of cash. Optional, carefully considered investments in the editing, design, and marketing of a self-published book were likely to improve its popularity with readers and increase sales, but at the time, few eager self-publishers were thinking that far ahead. There were no barriers to entry and no obligations to understand the market’s demands. Making a book available to readers was thought to be, by definition, the only truly necessary element of publishing. The outcome was up to consumers, who would decide what they liked best. And they did.

For about a decade, self-publishing expanded exponentially and matured. Successful, entrepreneurial indie authors generously began to share their expertise online. Self-published and reissued out-of-print titles flooded the market, which, as expected, had unfortunate economic consequences for individual authors attempting to profit from their written works.

In 2008, plenty of aspiring authors believed that digital self-publishing, which sometimes incorporated a crowdsourcing component, would destroy the traditional, established trade book publishing industry. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the acquiring editors with whom I discussed technological innovation back then weren’t feeling threatened or concerned. Today, the predominantly East Coast trade book publishing industry has adapted to the extent it was forced to, mass market paperback editions face extinction, and crowdsourcing has been usurped by crowdfunding—or, put your money where your mouth is.

The past decade began with writers asserting they no longer needed literary agents or traditional publishers and is ending with some of the same writers searching for literary agents or publishers who they hope might be persuaded to help reissue their self-published titles so the books can find a much larger readership. Of course, I don’t hear from the self-published authors who apprehend the demands of the market or the ones who are satisfied with the results of their efforts. A self-published author who had mastered entrepreneurship would realize she’d be asking me and a potential publisher to invest thousands of dollars worth of labor and capital in a market-tested book that had already publicly proven its value as an investment, and she wouldn’t waste her time trying to interest me in a book if it hadn’t sold phenomenally well. I can’t champion an author whose past performance doesn’t meet the expectations of the publishers with whom we’d be trying to collaborate. Doing so would benefit no one.

Queries from self-published authors are trending now in a sudden, stark shift. As a literary agent, I’m invisible and, nevertheless, a convenient bullseye. I understand how unfulfilled dreams can turn certain writers bitterly indignant. No one enjoys being judged when the standards are severely high. Fortunately, the ill-mannered are serendipitously counterbalanced by unrewarded yet still gracious writers who I know will continue reading, researching, practicing, experimenting, and improving in order to progress as far their talents and skills can take them on their chosen paths.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. As ever, regardless of how much variety they are offered, consumers gravitate en masse to read, discuss, recommend, and eagerly anticipate the screen adaptations of books written by a tiny fraction of a percentage of authors—the ones all authors would like to be and all agents would like to represent.

Book and target concept

Litmags that publish novellas

When they’re hits, everyone loves novellas, those little books that can be read in one or two sittings. With word counts somewhere between a novel and a short story, novellas, with their reputation for poor return on investment, can be misfits for many publishers. It’s not easy to love losing money.

The following publications have identified novellas as their domain, which is quite a generous objective.

The Conium Review

failbetter.com

The Fantasist

Garden Gnome Publications (anthology series)

GigaNotoSaurus

The Long Story

Narrative

Ploughshares Solos

A Public Space

Pulp Literature

The Seattle Review

Straylight Online

Also of interest

Barrelhouse will accept submissions of nonfiction with a word count of 18,000–35,000 until March 1, 2017.

John Fox offers a nice list of chapbook and book publishers, including some literary magazines, that publish novellas.

The Tor.com Novella Program is only occasionally open to submissions.

burlesque

Routine maintenance: clean up your online profiles

cat's tongue

  Photo courtesy of Shubhankar Sharma

The following advice is not intended for superstars and bestselling authors.

If you’ve created an online profile that you don’t intend to use, then delete it this week. Don’t leave it out there with unanswered inquiries, especially when they’re publicly visible. Everyone who sees an earnest question that has been posted by someone and ignored by you will think you don’t care about your followers, readers, and fans. 



Many social media profiles will allow you to adjust your notification settings so you’ll receive them via the email application you use every day. An alert will pop into your regular email inbox. If a profile you’ve created doesn’t offer this function, then you’ll need to discipline yourself to check that profile at least every other day. Delete your profile from a site if it’s too much trouble to check regularly.

Unless they’re spam or harassment, treat questions sent to you as comments, email, or text messages as though they were being asked in person. The sender is getting an unfavorable impression if you haven’t responded. Take the time to create a generic but friendly reply that you can copy and paste, if necessary.

If you don’t already have one, make a list of your social media profiles and email inboxes for your daily checks. Your browser’s bookmarks or favorites feature can streamline the process. Most of your social media profiles should be linked to the website that serves as your hub.

Don’t forget to update your biographical information periodically. Nothing highlights your neglectfulness more than an above-the-fold “update” that speaks of a past event as if it were still in the future.

Imagine

Peace on Earth

Litmags of Columbus, Ohio

My Delicious list of publications that include creative writing currently is undergoing its quinquennial cleanup, which takes several months. The number of resilient little magazines surprises me. Looking through thousands of listings at once, I can see that the failed ones have tended to be sites with names that were impossible to remember or spell, journals that had no social media presence, zines founded to celebrate embitterment, and startups whose editors ran out of time. Those are only the obvious among many reasons for a literary journal to fold, but if you’re thinking of founding a magazine they’re reasons worth noting.

It shouldn’t matter where a literary journal originates. After more than a quarter-century of being connected online, we’re slowly relinquishing the idea of a city serving as a crucial element of branding. Now, personalities and backstories matter more. The shift feels like progress.

Nevertheless, I’ve put together a list of publications from my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, which isn’t known for its literary culture, James Thurber notwithstanding. These vigorously optimistic little magazines are endeavoring to grow where they’re planted. Let me know if I missed your favorite.

Litmags of Columbus

 

Anotherealm

Arsenika

Barking Sycamores gives preference to submissions from writers with neurodivergence, including autism, AD(H)D, bipolar, synesthesia, and other neurominority or related states of being

Betty Fedora

Botticelli

Common Threads

Flip the Page: Central Ohio’s Teen Literary Journal

Gesture

The Journal

Naked Sunfish

Pudding Magazine

ReCap

Silenced Press

Spoonful — A Happiness Companion

Spring Street & Shameless Pen

Still Crazy

The Sundial Humor Magazine accepts submissions from anyone enrolled at The Ohio State University

Turn to Ash

Also of interest to Columbusites

The Honey Jar: A Receptacle for Literary Preserves, Volume 1 (1899)

Ohioana Quarterly

Thurber House – 77 Jefferson Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43215

What living in the South has shown me

Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina

  Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina

I lived the first fifty years of my life north of the Mason-Dixon line in two blue Ohio counties surrounded by red ones. When I moved to South Carolina in 2012, I had to recalibrate my bullshit detector, which takes a lot of trial and error. I’m still disconcerted by the deceitfulness of people who have tried to befriend me and by the self-confident warmth of those who, in the North, automatically would have doubted me and frozen me out until I proved myself trustworthy. I had been expecting the opposite, which is to say, Northern stereotypes are useless in the South.

It so happened that I moved during 2015 to the coastal town of Beaufort, South Carolina, midway between Charleston and Savannah, a few weeks before a young, self-proclaimed white supremacist shot and killed nine African American congregation members in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. I hadn’t been oblivious to the existence of the alt-right in America. Neither had I assimilated into the Southern culture beyond accepting that it was compulsory to express a greeting when passing someone on the sidewalk. That summer after the church murders I wondered where, exactly, I had planted myself. Or more precisely, among whom?

In the days following the hateful attack on innocent churchgoers, part of the Southern African American culture that had mystified me was articulated straightforwardly: “Wrong Church! Wrong People!”

I remember fumbling to explain to anyone who cared or at least listened that the African American people I encountered in South Carolina were not hostile, militant, deferential, or even avoidant. Their interactions with me were remarkably different than what I’d been accustomed to in the North. Particularly here in Beaufort, where some of the African American citizens are connected to the Gullah Geechee culture, their relaxed self-assurance is beautiful. I admire it.

After the racially motivated killings in Charleston, the members of the Emanuel AME Church congregation automatically lived their creed of peace, nonviolence, and forgiveness—Christians behaving exactly as Christian doctrine had taught them to respond to hate. It was an inspiring moment in the wake of unspeakable evil. It also placed into context the manners of my black neighbors in the South, which until then had puzzled me. Without saying anything, all along they had been demonstrating, “You can’t drag us down into the gutter. We’re better than that. We’re better than you.” I am a proud, incorrigibly idealistic child of the ’60s, and it makes me deeply happy to have them as role models.

An open letter to Charlotte H. F______ of Detroit

Dear Ms. F_____:

Your voicemail message for me arrived in the midst of a hurricane evacuation and storm forecast that has escalated to a hurricane warning for my coastal city and county, which is why I’m unable to return your call or answer the phone when you call again to discuss what seems to be your self-published poetry workbook or textbook. You did not provide your email address, and you don’t seem to have a discoverable online presence that would allow me to contact you via email, so I’ve resorted to a blogpost. Maybe this information also will be helpful to other writers in your situation.

Please understand that for nonfiction books, an established author platform is a nonnegotiable prerequisite for becoming one of my clients.

Please note the query guidelines on my website, which specify not to phone my agency but, instead, to send email containing all of the listed information that I would need in order to determine whether I might be able to work with you.

As it turns out, the information you’ve requested most likely can be found in one of my earlier posts, which I’ll list for you below. A great deal more information that might be helpful to you can be found on this blog. Enter the relevant keywords in the blog’s search box.

Literary agents for textbook authors

The demands of commercial authorhood today

How will readers ever find your book?

To writers who ask if I can interest traditional publishers in their self-published books

The posts linked above as well as the other information on this blog should send you in the right direction. If you feel you need to discuss your writing with someone, may I suggest you attend a reputable writers’ conference or a workshop on getting published that is led by a writer or literary agent you admire?

One of the best sources for information about getting your book published is Jane Friedman’s amazing blog.

Thank you for thinking of me. I wish you the best of luck with your previously published book or new manuscript and your search for the perfect agent to represent you.

Sincerely yours,

Robin Mizell


To all others who happen to read this post and wish to express well wishes or ask questions, please don’t be offended by my inability to respond to your comments this weekend. If all goes swimmingly, I’ll check the blog on Monday, October 10, 2016. Peace out.