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SRL Publishing

writera

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Website: https://srlpublishing.co.uk/

UK publisher that has been around for a few years (since 2014 - when their Twitter was activated, or 2018 - which is how far their website archives go back) with an interesting range of books. Not sure quite what to make of them.

They describe themselves as "the world’s first climate positive publisher." (Bolding not mine. I don't know if this is accurate, but I've posted about a couple of other environmental publishers recently so this seems like a good fit for a thread too.) They also have this to say:

SRL Publishing are proud members of the Publisher’s Association Sustainability Taskforce, working to develop industry standard tools for the continuing evolution of our industry in accordance with the UN Sustainability goals and to further our contribution towards a low-carbon future. We are also members of the United Nations SDG Publisher Compact, a signatory of Publishing Declares, a member of a Diversity & Inclusion Working Group, and part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation community.

SRL Publishing are also members of the Indie Press Network, an open network seeking to connect independent publishers with each other, with booksellers, and with readers.

They also say they "deliberately waive our profit margins for the sake of the environment."

More detailed information on their environmental goals, including tree-planting and using FSC paper, and mission statement can be found here: https://srlpublishing.co.uk/responsibility/our-mission - and here: https://srlpublishing.co.uk/ourstory

Their site is decent and easy to navigate. Their book covers range in quality, though most are good or decent. They are inclusive and have some LGBT books. They seem to publish several genres. I'd be interested in learning more about them, particularly their distribution (within the UK especially).

Overall, I think most of their books look decent. The Amazon sales ranks (of the ones I checked) are low, though, and some covers are not what they should be, their site could use a polish/proofread, and I'd like to know more about their team, their distribution, sales, and contract. But overall, I do like their vibe, even if there are some issues.

I've also found some info on their founder (but I'd still like to know more about the rest of their team; there is a mention of freelancers on their site), and there's quite a few articles on The Bookseller about them (mostly announcements of them acquiring titles like PW does in the US). Here's one that may be behind a paywall (but might be viewable if you haven't viewed any articles on there yet this month) that mentions them and is written by their founder: https://www.thebookseller.com/comment/planet-over-profit
 
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FirePrince

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I don't think there's anything wrong with them. While I was searching for publishers to sub to, they were on my list. I think what attracted me was that your MS did not need to be finished before you could submit to them for consideration which means they are actually ready to take risks.
 
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writera

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I think what attracted me was that your MS did not need to be finished before you could submit to them for consideration which means they are actually ready to take risks.
I saw that on their Submissions page and forgot to mention it. Thanks for reminding me. While I can see the appeal (trust me, I can), that could also potentially be a flag, not necessarily a red one, but maybe a pink or yellow one? Most publishers won't consider unfinished manuscripts unless by an established, published author (who has proven they can finish a MS on a deadline).
 
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While I can see the appeal (trust me, I can), that could also potentially be a flag, not necessarily a red one, but maybe a pink or yellow one?
True, true. Especially with debut authors.

I agree, red flag there. While that actually did attract me, their covers and total of 16 weeks for responding to queries, made me withdraw a bit. I was searching for publishers that responded within 2-4 weeks, so I didn't submit.
 

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True, true. Especially with debut authors.

I agree, red flag there. While that actually did attract me, their covers and total of 16 weeks for responding to queries, made me withdraw a bit. I was searching for publishers that responded within 2-4 weeks, so I didn't submit.
Then again, I suppose it is their choice. The only one who gets burned if the book doesn't get finished in that case is likely the publisher. Maybe they like to nurture/develop unfinished projects with authors. It's still potentially a flag, but I guess it just depends on their own model/outlook too?

I'm still trying to find out more about them. Out of curiosity, have you ever seen their books in physical bookstores in the UK?
 
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Brigid Barry

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A wise person once said that anyone can write a chapter, or two chapters. It's a different matter entirely to complete a novel with plot and character arcs that reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Lots of publishers and agents say that they want to nurture author careers, but how can they hold everyone's hand to put out a quality product and still have time for marketing and everything else? The answer is a. they can't, or b. they have an enormous staff/nothing else to do, or 3. they do and it's the production end that suffers.

16 weeks is 122 days. Query Tracker's default "close after X days" is 120. It can take that long - or longer - for an agent to reply to a query. At least they give you a timeline. 1 to 2 weeks is definitely on the short side to get a reply. Other than Storm publishing, I don't know of anyone who commits to reply in that short of a time span.

Random book on Amazon doesn't have a great bestseller ranking, and the publisher name is not "SRL".

They have five books as "new arrivals" but my random pick was published in 2019 (this is the one under the different publisher). Three of them don't have covers. One of them is a #2 in the series so I looked up the author. #1 was released in November, has miserable rankings and a whopping 7 reviews. If a new release is doing that badly, I think it's a sign of poor marketing. The fifth book isn't on Amazon US at all but has listing in Australia and UK.

So I'm already in the rabbit hole and no time to go back to bed before my alarm. They only have two categories: New Adult and Thriller. Pick a random one from NA. Published in October 2023 and it has one (four-star) review and miserable rankings. Then I was curious and specifically looked at the UK Amazon site. 3 reviews and couldn't see rankings. Another book that I will go into momentarily was published in 2021 and has 19 reviews.

This publisher throws good money after bad - publishing sequels that the first book doesn't do well. That's not how you run a successful business.

This author has another book and I looked it up. SRL published erotica between an adult and a child ("schoolboy" in the blurb and it was in the reviews that the MC was identified as an adult-the blurb angle is that the younger person was the one pursuing the relationship). Hard stop. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, SRL is now and forever on my blacklist for romanticizing a sexual relationship between an adult and an underaged person. If this had been a relationship where the young person was a girl instead of a boy, it probably never would have gotten published.

Nope.
 
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writera

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I agree it's odd that they accept unfinished novels and might also be a sign of them being willing to accept anything that is submitted. I'd be curious to hear about rejections from authors (if any). I'm also not surprised they have low sales rankings. I'm going to look into them more, especially on Amazon UK, given they are a UK publisher. I'm still curious if they have bookstore distribution within the UK or if they're purely POD and digital.

I did spot two novels with two publishers on their website/Amazon. I'm not sure if it's the same one you saw? Maybe they republish reprints? The one I'm looking at was first published by Unbound, which I'm vaguely familiar with (I'll see if we have a thread on them here). They are a crowdfunding publisher and I remember reading about them before. They might not do long print runs so maybe SRL picked it up then if did well in its initial print run. (ETA - we didn't seem to have a thread on Unbound. There is a thread mentioning them and their model - from 2012 - here: https://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php?threads/different-publishing-model.243242/)

Regarding the controversial book, I think I know the novel you mean, having looked through their books. The title itself made me reluctant to type it into Google (or here)! What's even stranger is that it was written by a female author as a kind of ... what, gay Lolita? This bothers me a little more than if the author was a gay male (though of course the age factor would still bother me too to be clear), same as when I see women writing gay M&M. It always felt a bit to me like appropriation (but maybe erotica authors disagree with me). Anyway, the age of consent in the UK is 16 (which is another topic of conversation) and, according to the blurb on the back cover, the character of the schoolboy is 16 so maybe that made it legal or "acceptable" (not to me, hence the quotation marks) to publish? It also reminds me of a plotline on the 90's UK version of Queer as Folk, that was quite controversial at the time - but also somewhat "acceptable" in that it was a fairly mainstream show. This topic might be something you can see from time to time in UK books or European ones moreso than US ones. Controversial (and arguably quite distasteful) but legal. (Not saying I agree with this. I wouldn't purchase the book or read it, just wanted to look into why it was allowed to be published.) The amount of positive reviews on Amazon UK is a bit disconcerting, especially given the title alone. I would have thought it would attract more controversy (and I'm guessing the author and publisher might have been secretly hoping for that too?).

On the bright side, they do have a lot of books by black and gay authors and seem quite inclusive... I sound like I'm defending them here, which is not my intention, I'm just noting it. I haven't seen evidence (at least so far) of other titles like that. It might have been a misstep or just one of those weird icky things like I've mentioned above - the plotline on Queer as Folk, the novel Lolita, ETA - the move Call Me By Your Name (which was popular), etc. Again, it is legal (in the UK), even if it is distasteful, immoral, etc. It does sound like I'm defending SRL but I'm not, I'm still investigating them, but I was initially impressed by their books by black and gay authors, so it's disappointing to see that other title.
 
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julzperri

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Anyway, the age of consent in the UK is 16
Same in Australia, and I don't know about the UK, but over here there are exceptions to this rule where if the older is in a position of power (police, professor, teacher) then the age of consent is actually 18. Above and beyond that many many institutions have their own policies about relationships between people of different power dynamics.

The idea of it being *technically legal* makes zero difference in terms of how a publisher comes across. People that hide behind the *technically legal* side of things are concerning - you know all that's between them and the predatory behaviour is that barrier - if it didn't exist... what then?

Sorry to derail this a bit.
 

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I checked the novel's Goodreads page, expecting to see a lot of controversy and bad reviews, but there's just one 5-star review (ETA - just found another page that has two 4-star reviews and lower ratings, 2.7/5). For a controversial novel with a such a baiting title and cover image, it seems to have flown remarkably under the radar. The one poor review I saw on Amazon UK doesn't seem to mention the controversy (more the writing). So this also might be a sign that SRL is not marketing or marketing well when such a book that would be expected to stir up a frenzy online ... didn't. At all.

I checked the author on Goodreads too. They seem to have written a lot of gay fiction, mostly lesbian titles (romance/mystery novellas/short stories). The choice of the gay male underage book still seems odd to me. Maybe it's written as a condemnation, not a glorification? The title certainly sounds like a condemnation (unless it's just for controversial bait). (Compare it to the movie Call Me By Your Name - similar plotline, and wasn't that movie popular? I never saw it, but heard of it. Did it attract much controversy?) Did the author or publisher choose the title? Did the publisher market it wrong? I can't find many reviews for it, other than the Amazon ones, which as one review points out could have been written by friends of the author.
 
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Brigid Barry

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Reading the blurb, the adult factor is greatly minimized to the point that I got it from a review I think it was Goodreads (it's not even barely hinted at in the blurb) and it's the younger person pursuing the relationship according the blurb. Which doesn't make it okay. I didn't specifically mention the gay part because I was taking issue with the underage/still in school/schoolboy part.

As far as women writing m/m, apparently a good portion of the readership is women. I'm not among them so I can't speak to either.

Regardless of the details of it, SRL chose to publish it and hard no from me that they chose to promote it.
 
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writera

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Regardless of the details of it, SRL chose to publish it and hard no from me that they chose to promote it.
That's fair enough, and it has definitely disappointed me. But given all the books they have by black and gay authors - and their environmental initiative - I'm not sure if I want to dismiss them completely based on this one title.

For example, going back to the movie I mentioned: Call Me By Your Name. That has a similar plotline. And was promoted by Sony/Warner and other big movie studios, plus festivals like the Sundance Film Festival, yet we all presumably still watch movies by these studios? UK Queer as Folk was filmed and promoted by Channel 4. I disliked that one plotline but liked some of the other storylines in that show. Lolita is now published and promoted by Penguin and we still read books by Penguin.

Your decision is yours of course. I'm just trying to figure it out for myself - do I dismiss SRL and the rest of their books now because of this one book? If anything, aren't the bigger publishers and studios (who have more money and can arguably afford to be more choosey) more at fault than a small press that seems to be inclusive and environmentally friendly? Maybe the good here outweighs the bad, or maybe I'm just trying to find reasons to still consider them... I don't know. I won't watch Woody Allen films, I won't watch films by Roman Polanski, and there's several actors now I won't watch movies with them in it. So I do get where you're coming from. But I do still watch films by Sony, programs by and on Channel 4, and I do read books published by Penguin. So not sure where to draw the line.
 
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Brigid Barry

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Lolita was originally published in 1955, long before MeToo, when it was much closer to a societal norm (even though it did get backlash at the time and, to my knowledge, remains controversial). Like I said, something like Lolita probably wouldn't get published today. Call Me By Your Name is literary fiction, not romance/erotica. Queer as Folk was a TV series that ran from 2000 to 2005, and I never watched it but skimming Wikipedia it looks like a bunch of adults and not relevant to SRL choosing to publish a title called "Pederasty" about an adult person and an affair with a school-age (teenager at least, I assume) person. Pro tip, a lot of abusers turn it around and make it about the victim "wanted" it.

We all have our hills that we'll die on. We have different priorities when it comes to weighing planting trees vs romanticizing things that should not be romanticized.

My final two cents, even if I wasn't disgusted by their acquisition, I wouldn't go with them because they clearly don't have good marketing otherwise books published almost three years ago would have more than a handful of reviews.

You do you. I'm out.
 
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writera

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Lolita was originally published in 1955, long before MeToo, when it was much closer to a societal norm (even though it did get backlash at the time and, to my knowledge, remains controversial). Like I said, something like Lolita probably wouldn't get published today. Call Me By Your Name is literary fiction, not romance/erotica. Queer as Folk was a TV series that ran from 2000 to 2005, and I never watched it but skimming Wikipedia it looks like a bunch of adults and not relevant to SRL choosing to publish a title ... about an adult person and an affair with a school-age (teenager at least, I assume) person. Pro tip, a lot of abusers turn it around and make it about the victim "wanted" it.
Queer as Folk is relevant - the plotline I was speaking about concerned a 15-year-old schoolboy (I thought he was the same age, but checking now he was even younger than the novel) pursuing a man in his 30's and it was the boy who did the pursuing (initially). I wasn't speaking about the 2005 US version (though the plotline is also present in that; the character is aged up slightly to 17 - and both shows feature very graphic scenes between the older man and the schoolboy), but the original - a 1999/2000 UK show so I considered the similarity relevant as this is a UK novel - and they both probably discuss the age of consent which is 16 in the UK and has been brought up often in the UK media, especially in relation to gay relationships. It was admittedly over 20 years ago but the same things are often still being discussed in the UK. In the show, the 15-year-old (who still lives with his parents) is definitely characterized as "wanting" it, so much so that he keeps seeking out the 30-something man (who is presented as being horrible himself, but nevertheless). I think it would still be pretty well-known in the UK anyway as it was something of a phenomenon at the time and the actor who played the boy is now quite well known (and in some blockbuster movies or shows, I think). Also, Lolita probably wouldn't be published today, I agree - BUT Penguin still promotes it, markets and sells it with updated covers, etc., yet we don't boycott them. Though I do recognise the point you make about erotica being different.

Classifications are thin and subject to changing so I'm also not sure if something being literary fiction makes a similar plotline more acceptable, especially if it's written/presented in an erotic or "acceptable" or romanticized way (and I'd argue Call Me By Your Name was marketed in quite a romantic and erotic way). For all we know, this title condemns such relationships. We can't be sure unless we read it or read a very detailed plot breakdown. But maybe it is full-on erotica, I don't know. It seemingly is marketed as such. But the title is itself quite negative as that word now has more negative connotations than when it was first conceived.

Anyway, I'm not saying I support this press and certainly not the book itself. I was just pointing out some similar things. It's possible Penguin, Harpercollins, etc. have published similar books - and I can't see us all refusing to consider them if we found such titles being published by them. (This is not aimed at you directly as we're all entitled to refuse to support any publisher we like for any reason.) I just think it's easier in this case (again, not directing this at you, just speaking in general) as it's a small press and I want to be careful not to completely villainize them or throw them under the bus in this thread (or in my own mind) when they are promoting so much environmental awareness, gay fiction, and black fiction. Also, I feel I need to learn more about the book itself.

I was more interested in their other titles and their distribution (especially within the UK). This title does certainly give me pause and make me even warier than I was at first about them, though, I'll say that. And you make some great points about their marketing as well. I also think I saw some typos on their website which also makes me hesitant. And, despite it sounding like I am defending them (I'm not), I actually lean more towards your point-of-view on that book, especially if it is full-on erotica. I find it disturbing. I just want to be sure.

Overall, I'd still be curious to learn more from anyone who has had experience publishing with them and/or has seen their physical books in stores or bought/read them. Or knows more about this situation or the publisher in general. Otherwise, I'll probably stay out of this conversation about this particular book from now on unless I learn anything more.
 
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writera

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I said I'd stay out of the conversation unless I learned anything new - and I did.

Alas, the book being discussed also has a sequel. (I'm not mentioning its title or author as I don't want to promote it.) Suffice it to say, it features the schoolboy now as an adult and seems to mostly feature adults - so I was thinking, okay that sounds a bit better at least, but then a 14-year-old (two years younger than the UK age of consent) is mentioned ... so, ugh. The book also seems to be concerned with male sexual relationships and it is implied that the 14-year-old is either involved or a source of temptation. Which is quite obviously disgusting and depraved without even the thin veneer of legality this time.

I'm still not sure if it is erotica or literary fiction with an erotic element; a review mentions it being hard to read and delving into the darker parts of humanity, so it doesn't sound like it's titillating ... but I don't know. Was the author's intention to write something darker, exploring forbidden human relationships in a cautionary way? Or is she simply writing M&M erotica (possibly dressed up slightly as literary or crime fiction)? For what it's worth, SRL's website lists both books as Contemporary Fiction and Crime/Thriller.

Despite trying to focus on their environmental advocacy and inclusiveness for gay and black authors, I'm likely done with this publisher now too. Perhaps I'll reach out to them and link them to this thread and see if they want to attempt to describe/defend/explain these books. I'd also be curious what the female author has to say. I'd also, to a lesser extent at this stage, like to hear what the publisher has to say about other issues raised in this thread: sales figures/marketing, typos on website, distribution, etc.
 
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I'm still trying to find out more about them. Out of curiosity, have you ever seen their books in physical bookstores in the UK?
Nope. Not all. I live in a certain city in UK, so I mostly buy books from Waterstones, get them from a charity shop or borrow them from a library. Waterstones is a world of books on its own, so you mostly see newly released books by big 5 publishers there - well, and other famous imprints.

The ones I get from the charity shops are mostly from medium-sized publishers like Canelo, Hera, Bookoture etc. SRL publishing is a small press - presumably with low sales. They wouldn't be able to make it to even charity shops in the UK.
 
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writera

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*Another Update*

It was my understanding that SRL Publishing and/or the author would come here to the thread themselves. Instead, the publisher emailed me another response (which I assume they want me to paste here) and also attached a response from the author, which I'll also paste here. (This email was sent at the beginning of the week, so a few days ago - but I just saw it now.) Yes, I started this thread and, yes, I did email the publisher - but based on the previous email above, I thought they would come here. Perhaps they had trouble registering? Or just prefer to respond this way? Either way, I'll paste their responses one last time, though I wrote back to them to say I won't paste further messages so if there are additional replies they want to respond to, they'll have to come here directly themselves as I'm uncomfortable being the messenger/intermediary to this extent and don't want to continue with the back-and-forth.

Here are their responses - pasted here exactly as received with no editing or condensing (I've only skimmed these thus far, I'll read them properly here with the rest of you):


Email from SRL answering things addressed in this thread:

*Edited to preserve copyright*


Attached response (sent from SLR) from author JC Morgan, the author of the books under question in this thread:

*Edited to preserve copyright*
 
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writera

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There's more to digest there, but two things that jump out at me:

1. Regarding distribution, SRL mentions Gardners - is this just a typical UK distribution channel? Does this mean POD books or possibility of some bookstores in UK actually stocking their titles? Or does it just mean they can order them in if a customer requests them?

2. Regarding the author's response, I'm glad the books are thrillers and not erotica but I'm still a bit dubious and wary. If one of the characters is 16 in the first book and 14 in the second, it is still a concern IMO even if the books are thrillers, depending on how the characters are presented and their motives, etc. Yes, I mentioned Queer as Folk (the UK version) and Call Me By Your Name and Lolita in my earlier posts above, but not in defense of these books, just trying to wrap my head around them and point out some of these things sometimes come through into the mainstream and can get criticized but the publishers/production companies usually don't come under much fire for them.

It's still troubling, though. And I side-eye the part of the author's response that claims the characters could be any gender - then why (aside from the character teaching Ancient Greek History, which I don't buy as the full reason) choose a deliberately provocative title like "Pederasty" which is about sexual activity between a man and a boy or youth? Also, no mention of the troubling teacher-student power dynamic. And is it the 16 year old revealed to be a murderer (or someone else)? I got a bit confused by that part of their statement. Anyway, overall, I remain unconvinced that these books are not borderline erotica or at the very least meant to be provocative, but I have not - and will not -read them, so if they do present the relationships in a critical/condemnatory way, that's good, I guess - but I still think the subject matter and titles and ages are questionable, and I still get the whiff of female-author-writing-M&M-erotica from them (even if they're thrillers), given the provocative and controversial-courting way they're titled/marketed. But without reading the texts themselves, I can't really say much more about these books other than I remain wary and the author's statement didn't do much for me.

I'm glad SRL doesn't actually publish them as erotica but I do think the artwork/titles are borderline. I'd rethink the titles and marketing and maybe age the characters up. Would I still buy/read SRL's (other) books and/or consider working with them? Honestly, I don't know. As I've said before, I still like things about them - particularly their books by black and gay authors - and their environmental initiatives. These two books cast a bit of a shadow, though, which is a shame. There's not much else I can say about that.
 
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I am on phone, so I can't pick and pinpoint what I agree & disagree with effectively (I'll come back later).

I have to agree with them concerning reviews/NY times - they are a small publisher and so can't ensure that but maybe they should think about giving out ARCs?

Also, I disagree with 'being cautious with a publisher that responds within one or two weeks'. I don't think there's anything to be cautious about - every small publisher has their submission timeline stated based on their abilities and it is the writer's choice to decide whether to submit or not. Submission timelines should not be a thing of caution. Some examples are: Storm publishing responds within two weeks and they publish good books as far as I have seen. Bookoture and it's imprint Second Sky respond within 4 weeks and even 2 weeks if they think your work is not a good fit - and they published Freida McFadden's book which won the Goodreads choice awards last year.

I'll come back for more talk.
 
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writera

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I have to agree with them concerning reviews/NY times - they are a small publisher and so can't ensure that but maybe they should think about giving out ARCs?
Regarding the reviews, I think the initial posts about these were referring more to Amazon reviews - and primarily sales rankings - but the publisher took it to mean other type of reviews? I'm not sure. I think there was a slight confusion there or they were just expanding on that point.
 
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Locking to discuss among mods...
 

writera

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The emails SRL sent to me and the statement from the author JC Morgan have been removed so as not to cause a copyright violation. SRL sent me another email detailing some of their distribution channels (including the fact that they use Gardners), said that it was normal that they accepted unfinished manuscripts and nothing to worry about, gave some more information about their environmental achievements, clarified that they do not accept all submitted manuscripts, advised caution against publishers who respond too quickly to submissions, and a few other things. They also included a statement from the author of the two books discussed (some of which you'll be able to put together from my response above) basically saying they're not erotica.

As I cannot reproduce the full text of the emails or the author's statement here, I invite SRL Publishing and/or JC Morgan to come here themselves and address these concerns with their own posts - and I sent SRL another email to advise them of this.
 
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(Thanks for taking care of that.)
 
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