Girl reading book

Why Children Need Horror Literature

Horror is often thought of as a genre written for adults who can process the often graphic events on the page, but horror has surprisingly become more popular in children’s literature. The uptick in the number of horror publications directed at children offers a new way of exploring the genre and relating it to the real world, a tactic that could help developing minds understand the world around them. Charmette Kendrick notes that horror stories have been “handed down from one generation to the next … ‘[f]or there is something in the human mind that loves to scare itself to death!'”

Fairy tales like those of the Brothers Grimm and their countless adaptations also often serve as a child’s introduction to the horror genre. While the original tales are much darker and more twisted than the more lighthearted versions we know today, they offer a mix of cautionary tales and horror elements that warn readers of potential danger.

Going back to the Victorian era when scary stories were told to children orally, any exposure children had to horror came as a way to teach morals of the times and expose superstitions as foolish beliefs. Scary stories of this time often concluded with a discovery that any spooky entities in question were not supernatural at all. Ghosts were revealed to be animals, inanimate objects, and people all along and encouraged children to separate fiction from reality.

Horror in children’s literature has been on the rise since the early nineties with the release of the original Goosebumps series, which has since spawned multiple spin-off series that are still being produced today. Neil Gaiman has also established himself as a whimsical horror writer with one of his most well-known works, Coraline, being marketed as a children’s book that has terrified readers since its publication in 2002. A quick Google search will bring up countless lists of children’s horror books. “50 Must-Read Scary Books for Kids of All Ages,” “Best Sellers in Children’s Spine-Chilling Horror,” and “25 Terrifying Horror Novels for Kids and Teens” are just a few of the results that come up, showcasing the proliferation of horror in children’s literature.

empty conference room with chairs

Choice May Favor Smaller Presses over the Power of the Big Five

In general, many people view publishing as a monolith, a pillar made up of the Big Five publishers that we all work with and rely on to produce the books that people are used to hearing about. This is true in some ways: the larger publishers tend to have larger marketing budgets, so we are bound to hear about some of the most funded upcoming titles, and celebrities with existing fanbases can receive higher advances from the larger publishers because they have the economic capacity to pay these high prices. However, as the Big Five (Penguin RandomHouse, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan in no particular order) continue to acquire and merge, smaller publishers can expand into the niches and the spaces that are left behind by the Big Five.

One of the side effects of being a part of a large company—at any level, imprint or otherwise—is working with people who make decisions that you might not agree with socially, ethically, or morally. In addition, there are so many people involved in the production of books that there is no way for readers to know who is behind them without a deep dive into the inner workings of a whole industry. This makes it even more noticeable when people take actions or stage protests against co-workers or clients of the same publisher, editor, or literary agency.

Some movements within the publishing industry as a whole address problems in traditional trade publishing such as #BlackoutBestsellersList and #PublishingPaidMe, which both address different problems with how Black authors are treated. Employees at Little, Brown and Company, an imprint of Hachette, staged a walkout to protest the publication of Woody Allen’s autobiography. In addition, a variety of memoirs and biographies have been have been canceled at some point during their production, including Blake Baily’s biography of Philip Roth, as well as his own memoir, due to claims of sexual misconduct.

In 2020, four authors represented by the Blair Partnership, a literary agency founded to work with J. K. Rowling, resigned after the agency refused to issue a statement in support of the transgender rights following a series of transphobic tweets by Rowling. In addition, Hachette UK employees attempted to convey that they didn’t feel comfortable working on Rowling’s 2020 kids book because of her transphobic views and were met with a statement from Hachette which said, “We will never make our employees work on a book whose content they find upsetting for personal reasons, but we draw a distinction between that and refusing to work on a book because they disagree with an author’s views outside their writing, which runs contrary to our belief in free speech.”

It’s not exactly the support one would hope for in an employer, but it is the response most would expect to come from a larger company that prioritizes the economic payoffs over a social issue that doesn’t affect most, if not all, of those in power. This is where small publishers may have the advantage. If consumers want to support people and businesses that they believe in, it is not feasible to fully support larger scale businesses. However, even though small publishers are also bound by some financial considerations as their larger counterparts, they have the unique ability to dedicate themselves to specific issues or people that traditional large publishers often leave behind and they can do so in a more mission-oriented way.

Although efforts have been made to create a publishing culture in which everyone can be represented, sometimes that leads to voices that cause damage to others being headlined. If you are someone who attempts to know exactly where everything you consume comes from, smaller publishers may provide an opportunity for this knowledge. Smaller publishers provide authors and publishing professionals with spaces in which they can truly believe in their message and the people they work with, which may be the future of book buying.

Woman in armor with sword and a growling white wolf

The Downside of the Strong Female Character Trope

Within the book world, authors have been using the strong female character trope to create female-led stories with strong female protagonists. On its surface, the strong female character trope seems like a step forward for womenkind. The words strong and female used together? Finally! If you’re doing a little dance in your head, stop right there. It’s a trap. What the strong female character trope is actually doing is letting in room for even more internalized misogyny. In this post I will explain just why the strong female character trope is detrimental to the female image and perpetuating the gender binary and its stereotypes.

At first read, the strong female character comes off as, well, strong. She is fierce, she (usually) defies the rules set by the world’s society, she isn’t afraid to do what she has to, etc., but here’s the catch: she is written without feminine-identifying characteristics and rejects femininity. Instead, she is written to have male gender-identifying traits. She is usually described as plain and doesn’t wear makeup, but is still beautiful of course (because all women must be beautiful to be important). She doesn’t usually like dresses and frilly clothing, or traditionally feminine-leaning clothes. She also doesn’t necessarily subscribe to traditionally feminine-aligned hobbies. She is also seen as very competitive, athletic, and rather good at the more male-dominated actions—effortlessly, might I add. What this all culminates as is that the strong female protagonist is “not like other girls.” The question to be begged, then, is what’s wrong with being a girl?

Why does a woman need to exhibit male gendered traits in order to be perceived as strong? Not only that, if not just exhibiting more male gendered traits wasn’t enough, why must she also reject the more feminine gendered traits? Is it so that they subsequently reject the weakness that has been historically applied to female genders. The problem herein doesn’t lie in the strong female character stereotype of not being feminine, rather that it is the rejection of femininity that makes them strong. If we are to progress with gender equity, fluidity, and inclusivity, we have to start with the stereotypes and the tropes. The male gender stereotype comes with the idea that men are stronger, thus the ideals and tenets of that gender (physical traits, fashion, hobbies, etc.) must portray that idea as well. So by exhibiting those characteristics and absorbing male-gendered tropes, the female character is imbued with that strength. This just reinforces gender stereotypes and internal biases toward those who align with feminine genders, rather than allowing the characteristics to mix and the character to still have her own strength. We don’t want a girl or woman to be strong because she is manly, we want her to be strong because of personality traits that don’t have only to do with her gender and everything to do with her mind and her actions. We want her to be able to be feminine if she wants to and still be perceived as strong, not just strong because she doesn’t wear makeup or dresses.

All in all, while the strong female character trope seems like a positive move in the direction of progress, it’s actually a step backwards. When writing strong female characters, they should be strong, not despite their femininity, but because of what makes up their personality around and outside of their gender, no matter what parts of the gender spectrum they align and identify with. Using a woman’s feminine identification against them only seeks to instill internal biases around those gendered aspects of themselves, around ideals that they want to have, that they like. This creates a subliminal negativity around their gender, instilling an internal misogyny that is detrimental to the image of themselves. We, as writers, publishers, readers, humans, goblins, frogs, etc., should champion the freedom of gender expression on the entire spectrum and not apply historic, toxic ideals that aren’t relevant or, in any realm of truth, inclusive.

A blind man using a braille typewriter.

Don’t Forget About Disabled Writers

As some of us have learned and seen in Lee & Low Books’s Diversity Baseline Survey 2.0, the publishing industry has lacked a great deal of diversity. Attention has been brought to this issue, and a call to focus on gaining and paying attention to more BIPOC and LGBTQ+ editors, publishers, and writers has increased because of it. But within this call for diversity, we haven’t given the disability community as much attention. The emphasis for being heard and seen seems to have side-stepped the community, and so even in the efforts to recognize and reflect our society, they’ve been underrepresented again.

In comparing the two surveys Lee & Low have put forth, one from 2015 and the other from 2019, the numbers for each group—race, gender, orientation, and disability—have shown an increase in diversity, though minimally. It is evident that straight, cis, non-disabled, white women still hold the largest space in publishing. Of the graphs, the largest change took place in orientation with a 7 percent increase of more LGBTQ+ folks. Next is gender with a 4 percent increase of trans, intersex, and nonbinary folks. And lastly, both with only a 3 percent change, are the race and disability categories. While they share the same statistics in change, there is a 13 percent difference between them with non-white people making up 24 percent of the publishing industry and the disability community making up only 11 percent. All these numbers are staggeringly low especially in a field in which representation is the face of the industry. Stories help us shape how we see and understand the world, and so to underrepresent so many identities within one of the major ways we show humanity is tragic and deeply skews the image of our world. Work needs to be done to change this in every category, and I want to focus on this change for the disability community in particular.

Within the last few years, we have taken strides as a community to come together for the Black Lives Matter movement, the #MeToo movement, and the Women’s March, and I believe this has bled into the demand for more diversity in writing and publishing. Because of these movements, we have begun to empower more BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors by dedicating spaces just for their books in bookstores and reading more of their work. Inclusivity has become a prominent value to us, but in between all of this, the disability community has yet to be given the same attention. Where are the dedicated spaces for disabled authors? Where is the push for accessibility? Why aren’t there more intersectional characters that include a disability/disabilities? Their voices should be heard and publicized too. Their stories should be shared too. They need to be acknowledged especially considering the ways in which so many identities overlap. We aren’t just our race or our gender or our disability or our sexuality. We are all those things as they come in all the many forms, and so each side of ourselves deserves to be acknowledged in our literary world.

In order to begin acknowledging, we must begin by sharing. There are disabled authors out there sharing their stories, sharing their opinions, fighting for their needs, and writing fiction or poetry or anything else. Their disability may not be visible. They may have more than one. Regardless, let’s begin by finding them and raising up their voices. Here is a brief list of Pacific Northwest and Oregon-based disabled authors. All either from or currently residing in the area:

I hope in the future this list will grow with the attention and care that has grown for the disability community and that they will be more represented in our publishing and literary worlds. I look forward to seeing how the numbers in Lee & Low’s Diversity in Publishing charts will change.

A woman surrounded by data figures and lights

Publishing Statistics for 2022

The publishing industry has seen some significant ups and downs in recent years. Supply chain problems have inhibited publishers while an increase in print sales has left some with a sense of optimism.

For those of us with a vested interest in the state of the publishing industry—sales, jobs, and literary culture as a whole—here are a few interesting numbers to consider for the years ahead.

Industry Size and Market

In 2020, the global book market was valued at $132.1 billion and is expected to grow at a modest compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.8 through 2028. The industry is heavily influenced by the availability of per capita disposable income, which has been on the rise in recent years despite the challenges of the pandemic and other economic conditions. In fact, because of lockdowns and isolation measures that were put in place, heightened demand for books in 2020 has been attributed to the pandemic. Overall, publishing is a relatively mature market that has tended not to see massive growth or decline spikes in recent years, but that does not mean that it is stagnant. Technological innovations like ebooks, audiobooks, and the shifting landscape of e-commerce have heavily impacted publishers and how they reach readers. In the United States specifically, 2021 book sales amounted to approximately $9.5 billion. Here are some additional statistics for more specific categories of book publishing:

Reading Habits: In 2018, the mean annual expenditure on books by Americans was $107.98, then down to $92.08 in 2019, and then back up to $113.87 in 2020. The daily average amount of time spent reading by Americans was thirty-four to thirty-five minutes in 2020, up from twenty-eight minutes in 2019.

Trade paperback and hardcover books: Paperbacks made up $3.34 billion in book sales revenue in 2021, while hardcover books made up $3.7 billion. Adult fiction books are the largest revenue-generating segment, followed by higher education materials and textbooks, K–12 educational books, Children’s and Young Adult books, professional books, and so on. The distribution of paperback compared to hardcovers remains relatively stable year over year, with paperbacks accounting for roughly 35 percent of total trade books sales and hardcovers making up another 31 to 32 percent.

Ebooks: Statistics and data on ebooks are somewhat challenging to get a firm grasp on, with data from Amazon and independent or self-published authors being difficult to pin down. The data available from market research firms like Statista show that ebooks have increased in sales fairly consistently since 2018. In 2021, ebooks reached $1.1 billion in sales. This is about the same revenue that they earned in 2020, which was up from the $9.83 million they made in 2019. As has been noted before, despite anticipation early in their development, ebooks have not been widely adopted as a total replacement for physical books and are highly unlikely to do so in the future.

Audiobooks: This format of reading is rapidly gaining popularity and has established itself as the fastest-growing segment of publishing. In the decade between 2010 and 2020, the number of audiobook titles increased by over sixty-four thousand. In 2021, digital and physical audiobooks accounted for $787.8 million in sales, up from $701.4 million in 2020 and $612.8 million in 2019. By 2020, audiobooks generated $1.3 billion in sales revenue. These increases are indicative of expanding adoption of new technologies and improved production capabilities to transform manuscripts into well-made audiobooks. It further speaks to important gains in progress for accessibility for readers with visual disabilities or other reading impairments.

wooden desk with laptop, notepad, coffee, and smartphone

How & Why the “Great Resignation” has Affected the Publishing Industries

Since 2020, industries everywhere have been affected by what has since been dubbed “The Great Resignation.” We can see this partly due to the fact that lots of workers recognized that they were being overworked, and/or underpaid, and decided that this was the best option to take. The pandemic, and the ways in which many people had to work around the social distancing and mask mandates, seemingly opened the nation’s eyes to companies’ capabilities of compensation and the lack thereof. But what does this have to do with publishing?

Plenty. Toward the beginning of 2020, two big publishing houses (Macmillan and Little, Brown and Company) received resignation letters from different editors on their staff. This event quickly led to concern for “junior” and mid-level employees and serious calls for action from publishing companies to assess what is being asked of employees and how they are being compensated. Note that “junior” is purposely in quotations because, as it seems, much of the frustration comes from staff members being dubbed “new” or “junior” in their respective positions despite their experience and contributions to the company.

Take Molly McGhee for example. She was one of the resigners from Tor (owned by Macmillan Publishers), who, according to an article from PublishersLunch, took her leaving public on Twitter. After spending upwards of ten years in various assistant roles, she tried for a promotion. And though she had all these years under her belt, and an acquisition debut at number three on the New York Times Best Sellers List, she was met with reluctance. The reason provided to her for this was that she “needed more training” and, therefore, could not and should not expect to advance for at least another five years.

This issue really points to the fact that lower-level employees seem to be missing recognition and visibility for their valuable inputs and outputs that their positions/higher-ups require of them. I think that most people, when they think of problems in a work environment such as this, tend to default to considering retail and food service. And while it is true that these businesses (along with hospitality, supply chain warehouses, and more according to an article on Fortune.com) have, for a long time, failed to meet the needs of their staff in many cases, we have to start recognizing how often this also happens in fields that are less talked about outside of the industry itself.

For people who are in, or about to step into, positions where they have hiring powers—we have to consider these perspectives before spouting out that, “no one wants to work these days.” Is it truly that no one wants to work, or is it that people want to receive the respect and remuneration that is warranted? Referring back to McGhee on this topic, she has stated since her departure from Tor that she loved her job, and the people she worked with, but ultimately felt that it was in her best interest to resign as the workload and pay were “untenable.” The burnout that nature of employment produces is inexcusable. For the future of the publishing industry, and the toll that the effects of The Great Resignation has had on it, changes need to be made.

Two hands holding up a red and white clock

 How can you read a hundred books a year?

In today’s fast-paced world, reading seems like a luxurious activity we cannot afford. But with some serious dedication, we can achieve reading goals that often seem impossible and out of our reach. Most of us don’t realize that the key to reading a lot is better time management. When setting a goal, such as reading a hundred books a year, every minute counts and we have to be cognizant of our goal throughout the day, hopefully, without feeling pressured. It can be done in a non-overwhelming way if we keep track of our reading activities and, more importantly, if we stay away from things that distract us from this worthy goal.

What are some of the techniques we could use to meet our goal, you ask? As pretentious as this may sound, there is no secret to it, except that reading must be our top priority. It begins with setting a reading goal, which could be fifty or a hundred or even two hundred pages a day. Calculating our reading pace is helpful. For example, depending on the writing, a page could take anywhere from one to four minutes to read. Using basic math, we can easily calculate the length of time it will take to read each book. The next step is gluing ourselves to the chosen book and not letting go of it until we finish it, which means we must take the book with us anywhere we go and utilize any and all free time to read it.

We all have twenty-four hours in our days and maximizing every moment to read is how the work gets done. We need to be honest with ourselves and recognize the things that distract us from reading. Social media is probably our worst distraction. Watching Youtube videos or movies also cuts into our reading time. We have to accept that we will have to limit ourselves in certain areas of our lives that we might have taken for granted previously. A few minutes here and there in between activities can provide us with previously unrecognized reading opportunities. Repurposing our time is key; being honest with ourselves and recognizing our reading capacity, strength, and weakness will go a long way, especially as we establish our new patterns. Keep in mind that forcing ourselves to get through every single page without giving up or reaching for our devices will train our brains to be reading champions.

Now, onto the easy part: Make sure to pick books that you like. Knowing your taste in books can make the selection and the reading much smoother. Prepare ahead of time by combing reading lists, or your own bookshelves for that matter, in order to easily assemble a list of books that will satisfy your mind. It is natural to find some books here and there that we might not like, especially with a goal this ambitious, and it is okay to put those books aside and reach for the next one. This is supposed to be a highly enjoyable journey. The more we keep our noses in the books, the less distracted we will be by other things.

As you chip away at the list, if your book list is not complete yet, keep track of other books that inspire you along the way. Keeping a reading journal with minimal notes will be another inspirational element. It is a good incentive to have a journal that is a physical reminder of all your hard work of this cherished journey. And finally, try to do the bulk of your reading when your mind is the freshest—for example, in the morning before you get out of bed. You won’t regret it! For more, this list has some good tips on how to achieve this goal. Happy reading!

US Passport and book on top of blue suitcase

What Does It Mean To Be A Good Literary Citizen In The Publishing World?

I came across the term “literary citizen” recently. Though I had not heard it spoken so succinctly, this term made a lot of sense to me. The world talks about being good citizens, but what does it mean to be a good literary citizen, particularly in the publishing world? One of the main ways people are thought to be good literary citizens is by supporting writers and buying their books. But is there more to being a good literary citizen than book buying?

L. L. Barkin seems to think so. In their article, 10 Ways to be an Epic Literary Citizen they highlight ten specific ways to be an “epic literary citizen” by doing things like “creating a manifesto,” “learn some lingo,” or “search for historical treasure.” Barkin hits on three ways I think are particularly relevant to the publishing world: find your tribe, keep the storytellers telling, and celebrate!

1. Find Your People. I prefer the word people to tribe because it speaks to folks who are like-minded and moving in the same direction. People who like similar books as you, who read similar things as you, and who are pursuing similar goals as you. Much like our work here at Ooligan, these are our “people”—folks keenly interested in publishing good books and doing good work and coming together to do these things. But within Ooligan, we are all here for very different reasons, and those reasons are where we can grow and expand and promote not only Ooligan’s books, but the greater world of publishing at large. We aim to demystify publishing and open it up to others. In finding our people, the goal is not to circle up and exclude others but to take our knowledge to the world at large and invite others to understand and join our world. This creates a greater depth of understanding as to what the publishing world is and brings down barriers for others to enter.

2. Keep the Storytellers Telling. Barkin goes on to say “the poets poeming and the cosplayers cosplaying,” but you get the idea. The larger idea here becomes support. Support those who are doing the work so that they can keep doing the work to make the world a better place. Isn’t that what being a good citizen is about after all, holding your space in the world and making it better? This also can mean offering help and services in the way of mentoring others as they come up behind us in the publishing world, passing on the publishing knowledge we have gained, and finding other ways to serve the literary community. This is not to say this should be done for free all the time, but this is to say that there is a certain amount of paying it forward that needs to happen. Absolutely buy books, but there are also many other ways to offer help and resources in order to keep the world of publishing moving forward.

3. Celebrate! When I think of the word “celebrate” and what that means in publishing, it becomes another form of support. Show up to book launches. Sometimes our presence can make a world of difference, and we may not even realize it. Sharing new and exciting news on social media and to our networks where we have influence might just be the one connection one of our colleagues needs. Work to collaborate, not compete, to continue to bring in new and fresh works and take chances on emerging writers. Keep in touch with and grow your network so that you can celebrate when something cool happens, like a promotion or a fantastic book launch party or any number of other incredible things that can and do happen in the publishing world.

Barkin gives us three great ways to be good literary citizens through finding our people, keeping the storytellers telling and celebrating. What could be better for the publishing world than more good literary citizens and sharing our knowledge and love of books? In my estimation, nothing.

children reading a book

The First Step to More Diversity is in Children’s Literature

The creation of a more diverse world has been a topic of discussion in all businesses, but those working in book publishing also want to see a significant change in how all people are being represented. While we can do what we can to continuously reach out and find more diverse people to work for our companies and write the books we publish, the problem remains a struggle that ultimately stems from how we have been raised and taught in our schools as children. Not to mention the question: is actively seeking more diverse people feeding into the problem of building a more diverse world and normalizing that all people have worth? Actively and openly seeking diversity seems to have the opposite impact of normalizing differences but instead further separating them; however, that may be a discussion point for a later blog.

Children begin building who they are and who they will become at a young age, making the jobs of adults and teachers even more important. Everything children see and are given will influence their future lives, and the books that they are provided could make all the difference. Elizabeth E. Thomas stresses in her research, “the way that teachers select and choose texts matters, for this ‘underpins our goals of growing literate beings who are competent and confident readers and writers, who think critically, and who have a commitment to making the world an equitable place for all.'” This, too, will assure that as adults whose many roles are to teach younger generations to better the world, the selection of what to put in front of them is a serious decision and can determine whether our future efforts of a more diverse world will be a success. In article by Georgina Chatfield, Senior Program Manager of the Royal Society for Arts, she highlights that in the 2018 report from Drawing the Future, “by the age of seven children’s aspirations appear to be shaped by gender-related stereotypes about who does certain jobs: boys aspire for traditionally male dominated professions and girls show a greater interest in nurturing and caring related roles than boys.” As publishers and adults responsible for teaching children, it is crucial “to have a gender lens on books and provide balance accordingly,” not just in gender but in race and other aspects of their identities too. Giving children stories that represent different people and lifestyles is not only helping us improve the amount of diversity we have in our world, but also all of their individual emotional health by making all children feel worthy and like they have a place in society.

I believe that when we begin focusing on the very root of the problem that we will see the most change in the workplace and all around the world. It helps that we are having these conversations now and beginning to release more diverse children’s books every day from here on. We have yet to achieve the goal of making everyone feel as though they are equal and worthy of being a part of this world, but in time and with persistence, gender or race won’t have an effect on one’s occupation.

stack of books with asexual pride flag

Romance is for Everyone: Asexuality in Romance Publishing

A core tenet of the romance genre is the emotionally satisfying ending or the Happily Ever After. Romance publishing, like much of the publishing industry, hasn’t always been inclusive about who is participating in these happily ever afters, however. It has taken a long time for romance publishers to seek out, acquire, and promote books with central LGBTQ+ storylines, and even though this is changing, the genre still does a lot to position straight relationships as the default. Even more pervasive in the romance genre is the assumption that sexual attraction and relationships are the only way to have a successful romantic relationship. The positioning of allosexual relationships as the last word in romance contributes to the invisibility of asexual people and relationships.

Asexual characters didn’t really start making an appearance in fiction until the mid-2010s, according to Lily Herman, a writer for Bustle Magazine. Even when these books began to appear, they were mostly put out by smaller presses or self-published. Content writer and blogger, Dianna Gunn, laments that “a lot of the media offered to us presents really narrow definitions of what constitutes a strong, deep bond. Too often, sexual and romantic relationships take the center stage as the most meaningful relationship you can have.”

Arguably more harmful than erasure of asexual identities in traditional publishing is the outright misrepresentation of ace identities and experiences that exists in older novels and persists in more recent portrayals. According to Lynn O’Connacht, asexuality is often conflated with either aromanticism or celibacy. In many cases, a character’s disinterest in sex cuts off their possibility for a relationship at all and in some cases, a character’s implied asexuality is intertwined with implications that are dehumanizing. Rebecca Burgess, author of the graphic memoir How to be Ace, points to Sherlock Holmes in the BBC original Sherlock, whose sociopathy and disinterest in sexual (or romantic) relationships are conflated. Although she qualifies Sherlock’s sexuality as something that is presented and not explicitly confirmed, there’s enough support within the context of the show to suggest that creators include Sherlock’s ambivalence to relationships under the umbrella of his sociopathy. Burgess writes, “It’s hardly the main problem, but it does contribute to the cultural ignorance of what asexuality is exactly . . . and people’s idea of what a healthy relationship should look like.”

But some novels hit the nail on the head. Burgess raves about Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, in which two ace-coded main characters develop a relationship. Discovering Good Omens was a pivotal moment for Burgess. “I saw my exact experience,” she writes, “And it didn’t need kissing or touching to be considered real, or written off as unhealthy. It was a happy, positive love story.” Although this example is from a fantasy novel, it provides a powerful picture of why representation is important for reinforcing the idea that asexuality is a valid sexual orientation and identity and that fulfilling relationships are absolutely attainable for people who identify as asexual. Author of The House in the Cerulean Sea, TJ Klune has made incredible strides in queer representation in general and ace representation specifically. In interviews and on his blog, he advocates for more representation and remains a beacon of hope to other aspiring writers who want to include ace characters and relationships in their novels, whether they identify as ace or not.

Even though romance publishing has a lot of ground to make up for when it comes to who gets their Happily Ever After, readers who are interested in reading more stories that include ace characters and experiences have a lot available to them if they’re willing to do a little digging. Listicles featuring recommendations for asexual romances or book featuring asexual characters are becoming more common, like this one on BookRiot or this one on Tor’s website, and the Aro Ace Database allows you to search for characters who are coded ace or aro (aromantic) in all genres of fiction.