CockyGate and Other Matters

Aurora here.

By now, I’d venture most of the literary world has heard of CockyGate. In case you haven’t, the short version is that a certain romance author decided to trademark the word “cocky” in romance titles. If you want further information, check out #cockygate on Twitter. Many others have posted and compiled details. This whole kerfuffle (Ah, an excuse to use that word!) has us concerned as publishers and authors. Our trade is our words. And we can’t have people disallowing us from using them.

You might be saying, “Well, wait, I’m never going to use ‘cocky’ in a title. I’m not even a romance author.” This situation could allow, perhaps even encourage others to buy up words. Books could be removed from popular sites for trademark violation.

What would we do with a limited amount of words we could use for titles? I’m imagining symbols that look kinda interesting instead of titles. “The Novel Formerly Known As…” Or we’d just be left with pictures. Imagine. “Yes, I’m looking for a romance novel with a bare chested man on the cover. His eyes are hidden from view. It shows the bottom half of his face and has a hazy background. Can you help me find it?”

If you follow my advice and go to that hashtag, I highly advise you to limit your time. There is a reason I didn’t get as much done this last week as I should have.

I’ve seen many people proclaiming that this scandal does not affect “just romance.” I understand people were trying to say that this affects all of the writing and publishing community, but – and I could be wrong here; it wouldn’t be a first – it seems like there’s this disparagement of romance as a genre. Let’s just say for instance that it did only affect romance. Is romance somehow a “lesser” genre that we shouldn’t be concerned about? Romance has many readers, and is their reading satisfaction somehow less important than those who prefer other genres?

I’m sure my experiences are not unique, and maybe you, dear reader, can relate. When I was a young woman in high school, I wanted to read about characters who were like me. I wanted to relate to those characters and see something of myself in the text. Many of the books on the store shelves featured male protagonists. They were the ones going on the adventure. Women were there to further the male protagonists’ story lines. (This is a general statement. There are always exceptions. And please keep in mind that I was limited to what the book store had for sale.) Women were there to be beautiful and often keep the male characters in line. It was difficult to find any with a sense of humor. (One notable exception is the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. I still remember Hon Rosie was one of my absolute favorite characters.)

I remember gravitating towards romance, thinking they were “naughty” books. My teenage brain was curious. Instead of finding pages and pages of dirty language, I found the female protagonists I’d been looking for. I remember Jill Barnett’s heroines keeping me laughing until 3 AM, in the late hours after a house party, where still-drunk friends would crack open annoyed eyes and ask “What the hell are you doing?”

Finally, I had a genre I loved. And it was a big genre. Did I want horror? Did I want fantasy? Romance had it all. And there was usually a protagonist I could relate to. I liked the genre’s happily ever afters, too. My time as a young woman had enough craziness and uncertainty that it was a relief to immerse myself in a story where all would turn out well. The true beauty of the story was the journey. How did this relatable protagonist achieve her desires?

In summation, don’t be a dick to your fellow authors and try to take words away from them. Also, don’t disparage romance, because it means a lot to many readers.

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