Let’s Get Together! – The Unfortunate Disconnection in the LGBT Fiction World

Since opening up my fantasy novel, Tributaries, to pre-orders, I’ve noticed something that both surprises me and disheartens me at the same time. When I made the decision to write for the LGBT community and its allies, I realized that I would have to face the challenge of connecting with a very niche and (at times) remote audience. In the super-abundant world we live in now, where getting your voice heard is hard enough in a cishet market, I’ve learned that LGBT fiction just plain has it rough. Marketers still have no idea what to do with these kinds of stories. Do you lump them all together under romance? But then what about those stories that are more fantasy/adventure/thriller/sci-fi/etc? Do you list those under the specific genres without mentioning the LGBT aspects? Ah, but the reviewers! What if they complain on their blogs and customer reviews that they felt tricked when the protagonist fell in love with someone of the same sex? Well what about just attaching ‘romance’ to the primary genre, and hoping for the best?

It’s all just one hot mess.

It isn’t unusual for brick-and-mortar stores to lack any self-identifying LGBT work, either. A sad fact, as I’ve read a number of LGBT books that are every bit as good as some of the nonsense that gets on the best seller lists.

But this isn’t the disheartening surprise I alluded to earlier. I’ve known the reality of scarce LGBT outlets for years. No, what surprised me was specifically the lack of support and structure for lesbian fiction. Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried hunting down LGBT blogs who I hope could connect me with my target audience, only to find myself disappointed when the site clarifies that they are actually only interested in m/m fiction. Uh, say what? Why the heck would you use the full acronym if you’re only interested in a single aspect of it?? You see, the fact is that m/m fiction has a much bigger community of support than f/f. (Don’t even get me started on bi and trans…)

It’s not that I haven’t found lesbian sites dedicated to writing or reviewing lesbian fiction. I have. But half of the sites I found were defunct. Then the remaining active sites were sadly narrow in scope (i.e. erotica only, print books only, fan fiction only, paranormal romance only, books with positive reviews of 2 or more only, etc…) And on social networks? I primarily use Twitter for my social marketing (it’s about all I have energy for–though I dabble in Tumblr) and I can’t seem to find any of the les fic authors anywhere. A quick google search also proved that there doesn’t seem to be an LGBT group of writers out there interested in supporting and signal boosting each other. You’d think the LGBT community of readers would have come up with a hashtag or a retweet group to help promote what is already a neglected corner of the market. Something like #LGBTrds or #LGBTbks. Something! Anything! Erotica, paranormal romance, dark fantasy, and horror fiction are doing it, why the hell can’t we? I even tried searching blog hops (which are basically author events on blogs featuring interviews, free books, cover reveals, etc.) and the last LGBT blog hops were last summer! That was over a year ago now! The one LGBT fiction blog hop that I could find that was held this year was actually ended prematurely and shut down for good. Yeah. It apparently went down for lack of participation. Not encouraging.

Now I know what you might be thinking: But Illise, if you hate it so much, why don’t you do something to change it? MarkTheShaw did it with #IndieBooksBeSeen on Twitter and Tumblr, didn’t he?

Simply put, no one gives a fuck about me. I don’t have the status or the connections to set something like this in motion. I suppose I could try to contact someone who DOES have these things to help me, but let’s just all refer back to my first point regarding the lack of fucks people give me, then infer what the result would be.

Okay. I had my little tantrum. I can’t have been the first LGBT writer to have thought along these lines, and I bet those who came before just learned to deal with it. You find a way to make it work, or you don’t. I’ve been promoting my work on a number of Indie Author hashtag communities, and it’s not like I’m not getting some help. The people on #IAN1, #IARTG, #IndieBooksBeSeen, #IndieAuthor, and #ASMSG are wonderful folks! But the point isn’t just to blast your work out to a random audience. It’s to target your efforts so that the people most likely to want to read your work hear about it at all. That’s really the major issue. LGBT fiction feels like a grain of sand lost in an indifferent ocean when marketing to a general audience. You can’t use #LGBT on Twitter either, because dear god, that stream moves waaaay too fast and is inundated with LGBT political and entertainment news.

As LGBT authors, our little slice of the literary world is tough and challenging in a market that already has plenty of obstacles to overcome. But it could be so much better if we could pool our readers together and support one another, especially since most LGBT authors are signed with small press or are self-publishers. It isn’t as if anyone is looking out for us little guys.

If, after reading this post, you feel that I am in error, then please enlighten me! I want to be proven wrong, even a tiny bit. But if you’re in agreement, why not share your thoughts on why the LGBT author community is so disconnected. Do you agree that lesbian fiction is not as well off as gay fiction? Just to be clear, a lack of readers is not the issue. That’s more a marketing challenge, anyway. But why do LGBT authors seem so disinterested in connecting with each other?

Oh, and if you ARE a LGBT author, please please please connect with me. I love RTing LGBT fiction on Twitter! I’m @cajeck. Send me a DM and I’ll add you to the LGBT author list I’m trying to form. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Get Together! – The Unfortunate Disconnection in the LGBT Fiction World

  1. I think the YA LGBT market is much more robust and visible than the LGBT market for adult (NOT erotica) fiction. I’m not sure what you write specifically, but maybe looking for blogs/authors in that realm would help? For example, I know Sara and Jennifer Diemer are very vocal on their Twitters about writing for young queer girls.

    And yes, I’ve seen this issue with lesbian fiction. I think part of the problem is that m/m fiction has a wider audience, because a TON of women regardless of sexual orientation are interested in m/m. On the other hand, while a lot of men may find lesbians hot, they’re not going to read non-erotica with lesbians in it. So it’s super hard to find lesbian fiction that isn’t erotica OR YA. :\ I spend HOURS scouring Amazon for LBGT fiction that isn’t romance/erotica, and it’s sooo hard to find it! It’s out there, but you’re right – it’s marketed so badly it’s almost impossible to find.

    I’m an LGBT author (though I don’t publish, my stuff’s all free) so I’ll totally follow you on Twitter! I’m always up for book recs. 🙂

    • Awesome! If you add my on Twitter, just send me a mention. I forgot you can’t DM unless you’re both following each other.

      As for what I write, I focus mostly on fantasy and its various sub-genres. The book I’m releasing on the 1st of November is a sword and sorcery fantasy romance tale. Romance is usually a central focus in my work, I’ll admit, but not always.

      I had no idea that the YA LGBT market was strong! That’s really great. I’ve been meaning to try and explore that for the past few months, but like any writer, I have a huge backlog of books waiting to be read, lol. And I see your point about women readers and m/m fiction. I enjoy reading gay fiction myself. I wonder if there’s some kind of recourse for some of that? After all, it isn’t unheard of for men to get into entertainment that wouldn’t appear to be intended for them.

  2. Come on by the blog I co-admin with fellow lesfic author Jove Belle. We are heavily lesfic and we’re nearly at 5000 followers:

    WOMEN! AND! WORDS! WOOOO!

    And thanks for blogging this. I’m all about building infrastructure and networks. Let’s get some partying started!

  3. inwardtransience says:

    (Oh, wow. I started writing, and then when I stopped writing, I realized I had written a lot. I ramble. Sorry about that.

    Anyway, I’m going to go read something of yours, specifically Eikasia, for the first time now. Sorry for the text dump >.>)

    I write mostly lesbian fiction—though completely amateur, haven’t even really looked into publishing anything at all—and I have noticed how weird a lot of things are. For one thing, on most amateur sites I have seen, there is much, much more m/m fiction floating around—and those stories on the average are noticed way more often. People have tried to explain that to me before, but I really don’t get it. But then, I have some trouble getting in to any romance that ISN’T f/f. I actually am a gay (sort of) woman though, so that could have something to do with that.

    Personally, I think the problem in more mainstream media is a triple whammy of heterosexism (or homophobia, depending), misogyny, and general misconceptions of queer culture.

    For the first, even in contexts that aren’t directly homophobic, heterosexuality is still assumed by default. It’s a little odd that fantasy stories with straight romantic subplots can still float in the fantasy culture and be just fine, but if we go a couple shades too queer than the book is marked LGBT and marketed that way. Partially, I guess, to avoid becoming a target of social conservatives, I’m assuming most publishers consciously choose to advertise such books less.

    And, well, there is the misogyny of course. We can’t really forget that it wasn’t even a hundred years ago that Virginia Woolf wrote on the topic of the disadvantages women writers face. The situation is better, yes, but I’m not really sure by how much. There are a number of famous women authors, but most are in general, children’s, or YA literature, and comparatively few in genre fiction. I don’t read a whole lot of genre fiction these days, but the only woman I can think of off the top of my head who writes “serious” fantasy/sci-fi for adults is C.S. Friedman. Oh, wow, I forgot Ursula Le Guin for a second there. Someone shoot me. The point I’m trying to get at is that, to a certain extent, literature for adults is still male-dominated. And even outside literature, it’s still much less socially acceptable for women to be intelligent and capable than for men to be the same—if anything, patriarchal misogyny has been experiencing a strong comeback lately.

    And, well, how often in mainstream speculative fiction do you see female characters, especially leads, that are actually any good? I’m thinking of a couple C.S. Friedman characters, but that’s all I got xD

    The last is that a lot of straight people just really don’t get queer people. Which is weird, when you think about it. We’re not really…all that…different? You actually mentioned this somewhere else, how someone reading Eikasia apparently didn’t think it counted as lesbian romance/fiction/whatevs because the characters’ sexuality wasn’t, like, the center of their existence. Yeah. Gay, here, and my sexuality is not the center of my existence. For most people, their sexuality is really a rather small part of their existence. But that’s how a lot of people think it has to be for queer characters, and it’s really annoying. Since a lot of straight people don’t understand that we’re just, uh, people, a lot of them are going to expect queer fiction to be packed with coming out crap and social commentary stuff, or at the least chock full of sex. And since a lot of them aren’t interested in reading that….

    Just my perspective, which I’ve rambled on about way, way too long. Basically, saying that our social system is rigged against both queer people and women, so we get hit twice. Not really a problem we’re going to be able to perfectly fix until heterosexism and misogyny stop existing. Can probably put a band-aid on it by effectively organizing ourselves on the internet, though.

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