The Marketability of Gay Fiction

Last week I listened to a podcast by Eclectica Cafe on Soundcloud where they spoke with a group of LGBT and allied writers about the state of gay fiction in the publishing industry. What some of the members of Out in Colorado had to say really resonated with me. I feel the same as they in their motives for writing gay characters: we just want to see ourselves in the content that we consume. They also mentioned a couple quick tidbits – like how lesbians were usually a part of an ensemble for their appeal to straight male readers or viewers. Also, that there is no black lesbian superhero (someone jump on this). But what really stood out was the perception of how the publishing industry has this strange view of how to receive new gay literature. On one hand they have a desire for new voices and diverse characters, but on the other hand they have a strict sense of what will sell. Take a listen below and keep reading.

One member mentions how tired he is of publishers asking for a coming out story because they believe it will sell more. I don’t have any experience working with a publisher just yet, but I can totally believe this happening. That story is all over the place these days. Everywhere there’s a gay character in the mainstream, there’s a coming out story that is central to them. These narratives are important, but hardly make up the whole experience of what it means to be gay in a homophobic society. And so, when writers approach the larger publishers with anything different I can imagine it’s a bit harder for them to bite. Apparently, it’s easier to go through a smaller publisher who is willing to take the risk on your work.

They also raise the issue of token characters. I am familiar. I am an advocate for diversity, but is a story truly diverse by having just one representation of a group of people? There should be at least two very different people from the same underrepresented background in order to get away from defining the whole with just one.

My first novel that I am currently editing involves a couple of gay characters and getting past the limited ways LGBT stories are being portrayed seems daunting, but we must endure. Your story has to be marketable, but don’t compromise so much that you lose your voice. Every different story counts and a diverse cast of characters makes it all the more interesting.

What are your thoughts about what Out in Colorado talked about? What about how LGBT characters in books and TV are depicted? Leave me a comment below and let’s discuss.

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