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View Full Version : Do books with gay MCs get 'ghettoized'?



Layla Nahar
05-18-2015, 05:47 PM
Or put another way, will having a gay MC hinder a book from having major/widespread popularity? I ask this because I'm reading book 1 of Ginn Hale's "Rifter" series. The writing is great, the characters and situations are great - it's a great story. I'm enjoying this book as much as I enjoy, for example, Trudi Canvan books. But my library only owns book 1 - and it looks like the series is out of print (you *can* get a kindle version on Amazon).

It looks to me like this book has been languishing, where other books that - IMO, of course - are of similar quality are still going strong. I've been wondering what the reasons are for this to happen to a book. Any ideas from the more experienced and observant about the market?

LN

veinglory
05-18-2015, 06:19 PM
Yes, no, maybe, it depends. There are wildly successful series with gay protags like those by Mercedes Lackey or Fiona Paton. Then there are experiences like mine where my fantasy novels was shelved in "non-fiction--sexuality/self help" by Barnes and Noble, which sure doesn't help get those genre sales.

Jamesaritchie
05-18-2015, 06:30 PM
They usually aren't "ghettoized", but they usually don't sell as well, either. I think part of it is that of why the character is gay. Do you just say he's gay, but have no sex and romance? Or do you show he's gay with sex scenes, etc.?

I read more than a hundred novels each year, and I can't remember ever picking up a novel that had a gay main character. I haven't even encountered one in the bulk books I buy now and then. This would seem to say there aren't many in the mainstream market, or I should have encountered at least one or two.

Does it really matter? I like sales, but I write only what I want to write, and trust there will be a bunch of readers out there with the same taste in fiction I have.

I don't write gay main characters because I don't want to write them. If I did want to, I would, market be damned. I believe there's a market for pretty much anything, if it's good enough. Even if there weren't, I'd still write what I most want to read.

veinglory
05-18-2015, 06:35 PM
On the other hand in fantasy it is not the case that gay protags obvious suppress sales and at the hot end of erotic romance gay books currently tend to sell better than equivalent straight ones. It really does just depend.

Rhoda Nightingale
05-18-2015, 06:57 PM
Another for "it depends." I've seen only a handful of books w/ gay protagonists on the "Pick Me!" tables out in front for major brick-and-mortar book stores, even though I know they're all around somewhere. On the other hand, AW's own L. A. Witt's stuff DOMINATES the "Pick Me!" tables at our library--and they circulate pretty well too. There's an audience and a market. I just think maybe people haven't figured out *how* to market gay fiction effectively.

Usher
05-18-2015, 07:04 PM
I don't write gay fiction but I sometimes have gay protagonists in my stories. I'd say the opportunities for them are far greater than when I wrote my first book with a gay MC and some agents are now actively asking for genre fiction with gay MCs -- if the latter is happening I suspect there is a market.

But when I wrote my first gay character I asked my best friend for his book collection and it was entirely: erotic fiction, LGBTQ and fantasy. It actually made me very angry and is why a lot of characters are now gay but not in stories about being gay.

Things are improving slowly.

ZachJPayne
05-18-2015, 07:36 PM
I can't speak for most markets, but in YA, depending on how well the character's sexuality is done, I think it could almost be a boon. There's a very big push in the community for diversity, not only in terms of racial representation, but sexual orientation, as well.

Layla Nahar
05-18-2015, 07:48 PM
Thanks for your responses everybody. Like I said, I've only read this one book - the character is gay, but there's virtually no romantic arc for him. In any case, I'm finding it a great read, I keep asking myself what happened to this series - where'd it go?

EMaree
05-18-2015, 08:12 PM
Maybe send the author an e-mail (http://www.ginnhale.com/contact/) and say how much you'd like to read more of the series? Actually, looking at their website, it looks like it's all still in print: they've released the series as reasonably-priced 10-part ebook series with snazzy covers (http://blindeyebooks.com/shop/rifter/) or three paperbacks at the same link.

They're published by Blind Eye Books, an independent imprint focusing on gay and lesbian SFF stories. Seems like a cool imprint, actually: paperback and e-books, and distribution in US, AUS and UK.

Bewares thread for the pub is here (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?167269-Publisher-Blind-Eye-Books), if anyone's interested in subbing to them, though it's had almost no activity.

ishtar'sgate
05-18-2015, 08:27 PM
In general, except for niche market publishers, publishers want books that have the widest appeal. If the backlash from the Walking Dead's introduction of a gay couple is any indication, gay MC's won't fare well. I don't follow the WD fan sites but know someone who does and she says the fans were angry about it and that they were tired of having to accept gay material on television and in movies and that WD was the only place they could get away from it. If that's the general feeling among readers too then I expect most publishers would steer clear of it.

BenPanced
05-18-2015, 09:04 PM
The market for GLBT fiction is changing because the younger generation's experiences are different from that of their elders. When GLBT fiction was becoming more common in the latter part of the 20th century, the endings were more tragic because that was the predominant experience back then: you couldn't risk coming out and if you did, you could probably expect a life of sadness and loss. Nowadays, since attitudes are changing, the endings in GLBT fiction are leaning more towards a positive experience: when a character comes out in a novel, they can expect a fairly decent life.

The general feelings about the two gay characters in The Walking Dead might seem to be the common denominator but it's only because it's the loudest on the online forums. Many people online, I've noticed, are having a difficult time accepting the fact that times and social attitudes are changing. I have seen instances where GLBT characters were present in a show but they were shoehorned in for the sake of being Relevant! Edgy! Important! Even though they were historically accurate and entirely possible, they didn't fit into the storyline and added nothing to the plot, IMHO. However, from what I understand, the gay couple in the TV series of The Walking Dead were also in the graphic novels. While the producers of the series, again from what I understand, are taking several liberties in making the show, they may have wrestled with "do we include them as they are or do we straight-wash them?" (And if fans of the TV series "were tired of having to accept gay material on television and in movies and that WD was the only place they could get away from it", as you state above, I can't even.)

And simply because some people are pissing their pants in online forums about gay characters in a TV series, I really don't see how that can influence publishers because, as I stated above, GLBT fiction is enjoying decent sales, both in mainstream fiction and genre. Many independent publishers (Riptide and Dreamspinner, for instance) are making a killing because they focus exclusively on GLBT genre fiction, and several of the Big 5 have always produced books, both fiction and non-fiction, geared towards a GLBT audience. If they're going to listen to the angry rants of a bunch of pissed-off TV fans and begin to shy away from any GLBT books, they're really dumber than I'd expected and have no business acumen.

amergina
05-18-2015, 09:10 PM
In general, except for niche market publishers, publishers want books that have the widest appeal. If the backlash from the Walking Dead's introduction of a gay couple is any indication, gay MC's won't fare well. I don't follow the WD fan sites but know someone who does and she says the fans were angry about it and that they were tired of having to accept gay material on television and in movies and that WD was the only place they could get away from it. If that's the general feeling among readers too then I expect most publishers would steer clear of it.

Publishers *are* looking for more diversity.

And hell, there have been TV shows with gay characters for YEARS. Like 40-some odd or more years.

And those shocking gay characters in the Walking Dead? They were gay in the graphic novels the series is based on. I think the main thing is that a minor but vocal part of the demographic that watches WD is horribly afraid of teh gay cooooties. So much so a few seconds of a kiss and embrace between two men who love each other is more horrifying than shooting children or zombie babies.

BenPanced
05-18-2015, 09:27 PM
And hell, there have been TV shows with gay characters for YEARS. Like 40-some odd or more years.
On All in the Family, I don't know which fit Archie Bunker threw was the worst: when Mike brought a Vietnam draft dodger over or when a gay man came into the house.

Although, the transvestite character was only in two episodes: one to introduce the character and a second time to kill her.

Jamesaritchie
05-18-2015, 10:08 PM
I don't think publishers have anything to do with it. It's all a matter of sales numbers. Pretty much every publisher out there has one or more lines of books that fall into this category. The fact is, however, that they rarely sell very well, and sales numbers mean everything. Publishers do buy such books, and they do not, to my knowledge, ghettoize them in any way, but how they sell is up to the reading public, not the publisher.

amergina
05-18-2015, 10:17 PM
A lot of it is bookstore placement (despite Amazon). For instance, LGBT romance is inevitably shelved in the gay interests section, rather than the romance section, where it really should be. (Same with PoC romance, FWIW. Shelve all romance in romance, etc.)

But having just come from RT Booklovers, I noticed a marked difference in how folks responded to LGBT content even from a year ago.

Sales numbers are climbing. And climbing.

Jamesaritchie
05-18-2015, 11:28 PM
I think the main thing is that a minor but vocal part of the demographic that watches WD is horribly afraid of teh gay cooooties. .

No, they simply believe God tells them it's immoral and perverted, and that two cities were destroyed because of it. They are not afraid, and they don't believe in anything as childish as cooties. They simply do their best to fold the Bible, and this is as it should be.

Each group, whatever the belief system, deserves a spoke on the wheel of civilization. No group has to agree with any other group, appease any other group, or refrain from offending any other group, as long as they do not resort to violence.

Nor can any group force market considerations on any other group. No one has to like, buy, or read a book with homosexual characters, with Caucasian characters, or with Chinese characters, for that matter. This is what freedom means.

All any of us can do is write whatever we wish what means something to us, and put it up for sale. This is all we should ask for, or expect.

Layla Nahar
05-19-2015, 12:31 AM
They're published by Blind Eye Books, an independent imprint focusing on gay and lesbian SFF stories.

Well, that might explain a lot. I mean, I guess maybe books from a publisher like this might be less likely to come into the view of the mainstream reader.

I think I saw the books appearing to still be in print on the publisher site, but I thought Amazon only had the Kindle ed. (But I totally failed to get from their site that they specialized in LGBT characters...)

Captcha
05-19-2015, 01:10 AM
M/M romance enjoys just as many sales, if not a little more, than standard category romance. ...

Do you have data for this? I'm not challenging the idea (I'd love it if it were true!) but it doesn't seem right to me.

I just checked Amazon (I know, not the only place books are sold, but given that most m/m is primarily in e-books, it seems like Amazon would underestimate the total het sales, if anything). The book at #100 on the gay romance best seller list is at #6 815 overall. The book at #100 on the general romance best seller list is at #198 overall.

This makes it seem like het romance is still selling way better than m/m. But I'd love to see different numbers, if you've got 'em...?

Lillith1991
05-19-2015, 01:12 AM
No, they simply believe God tells them it's immoral and perverted, and that two cities were destroyed because of it. They are not afraid, and they don't believe in anything as childish as cooties. They simply do their best to fold the Bible, and this is as it should be.

Each group, whatever the belief system, deserves a spoke on the wheel of civilization. No group has to agree with any other group, appease any other group, or refrain from offending any other group, as long as they do not resort to violence.

Nor can any group force market considerations on any other group. No one has to like, buy, or read a book with homosexual characters, with Caucasian characters, or with Chinese characters, for that matter. This is what freedom means.

All any of us can do is write whatever we wish what means something to us, and put it up for sale. This is all we should ask for, or expect.

I'm sorry, but I simply must call bullshit. Walking Dead already included a lesbian character and very clear lesbian subtext between the awesomely kickass Mischone and her traveling partner. No one said crap about that, but they certainly did about the two gay men introduced. To top it off, anyone who expect such a thoroughly secular show to conform to their religious ideals is beyond unreasonable. There's fornication, murder, and the killing of zombie children. That is what they're signing up to watch when they watch it, and if they can't handle it, then the should find something else.

As for freedom? It means that books with LGBT, Black, Jewish etc. MC's should be with other books of the same genre, where readers are free to choose them without an eyebrow raise for going to the "wrong" section to find them. By that same measure, it means those same readers are free to put them back on the damn shelf should they wish it. There's no reason I should have to go into a special LGBT or Urban section because the the Horror novel I want to read features a lesbian character or a Black one as the lead. It should by all right be with other Horror novels.

Usher
05-19-2015, 03:22 AM
5 million people watched Torchwood Miracle Day on the BBC - only 500 complained because they saw a gay sex scene that was remarkably tame. Some of those complained about their children - well it was after the watershed (9pm) and who the hell lets their children watch it anyway? The show had, had gay and lesbian sex more than inferred from the beginning. Stop watch and tape measure anyone? It was interesting there wasn't a single complaint about the very violent scene immediately before the sex scene. Personally, had I been watching it with my child the violence would have had it turned off before we got to the sex.

There is a market for fiction with gay characters. What I think my gay friends and myself are fed up of is the lack of gay characters where being gay is no more an issue than being straight is in a story. The only difference being they may eye up a person of same sex or be married to one. If publishers marketed a thriller, detective story etc where the sexuality was incidental... there are more stories now but they do have to be hunted for.

M/M romance is an interesting one because there is a market of straight women who enjoy sex where they can ogle at hunky men without women getting in the way.

My question would be why when the "pink pound" is such a crucial part of many other mediums why does writing lag behind? I'd say marketing and not providing the stories would be the main reason.

Usher
05-19-2015, 03:30 AM
No, they simply believe God tells them it's immoral and perverted, and that two cities were destroyed because of it. They are not afraid, and they don't believe in anything as childish as cooties. They simply do their best to fold the Bible, and this is as it should be.


Then why do they believe that media will turn people gay? You can't "catch" being gay unless you are some way inclined in that direction anyway.

No amount of watching TV or reading books will make me a lesbian because I'm straight.

And anyone who thinks marketing doesn't play a part in what is popular is being naive at best.

Fact is Captain Jack Harkness didn't lose Dr Who much by way of audience. Plenty of folk watched Will and Grace. Mrs Brown's Boys is the biggest grossing UK comedy and it has a transvestite main character and a married gay couple. Are You Being Served did alright both sides of the Atlantic.

Give LGBTQ books that aren't romance, fantasy and LGBTQ and see what happens. I suspect it will take time because people have been so turned off. I can't imagine what it must be like to not find characters you identify in your reading and have every book tell you you are wrong. But the YA market has taken off and that has to have a knock on effect. Most of my gay friends read mostly YA for that reason.

Helix
05-19-2015, 03:38 AM
There is a market for fiction with gay characters. What I think my gay friends and myself are fed up of is the lack of gay characters where being gay is no more an issue than being straight is in a story. The only difference being they may eye up a person of same sex or be married to one. If publishers marketed a thriller, detective story etc where the sexuality was incidental... there are more stories now but they do have to be hunted for.


Reg Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe series features a important character who's a gay copper -- Edgar Wield.

Usher
05-19-2015, 03:45 AM
Reg Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe series features a important character who's a gay copper -- Edgar Wield.

He's not the main character though. And Dalziel and Pascoe as a couple would be just plain weird ;)

frimble3
05-19-2015, 05:22 AM
And, if your library has only volume 1 of a series you like, tell them! Sometimes a library will bring in the first of a new series, especially if they or the readers might find it 'edgy', and wait and see what the response is. If nobody seems much interested, they may not bother with the rest. So, tell them you're wondering when you'll be seeing the rest. At least they'll know there's people who want more (which they don't get from circulation statistics, which only show how many times a book went out - maybe people tried it and didn't like it.)
And apparently the series is complete, so it's not as though they'll be left hanging for the rest.

Layla Nahar
05-19-2015, 05:30 AM
^ Actually, I plan to do that. :)

Underdawg47
05-19-2015, 05:54 AM
I loved Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. They even had a fairly decent mini series made from the book. The MCs were gay, straight and transgengered and most people that I know, loved the show. I know I did.

BenPanced
05-19-2015, 08:23 AM
They did the first three books and, unfortunately, they lost the momentum after that. If they wanted to have the original original cast from the first miniseries, they'd probably have to skip ahead a few books to Michael Tolliver Lives!, Mary Ann in Autumn, or The Days of Anna Madrigal, the final three of the series, to keep the chronological ages of actors to characters.

Laurasaurus
05-19-2015, 04:26 PM
The oddballs who complained about the gay couple in The Walking Dead were a very small (sadly vocal) minority. Every fan I know or see talking about it online loves them.

RightHoJeeves
05-19-2015, 06:53 PM
The oddballs who complained about the gay couple in The Walking Dead were a very small (sadly vocal) minority. Every fan I know or see talking about it online loves them.

It's so odd the stuff people complain about. Same goes for censorship. On Breaking Bad they would blur out a woman's breasts and bleep the word fuck, but they didn't seem to have a problem with a partially decomposed body falling through a ceiling or a small child being shot.

Viridian
05-19-2015, 08:10 PM
M/M romance enjoys just as many sales, if not a little more, than standard category romance.
That's just straight-up not true.

Walk into a bookstore. Walk to the romance section. How many m/m books do you see? Can you find any at all?

It's nice that you have such an optimistic outlook on LGBT romance, but this is misinformation.

Filigree
05-19-2015, 10:57 PM
The proportion might be a little more equal in ebook sales.

Captcha
05-20-2015, 01:32 AM
The proportion might be a little more equal in ebook sales.

It probably is, just because there are hardly ANY print m/m sales. But unless I'm totally misinterpreting the data from my little survey of Amazon best sellers, het still dramatically outsells LGBT, even in e-books.