Gay vs. straight romance

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Marian Perera

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I was talking with a friend about self-publishing some of my romances, and she said it would be best to put out a series. I told her I had an M/F romance which was almost ready to go, except the subsequent books in the series are all M/M. I read (and write) both kinds.

She cautioned me that while a lot of readers of straight romance seem to be open to an occasional gay romance that's part of a series, it doesn't work the other way around. Then she said, "M/M readers can be virulently anti-m/f - I belong to a few reader groups on facebook and about once a month or so, someone makes a post about how they will never read an m/f book again now that they've found m/m, and a bunch of people chime in to agree."

I was wondering about this. Preferring one type of romance over another is fine, but the "virulently" part was a bit worrying. And since I enjoy both M/M and M/F romances, I'd like to know why readers might dislike M/F romances. Do the people in a gay romance seem on a more equal footing because they're both men, for instance?
 

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I for one am very picky about the romance's I read. If I don't like one of the main characters name, I won't read it :crazy:. If people like M/M or F/F they'll pick one up, if they don't care for that, they won't. Go for it,you never know.
 

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Ah, yep... this subject can get touchy with some m/m readers.

I've got to admit it takes something really special for me to read m/f away from m/m. I can put that down to it being both the area I write and edit within, making time very limited, where I need to focus on my chosen pairing, but that's not it either. I've had years and years of reading m/f partnerships in fiction in general, across so many genres, plus it was also spoon-fed to me through the TV. M/m brought another side to the romance coin, one I've been angry at mainstream for not having it so noticeable on their shelves.

Do I get agressive over it? I dunno... maybe. *winces*. Probably. :flag:I certainly get protective, but no less protective than anything else I fall in love with and want to see succeed and go as far as it can.
 

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I completely understand why M/M audiences don't like M/F and can compare it to myself. I write BWWM (black women and white men romance) and that's my favorite genre. I don't read black romance at all and rarely read mainstream (white romance) these days unless it's historical romance. I love historical romance. BWWM is my preference. I love IR relationships, support them and love white men so I love to read romances with black heroines and white heroes. I don't go out to seek black or mainstream romance for one reason because there is so much BWWM now that I don't have to. ;) Some think that the black romance readers cross with BWWM or IR readers. Nope. A small percentage but not many. Most who read black romance books won't touch a BWWM book and visa versa.

It's the same with M/M and M/F audiences. Rarely do you see many romance readers who will read any and every pairing. Nope. Most have that ONE favorite pairing and that's what they want to read.

M/M readers will be mighty ticked off if you stick a M/F in the story. Big time. I've seen reviews on M/M books where the readers trashed the author and promised to never read another book from the author again because they felt this was a "betrayal". The same with M/F readers. Many who read M/F don't read M/M but I have seen more of a crossover with M/F readers who are open to M/M than M/M open to M/F. Most the M/M readers I see read ONLY M/M and they want no boobs or vajayjays in their books other than as secondary characters.

It goes back to, we all want what we want. Some readers are more open and others not. For example, if you built a brand on M/M and suddenly started writing M/F and a reader fell in love with you for your M/M, they'd be like, "What the heck is my favorite M/M author doing? Why is she all of a sudden sticking these M/F couples in this series? If I wanted to read M/F I'd read someone else!" And visa versa.

There are some authors who write M/F and M/M but many do them under different pen names and the ones that don't will put a disclaimer on their books. For example, if Becky Lewis is known for M/M and she starts writing M/F or including it in her M/M work, she might make mention of that in the book's description, letting readers know they aren't getting what they would normally expect from Becky. Or she might even send a notice to her mailing list or fan group letting them know, "Hey guys, my next book will include a M/F couple."

Speaking as an author, I am all for you writing the story you want to. But, if you switch stuff up during an existing series, be ready for a possible backlash.

Also, I reread your post. I assumed that all the books in your series were M/M and you included a M/F couple in later on as a side couple or something. I see your FIRST book is M/F and the rest M/M? Don't take this as criticism because I am generally curious, why would you do a M/F book and then make the rest of the books M/M? That's something I've never seen before. I understand you read both, but most do not. Why not just continue the series as M/F or have the first M/M too? You will lose a lot of readers because you will tick off those who enjoyed the first who don't want M/M books and the M/M crowd won't be interested in book 1 because it's M/F. What's gonna hook them into book 1 to even hang around for book 2, etc?

If I were you, I'd break this up and write two different series. Continue the M/F one with M/F only and do a M/M series separately. I'm afraid you will end up getting rejected by both audiences with this type of project.

Also, I disagree with your friend. You don't HAVE to have a series. That's an old indie wives' tale that series are the only thing that can sell. I have three series and the rest of my work is standalones and I have written about 40 or more books. My best sellers have been my standalones. Not everything has to be a series to sell well in self-publishing. That's a myth. There are a lot of authors doing well indie who don't write series. If a book is gonna sell, it's gonna sell standalone or not.

If you don't want to write an M/F series you can make book 1 a standalone. Problem solved on many levels. :)
 
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Filigree

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I have a *very* large series arc that mixes het relationships and LGBTQIA stuff, ranging from space opera to fantasy, sweet romance to erotic romance. Over 26 years and two agents, I've learned it will be impossible to sell through a single mainstream SFF, het romance, or gay romance press. So I've moved the books that fit to an LGBTQIA publisher, and I'll self publish the rest. Will I have the readership that I might get by sticking with just m/m or m/f? No. But I stay true to the series plan.
 
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DarienW

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Hmm, I find this curious. I agree that some readers of romance may like a certain kind considering all the tropes, so they may pass on a story that isn't hate-to-love, for example, but I can't see why having romance both gay and straight in the same story would matter.

This is just my opinion. I haven't read many M/M romances, and I'm gay, but the "love" part of romance is what I like, and I don't care who it is. If I had a preference, I'd like to see more M/M where both guys aren't perfect and chiseled. I'm open to recommendations too! :D

To the OP, Marian, I'm like you and would read both kinds, and if your series switched from M/F to M/M it wouldn't matter if I liked the stories and characters. Hope there's more of us out there!!!

:)
 

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If I had a preference, I'd like to see more M/M where both guys aren't perfect and chiseled. I'm open to recommendations too! :D

Oh lord, there's loads: Slim Chance, by Jeff Erno deals with a guy trying to lose weight and struggling so badly with his personality because of it. Addrienne Wilder, with In the Absence of Light... my God, that deals beautifully with a man with autism and how he copes. Wilder also writes about characters learning to live with scars, and blindness. In fact if you're new to M/M, I'd definitely rec some of Adrienne Wilder's, especially In The Absence of Light. (I'm incerdibly biased about Wilder (I edit some of his novels), but talent... my God. He's perfect.)
 

Marian Perera

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I see your FIRST book is M/F and the rest M/M? Don't take this as criticism because I am generally curious, why would you do a M/F book and then make the rest of the books M/M? That's something I've never seen before. I understand you read both, but most do not. Why not just continue the series as M/F or have the first M/M too?

I started this series as M/F because that was what I always wrote. It's a fantasy, so I had this cast of human characters, plus fantasy humanoid characters of another race. For plot reasons, everyone belonging to this other race is male.

So in the first book, it was a human woman/other-race man pairing. Then I started playing with ideas for the sequel, and I thought of all the female characters I'd introduced in the first book, wondering which of them should be the heroine. But I kept coming back to one of the human men who intrigued me, and I really wanted to have a story with him as a main character. Then I thought of writing the sequel as a M/M (human man/other-race man).

I can't continue the series as M/F. I've written two other M/M romances in it and am at work on a third. I'm not sure about rewriting book 1 as an M/M either - I would have to think about this, but my gut reaction is no.

You will lose a lot of readers because you will tick off those who enjoyed the first who don't want M/M books and the M/M crowd won't be interested in book 1 because it's M/F. What's gonna hook them into book 1 to even hang around for book 2, etc?

It's not an insurmountable problem, because this is not the kind of series where you have to read Book 1 or you'll never enjoy Books 2, 3, 4, etc. The stories are set in the same world, but they're all standalone.

It's been a long time (relatively) since Book 1 was released by Samhain, and I don't think there were many readers to begin with, so disappointing a ton of M/F readers is not something I worry about. Also, if I were to self-publish this series, it would start out with Book 2 now becoming Book 1, and it would be an M/M series.

I don't know where exactly the original Book 1 (the M/F one) would fit in, but I could always self-publish it without tying it to the M/M series, so I wouldn't lead M/M readers on.

If I were you, I'd break this up and write two different series. Continue the M/F one with M/F only and do a M/M series separately.

Thanks, but I'm afraid that's not likely to work. If I had two series, one straight and one gay, but both set in the same world, with a larger storyline tying all the books together, it would be weird to have Man A and Man B plotting against the Big Bad in Gay Book 4, while Man C and Woman D were also plotting against the same Big Bad in Straight Book 4.

I'm afraid you will end up getting rejected by both audiences with this type of project.

Rejection is a part of the game. I think my plan of pubbing a gay-only series, with the straight Book 1 also being pubbed but not advertised as part of the gay-only series, is feasible. But I suppose I'll find out.
 

Marian Perera

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Hmm, I find this curious. I agree that some readers of romance may like a certain kind considering all the tropes, so they may pass on a story that isn't hate-to-love, for example, but I can't see why having romance both gay and straight in the same story would matter.

I don't either. But if a lot of readers of gay romance would hate it...well, what can I say? I want to have sales!

I wish I could think of some gay romances where both the characters look ordinary (or even below average), but nothing comes to mind. I'll let you know if I remember any. :)
 

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I like your plan, Marian. Standalones is the key, and I figured that would be the case, based on another topic about existing relationships, it made sense to me they would standalone and just share some characters. To be honest, if I read book 1 and really liked the human guy too, I would love to follow his story! Even better for me if it was M/M, but I'm just me . . . but doesn't everyone represent a certain percentage of attitude or opinion? Like I said, I hope so, LOL!

I really wish you the best of luck, and I'll add, if I read book 2 first, and I knew there was a book 1, I'd go back and read that too.

I did find Slim Chance, by Jeff Erno at the library, as Fallen suggested. Yay! I'd be happy to check out anything you think of too!

PS. They don't both have to be non-perfect, just human. (I mean that in the sense of emotion, not in the origin, from space or not, LOL!)

:)
 
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I've seen some mainstream series mixing it up this way, sometimes introducing the m/m or f/f romances as side stories to a m/f novel. Some have gotten their own books in the series because (I guess?) the fans asked for it. I think certain audiences are more comfortable with change than others. I say go for it.
 

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I don't either. But if a lot of readers of gay romance would hate it...well, what can I say? I want to have sales!

I wish I could think of some gay romances where both the characters look ordinary (or even below average), but nothing comes to mind. I'll let you know if I remember any. :)

Marian, yep sales are important but sometimes the vision is more important. Not every book or series has to be a hit. That's the great thing about self-publishing. You can write things that might not fit into a box or that might not be a huge seller. Who cares? If you love the story enough that you want it out there then write it and put it out. I would.

Some stories I write with expectations of sales and some I write because darn it, I just love that story and want people to read it. Ha, ha!

I say go for it but just have reasonable expectations. Of course, it could be a hit and you break that barrier between M/F and M/M readers. No one knows but the important thing is to be true to yourself and if you want your series like it is, you should follow your heart.
 

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I've done a series with both M/F and M/M and it didn't go well. The M/M readers were very enthusiastic about the M/M title, but the reaction to the het titles was... well, I'm not sure how to describe it except very oddly negative. While I only had one blatantly rude comment (privately, from a reviewer) the M/M readers were all quick to tell me they didn't want to read the M/F books. The negativity was so strong, I decided to not write any more M/M.

So yes, M/M readers do have very strong reactions to mixing women in the series. If you can change the first book to match the rest of the series, it will do better.
 

Marian Perera

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Marian, yep sales are important but sometimes the vision is more important. Not every book or series has to be a hit. That's the great thing about self-publishing. You can write things that might not fit into a box or that might not be a huge seller. Who cares? If you love the story enough that you want it out there then write it and put it out. I would.

I do love all of my stories, but I'm not emotionally invested in making them all part of the same series - and I do care about sales. I don't need the books to be hits, but I want enough sales to cover costs and show a profit.

So my plan is to release M/F Book 1 as a M/F standalone novel, and then publish the other books as an M/M series. I will not link M/F Book 1 to this series, so the only way M/M readers will read it is if they check out my other books and decide to try something that is obviously M/F (and hopefully it won't upset them to discover that I also write M/F).
 

Marian Perera

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So yes, M/M readers do have very strong reactions to mixing women in the series. If you can change the first book to match the rest of the series, it will do better.

I actually don't plan to change the book, for two reasons. The first is that M/F Book 1 was picked as a romance of the month by the Washington Post. I was proud of this, and when I self-publish it, I'd like to have that recommendation somewhere in the book (or even on the cover). I don't think this would be possible if I rewrote it to be a gay romance.

The second reason is more emotional - I like the heroine of the book. I don't want to erase her and replace her with a man; that would feel fake to me, like the gender version of whitewashing.

But at the same time, you're quite right about M/M readers having strong feelings towards het romance. So while I intend to publish this book as straight, I won't advertise it as part of the series. In my head, it always will be, but M/M readers who pick up the series won't get M/F romance unless they seek out my other books on their own.
 

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(and hopefully it won't upset them to discover that I also write M/F).

It's a preference over the pairing, not the author. But it's like peddling apples to an orange lover when it comes to a crossover of series and pairing. Some will bite, most won't, but they won't shoot the seller down for it. Not that I've seen anyway.

I haven't changed over from m/f to m/m midway druing a series, but I have shared m/m characters and worlds with another author midway two seperate series. That meant I still wrote my series, but used this author's characters. She wrote hers, and used my characters with permission from the publisher. We were dealing with different readers: hers didn't know me, mine didn't know her, and it took foreshadowing in two novels to gradually introduce the shared world we delved into. Most reactions were positive, but it took a lot of work outside the novel with promotions etc to ease into the change.
 
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Unfortunately, I think you’ll have a hard time trying to pitch the same story to two distinctly different audiences.

I grew up reading M/F pairings, and I’ve read some F/F, but M/M has become my default erotica. I’ve recently tried to go back to my roots and read a M/F story. It made me cringe. A lot.

It might be a social-political reaction or a personal preference, but I do not enjoy M/F anymore. And some women turn their noses up at M/M.

Which do you enjoy writing more? Stick to that.

Unless you gender-swap the character in book one.
 

Marian Perera

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Unfortunately, I think you’ll have a hard time trying to pitch the same story to two distinctly different audiences.

I'm a bit confused. I never planned on pitching the same story to two different audiences.

What I want to do is :

1. Release M/F Book 1 as a standalone M/F romance to M/F readers.

2. Release the other M/M books as a series, where the first M/M book is designated Book 1, to M/M readers.

If anyone feels this particular course of action wouldn't work, please let me know why, but it doesn't seem to me like pitching the same story to two different audiences, or trying to pitch a het romance to M/M readers.

Which do you enjoy writing more? Stick to that.

I enjoy writing both.

Is there a reason why I should stick to only one?

Unless you gender-swap the character in book one.

What I said above about this :

"The first is that M/F Book 1 was picked as a romance of the month by the Washington Post. I was proud of this, and when I self-publish it, I'd like to have that recommendation somewhere in the book (or even on the cover). I don't think this would be possible if I rewrote it to be a gay romance.

The second reason is more emotional - I like the heroine of the book. I don't want to erase her and replace her with a man; that would feel fake to me, like the gender version of whitewashing."
 
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I'm a bit confused. I never planned on pitching the same story to two different audiences.

What I want to do is :

1. Release M/F Book 1 as a standalone M/F romance to M/F readers.

2. Release the other M/M books as a series, where the first M/M book is designated Book 1, to M/M readers.

If anyone feels this particular course of action wouldn't work, please let me know why, but it doesn't seem to me like pitching the same story to two different audiences, or trying to pitch a het romance to M/M readers.

I think this plan is a sound one.

And you will get some crossover readers. No, not everyone, but some. There *are* romance readers out there who will read any pairings and are happy to find an author who writes more than just m/f or m/m. I'm one of them.

So basically, write whatever you want to write. Readers will find you.
 

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I like the heroine of the book. I don't want to erase her and replace her with a man; that would feel fake to me, like the gender version of whitewashing.

But at the same time, you're quite right about M/M readers having strong feelings towards het romance. So while I intend to publish this book as straight, I won't advertise it as part of the series. In my head, it always will be, but M/M readers who pick up the series won't get M/F romance unless they seek out my other books on their own.

I think this is sound.

Some readers will glom on to everything you write. Some will care about the pairing (on both sides; some readers won't read M/M at all; some won't read M/F).
 

Marian Perera

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I think this is sound.

Some readers will glom on to everything you write. Some will care about the pairing (on both sides; some readers won't read M/M at all; some won't read M/F).

Thanks! I think this is the same advice we've given people here before : write whatever you want to write, whatever you love - just make sure it's labeled correctly and pitched to the audience which will appreciate it the most.
 

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This is an interesting thread to read. So not to hijack, but to tag on an additional question rather than starting a completely new thread, does this mean diversity of pairings within a series is frowned upon in the Romance genre, at least from the publisher/reader perspective?

If for example, I was trying to plot out a series featuring a family of brothers, and the first book is M/F mainstream, but I had planned to have one M/M book, and a BWWM book... is that just going to be a no-go? Is what I'm understanding from this thread that this is 1. going to drive away readers and 2. going to be an impediment to getting it published anywhere? and 3. If you start off writing M/F mainstream characters, all your characters have to stay that way? I guess I have seen series where things all stay the same, but other series I read do include some books that aren't all the same mold. But maybe it matters that they're more established authors?
 
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This is an interesting thread to read. So not to hijack, but to tag on an additional question rather than starting a completely new thread, does this mean diversity of pairings within a series is frowned upon in the Romance genre, at least from the publisher/reader perspective?

If for example, I was trying to plot out a series featuring a family of brothers, and the first book is M/F mainstream, but I had planned to have one M/M book, and a BWWM book... is that just going to be a no-go? Is what I'm understanding from this thread that this is 1. going to drive away readers and 2. going to be an impediment to getting it published anywhere? and 3. If you start off writing M/F mainstream characters, all your characters have to stay that way? I guess I have seen series where things all stay the same, but other series I read do include some books that aren't all the same mold. But maybe it matters that they're more established authors?

Speaking as a BWWM reader, if your books in the series can standalone you should be fine. If people have to read each one to follow the series then it will be extremely tough to market with all those pairings. For example, most BWWM readers such as me would only look at the BWWM book. The BWWM crowd is very, very loyal to BWWM and rarely will read any "romance" outside of that pairing. The audience are black women who love these books and most live the lifestyle of dating white men so they drool over these books because it represents their worlds. That's why I love the genre. So, yes, BWWM readers will buy just the BWWM book most likely unless they are one of the few to read white M/F. I'm telling you though, most black women do not read mainstream romance books anymore. They mostly read romances with black women ONLY. So that's a tough crossover issue right there. Then you got M/M. They did surveys on black romance readers one time and none of them read M/M and if they did it was M/M between black men. I doubt many BWWM readers would read the M/M book. Just like I am betting the M/M readers won't be interested in the M/F and BWWM books probably. I could be wrong, but I know the BWWM audience like the back of my hand so I know how they are.

Yes, to your question that this could drive a lot of readers away who are loyal to different pairings and you have picked some pairings with limited to no crossover. Two, it will be extremely difficult to market this to a publisher because they won't know who the audience is. MARKETING IS THE QUESTION. How would you market this? Who is the audience? How can you readers hooked to a series with so many different pairings? You gotta know who your audience is first because if you don't a publisher sure as heck won't.

Your best bet would probably be self-publishing. There's just too many audiences for your series that a publisher probably wouldn't be interested simply because they won't know who to market to. It will be hard finding folks who read all three of these books and pubs will want to know it has a big enough audience to support a series.

As for if you start off writing M/F do all your characters have to be that way? In terms of the main couple in the same series, it would make things easier. Once again, the issue is marketing. Someone who reads BWWM, M/F and M/M is limited audience. Most just don't read all three.

Being established or not won't help the marketing issue. That's the problem and established authors get blasted for doing things the readers didn't like or understood all the time especially in romance.

To be clear, you can have a series or book with more than one type of couple of course. For example, you can have other pairings in secondary characters. That's not an issue. The issue comes with the main couples. It doesn't work well to have a main character in a series and then switch it up so differently to where the books now gear toward a completely different audience.

Being a BWWM writer, if I was doing a standalone series focusing on couples, the main couples in each book would be BWWM. If I did a series with books where I went from a BWWM couple to a white or black couple it would flop like a stone with BWWM readers because that's not what they want to read. Now I can have a white couple and black couple in the same series as secondary characters and a subplot or whatever but that main couple better be BWWM or it's done.

A few years ago, a fellow BWWM author pal wrote a series of holiday books focusing on different couples. All the books focused on BWWM couples instead of one book where she focused on a black couple. That one flopped like a dying fish. Good thing was that the books could stand alone so it didn't affect the rest of her books but that book did horribly. She made a mistake promoting a black romance to HER audience, which was BWWM and not the black romance audience. It's two different audiences. That's not what her audience wanted and they spoke with their pocketbooks. And, by the way, she self-publishes.

It all comes down to marketing with publishers. They gotta know who will read the series before they take it on. Self-publishing erases that barrier but you still have the issue of how to market it. If you can't market a book or series to its audience, it has no chance.

Having all those pairings in one series is tough to market to a pub and to readers.
 
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Hbooks

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Okay, thanks for the honest answer. I was hoping to write a continuing series about a large family of brothers, and I guess in this day and age it just felt unrealistic that everyone would end up het and there would be no IR relationships. But if it would throw the possibility of getting trade published completely out, I guess I will have to stick to one mold.
 

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