Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lesbian Fiction/Romance Does Sell Well, and Here’s How I Know…

To begin with let’s put to rest the unfounded and totally untrue rumors about Lesbian fiction sales. Lesbian fiction, or perhaps I should say Lesbian Romance, sells well. And in some cases, extremely well. How do I know? Because I’m an author of Lesbian romance whose Lesbian titles are making me a nice sum of money, so much so that my goal is to write and publish more Lesbian romance than M/M or straight romance in the next coming years.

My inspiration for this post is because of Jessica from Read React Review who had an interesting Friday Links post where she brings up the topic of lesbian fiction:

“We still really don’t see much f/f written, reviewed or talked about in the romance world. And, I hasten to add, I don’t read it and have no interest in it, despite that fact that I do occasionally read m/m. Carina Press, Harlequin’s digital first imprint, is publishing some m/m but not, as far as I know, f/f. Does it not sell? Or is this one of those self-fulfilling prophesies (“if you don’t publish it, they won’t come.”)”

She had this ponder based on the blog, Requires Only That You Hate and the post- lesbians, where are the lesbians. Acrackedmoon would like to know why there seems to be M/M YA, but no lesbian YA.

“Lesbian visibility is pretty bloody terrible in the fiction I enjoy, or even fiction I don’t. So the schtick of those graduated-from-HP-fanfic YA writers, who are ever so lauded for their beautiful wonderful inclusivity? It’s nine times out of ten about hot, hot gay boys. Hot, hot gay boy angst. You’d be lucky if one of the girls in the background… somewhere… likes other girls… somewhere… honest.”

Also discussed is how epublishers such as Riptide exclusively publishes M/M and how Carina Press has a section for M/M but not for F/F. The public consensus is that Lesbian romance doesn’t sell.

I’m here to tell you that Lesbian romance does sell well and Lesbian fiction not making money is a fallacy. I would love to know why people believe this? Where are the facts that makes this true? Is it because F/F fiction isn’t talked about and reviewed like straight or M/M fiction is? Once upon a time, M/M fiction was underground and now look how successful it has become. There’s M/M authors like Ryan Field, Josh Lanyon and K.A. Mitchell, who are making a great career out of it and are on par with their sales just like authors who write straight fiction. I do believe that F/F fiction (or romance at least) will soon break into the mainstream like M/M has.

How do I know this? I know because I write F/F romance and it has made me the most money out of any of my titles I’ve published since June 2010. I’ve only been published a year and a half and in that time, my Lesbian titles count for over 80% of my sales. I’m making a nice sum of money publishing F/F romance that next year, the majority of what I’m writing and hope to publish will be F/F fiction.

I have 4 Lesbian titles out. Out of these 4, two are my best money makers. My top 3 sellers from the 9 books I’ve published are:

1. The Princess’s Bride
2. For the Love of Mollie
3. Lovestruck

Two out of my top three bestselling books are F/F romance. Lovestruck was in Amazon’s top 50 best-selling GLBT and erotic fiction for a month and The Princess’s Bride reached #2 on Amazon’s bestselling Lesbian fiction (I would have been #1, but at the time the #1 book there was a self-published book about a woman and her loving relationship with a horse) and stayed in the top 10 for almost 3 months. Scandal in the Wind came out in November and is currently in the top 10 for best-selling F/F romance at Ravenous Romance, and if you take away the 5 anthologies on this list, my book would be at the #2 spot. Ravenous Romance has given me a $200 advance for every book I’ve published with them. I was able to pay off my advance for The Princess’s Bride and Sleeping with Frenemy within a month of their release.

Usually the first 6 months of a book release is hit or miss. At first, I thought The Princess’s Bride was a failure because I wasn’t seeing much movement or sales in the first 5 months of its release. But then when I got my first quarterly royalty statement (Jan-March 2011). In 3 months I made $1,360 off of one title- The Princess’s Bride. Lovestruck continues to sell well, where I range from $50-$80 a month in sales. Sleeping with the Frenemy’s advance was paid off within the first month of its release and it’s doing pretty well sales wise. Scandal in the Wind, which has only been out since the middle of November, is on track to sell out its advance.

F/F romance is selling. I’m proof of this. People can keep denying it, but unless they have hard facts, they don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m open and honest about the amount of books I’ve sold and my royalties, and I welcome anyone to ask me about them because I have nothing to hide. F/F romance is making waves in epublishing and there are more authors writing it than you think.

The three publishers I’m with- Decadent Publishing, Noble Romance and Ravenous Romance all publish F/F romance, and not just one or two titles here or there. F/F romance has become a regular category among other genres listed. Renee Rocco, owner of Lyrical Press is dying for more lesbian romance. Lyrical may be considered a small epublisher, but one of her authors who writes F/F romance sells 1,000 books in a month for her. Samhain Publishining and Ellora’s Cave are all actively seeking lesbian romance. Bold Stroke Books is well known for their F/F fiction.

Evernight Publishing has decided to publish F/F romance. My pal, Kelly Yeakle published her first F/F romance with Evernight. She’s their first F/F romance author. She has done well with her first F/F romance that she’s writing more. My editor and Decadent author, Kate Richards is writing and publishing F/F romance. Ravenous Romance author, Louisa Bacio also writes F/F romance, and I believe she sells even better than I do.

Leigh Ellwood has been writing F/F romance for years and is successful. All these authors I’ve mentioned are like me. We write a wide variety of genres and our best-selling books seems to be Lesbian fiction.

Cathy Pegau sold a F/F Science Fiction Romance to Carina Press called Rulebreaker that was well received, but from what I can see, it’s only one of two Lesbian titles at Carina Press. Funny, they have a Lesbian title with Rulebreaker, but why don’t they have it under Lesbian in the Books: Shop by Genre. It’s in the Science Fiction Romance section. They have a M/M section but no F/F section. I find this odd unless their 2 F/F titles aren’t selling well. Lucy Felthouse also writes a wide variety of fiction, including F/F and also edits a few F/F centric anthologies.

Some epublishers won’t publish Lesbian fiction. Loose-Id doesn't. Also many of the epubs I was interested in submitting my F/F fiction don’t accept it. I find this strange because F/F romance can make a profit for both the publisher and the author. And I’m not talking pennies or a few dollars. I’m talking hundreds to thousands of dollars.

When 2011 is over (depending on my 4th quarter sales), I will have made somewhere between $5,000-$6000. 90% of what I earned is from my Lesbian romances. Last year my goal was to make $1000 from June 2010-June 2011. I ended up making much more than that and tripled my sales this year mainly because of my Lesbian romance.

F/F isn’t for everyone, just like M/M isn’t for some or in some instances, straight romance. That’s what great about publishing, especially epublishing, because epublishers are open to all different types of genres and stories. As I mentioned before, I’m trying to come to terms about being recognized as an author. When I publish my Straight stories, I receive more of a mention than I do with my Lesbian titles. But the funny thing is, I make more money publishing Lesbian romance. I want recognition, but if I’m making more money writing for a genre people don’t openly acknowledge or read, it’s not hard to figure out what I’ll be writing more of. The greedy wench that I am wants the money, so if I have to forgo the recognition, so be it because again, Lesbian romance sells well.

A few weeks ago I was talking to someone about author branding. Author branding has become so important and if you don’t have a brand you won’t succeed, or so I’ve been told. I feel I don’t have a brand. If someone asked you what’s KT Grant’s brand?, you’d probably get a blank stare. In part this is my fault because I’m not sticking to writing for one genre or specific category. My books are either set in some sort of historical or contemporary setting. I’m also in the process of trying to sell a Steampunk (straight) and a Paranormal Romance (lesbian). I also signed a new contract with Ravenous Romance for a new Lesbian romance for next year. I’m all over the place.

Surprisingly the friend said I do have a brand. I’m known for writing hot Lesbian Pirate romance. And you know what, that works for me.

**If anyone knows any other epublisher open to publishing Lesbian romance/fiction and F/F authors, leave a comment here and I’ll add it to this post.**

Other epublishers who publish Lesbian fiction:
Pink Petal Books
Storm Moon Press



Cathy in AK said...

I don't know why Carina doesn't have a F/F category either.

Glad your sales are going well. I think more people are reading the genre than we realize, but it gets less buzz than M/M and M/F. Time to do more promo, I guess : )

And thanks for the mention!

Kate Richards said...

I have been told over and over that women are the primary buyers of M/M and it surprises me every time.As a reader an as an author, I identify with the female characters first and then stand with them to lust I mean love the while I admire any well written book, I often wonder why women would like this so well.

Olivia Starke said...

I agree that more attention should be drawn to f/f fiction. I write m/f paranormal erotic, but recently contracted on my first f/f. Though I love a good romance in any form, I personally prefer reading f/f over m/m. I have another f/f paranormal in the works, and hope to do many more.

Heather Massey said...

KS Augustin recently self-published an f/f sci-fi romance called WAR GAMES ( I'm halfway through it.

I enjoyed Cathy Pegau's RULEBREAKER and would like to read more f/f SFR (nothing against other subgenres; I'm just an SFR fiend :)).

I think it's illogical to assume no one is interested in f/f, particularly because not everyone wants stories focused on the male fantasy lover (no matter what marketing departments want us to believe). Unfortunately, that seems to be the default assumption these days.

In other words, is the lack of recognition/demand for f/f romance correlated with the high number of hero-centric romances?

Why does romance seem so down on heroine character development at times?

Like Kate R., I identify strongly with heroines. Sometimes that feels like a lonely place in the romance community.

As you've attested to, KB, f/f romances can and do make money. Thankfully, there are small press/epublishers who get the value of these stories. They appeal to readers who enjoy diversity, for one thing.

Keziah Hill said...

Great you're selling well. Hope the tide is turning.

slarmstrong said...

I'd like to also point out that Storm Moon Press is always seeking lesbian erotic romances. We're heading into our third year, and we're constantly begging authors to submit lesbian titles to us.

I also think you need to be careful not to represent your experience as what everyone can experience. :) Sales are so subjective and singular, you can't base one author's success off the success of another. I think, if there was more quality lesbian fiction written, there might be a bigger audience buying, but authors need to write to the market!

As I said, we're always looking for lesbian submissions, and we have quite a number of line and anthology calls trying to cultivate ideas for authors. There are publishers looking if authors have the stories to sell.

RRRJessica said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences and perspectives on f/f Kate. I've learned a lot reading your post. And I definitely plan to read some f/f in 2012!

KB/KT Grant said...

Cathy: I think the more people talk about FF literature, the more it will be buzzed. It seems to me when people think GLBT, they automatically think M/M and F/F and Transgender fiction gets pushed to the side. I do see this changing and perhaps in a few years F/F will become as big as M/M? I'd like to think so.

Kate: The reason M/M is so popular among female readers is because as romance readers, we are more interested in the hero and want to put ourselves in the shoes of the heroine and be swept away by that perfect man. Maybe this is the case with M/M. Two men falling in love is better than one man?

Olivia: Congrats on your first F/F! Please email me. I'd love to have you on for a guest post :)

Heather: Again, I think there is a lack of recognition of F/F because of the high demand of hero-centric romance. I would love to do a poll and see who is reading F/F romance. Is it a big lesbian readership, males or straight women who want to try something different or curious?

Keziah: Thanks! Let's hope the tide continues to turn.

Slarmstrong: I added Storm Moon Press to the post. Yes, everything is subjective including sales and royalties. But it seems that public opinion believe if a book sells a number of copies or an author makes a certain amount, their worth as an author is how many books sold or their sales. One of my titles who has made me little money is one of my favorite ones I've written and I'm very proud of it and was able to publish it.

Jessica: Thank you for opening the line of discussion this way with your post :)

Treva Harte said...

Loose Id has some f/f erotic romances but because we aren't known for them, we don't get many submissions. Or maybe the other way around. (But take a look as Elisa Rolle's Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Contemporary Erotica winner this year.) However we do quite decently in sales with Amazon and third party distributors for f/f romance and we'd be interested in more submissions.

KB/KT Grant said...

Treva: Do you think you'll be open to publishing more F/F? Have you noticed an increase in your F/F sales over the past year?

Cathy in AK said...

There's a lot of mention about erotic F/F, which is great, but what about those of us NOT writing or reading erotica? I don't have figures, only my own experience, but I will take a wild stab at it and say it's not an easy sell or something that seems to be many readers' go-to. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

LVLM(Leah) said...

I've certainly seen a lot more f/f offerings since I started reading it in '08. And I do know that more readers are shall we say more open to reading it or at least the occasional scene without freaking as I often read in the past.

But it seems to be a catch-22 at this point. Because of that constant mantra "f/f doesn't sell" lots of pubs don't have a huge selection, which means that those that do want to read it, don't have many options.

Look at Carina- I looked at what they offered when they opened. Not one f/f at that time but several m/m. I'm the customer they want if they want to sell f/f but I never went back there to look anymore.

And Loose-Id, I read their few options and they've been the same so again, I don't go back to look since it's been like that for years.

Well, I just went to Loose-Id and they don't even have a way to search for lesbian or f/f. I get all m/m options. Used to be I could do that.

But my point is, this is also an issue, lack of labeling or lumping the 2-3 lesbian titles in with m/m and having to slog through pages to find it. If you make it hard for the reader who does want it, they are not going to come back and they won't buy those few titles.

I know Samhain is finally asking for more f/f and I know a few authors there do well with f/f.

But still f/f gets very little promo and even less on blogs. If it is selling well, it's not being talked about that much.

It would be interesting to see some stats on it. Mainly from epubs since there are publishers who publish strictly lesbian.

KB/KT Grant said...

LVLM: 6 months ago I asked one of the Carina editors on Twitter why there was a M/M category but no F/F. They said they have some F/F coming. Funny, other than Cathy's story and the other up there, The F/F is underwhelming lacking when you see the M/M and straight titles. And again if it's announced because F/F doesn't sell well, I can say that's BS because I know from myself and other authors who write F/F that is sells well.

A publisher just selling 1 of 2 F/F titles a year to appease the public who wants is an epub I refuse to publish with. And if no epubs are selling F/F to begin with, how can you say it doesn't sell? Of course it's not going to sell because you don't give the reading public a wide variety or enough of these titles for them to choose.

And I'm not talking about the so-called F/F that may have the heroine having a lesbian experience and then ends up with the hero. I'm talking about straight up F/F romance with 2 women having a romance just like in the M/M and straight romances we see.

Treva Harte said...

You might want to talk to Jolie Du Pre about the marketing of f/f. Things may have changed since I heard her speak about it but it sounds a bit difficult for publishers to be trusted enough by readers. Of course more readers getting titles from Amazon may change that whole dynamic.

KB/KT Grant said...

Treva: Do you think Jolie would be interested in doing a guest post if I get in touch with her? I'm planning on have a week dedicated to F/F romance, the authors who write it and the publishers who publish it.

Treva Harte said...

I'd definitely give her a try.

Treva Harte said...

And yes, Loose Id is open to accepting f/f erotic romance. But like all publishers we want to attract a wider audience while keeping our existing customers, plus we're picky anyhow. Add to that the lack of f/f submissions we get and it may look like we and other publishers aren't interested. When we got our first m/m submissions we were lucky. Not many publishers were interested and we got a steady (not overwhelming) flow of solid stories to pick from. It helped build up that audience for us. We don't get that right now with f/f erotic romance. And no, we are not interested in thinly disguised male-oriented stories about lesbians. Please don't send us those. Please.

KB/KT Grant said...

Treva: But shouldn't F/F be treated the same in the way you pick your M/M or Straight titles? Why do you feel the need to be picker with your F/F submissions? Is it because you feel the F/F submission you've received are lacking overall from say the M/M or Straight romance that has been submitted to Loose-Id?

BTW thanks for commenting because not many publishers would because I guess there may be some confrontational questions, which I hope in my case doesn't come across like that, but more in terms of curiosity. Perhaps you'll now receive more quality type F/F now based on this discussion here.

slarmstrong said...

Thank you for adding Storm Moon Press.

We're lucky that we have one author on board with us who vastly prefers writing F/F, and I love her for it. I encourage her at every step of the way. I've been approached by a couple other authors about it over the last year, and I've encouraged them, too. But the submissions just aren't there, and I'm not sure why.

We are good about posting everywhere we can about what we're looking for. We've been desperate for polyamorous titles (not just menage), but have yet to have a single offering. We know there's a market, but for some reason, authors just aren't writing. It's incredibly frustrating because Storm Moon Press bills itself as a GLBT publisher, but we mainly receive submissions for only the G portion of that. :(

I wish I knew how to be more encouraging because, man, do I want to publish F/F. I think there are awesome stories to be told, and I'm open to submissions, queries, and pitches.

Lucy Felthouse said...

Wow, great post! Thanks for drawing my attention to it - and for the mention.

I have to agree in terms of my f/f stuff being the best-selling. My Noble Romance vampire story, Bite with Height is my best-selling title, and I'm also in a couple of Ravenous Romance anthologies that sell brilliantly.

I haven't got any full-length f/f stuff yet to use as a comparison, but it'll be interesting to see how my sequel to Bite with Height does, when I get around to writing it, that is! ;)

Treva Harte said...

You may have misunderstood my picky statement. We're picky for everything. Of course we want stories that we know will cater to our readers as well as expand the market.

Cathy in AK said...

A quick FYI: I contacted the web/ebookstore person at Carina Press. She said putting the F/F category up sort of fell off the radar and apologized. It will go up soon, probably not before the holidays, but should appear in their January updates. I'm good with that : )

KB/KT Grant said...

Thanks for the update Cathy! Great to hear.

Rebekah said...

I think it's a cycle. A lot of review blogs refuse to touch lesbian romance. And I mean REFUSE. Readers aren't exposed to it, so they don't buy it and publishers don't see the demand so they refuse to put it out there.

Increased visibility across the board will help the cause.

KB/KT Grant said...

The hardest thing is getting blogs and review sites to review F/F. I think with myself, I was lucky to have my first few F/F titles because I'm friendly with certain bloggers.

But then again, the majority of blogs still only review straight titles.

Rachel Randall said...

This is an inspiring post -- thanks for addressing this topic! Very heartening to hear...

An Open Book said...

KB/KT and all other f/f authors- my review site LOVES f/f, as do I. I am also a F/F author and would love to be 'branded' as an ALL- F/F author.

lesbrary said...

For those publishers who are looking for more f/f submissions, I would be happy to do a big post at the Lesbrary that lists publishers looking for f/f and their specifications. I've got a fairly solid base of readers there, and over 2000 followers on my lesbian literature tumblr. I would love to get visibility out there, because there are definitely f/f authors looking for publishers!

Angela James said...

Wow, lots of speculation about Carina. I'm always happy to answer these questions when emailed directly. I'd even have been happy to be quoted for the article, so you didn't have to speculate!

When readers email me about f/f (and there aren't many, unfortunately) and ask why we don't publish more, my answer is very similar to what Treva said here: we can't publish what we don't get. Additionally, I'd add, and we're not going to publish just anything, just to fill out the category. Our criteria of quality has remained and will remain the same for f/f, m/m or non-romance.

So we don't get a lot of f/f submissions, and what we do get so far hasn't been to the quality we're looking for, with the exception of the books we've already published, and those we have coming in 2012. We're more than willing and looking to publish f/f, but if there are a lot of authors writing quality f/f stories, they're not submitting to us!

That's the only reason we don't have more f/f. And the reason we didn't have any when we opened (in response to the person above who noted we didn't have any on launch. There were a lot of genres we didn't have on launch!).

Hopefully that cleared up the speculation and answered any questions. Please let me know if I missed any!

Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

KB/KT Grant said...

Angela: Have you noticed a rise in F/F submissions over the past months? I'm surprised more authors who write F/F aren't submitting because I think Carina would be a great publisher for them to publish with, as well as the other epublishers out there.

Paisley Smith said...

I write FF for Loose Id, Ellora's Cave, and Cleis. My FF titles account for the majority of my royalties. They sell well, especially my Loose Id title, Beguiled, a historical. Great post!

Karin Kallmaker said...

Just chiming in here for those readers who aren't finding lesbian romance to read, there is a vast selection of novel-length lesbian romance (in paperback and ebook formats) from Bella Distribution ( Their offerings range from sweet to extremely sexy, YA to highly adult, romance to mystery to paranormal to literary to romping good reads, all from debut and veteran writers, indie writers as well as the full catalogs of several publishers, all lesbian in focus.

Bella Books (owned by the same woman as Bella Distribution) is my publisher. Along with new releases, they also re-release classic lesbian romances and backlists, all in both print and ebook. Bella Books are distributed by Bella Distribution to direct markets as well as CDS to bookstores and the major etailers. Full disclosure, I've been the editorial director at Bella Books since 2008.

It is difficult to get many book blog reviewers interested in lesbian books - and there are hundreds of books about lesbian relationships published every year and that's been true for two decades. Back when there were more print reviewers they were equally resistant. Often, the reluctance is because the book is romance and romance is "trash." From reviewers who regularly handle romance the pushback I've heard most often is along the lines of "They're not really romances, they're erotica." I don't know what to make of that assessment given that reviewers who said "thanks, no thanks" to review copies from us often comment at length about the fabulous amounts of erotic content in the romances they review.

I try not to jump to the conclusion that for a lot of reviewers if the story doesn't have a man in it, it just doesn't have the same interest for them, but some of the responses left me with nothing else to conclude. Sometimes, perhaps out of misguided political correctness, potential reviewers have refused lesbian books saying they're poorly written rather than admit they're simply not interested in the theme. As a writer, I'd rather know that the genre isn't someone's cup of tea and leave it at that than be told the books aren't worth reviewing! I just don't buy the "all lesbian books aren't worth reviewing" feedback.

Bloggers will also say that they get little traffic when they do review a lesbian title; that's the same circular logic that says lesbian books don't sell when someone isn't offering enough variety to attract regular visitors who want that type of book. Ergo, they get no traffic, so there must not be any "buzz" out there, just like sellers who get no sales believe there are no readers out there. Bloggers who focus regularly on lesbian fiction report comparable levels of traffic between genres they cover after they've built up a body of reference.

Fortunately, word of mouth and our own direct marketing spreads the word to thousands and thousands of women who like lesbian stories. But there are many other readers out there who don't realize that there is a thriving and vibrant industry that has produced thousands of books to be enjoyed and thousands more in the years ahead.

Didn't start out to write a tome; I have great passion for the subject matter. *g*

Scott Pegau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cathy in AK said...

To back up what Angela said (not that she needs backing up :): When I had Rulebreaker ready for submission, Carina Press was just opening. The description of what they were looking for fit any genre: great stories. I didn't feel my F/F would be met with anything other than professionalism and respect. Though I didn't go through the regular submission process (my pitch was picked during a contest), I don't think it would have mattered how I got the manuscript to them. I'm grateful to everyone at Carina for the chance to get Rulebreaker published and for the opportunity available to other F/F authors.

Write a good story. That's all.

Toni Sands said...

There are so many interesting comments here. My new novel, Orchid Pink, has some lesbian scenes but heroine, Adelaide, isn't too sure whether she prefers girls or boys. I've also written a short story which explores f/f but I agree with the advice 'just write a great story.'
I'm at if you'd like to check out my writing.

JL Merrow said...

Less Than Three Press doesn't seem to be listed here, and they also accept f/f. I have an f/f fairytale due to be serialised by them in August 2012.

Cari Silverwood said...

I just found your post again after reading it ages ago. I'm writing a BDSM themed menage with mff (co-writing it with Leia Shaw and Sorcha Black)and maybe I'm going to venture into ff too. It's strange how much mm is liked by women openly yet lesbian fiction is not.

As usual I have written in a narrow, less popular niche. lol By adding in BDSM, the niche narrows even more.

I referred another author to your post as it's such a great one.