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Saturday, January 7, 2012

The 2012 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event Starts Now!


Welcome to the first in what will be a 14 day event highlighting the Lesbian genre from the authors who write Lesbian fiction, the publishers who publish it and the bloggers who read it and promote it. Every day leading up to January 21st, there will be at least 2 posts a day promoting the Lesbian genre and why it's so amazing.

To start off the event, please welcome, Radclyffe, well known Lesbian romance author and president of the LGBTQ publishing company, Bold Stokes Books, Inc...




The Five Big Lies About Lesbian Fiction: Debunking the Myths by Radclyffe

As a surgeon, I've learned that numbers do not lie. Facts have no agenda—no preconceived notions, no hidden prejudices, no allegiances, no biases, no obligations of any kind. As an author, I have twelve years of experience writing and publishing exclusively lesbian romance and erotica. As the president of Bold Strokes Books, Inc (BSB)—an independent LGBTQ publishing company—I have eight years experience publishing LGBTQ fiction [350 titles (70% percent lesbian fiction) and over 1.5 million books sold]. As an avid reader of queer fiction for nearly half a century, I have my own likes and dislikes and my own hopes and desires for the future of queer publishing. This blog is not about what I think, but what I’ve learned from looking at the “numbers.” As with all data, there are no absolutes—every conclusion is relative to the data pool. The experience I report is not necessarily the same as that for every other author or every other publisher, but our experience at BSB does allows us to address some of the great myths and “lies” about lesbian fiction with facts.

The Five Great Lies About Lesbian Fiction:

1. Lesbian fiction doesn’t sell.

Anything other than mainstream fiction, regardless of genre, is by definition, a “niche” market. This is certainly true for LGBTQ fiction, whether it is m/m, f/f, menage, bi, trans, or, as I will refer to the broad scope of LGBTQ fiction, “queer.” For every market, much like in Field of Dreams, what you build determines who will come. Readers, like all consumers, search out the marketplace for the goods they seek. If a publishing company primarily releases m/m fiction, they will create a readership, or consumership, interested primarily in m/m fiction. If that publisher then adds a title or two that is f/f or f/f/m, the readers either will overlook it because that’s not what they seek or the readers who might be interested won’t know to frequent that particular “marketplace.” As a result, that publisher will state “lesbian fiction doesn’t sell.”

As a publisher of LGBTQ fiction targeting a LGBTQ readership (although decidedly not exclusively targeting the LGBTQ market) I can state unequivocally that lesbian fiction sells. No queer fiction sells in the same volume that “straight” or mainstream fiction sells, because the readership is vastly smaller. Nevertheless, our midlist unit sales are in the thousands. What is unique to our marketplace and critical to our success is the long tail—unlike mainstream works, romances in particular, our titles remain available for months to years as opposed to weeks. This allows for robust backlist sales when new releases come out. In addition, there is a healthy and consistent demand for lesbian fiction internationally, comprising 5-8% of sales. Our titles have been translated into Dutch, French, Spanish, Russian, and Hebrew.

2. Lesbian romances are all the same.

As in the mainstream, romance rules in queer fiction. Every genre has its defining elements—that "fact" is fundamental to the concept of genre. In a mystery, there is a crime to be solved. In a thriller, there’s an adversary to elude or defeat. In paranormal fiction, an alternate reality and otherworldly characters are expected. As defined by the Romance Writers of America, a romance is a work of fiction with a central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending. Those are extremely broad guidelines that allow for a tremendous variety of romances in terms of sub-genre, themes, and plot. Of our 2011 titles, 55% of new releases were lesbian romances, 15% queer fiction, 10% mystery, 10% erotica, and 10% young adult. Of the romance published, traditional romance titles (character driven stories in which the courtship and commitment are the focal point of the story) were 39%, paranormal 26%, romantic intrigue 18%, erotic 11% and fantasy 5%. In terms of lifetime sales, the top 25 titles were equally divided between traditional romances and romantic intrigue. In the last year, paranormal romances have increased in popularity and are now the number three selling romance subgenre.

3. Lesbian romances are dated—no one cares about coming out stories anymore.

Like all literature, queer fiction parallels socio-cultural evolution in terms of issues and themes. In the 1970s and 1980s, at the height of the gay liberation movement and the heyday of independent lesbian publishers, coming out stories were frequent. Many of today’s works feature protagonists who are comfortably queer, pictured dealing with the issues of daily life that face any individual in modern society—professional challenges, issues of gender and sexual identity, family and religious pressures and challenges, and of course, the search for love. Nevertheless, authors still write coming out stories, we still publish them, and readers still buy them, because in this country and throughout the world, realizing and embracing one’s sexual identity is part of growing up, and for LGBTQ individuals, challenges remain in terms of dealing with familial, social, religious, and professional issues. These stories are still timely, and presenting the trials and triumphs of coming out as queer is still a critically important form of validating and affirming the experiences of our readers, young and not-so-young. In 2011, 11% of our romances featured "coming out" stories. Their sales were on a par with other lesbian titles.

4. Lesbian romances are just beach reads—and not very well written.

Nowhere is it decreed that popular, entertaining, accessible works of fiction can’t be well-written or have meaningful messages, and nowhere is that more true than for queer fiction, romances in particular. Quality and entertainment value are not mutually exclusive. To this day, mainstream avenues of publication are nearly non-existent for authors writing queer fiction. Fortunately for independent LGBTQ publishers, we have many fine authors writing all forms of queer works. Readers of popular fiction are as sophisticated and demanding of quality as readers of “literary” fiction. Legitimate publishers select for quality writing in terms of character, plot, theme, and style. By presenting works that appeal to a broad market, authors of popular lesbian fiction explore serious themes while providing satisfying entertainment. In 2011, BSB titles were finalists and winners of LGBTQ awards as well as mainstream independent awards such as the IPPYs, Benjamin Franklin, and Foreword Book of the Year awards.

5. There’s no money in writing lesbian fiction.

As I noted previously, the market is smaller for queer fiction than for mainstream fiction. There’s no question that the best selling authors of lesbian fiction earn less than the best-selling mainstream authors. It is not true, however, that there is no money to be made in lesbian fiction. As noted on the BSB publishing FAQ sheet, we offer an advance on all works ($1000.00 on average). Over 90% of romances earn out and as authors build a list and expand their readership, income rises.

Numbers aside, those of us who write, publish, and read queer fiction know lesbian fiction is alive and well, and as we continue to promote and publicize works of quality for, by, and about the LGBTQ community, we will ensure a long and satisfying life for our literature.


Radclyffe/L.L. Raand (Len Barot) brings more than twenty years experience in both writing and publishing to Bold Strokes Books, one of the world’s largest independent LGBTQ publishing companies. She is a retired surgeon and full time author-publisher and has published over forty novels, dozens of short stories, and has edited numerous anthologies. She is an eight-time finalist and three-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award and an RWA FF&P Prism award winner. A member of the Saints and Sinners Literary Hall of Fame, she was a 2011 finalist for the RWA Gayle Wilson AoE, RWA Colorado Romance Writers AoE, RWA Passionate Plume award, WisRWA, EPIC award, and Foreword Book of the Year award. She has contributed as a workshop instructor, moderator, and presenter at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, the York Lesbian Arts Festival in the UK, the IBPA 2011 Publishing University, and Publishing Business Expo 2011.

Visit her websites at www.llraand.com and www.radfic.com. For more information on Bold Strokes Books visit www.boldstrokesbooks.com.


Contest Time!

Leave a comment here by Saturday, 1/14 for your chance to win any Bold Strokes Books title of your choosing. This is open to everyone!

70 comments:

Anita said...

Thanks, Rad. I always learn when I listen to you. Your success supports your myth-busters.
Anita

Tory said...

I didn't know this was going on. Thanks for posting it on Facebook, Radclyffe. I read primarily Lesbian Fiction, so this is really exciting for me. Thanks to all the authors for their great stories.

Elaine Mulligan-Lynch said...

Rad, thanks for the 5 Myths insights. Question for you - if you and your partner could have dinner with any 6 people living or dead who would they be and why? thanks Lainie

Trogg said...

A great blog. Very interesting to see the breakdown of new releases in all the different genres and the top sales.

KB said...

I only read lesbian fiction and have read more than 500 stories online and in book form in the last 5 years. 95% of the books I have are from BSB with most from you Radclyffe. I myself am hoping to become a BSB author someday.

vanessa said...

I always love to listen for all Radclyffe's comments, she is the reason I'm hooked on lesbian fiction today. Along with several other authors.

RamenGrrl said...

sending this out to my friends who don't think lesfic is legit. maybe you'll gain some new readers!

~allie

Ulla Ho said...

Thank you Rad! I've been wondering about the economic side of writing and publishing lesbian fiction - hoping, of course, that the writers and publishers get some pennies for the fantastic work they do, work which is a "life line" for many people, including myself!
There was a time when most lesbian novels were "same old, same old" but lately that has changed and there's a lot more variation!
I should know, I've read most of them.
Thank you for doing what you do!

Anonymous said...

Thank God for BSB and Rad who have opened up a new world to me. I was a non reader - nothing really interested me until I found one of Rads series someone lent me. Now I have my own collection of lots of authors and reading is my favorite pasttime.

D.Jackson Leigh said...

I love it when you talk numbers. It gives us a big picture outside our writing caves where we huddle in isolation over characters and manuscripts.

CAB said...

Well said, and there is nothing wrong with a well written beach book. Sometimes it's exactly what I need to escape my work week

Terri DeWees said...

I am an avid reader and nothing appeals to me more than a well written Lesbian novel. I've read too many to name, and have been touched by so many. There is a common thread to our fiction, one that is uniquely us.
Thanks to all who choose to write and publish. Keep 'em coming!

Cath said...

Thank you for busting those myths! As an avid reader of lesbian fiction, I find this blog very positive as it demonstrates there is a future for this niche market!

I was wondering what the numbers say about the future with regards to ebooks versus paperback books? I continue to buy both but have noticed that I'm beginning to move towards ebooks as I can have them instantly, is this a general trend?

Rachel Dax said...
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Rachel Dax said...
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Rae said...

As always Radclyffe, You are an amazing inspiration!

linda bolton said...

WHEN I CRACK THE SPINE ON A BOOK I LOOK FORWARD TO BEING TAKEN TO ANOTHER PLACE AND TIME. FOR A WOMAN LIKE MYSELF WHO IS PRETTY MUCH HOUSE BOUND TO TO DISABILITIES, I NEED AN ESCAPE. YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A WINNER WHEN YOU OPEN A BOOK @8P.M AND WHEN YOU CLOSE IT WHEN YOU'VE REACHED THE END YOUR SHOCKED THAT IT NOW 3A.M. YOU GET SO LOST AND CAUGHT UP IN THE STORY YOU LOOSE TRACK OF TIME OR ANYTHING OR ANYBODY AROUND YOU.I WANT TO THANK RADCLYFF,GERI HILL, KENNA WHITE AND LYN DENISON, PLUS ALL THE OTHER TALENTED WRITERS FOR G,L,T,B,.FOR TAKING TO A PLACE WE ALL WANT TO BE AT.

Archer said...

I have to admit, until I found BSB, I really believed a few of these myths. Every lesbian centric novel I picked up featured closeted characters' coming out stories. The main protagonists were always young and generally scared of their sexuality etc. I couldn't relate. Even though I stayed in the closet until I was nineteen, I can honestly say I never once regretted being a lesbian and never wished I was straight or 'normal', as they say (ha!) On the contrary, I loved being a lesbian and was quite comfortable and content. Anyway, the point is that BSB completely obliterated all those myths for me and has provided me with the best lesbian centric reading so far. I am very grateful!

Laydin Michaels said...

Bravo, Maestro! You tell ' em Rad!

Erin O'Riordan said...

Me From 10 Years Ago is constantly jealous of the amazing quality and variety of lesbian and bisexual fiction to choose from.

Anonymous said...

I read all kinds of books anything that grabs my attention but i haven't found any that are more real or relate better to my life then LGBTQ fiction Thanks Radcliff for your writing and knowledge

DorisRose MacBean said...

Great job, pulling back the curtain on these popular beliefs. It is a lot like trying to turn a great ocean liner, very slowly. Nevertheless..turning!

Barrett

KB/KT Grant said...

Thank you, Rad for being the first to post here for the Lesbian appreciation event. When I think of quality Lesbian fiction, as well as LGBTQ, BSB is the first to come to mind.

Also, your covers are gorgeous!

Fiction Vixen said...

How funny, I ran across BSB for the first time a few days ago and now you're here kicking off the Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event. Great post!

And thank you Kate for organizing the event. Looking forward to seeing what you have in store!!

Heidi D said...

Interesting facts. I Love reading and read a lot of LGBTQ books. Have always wanted to be a writer and after meeting several lesbian writers I find myself even more inspired. Maybe someday I will be able to add my stories to the numbers. Thanks for writing, publishing and keeping us informed.

Ragdollprof said...

Really enjoyed reading what Rad wrote. Thanks for all you do.

Cathy in AK said...

Thanks, Rad. An interesting and insightful post. I've only pubbed the one F/F story so far, but more are in the works. I'm sure they'll find happy (and hopefully profitable!) homes ; )

And thanks, KB, for hosting this amazing event!

Deb S in PA said...

Thanks for posting, Rad. Since I travel a lot for work, my Kindle comes with me at all times. I feel like I'm coming home when I download an order of lesbian romances and mysteries and enjoy them on the plane, at the airport, and in all the hotels (that seem to run together!).

Thanks!

Rebekah said...

Thanks for sharing the facts with us, Rad. You're always an inspiration for me. And thank you to KT for bringing us all together in this way. :)

Norma said...

Good information! Very intresting as well.

LVLM(Leah) said...

I loved this post. I like hearing about the numbers. heh

Question if I may, have you found that your readership base has expanded to include a lot more straight identified readers since the explosion of ebooks and a lot more exposure has happened?

I also noticed that you've put BSB on outlet stores like All Romance Ebooks, which gives BSB more exposure. Has this helped in expanding readership of lesbian for BSB and lesbian in general?

Kay said...

When I was younger I discovered Naiad books and they were great for seeing non-straight women on the page but they were a bit creaky in the writing. With BSB I can be sure the writing standard will be professional and often the stories of interest. I've enjoyed reading and passing on spare books to a rural queer youth group. I used to enjoy seeing BSB books at my local lesbian library in Wellington New Zealand (LILAC) but since affirming that I'm bisexual not lesbian my membership has been cancelled. That's the great thing about LGBTIQ books, I can enjoy them even if I'm currently witha man :-)

Lee McLean said...

Very well said, Rad. I always love lesbian romance and very few stories have let me down. I have my favorite authors but am always open to try new ones. Thanks for a wonderful, informative post.

Jill Sorenson said...

Hi there! I've enjoyed many Bold Strokes books, especially Innocent Hearts (by you) and Awake Unto Me by Kathleen Knowles. I love seeing the titles at NetGalley, and I always get a quick response when I request. Thank you!

How are digital sales going, and will you experiment with lower prices for ebooks?

Thanks KB/KT.

MovieBuffEvie13 said...

I'm glad that you were able to address those myths that are commonplace for "queer" fiction. I'd say about 70% of the books I read fall into that category. I'm also known to turn many of my friends onto lesbian fiction whether they are gay or not, just because the stories are so touching & really draw you in within a few turning pages. They'll go from teasing me about reading such novels to calling me the next day saying they couldn't put it down & ask if I can recommend another title.

As with regular fiction, some stories hit closer to home then others do, but I enjoy reading them all because they are ingrained into our history. Thank you gor sharing such beautiful stories, I hope to enjoy them for many years to come!

Rachel said...

Thank you for this. I especially hate the "lesbian fiction doesn't sell" and the "lesbian fiction is not well-written" myths.

Nicole said...

This was truly awesome. My first lesbian novel was "Innocent Hearts," and from then on, I really knew I wasn't alone in the world. I aspire to one day see one of my many story ideas in print, so I'll take any advice I can get!

She said...

Very interesting post. I've only recently started reading lesbian fiction. Mostly because it is not as easily accessible as other genres of writing. A good read is a good read regardless of genre. I'm always looking for good books. Today I was called a promiscuous reader since I read all genres and don't limit myself. Thanks for posting.

smg5775@yahoo.com

Heather Massey said...

Thanks for such an informative post! I wish BSB even greater success in the future.

sfrgalaxy "at" gmail.com

Anonymous said...

HI!! ITS AMAZING AND VERY GRATIFYING TO FIND SUCH A GREAT SELECTION OF LESBIAN FICTION NOW DAYS. RAD THANK YOU FOR GIVING US A CHOICE.I AM FOR EVER GREATFULL TO YOU AND THE OTHER WRITERS...

Carol said...

As a 72-yr-old lesbian, I remember when the "only" book was "The Well of Loneliness." I joined the AF in 1958 and spent 26 years in the closet. Good grief, what a change has taken place! Today's young readers need to read stories from the past, no matter how badly written some are, to know how far we have come. Thanks to Radclyffe, Naiad/Bella, Bluefeather Books, and all the others who have provided us with some really good reads.

Anonymous said...

Interesting getting to read some of the myths. I did not know how large BSB was and enjoyed this article. Thanks for posting it on facebook and thanks for the variety of books you publish.

Jean Roberta said...

What a good start to the lesbian fiction event! The myth-busting is very encouraging.

fiona said...

I am happy to discover lesbian romance book....I didn't know they exit until I went to the library and discover my world is out there....Thanks Radclyffe I love your books...

Lisa said...

I got hooked on Lesbian Mysteries / Romances Early. I think it was Ali Vali's and Gerri Hill's books that did it.. Since then authors like Winter Pennington, RE Bradshaw, Lynn Galli and so many others have cemented my addiction :) Lesbian stories are definitely not to be underestimated!! The genre has some brilliant talent..

Debra Low said...

What Rad said!
I appreciate having such a clear, concise and effective counter-argument to present when people say to me "you read lesfic?! but it's just Harlequin Romance for queers!" - like that's a bad thing. As Rad points out - and I as well at every possible opportunity - well-written stories which celebrate and preserve our story, is always worth my time and my support.

Kate Douglas said...

Len, I really enjoyed your post and wanted to comment from the "other" side (a heterosexual grandmother of six, married to the same guy for 40 years) and just say that a good story is a good story. Jude and Sax in "All In" from your "Best Lesbian Romances 2010" is a perfect example. I don't care where your sexual identity lies--you can't read that story and not feel the emotion or get swept up in the reunion of two people who so obviously love each other.

I love a good, heartfelt romance. I like to write them, but I really love to read them, so you can count me in as a fan of GLBTQ fiction--and every other kind of fiction--so long as the author offers me that well-written story with strong, appealing characters and a solid, satisfying ending.

Lilaine said...

Thank you KT for this most promising event.
And thank you Radclyffe for this masterful demonstration.
A patient and complete analysis of the data for every point, as much by numbers as by symptoms, thorough dissections of those myths with razor-sharp and precise arguments, followed by finely stitched and convincing conclusions.
Wouldn't you have been a surgeon in a previous life? ;)
A very grateful avid reader, now much more aware of the reality hidden behind the myths.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the 411,Rad.

Georgia said...
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Karen Wolfer said...

An exciting beginning to the Lesbian Fiction appreciation event. I, too, only read lesbian fiction these days because there are so many wonderful stories by so many talented authors why go elsewhere for entertainment?
Appreciate seeing numbers, too. Somehow it validates the impression of success and market demand for the Lesbian genre. A new golden age of Lesbian fiction is upon us. How lucky can a reader get?
Thanks, KB/KT for organizing and hosting this event.

Jeannie said...

I cherish all opportunities to learn something new.
Thank you for your experienced insight, from both the publishing side and that of an accomplished author.
Gloria Jean

Amber Green said...

BSP: Each Monday starting January 16, Noble Romance will release one story for its new f/f line, called Lesbians vs Zombies: The Musical Revue.

Vicki B. said...

Very interesting.

Liz said...

Thanks for debunking some myths! This is great to see put out here again so that we can garner more support for our beloved genre.

Georgi B said...

Rad I am very grateful to you and BSB as my previous encounters with les fic were limited to Radclyffe Hall and Nicolson's Portrait of a Marriage. BSB was life changing. Thank you.

Tiff said...

Good to know that Lesbian fiction is alive and well and will continue. I wouldn't know what to do with myself without it.

roberta said...

Thank you Rad, for giving better insight into Lesbian Fiction. I always learn from your wonderful writing. Keep up the wonderful work that you do!! You make a reader such as myself, so very blessed for all of your hard work!!

Stephanie I said...

I enjoy reading lesbian novels from all printing eras. It's interesting to see the changes in the style, composition, and themes, and yet each is unique to itself.

Ali Vali said...

Thanks for the info Rad and for all the work you do to make sure lesbian fiction continues to make strides.

Cat said...

An awesome and interesting starting post to what looks like a series of many intriguing stories.

I do like seeing actual data to balance out the 'personal experiences' that are usually all that's available.

Tquack said...

Thank you, Rad. A lot of great information. We love our lesbian fiction.

Lloyd Meeker said...

It's absolutely thrilling to be part of the flourishing Queer lit garden now. I'm grateful to all the pioneers - you, Rad, Victor Banis, too many to name them all - who slogged through the thick inertia and prejudice, and kept going.

I'm in the midst of Lori L. Lake's Have Gun, We'll Travel right now, and am enjoying it immensely. Thanks for spreading the word about this appreciation event for lesbian fiction.

Stephanie said...

Thanks so much Radclyffe for this post. I'm a big fan of your books and it's great to see many of these myths debunked.

Anita Bradshaw said...

Thanks, Radclyffe for the info and perspective on lesfic. Very good to know.

Anonymous said...

A great article that just might swing my #'s loving wife away from mainstream fiction over to Queerfic. Thanks for breaking it down Rad.
Denna

Suzanne Graham said...

This is a great event! Thanks for highlighting so many fantastic F/F authors.

As an author of several erotic romances, but only one F/F romance, I'm excited to see what others are writing and what is in store for the future of F/F stories.

Suzanne
http://www.suzannegraham.blogspot.com/

WellSaid said...

Good points all--I have heard these statements repeated as facts often. You are on the forefront of writing and publishing lesbian fiction so hopefully this blog will spread the REAL word!

Anonymous said...

The moment I found BSB was the moment I felt like I was home. Thank you!

-Cierra

Dinah Dietrich said...

Dinah Dietrich Facebook
I LOVE LESBIAN BOOKS!! Radclyffe is my favorite, esp. the Provincetown series...I have long been a reader and a writer of memoir--creative nonfiction. Sixty two years old, putting together a book culled from long time writing practice. Reading and writing are life's most important pursuits.