How publishers market (or don’t market) LGBT books is something me and Anna have complained about a fair bit to each other before. So we thought, why not turn those complaints into a bit of a discussion. As people who aim to promote pretty much every single LGBT book we can find, this is something important to us. We want these books to do well, so the way they often get marketed is… annoying to us in the least.
Before we start, we want to make it absolutely clear that we have nothing to do with publishing in any way. This is just our (often frustrated) perspective as readers and as bloggers.
So, let’s go!
Charlotte: I figure the best way to start off this discussion post is to mention what we’ve basically been complaining about this whole year so far. We do all this work to find all the LGBT releases we can, and there are still some we miss. (Okay, so complaining makes it sound like we’re ungrateful – we’re not! It’s just frustrating to miss ones out when you want to hype everything.)
Anna: And what it comes down to is – LGBT books just don’t get the advertisement they deserve! Sure, I don’t know about all mystery books coming out this year, but I’m not actively looking for them. I am looking for LGBT books, though, and like you say, we are still not able to find them all because there is just no info about them prior to publication. Or sometimes even after.
It’s funny though, because on the other end of the spectrum, sometimes you feel like books are marketed in a particular way just because they’re LGBT. By which I mean, LGBT becomes treated like a genre in and of itself. And that others it.
Which is sort of good in a way, and by that I mean it’s good that the LGBT rep in those books is talked about and known. But no one markets a Dostoyevsky novel as a straight one. So why is it that only if a book features rep of a marginalized group, is that rep the main focus suddenly?
I guess there are two things here for me. One is that you start to feel like you’re complaining about everything with marketing. You want to know, but you don’t want it to be that main focus, so I think it’s important to have an idea of how you want it to go instead. But, two, you don’t want it to be marketed solely based on the rep, because that others it, creates a sort of genre around it and makes it feel like a trend. And trends die, but we don’t want LGBT rep in books to die, we want it to be normalised.
I guess in an ideal world, publishers just wouldn’t “forget” to mention that a mc is a lesbian or that there’s actually a trans character in the book… I mean, so often I’m aware of a book and only learn about those things from reviewers!! Who are doing the Lord’s work, by the way.
Oh, I know. Word of mouth is so damn important with these books. It seems like the only ones that you hear are definitely LGBT are ones which are romances in whatever way (and yes, I also count those fantasies which are more romance than fantasy). Books where the main character is not straight, or has a relationship that’s incidental to the plot, those ones don’t get the mention and those are the ones I rely on reviewers to hear about. Basically, reviewers in this community are the real MVPs.
They are! We would be lost without them!
It’s that word of mouth again. And that’s also why, although I get annoyed when people say “where is the x lit”, I can kind of see where that attitude comes from.
It’s why we say we run an LGBT media blog and not something else. If you’re starved for a specific rep, you need all the help you can get.
So what would your suggestion be? I’d say getting authors to list rep (regardless of whether it’s ownvoices because that can force some people to be out when they might not want to be) when they talk about their book, not just when prompted. That’d be a start. And also moving away from the diversity as a trend stance that publishing seems to take right now.
Having authors talk – unprompted! – about the sexuality rep in their book would definitely be a major first step. But we also can’t just rely on them. We need publishers to do a better job, too. We need them to write blurbs that actually tell us things & not pretending like describing the mc as a trans guy in the blurb is a spoiler.
So basically to do their bit to promote books that aren’t just m/m! Because it’s almost never m/m that we miss. It’s the f/f or the trans/non-binary rep or the bi/pan rep where the romance is m/f. I guess in some cases it’s hard to add in the rep, but surely that’s where just talking about it comes in.
Honestly, m/m romances (written by straight women) are almost a separate category when it comes to LGBT books… If anything, we need less of them and more of stories written by actual gay men. Which is another thing! Publishers really need to be more aware of the fact that the books they put out in the world have impact and they should be more careful with their choices. More good books that would help LGBT youth, less porn.
And of course, making publishing itself less cis, straight and white so that non-cisness, non-straightness and non-whiteness are all represented to the same level. How are people going to get the good rep unless there are people advocating for it throughout, and not just for brownie points?
Make it mainstream, right? The way we deserve. Because there always will be people willing to buy books that represent them. The imaginary lack of demand isn’t the issue, it’s the actual lack of supply.
So what are your thoughts? How do you think publishing is doing now? How can it do better?