Do people know m/m fiction exists?

Ice, Wind and Fire by Mel Keegan
Ice, Wind and Fire by Mel Keegan
Specifically by people I mean potential readers who would enjoy it. I didn’t know of it until about three years ago – even though I was involved in fanfic, which is practically an apprenticeship for m/m romance. I’d read gay literature for years. When I recently read a book from the 1980s – Ice Wind and Fire by Mel Keegan – the three pink triangles of Gay Men’s Press on the book’s spine gave me a nostalgic moment. (The book was very good too.) But gay literature and m/m fiction and romance aren’t generally the same thing.

Some of the romance reviewing blogs or retail sites are good about reviewing and showcasing m/m romance as well as m/f romance and of course the publisher’s sites show it off. But a significant percentage of the reader audience for m/m say that they don’t like m/m romance. So others who feel the same but haven’t yet found m/m aren’t going to be hanging around on All Romance eBooks or Smart Bitches, Trashy Books to stumble on it that way.

The Price of Temptation by M.J. Pearson
"See, Jamie, this is how I get away with shoplifting cantaloupes from the market."
I stumbled on the genre when a Live Journal friend reviewed some m/m historicals. As well as having some laughs about the well-filled trousers on the cover of The Price of Temptation, I came away gobsmacked about the mere existence of these books, which I’d never heard of before. Of course, this was 2008; the genre as we know it now was in its infancy. But there were a decent number of books around that would likely fit into the m/m category now – genre books, with gay lead characters that didn’t fit the “literary” category (maybe because the people in them were happy sometimes and didn’t kill themselves in the end.) Up till then I guess the primary market for them was, and was assumed to be, gay men. The women readers were still an untapped market.

The genre is maturing and still growing – but a lot of that is in the US. How well known is m/m in the UK? Given that a lot of is only available in eBook format, and eBooks are growing more slowly here than in the US, it may take a while for the UK to catch up. Even once eReaders are commoner, how are people who don’t yet know about it going to find m/m romance? There are more potential readers out there, I’m sure. British netizens read slash fanfic too. Characters in gay relationships on TV attract devoted fans – thinking of Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones there. How do publishers reach these people?

Jack and Ianto kiss
Gratuitous Jack and Ianto snogging shot in case you forgot what they look like.

Will it take one of the mainstream romance publishers to introduce a m/m line? I personally think it’s only a matter of time before Mills and Boon do, though probably eBook exclusive – which isn’t the same as being cover out on the shelf at Tesco or W.H. Smith. I’d even welcome some of those patronising “those crazy wimminz reading and writing about the gays” articles in the mainstream newspapers, because they might intrigue some readers! I personally first heard about slash fanfic via something decrying it and it at once made me think, hmm, gotta find me some of that…

15 thoughts on “Do people know m/m fiction exists?

  1. It’s funny, because as you know, you opened my eyes to fanfic, and I very quickly became aware of Slash and the m/m romance market. (I beta for you :-p). I never knew it existed before then, but maybe it was because I never felt the need to ‘seek’ it or something. However, I must say, really it’s not my thing (but you know that, I’m not telling you something new), although I can’t stop looking at that cover of The Prince Of Temptation! God, who wouldn’t be tempted!?

    Also, I don’t remember Ianto being taller than Jack… Is Ianto standing on a chair or something? Actually, I think with the likes of John Barrowman very active on the ‘screen’ – I’ve noticed in this Torchwood, his ‘sexuality’ is even more evident. Though Jack is Bisexual… I do wonder how much John has influenced the storyline 😉 Maybe you need to follow John on Twitter and get him to advertise m/m romance for you 😛

    In fact, with everything being sooo politically correct these days, I’m surprised there isn’t an uproar that there isn’t more gay fiction in Tesco’s and WH Smiths!

    1. That cover is so funny. Good book though, 🙂

      Assuming that scene is the one I think it is, Jack is sitting in a chair and Ianto is standing, or possibly perched on the edge of the desk. Does Barrowman tweet personally? Thought only his “people” did.

      Let’s start an uproar! 😀

      1. Oh, yes. I heard JB on Radio one (one of his many times of being on with Chris Moyles) that when he tweets, he always ends his tweet with JB, so you know it’s him. Worth a follow 😉

  2. Word of mouth at a grass roots level? How about offering review copies to people who review for local newspapers? Especially if getting the word out there is the important thing. There might be some hurrummpphs from the ‘Disgusted’s of the world but I’ll bet there would be others who are intrigued and follow it up.

  3. Also, get yourself a fan page on Facebook. Every bit of self marketing could help the market as a whole grow. I know you don’t like leaving reviews for your own genre, but I think you should. Just be more diplomatic in those ones (I tend to be now I know a writer ‘I know’ might read it). I’ll still point out something I didn’t like, if I didn’t like something.

    But by just leaving a review, then sharing it on your blog, twitter and facebook has just made more people ‘aware’ of the genre. Right?

    Retweet reviews for your own book too.

    God, for the risk of sounding like my employer, ‘Every Little Helps.’ 😛

    1. I have got a fan page set up on Facebook, I’m just not much of a Facebook aficionado. But I may start using it more, for people who prefer Facebook for following stuff.

      1. I’ve just seen! I’m ‘liking’ you now. But you need more than two people 😉

        Good way to advertise your blog on there. And when your next book is out. Just go with it. Facebook isn’t THAT bad. 😉

  4. I suggest – now we have the convention up and running–and some of us are going to the romance convention in the auturmn, that we concentrate on trying to break the press. The london press knows of it–or at least via Paul Burston and James Lear – James often writes articles for the Guardian. One of us should submit one, perhaps. Then there’s radio 4, all the book progs that are on there – women’s hour. I’d even put up with Jenny being all “but WHY?????” if it got us on there…. think big. not grass roots!

    1. Woman’s hour; that’s very ambitious. So there’s a top down or bottom up approach. (Oh, gawd, when you write romance and erotica everything comes out as a double entendre!)

  5. If you’ve got author copies of print books, it’s always worth trying to get them into local indie bookshops. I’ll have to check up on whether my lot have sold any copies of ‘Tea and Crumpet’ yet.

    Plus Open Mics.

    Baby steps, but it’s another way to find people who might not necessarily find you online.

  6. I’m in complete agreement with Erastes – think big. There are so many potential readers out there who have no idea this genre exists. I’m going to have to seriously think about outing myself as an m/m writer to some of my local media connections… I just won’t be able to hide under the anonymity of being simply a “romance writer” then.

    And I just adore that image of Jack and Ianto – that kiss was one of the things that got me launched writing – so unbelievably sexy 😀

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