Category: do readers have standards

LGBT Fiction: Do Readers Have Standards?

In my blog travels, I came across an interesting blog post where an author seemed to be questioning reader standards with regard to LGBT Fiction. It wasn’t the lightest blog post I’ve ever read. In fact, it was downright depressing.

Aside from the dark tone, I couldn’t help get the impression the blogger was taking a quick snipe at books that are selling well, and also knocking the people who are writing, buying and reading them. There’s an insinuation that reader standards have slipped and trash is selling better than so-called art. I’ve said it before; I’ve read it before by people who are far more important in the publishing industry than I’ll ever be. There is no way to judge good writing objectively. If you think you can, you’re either an idiot or a pompous ass. You can judge bad writing to a certain extent. But good writing is subjective and it depends on who is making the judgement call.

I also thought the blogger in this dark post somehow considered his/her own work superior to other authors. At least that seems to be the underlying tone. This is something I don’t get either. Every single author I’ve ever read…in my life…is a unique individual, with a different style and voice. And for one author to believe he or she is superior to another author crosses the line of petty and competitive and plunges into the universe of childish and mean. Not everyone is going to love every book and that’s a fact of life. This is where subjectivity comes in. Some readers will give a one star rating for certain books and a five star rating for others. This is called personal taste and it keeps things interesting. I’ve even had readers rate some of my books with one star and others with five stars, which, oddly enough, I truly appreciate. It tells me the readers and their ratings are real.

I’ve been writing m/m fiction for almost twenty years and I’ve seen a lot of changes happen in the last five years. I’ve seen obscure book review sites condemn authors they know nothing about, and I’ve seen more than a few nasty online flame wars between certain authors. The genre has opened up and there are more lgbt books, which means more authors are getting a chance to be published. But I haven’t seen any changes in the quality of the books or the authors who are writing them. Cleis Press, with whom I’ve worked more than a few times on anthologies, is still publishing quality lgbt fiction and non-fiction. The newer e-publishers I’ve read are publishing as much quality fiction as the traditional publishers did. There are also quite a few self-published authors putting out some great fiction, too. How can this be a bad thing?

Maybe I’m looking at it as an openly gay man, who writes with his real name, isn’t ashamed to admit what he does in public, and learned a long time ago he can’t please everyone. I’ve also learned that the secret to enjoying what I do is to keep it authentic. Although everything I write is pure fiction, I draw from personal experience as a gay man all the time. And I never looked at the lgbt genre as a “thing” or an “entity” that has the ability to make me or break me as an author. It’s what I am.

I don’t get why any author would get upset over reader standards, with regard to books that are selling well. Unless that author considers his/her work so far above everything else they feel a sense of bitter entitlement. For me that takes too much negative energy out of the day. I’d rather keep writing stories I love, hoping other people will love them too. Pardon the cliche, but it’s so much nicer to think of the glass as half full than half empty.