just my two cents

Is LGBT Fiction a Growing Genre? Is It Even a Genre?

I was reading a blog post yesterday by one of my favorite agent bloggers, Nathan Bransford. And in this post he was discussing various genres, with regard to what authors are writing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). There was even a poll at the end of the post to see which genre is the most popular this year. As of this minute, over 1,500 people have participated in the poll. It was a fun post, I enjoyed reading it, and I don’t want to sound as if I’m knocking it.

But I was surprised to see that LGBT fiction was not on the list. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, given the fact that LGBT fiction of any kind is usually ignored in anything that resembles mainstream information. Until recently, LGBT fiction was just considered Gay/Lesbian, and the B and T was totally ignored. And Nathan’s Blog, as far as blogs in general go, is about as mainstream as you get, so this is understandable.

I do find it interesting that only one anonymous person on Nathan’s comment thread even asked about LGBT fiction as a genre. As as far I’ve been told, and from what I see from my own book sales, LGBT fiction has been growing by leaps and bounds for the past few years. I post about the wonderful straight women writing m/m romance all the time. I check out the bestseller lists on amazon and see more LGBT fiction than ever before. And all these authors writing LGBT fiction are selling far more books than ever expected. So there’s a market for it, but I guess it just doesn’t deserve a genre or classification yet (smile).

And yet no one is writing LGBT fiction for NaNoWriMO? No one thinks LGBT fiction is important enough to have its own genre? Of course LGBT can be lumped into many other genres…which is what usually has been done in the past. In this respect, LGBT fiction is a lot like Multi-Cultural fiction and all the wonderful books written by authors of African descent. Which, incidentally, I didn’t see a genre listed for Multi-Cultural either in this poll either. At the end of the poll there is a box for people to click “other.”

But what I find most interesting is that LGBT fiction is drawing new readers and authors every day. This, from what I’ve seen and read, is also true for fiction written by authors of African descent. Of course Nathan thinks like an agent, and when he’s listing genres I’m sure he’s thinking about how books are categorized on book shelves in retail stores, and about what he personally reps as an agent. All agent bloggers do this when it comes to categorizing a book. In the past, it’s always been the easiest way to go about the process.

Two summers ago I had the pleasure of having lunch with Elisa Rolle, an internationally known LGBT book reviewer. I’ve written about Elisa on the blog, and I’m very active in The Rainbow Awards, which Elisa started for LGBT fiction. During lunch, we talked about publishing, books, the LGBT market, and other things related to LGBT fiction. And Elisa told me she was surprised when she stopped in a few US book stores and found such a limited amount of LGBT fiction. Again, I was not surprised. Just like I wasn’t surprised to see Nathan Bransford ignore the LGBT genre altogether in his poll.

It’s been like this for a long time. The only difference is that now things are changing, and have been changing in the past decade. (And, there are authors like me out there with very big mouths who aren’t afraid to mention this issue openly. ) These book stores that don’t have an LGBT section are struggling (clawing) to survive these days because readers are either shopping for their print books online, where they get current selections, or they are only reading digital books. And I just can’t help wondering when everyone is going to notice that publishing has gone through many changes lately. With those changes new genres have emerged, especially online with the digital markets. Will LGBT fiction ever be the most popular genre? I doubt that. But I do think, at the very least, it deserves its own classification with regard to NaNoWriMo.