Clare London and I went to the first London Author Fair this year and whilst we were there, we bumped into Julie Bozza. She very kindly wrote a blog for ukgayromance but as I was off social media I delayed posting it. Apologies to Julie for delaying a really interesting blog.
I recently attended the London Author Fair 2014, and I wrote about the experience in this post on my own blog. But I was moved to write a separate piece about The One Big Thing I took from the day. It’s not a thought particularly new, but I had it reinforced again and again despite attending the Fair with the intent of seeking new challenges.
And the thought is this: I sincerely believe we are very lucky indeed to be writing and reading in our male-male romance genre. And the reason why is inherent in that one word ‘our’. It’s our genre, to do with pretty much what we will.
The Freedom beyond the Pale
The fact of the matter is that our genre isn’t one that the mainstream publishing industry is interested in. Some of us might regret that, and wish it were otherwise. However, I like the freedom that it leaves us.
We can set up our own, smaller publishing houses. We can self-publish. We can be independent and far more responsive than the larger-scale businesses. We have a smaller market, but it’s large enough to make the whole thing viable.
Authors find themselves far more able to write what they are most driven to write. Yes, as a group we still draw certain lines, and some tropes are less popular than others, but there’s probably a niche available within our market for just about everyone who is into consensual relations between adults with similar biological bits and/or similar gender identities.
And we’re not even necessarily talking about a ‘market’. We’re a community, and a highly participative one at that. A large proportion of us are writers – far larger than in the mainstream community. Our writers are also active readers, which helps generate a friendly mutuality even as we celebrate individual differences.
Any of us might also be bloggers, reviewers, social media users, convention organisers, or otherwise active in our own m-m community or in the wider GLBTIA world.
All of this, and we authors don’t have to worry about finding an agent. We don’t have to deal with the expectations of publishing businesses that require an enormous volume of sales just to stay afloat in a tough industry.
I understand that a few of our authors make enough to live on from their writing. That’s an amazing thing for any writer to be able to say, mainstream or otherwise. Comparatively speaking, I only make pocket money, but that’s absolutely fine. At least my m-m accounts are in the black! My literary fiction (alternate history) title has been well received, but has only found a very small number of readers. I hear (anecdotal evidence) that it’s much the same for our authors publishing in any genre in which the mainstream publishing businesses have already staked their claim. Historical fiction, heterosexual romance, and other ‘popular’ genres – it’s so much more difficult for the independents, the small presses and the self-publishers to thrive, when the big presses got there first.
Our niche, however – our genre – hadn’t yet been filled. The changing technologies of the internet and eBooks (and print on demand and PayPal) meant that a niche could be catered for using new formats and new methods of distribution.
And so we got to set up our own community, and we had far more scope to do so in the ways that suited us best. Maybe we didn’t do it perfectly. Maybe it’s all a work in progress. But one of our advantages is that we’re small enough and dynamic enough to adjust to changing conditions, and to fine-tune as we go.
Another advantage, I think, is that we’re further ahead of the game than many. (Perhaps not on the interactive eBooks and augmented reality front, mind you!) As I listened to the last session at the Fair, when panellists were asked to predict where the publishing industry would be in the year 2020, I found myself thinking that we are already ahead on a number of fronts. That’s pretty exciting, and that’s good for us in the long term.
Maybe our genre will remain a ‘minority’ interest. Maybe we’ll never have the sheer numbers of readers to tempt the big publishing businesses hither. But I don’t think I mind that at all. We’re here, we’re queer, we’re surfing into the future – and more than that, we’re doing it for ourselves.
I like that. Actually, I like that a lot.
Julie Bozza is an English-Australian hybrid who is madly in love with Colin Morgan and John Keats. Fuelled by espresso, calmed by knitting, and unreasonably excited by photography… she is the author of Butterfly Hunter, The Apothecary’s Garden, The Definitive Albert J Sterne, and other MM romance novels published by Manifold Press.
Manifold Press: manifoldpress.co.uk