Mainstream fiction authors and publishers could take a few lessons from the writers and the readers of lesbian genre fiction works about what readers – especially women readers – really want. Here are just a few things:
1. Mixing Genres – Romance is romance and mystery is mystery, right? You just don’t mix two or more genre’s unless you want a marketing nightmare, right? Maybe in mainstream fiction but not in lesbian fiction. Anything goes when it comes to entertaining the reader. Most mainstream mystery books have a main story line and a subplot, for example. A lesbian themed ‘mystery’ may also have a strong element of romance and a second, more mystery themed subplot besides.
(A cross genre mystery/romance by Jae that has all the ladies talking)
2. Relationships that grow and mature in series works – The books in a lesbian themed series may or may not stand alone but if there’s an overarching relationship between two characters, it often grows and evolves over the course of the series. I love Janet Evanovich’s number series featuring Stephanie Plum but it’s crazy how long old Steph has been stringing along both Ranger and Joe Morelli…oh, and Diesel. Sheesh! It’s been 21 books or so; pick one already!
3. Covers on non-erotica books (and even on some erotica) that don’t give it all away when it comes to character appearance – Lesbian fiction genres – even some lesbian romance books – rarely depict a full frontal view of a character or any characters at all on the cover. Too, highly detailed physical descriptions are not often found between the covers. Authors are often inclined to offer only the basics and leave much to the readers imagination.
4. Age diversity – Everyone out there isn’t reading YA stuff or stuff for the under 30 crowd. Lesbian writers get that the lesbian reading audience encompasses all ages. It’s not unusual for a writer to add their books to lists of books with ‘over 30’ and ‘over 40’ aged characters. Many books feature middle aged women with pre-teen and teen children and older friends and family also. Too, lesbian themed fiction is becoming much more ethnically diverse. Facebook group files and Listopia guides to literature exist for lesbians over 40, 0ver 50, black lesbians, Asian lesbian and on and on.
5. Strong female characters – Lots and lots of writers, especially female writers, write stories with female leading characters. Many of these women, especially in traditional romance (non-YA or contemporary), are seeking men to complete them. Even in mystery and Sci-Fi, though they may be very capable to a certain extent, they often defer to a stronger male figure who may be only a secondary character. Lesbian themed stories often have male characters but the women in the stories hold their own from go or they find their way to self reliance and confidence by the end of the book. The books empower women to understand that – whatever it is – they can do it.
(Catherine Wilson’s excellent ‘Warriors’ series speak to point five and even to point six and, the beauty part is, book one is perma-free for the Kindle. Click the photo to download your copy.)