Publishers “ignoring” lesbian writers

That’s according to a piece published today in the Washington Blade.

The article‘s author, Julie Enszer, notes that

While there is much to celebrate in queer literary culture, there is something to bemoan as well, particularly for lesbian writers and readers. The lack of attention by mainstream publishers to lesbian writing, particularly lesbian fiction, is appalling.

As it has for more than four decades, lesbian publishing is flourishing in small, often lesbian-owned, publishing houses like Bold Stroke Books, Bywater Books, and Naiad Press. These small publishers are vital and important to our literary culture, but they must operate in conjunction with mainstream publishing. By mainstream publishing I mean (generally) New York-based trade publishers, who market books to broad audiences and sell books through mainstream bookselling venues, now primarily big-box bookstores, but also locally owned booksellers. Mainstream publishing brings us Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling, and Stieg Larsson, but it is also brings us Rita Mae Brown, Jeannette Winterson and Emma Donoghue.

Sadly, she’s right. Mainstream publishing in this country (Enszer notes that lesbian writers and subjects make major mainstream publishing houses quite a bit in the UK) does ignore lesbian fiction — especially genre fiction. There are a number of reasons for that. I’d argue that persistent homophobia is one; ignorance about the thriving lesbian publishing industry flying underneath the mainstream radar is another; and fears that the target audience for lesbian fiction (genre fiction) isn’t big enough to sustain a book starring lesbians. Sure, homophobia lingers, but ultimately, publishing is a business and they want profits. These publishers don’t think that a lesbian writer could make enough money for them to justify publishing her.

I think that the expansion of ebooks could change that, because large mainstream houses won’t have to worry about whether or not they can sell that minimum print run of 10,000 books. Ebooks might actually end up being an inroad for lesbian writers into mainstream publishing. It’s something I’m intrigued about, and I’m keeping an eye on it. Anyway, more food for thought.

Happy reading, happy writing!

H/T to some Facebook friends for posting this article link.

Comments are closed.