We asked authors, editors, bloggers, and others: What would you like to see next in LGBTQ publishing? Here’s how they responded.
“While many small presses publish excellent work, getting such books to readers remains challenging. More universities offer classes in Queer Studies; cultural hubs such as LGBT reading groups and independent bookstores constantly seek exciting, challenging work. However, much of the best LGBT literature comes from presses that are not established enough to work with major distributors such as Ingram, yet would be underserved by the take-all-client operations that target self-published writers. Increasing legitimate distribution options for small presses, whether through a more responsive Ingram or Amazon, a new wave of dedicated independent distributors, or both, ensures that the best LGBT literature can get to the classrooms, bookshelves, and coffee tables of those who hunger for it.” (For more from Aoki, see “Why I Write.”) —Ryka Aoki, author of He Mele A Hilo: A Hilo Song and other works, @ryka_aoki
“More of the mainstream audience and the prosperity associated with it should come to LGBTQ publishing as a sought-out destination rather than as an exotic detour. Perhaps this will naturally occur through the evolving national consciousness, but it can be more effectively encouraged through stronger marketing.” —Yarrott Benz, visual artist and author of the memoir The Bone Bridge: A Brother's Story, @Yarrott
“Literature for children and young adults that is inclusive of all kinds of people, identities, characters, and ways of ‘seeing.’ Literature that touches hearts, saves lives, and hopefully, a huge influx of diverse, anti-dystopian novels that build empathy for the ‘other,’ including our Earth.” —Bridget Birdsall, author of the YA novel Double Exposure, @BridgetBirdy3
“More good books from gay and lesbian authors, which also means more good gay and lesbian readers.” —Christopher Bram, author of 11 books, including Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America, and Gods and Monsters
“I've seen plenty of the G, and that's great. I'd like to see just as much L, B, T, Q, I, A, and +. And POC and disabilities. More picture books, board books, and early readers that feature all kinds of families. A story featuring LGBTQIA+ and Native character/s, written by someone who identifies as LGBTQIA+ and Native.” —Allie Jane Bruce, children’s librarian at Bank Street College and team member with #WeNeedDiverseBooks, @alliejanebruce
“Another LGBTQ best-selling graphic novel topping the NYT best-seller list; then developed into a smash Broadway musical with national touring companies; then adapted into full-length Hollywood summer blockbuster movie, a sensitive indie with LGBTQ sub-titles, a NetFlix series, and a multi-platformed video game, plus other merch.” —Kate Clinton, political humorist, @KateClinton
“I'd love to see LGBT characters branching out into different genres. How about a gay paranormal action hero? A lesbian starring in a horror novel? Bisexual leads in space? Transgender historicals? We read and we're everywhere!” — Steven dos Santos, author of the YA novel The Culling, @StevendosSantos
“What I want is straightforward: more. We have queer leads in fantasy, queer leads in sci-fi, queer leads in contemporary, queer leads in romance. We have coming-out stories and questioning stories and casual "just-happens-to-be" stories.
I love that. But the fact is, you could blaze through all queer SF/F YA novels in a month's time. Where does that leave eager queer fantasy readers? If one book happens to not be up their alley, there's a dearth of alternatives. There are countless queer identities and experiences, and countless plots and genres and styles and characters; we can't take a one-size-fits-all approach.
And where's the intersectionality in terms of race and disability and religion and more? Where's the trans leads in SF/F YA, the presence of queer communities in contemporary YA? We're on the right path, no doubt, and that's to be celebrated—but until our options are plentiful and varied across identities and genres, we're not done yet.” —Corinne Duyvis, author of the YA fantasy Otherbound, @corinneduyvis
“I'd like to see more intersectional experiences represented in LBGTQ publishing: more trans characters, people of color, and people with disabilities who are also queer. I know more fat brown genderqueer femmes with anxiety or depression than cis white gay guys, but I've yet to read a book that comes close to representing that. I want LGBTQ publishing to represent the messy, varied experiences of all queer people, not just the cis white abled ones. —Danika Leigh Ellis, “head lesbrarian,” The Lesbrary book blog, @Lesbrary
“The past decade has been all about queer folks stepping out of the shadows and claiming space, respect and happiness; I'm looking forward to reading queer stories that reflect this movement toward happier endings.” — Cameron Esposito, comedian and AV Club columnist, @cameronesposito
“Scholars have shown with gusto the social construction of sexuality. It's time to start thinking about the sexual construction of the social.” —Amin Ghaziani, associate professor of sociology at the Univ. of British Columbia, author of There Goes The Gayborhood?, @Amin_Ghaziani
“I'd love to see better marketing of LGBTQ books so they don't just disappear. Publishers might create block ads in periodicals, do theme launch parties, raise the money for more creative outreach to the press and readers.” —Jewelle Gomez, the author of nine books including the vampire novel The Gilda Stories, which won two Lambda Literary Awards, @VampyreVamp
“What I’d like to see, and will always want to see, are great characters who challenge my worldview, and rich stories that break down barriers and offer diversity in ways I haven’t yet imagined. This genre has exploded over the last 10 years because readers have opened their hearts and minds to diversity, myself included. There are so many more stories to tell, and so many more new and interesting people to meet—I can't wait to see how the genre will grow and change to represent us all.” —L.B. Gregg, author of the Men of Smithfield series and other romance novels, @lbgregg
“I’d love to see more love stories, not just focusing on fear and angst, but the fun, funny, silly, joyful, goofy, mind-meld part of love, and progressing through the ‘honeymoon’ period into ‘long-term’ territory like compromise, doubt, and re-dedication. Have more characters including female and female-identified characters.
Also, I would love to highlight non-romantic relationships and their importance—best friendships, childhood friendship loyalties, siblings, etc.—including how important relationships are to asexual people who might not want sexual relationships, but value romantic and friendship and family relationships.
One absolute necessity is the need for more intersectional voices. We need to see the unique struggles that disabled, Asian-American, Latin@, Native, Black members of the LGBTQIA+ community face. I'd love to see a LGBTQIA+ romance that cuts across religion.
Even as media representation of transgender women rises, there are vanishingly few narratives written by transgender men. We need to hear their stories.
I'd like to see more stories—heck, at least one—with a supporting character who is intersex, but whose presence in the plot isn't defined by his/her biology.” — I.W. Gregorio, author of the YA novel None of the Above, @IWGregorio
“More picture books with gay/lesbian parents, especially ones that don’t treat it as anything unusual. We don’t need any more first-day-of-school-for-kid-with-two-moms stories. [We need] more lesbians/bisexual/questioning characters in YA, more humor in LGBTQIA novels for teens, more LGBTQIA novels for middle grade, more LGBTQIA characters of color in books for kids at all age levels, a picture book or middle-grade novel about a kid whose parent is transitioning. [And] I’d like to see a picture book about a young trans boy. So far they’ve all been about girls.” —K.T. Horning, director, Cooperative Children’s Book Center, @kthorning
“I hope to see the promise of ‘LGBTQ publishing’ become a reality, which is to say: not just one or a handful of outlets publishing work by and for queer people, but a rich landscape of various publishers that is a diverse as our community itself. Do we have more visibility than before? Yes. American culture is less hostile to the existence of LGBT people, but in the midst of this breakthrough moment, people—especially transgender women of color, especially queer immigrants and elders—continue to suffer on the margins. In 2015, people are still being killed simply for being themselves. Any serious conversation about the future of LGBTQ publishing has to recognize that our work exists in a culture of paradox: we're breaking through, yes, but many of us are still being broken. As writers and editors, as gatekeepers and readers, we have to be aware of this fact and it must guide the decisions we make. I didn't come here to knock heteronormativity off the throne just so I could take its place, you know? I came here to prove you don't need to be on the throne at all for your voice to matter. That's the future I believe in.” — Saeed Jones, BuzzFeed literary editor and author of the poetry collection Prelude to Bruise, @theferocity
“My hope is that the GLBT Publishing community can regain the cohesiveness that the authors, publishers, distributors, and booksellers had in the 80s and 90s, when we worked together for further LGBT literary visibility. Power was in the numbers.” —Michele Karlsberg, publishing veteran, 2010 recipient of the Publishing Triangle Leadership Award, @mKarlsberg
“In the case of M/M gay romance, 90% of the audience are heterosexual married women. I'd love to see all those heterosexual married women come out of the closet and admit publicly they love M/M gay romance so that there's no more shame involved. Everyone's looking for the next Fifty Shades of Grey trend. I think it's going to be M/M gay romance.” —Jamie Lake, author of the Trainer series and other romance novels, @jamielakenovels
“It feels like a mixed time for LGBTQ publishing. On the one hand, you have the mainstream success of authors like Janet Mock—something that would seem unthinkable 15 years ago. I'm seeing more and more trans content in YA fiction—even picture books for the youngest readers. It feels as though we're moving away from the sole trans narrative touted by the mainstream media for so long—where transition itself is the story, the hook— into a space that allows trans people greater complexity of experience, and authority over their own lives.
That said, I don't think we can afford to get complacent, and I don't think we can pretend that we haven't got work ahead of us. Trans is the flavor of the moment, but not all trans voices are being heard. I wouldn't count on larger publishing houses to take risks supporting and promoting marginalized trans writers, or trans writers trying to break the mold. I'm excited by the growing trend towards online publishing—the way it's breaking down barriers to access— but I worry that we, as readers, aren't doing enough to support LGBTQ writers. Seeing writing as something that you can just get on the internet for free—erasing the work and time and needs of the author—that worries me. We, as an LGBTQ community, need to put our money behind the authors we believe in: not just making sure that those authors are paid for their labor but showing the wider publishing world that there is a market for diverse voices.” —CN Lester, blogger at A Gentleman and a Scholar, @cnlester
“I'd like to see more historical fiction with lesbian/bisexual/queer women characters, because we have largely been erased from history. Historical fiction can do such an incredible job of showing that we have always been here. Even if we didn't identify as ‘lesbian’ or ‘queer’ at the time, women have been loving women since the dawn of time, and I want to see that in literature. Obviously Sarah Waters and Emma Donoghue have been doing this very well, but I think there's plenty of room for more. I'd also like to see young adult fiction expand the possibilities for LGBTQ characters. There are many more positive representations of LGBTQ teens now and that's a great development, but I'd like to see YA allow these LGBTQ teens to be imperfect; to be ‘unlikable’; to make mistakes and be the conflicted young adults they often are. I want LGBTQ characters to be human as well as LGBTQ.” —Malinda Lo, author of the Adaptation series and other YA novels, @malindalo
“For LGBTQ writers, editors, and publishers, all the same goals: clear vision, haunted hearts, tales that trigger tachycardia. And to be purveyors of the finest literature, always.” —Vinton Rafe McCabe, a journalist and nonfiction author whose first novel, Death In Venice, California, has been shortlisted for the 2015 Lambda Literary LGBT Debut award, @deathveniceCA
“More serious coverage of books and writers on the queer cultural media sites, and—this is an even more highbrow hope—a volume of LGBTQ literature in the Library of Congress's American Library.” —James Magruder, author of Sugarless, the linked story collection Let Me See It, and the forthcoming Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall
“I’d love more stories with larger queer casts. Many stories have solitary characters, whose only involvement with other LGBTQIA+ people is in romantic relationships. In real life? Not so. We flock together. We speak the same language. We share similar experiences. We find our communities, or we create them. And I would love a story, more stories, where the main group of friends consists of all queer kids, ranging across the full spectrum of experiences.
On that note, I would love to see that spectrum reflected in singular characters too. We still too often talk about sexuality and gender as binaries, and I’d love for both to see more characters who keep discovering themselves. Who can be both asexual and genderqueer. Who are non-conforming in every way. Who are canonically bisexual without erasure.
And I can only echo everyone who calls for more intersectionality. Give me queer characters of color. Neurodiverse and disabled characters who also identify as somewhere on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Give me queer characters who are also religious. And let them be everywhere—because we are.” —Marieke Nijkamp, author of the forthcoming YA novel This is Where it Ends, @mariekeyn
“I would love to see the normalization of LGBTQ identities and authors within publishing, so that these creators and their creations are not limited to a specific subset of a genre. I’d like to see tokenization die a sudden and quick death. Those of use who are LGBTQ should not have representation touted to us when it feels more like someone’s collecting Pokémon. I’d love for publishing to value the work of those who are LGBTQ over voices who often get the spotlight because they’re part of the dominant group.” —Mark Oshiro, blogger at MarkReads.net and MarkWatches.net, @MarkDoesStuff
“Writing is an art. An LGBTQ publisher's utmost objective should be to satisfy the reader's thirst for good, quality prose.” —Chris Paynter, a former journalist and author of six novels, Survived by Her Longtime Companion, a finalist for the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Romance, @ckpaynter
“As readers, we crave a wider perspective on the world and look to publishers to cultivate brilliant voices, wherever they come from and whatever their experience. Fulfilling this appetite should mean publishing more writers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender from abroad. Who are the fiction and non-fiction writers that reveal what it means to live under prejudice and criminal laws against them? Where is the story that might create a groundswell of outrage against this persecution? These are the writers we hope to read.” —Suzanne Trimel, communications director, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
“I would love to see the merging of ‘genre’ and ‘literary’ fiction categories, because far too many authors play it safe and don't push the boundaries of what their traditional readers will buy. I'm always in favor of pushing the boundaries.” —Jerry L. Wheeler, three time Lambda Literary Award finalist editor of six volumes of gay erotica and author of the short story collection Strawberries and Other Erotic Fruits, @jw_den
“When I started my blog in 2007, I couldn't find more than a few dozen middle-grade and YA books with main LGBTQ characters. Now, there are probably over 500 on my lists! As for the future, I'd love to see more MG and YA where who you're attracted to and the gender you identify with are elements of a larger story—where it's not solely about our LGBTQ identities, but it does star LGBTQ heroic characters. Where's the gay teen James Bond, the lesbian Katniss, the bi Harry Potter, the transgender superhero? That's not to say that there isn't an ongoing and important place for coming out stories, just like there will always be a place for boy-girl first love stories, but there's a need to go beyond those, too.
For picture books, lets get some alternative narratives of Happily Ever After in there—the blue boy poodle doesn't always have to fall in love with the pink girl poodle! And let's see more LGBTQ History told for younger readers! Overall, let's acknowledge the intersectionality of identities with more narratives of being LGBTQ and a person of color, being LGBTQ and disabled, being LGBTQ and poor/rich, etc.” —Lee Wind, blogger at LeeWind.org, @LeeWind
“What we need is even more of what we've had: robust, authentic, and diverse presentations of our lives and of our interconnections with non-gay people, reflecting the journey so many have been on, and the conversations and sharing of values that open hearts and change minds.” —Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, and author of Why Marriage Matters, @evanwolfson