I was procrastinating  catching up on twitter news when I saw this tweet by Malinda Lo:

There’s a whole thread and conversation going on over on twitter so if you’re so inclined, head over and check it out.

It got me thinking, though, about how hard it still is to find teen fiction with queer main characters. It certainly doesn’t help when authors miss-categorise and miss-tag (deliberately or otherwise) their erotica books so that when you search for things like “lesbian teen sweet romances” what you get in the search result is anything but what you’re looking for.

If you go via the category links to the LGBT YA category (kindle store>kindle ebooks>teen & young adult>lgbt>fiction), the list is dominated by male authors and male main characters.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that we’re seeing an increase in queer fiction across the spectrum being published, but it seems like gay main characters are getting a lot more visibility than female (and other queer categories) at the moment.

Malinda Lo’s thread goes on to detail her ideas on how publishers, readers and authors can help to make books about queer female teens more visible, but her advice (as she indicates in qualifying tweets) mainly relates to traditionally published books.

So I thought I’d do a quick post with a few ideas on how you can help get the word out about queer books, regardless on how they’re published, but particularly if they’re self- or independently published.

  1. If you’re on Goodreads, shelve the queer books you read into queer-related categories and lists.
  2. Review and rate the books you buy wherever you buy them from and mention in your reviews when there’s queer content. More reviews and ratings help with visibility, especially on Amazon, but mentioning the queer content in reviews helps other readers who are looking for those books to find them. Review the books on your vlog/blog if you have one.
  3. Request them at your school and local libraries. Quite often, librarians aren’t sure where to look to add queer books to their collections, primarily because publishers and some major reviewers don’t go out of their way to talk about the queer content. This may be because they’re afraid it might limit the readership, but also because for self-published and independent authors, our books are often not in the release catalogues librarians get, so they don’t even know they exist. As a reader, you can help libraries get more queer books on their shelves for readers just like you to discover.
  4. Tell your friends about your favourite queer authors and books. As a self-published author, it’s extremely hard, especially early on, to find my audience. We don’t have the marketing budgets that are given to traditionally published authors and we don’t have the industry contacts to get our books into the hands of major reviewers. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways for books to find their readers as one reader urges another reader to take a look at their favourite books.
  5. Order your books from your local bookstore when you can. If they get enough orders of an author’s books, they’ll consider stocking them on the shelves.

Finally – and this is less to do with getting the word out and more to do with getting more books written – if you love a book, don’t be afraid to let the author know. Writing in a genre like queer fiction means that authors are often writing into a void, hoping that their books reach readers who need them the most once they’re published. Most of us started off as readers, unable to find the books and stories that spoke to us, that told our stories, that reflected our lives, and so we write them. We write them to fill the libraries of our youth with the stories we wished we’d had.

For my part, I’m going to try to recommend books to you when I can, and even get some lesfic ya authors on the blog for guest posts and interviews.

In the meantime, feel free to jump into the comments here or on Facebook and let me know what queer books you’ve read and recommend. We can always use more books in our TBR pile.