Homophobic publishers

Question: I would like to know why publishers refuse to publish novels with a GLBT theme to them?

I can search the net and find gay/lesbian themed ebooks but novels i can only find maybe 1-3 that is it.

Why is that?

I just would like a solid answer not sugar coated one please and thank you.

Cause if we live in a free country then writing a novel about a gay/lesbian main character should not be an issue.

Answer: First, I must say that I feel unqualified to answer this question for more than one reason. The closest I've even come to reading a LGBT novel was a couple of Robert Heinlein stories, and that was only because I like science fiction. So if any reader has better knowledge, please step up.

If I were to speculate, I would suspect that (like everything in business) the reason has to do with money. If there was a large market for LGBT romance, for example, I would find it hard to believe that publishers like Harlequein would not create a line to target it. They might choose to create a separate imprint (so as to not confuse certain Christian readers), but it would happen.

I mention romance because most novels sold are romances. Obviously, if the readership of a particular niche is small to begin with, a sub-niche targeting LGBT readers would be even smaller. These days, publishers seem less willing to publish anything that doesn't have the potential to be a best seller, which is a problem for a lot of niche audiences.

Of course, there are some other barriers in this genre. For instance, young adult novels are certainly
popular now, and plenty of teens and young adults are interested in sexuality. But while you can get a straight teen romance (with no sex) into most schools, I suspect it's harder to get a similar gay romance accepted. Many school boards, libraries, book clubs, etc. are not even open to YA novels with swear words, let alone gay issues (which they see as more controversial). You'll see more gay teens on TV than on school bookshelves.

I also suspect there has traditionally been less crossover between LGBT readers and readers of other genres. (That is, while there may be plenty of gay people who read other genres, the reverse is not as common.) I'm not sure how rapidly this is changing.

It may be that the situation will not change unless someone can write a big breakthrough LGBT novel that smashes through the barriers and gets everyone - inside and outside the LGBT community - reading it. If a few genius writers can demonstrate they can produce million-copy best sellers in this niche, you will see all the publishers jumping on the bandwagon.

Maybe these writers will rise to fame through self-publishing ebooks, or underground comic books, or some other vehicle that lets them reach their audience by by-passing the gatekeepers. That's how most new genres emerge.

Curiously, I came across this editorial by a writer who feels that the market for LGBT books has actually been shrinking...


Note that he attributes this to the LGBT market being saturated with too many similar books. This may be one sign that the market needs a writer who can open up new territory and get people excited about reading the genre.

Comments for Homophobic publishers

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Re: Homophobic Publishers
by: Todd Rogers

I really resonate with this post, because, being a member of the LGBT community at large, I feel it's necessary that our stories get out there, especially when such stories contain a gay character as the main protagonist or ANtagonist.

I happen to be writing a story with a gay main protagonist. It's science fiction genre, but I made the decision to make my main character gay after Glenn answered a question about one of my first questions on this site.

I do not know if this will help, but you can copy and paste the following URL (if it's not clickable here) and read this:


I am self publishing my title for Kindle and iBooks.

It will be awhile before I am ready to publish it, but I hope that there will be a positive trend in literature towards favoring gay main characters rather than the perpetuation of the sterotypes we have today where straight actors play gay for pay.

Character in Relation to Plot
by: KW

I know this is a really old post, but I've learned a couple of things about this topic & thought I'd share. Also, it's long. You've been warned.

If you look at films (which often come from books), you'll see that historically the gay characters have been...

a) crazy

b) villains

c) supposedly gay women who sleep with men/seduce men/then try to kill the men they sleep with (i.e., crazy nympho villains according to the heterosexual male gaze in film and story -- yes, generalizing, but 'male gaze' is actually a technical term for a reason, which is the same reason most novels have male main characters)

d) comic relief - much like black/African American characters, Asian characters, yadda yadda etc. etc. characters throughout mainstream stories: Just Jack!

Gay Character Job Hazard: LGBTQ characters are like the red shirt guys in Star Trek - they often die in the end, too.

Fast forward a little, and we still have all of that, plus the added bonus of The L Word soft porn variety of gay story -- also massively heterosexualized in terms of cultural expectations regarding what is and isn't attractive (read: sexually appetizing for said heterosexual male gaze) and/or acceptable socialization.

Right. This all translates to books, too, because the whole thing is story. So what if movies are shallow by comparison? We're talking about story. So that's one piece.

A second piece is that there are a lot of LGBTQ stories out there about coming out, both films and books. Why? Because that's really the only difference between the LGBTQ (add or rearrange letters as you like) life experience and the non-LGBTQ life experience in the broader sense.

There are only so many times and different versions of the Coming Out Story that even the gay community can deal with reading, not to mention the fact that it wasn't much fun for a whole lot of us to begin with, so reliving and rehashing those feelings is more of a coping phase than a lifetime readership.

The way to make an LGBTQ character viable is to make that part of his/her character integral to the story -- and then show us the story. Show us why, in your story, it matters. Show us the little things we have to deal with as being 'different' (when really, we aren't all that different in the human experience department) that make a difference to your story - to your character in that story - in ways that move your story forward.

Another tried and true LGBTQ story that's been told a lot is the one about being a nun/priest/monk and falling in love with someone of the same sex. This is the archetypal story of forbidden love. The gay characters in it push the story forward because their religions condemn them specifically for being gay. You could write the exact same story about forbidden love on the Gaza Strip between a Palestinian and an Israeli, and it would work because you can't be in love with someone of the opposite country in that setting. It's just not allowed. But you can't choose who you love, and we can all relate to that story of the human experience.

This 'pushing the story forward' rule applies to any character in any book (or movie). If you've got a story where a plane crashes in the end, and your main character has to crawl out of the wreckage to save the world, doesn't it make sense to give your character the trait of already being afraid to fly on page one and then show us how he/she changes/overcomes/faces/fails to confront/is defeated by that fear through the story arc right up through the climax?

Same with characters who are LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ.

Why? Because characters are people. They're characters first - people first - human beings who have traits, who are placed in their stories because the match between character and story is perfect. We love to read about them because we're all human, and we're relating to the emotional stresses undergone by the main character in every story we read. When we lose the human emotional connection in our stories, we lose the reader's connection.

This is not to say that a heterosexual reader can't relate to a gay character. I mean geez, look how many gay folk are out there relating to heterosexual characters all the mm-mm time! What I'm saying is that the character in your story must experience an emotional roller coaster that your reader can relate to, and his character traits must serve the story for him to be viable.

We can all relate to a broken heart or to pining away over someone who doesn't know we exist, so I'm not talking about leaving out the love, here. I'm talking about using your character's traits wisely within your story. Everything has to serve the story, or you have a problem, regardless.

Example: Tom Selleck once said about playing the gay reporter in In & Out that he struggled and struggled and struggled with how to play a gay reporter until one day it dawned on him that his problem was his perspective. All that time, he kept trying to figure out how to play a gay man, when what he really needed to figure out was how to play a reporter. The fact that the reporter was gay pushed the story forward, not the other way around.

When you strike this balance, it goes back to story as far as a publisher is concerned because there is no argument from there about whether or not you have a market for your story just because of the gay factor. It becomes about whether or not you have a story for the market, period. It's all about the story.

Best of luck & hopefully this late post will still help somebody.


by: Glen

Thanks for the post. I think you're pretty much spot on.

The one exception: it's not true that most novels have male main characters. The majority of novels published are romances which are geared towards a female audience and have female main characters.

People tend to overlook the romance genre -- which may be a reflection of another form of gender/sexual bias in our culture.

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