I came upon this article when Erates shared it on Friend Feed. It caught my interest so I decided to have a look. The original post was on Jessewave's site on 9/25/11.
The question Jessewave originally asked was Are Some M/M Readers Reaching A Saturation Point. I thought to comment on her site but I decided this would probably take a lot of thought and much more space. How I love my blog.
When I first saw the post I have to admit I was kind of pissed. If there is one thing I can’t stand is being lumped in with a certain group when it comes to my writing. The post seemed to say that most of us authors of M/M erotic fiction just didn’t care and were churning out badly written, badly edited books without thought to our readership. Boring, uninspired and sameness was one of the words used by her and apparently a plethora of other reviewers.
Then I thought, let me calm down and looked at this with a clear, objective opinion.
But first, I will say, I do care.
As a reader, I love M/M books and have enjoyed many of them I’ve read. Look here on my blog for some of my favorites. The only reason why I haven’t been reading any lately is because I’ve been working on my own WIP’s. Did I mention, I love to write M/M as well? I haven’t been into the whole erotic fiction and certainly not the M/M genre for very long, maybe four years tops if that. I’m still enjoying it immensely.
And although I can in no way speak for them, I think perhaps the gay community appreciates the fact that now they have another form of entertainment tailored for them.
But back to the post. The comments were many and varied. I did see a couple from authors. Again I will admit I didn’t go through all of them, so I may be wrong. Please feel free to correct me. It was mostly those stating their opinion of agreeing or disagreeing. Then again maybe other authors that saw it, decided to keep their own counsel. Normally, I would do that myself. I know we authors aren’t supposed to comment on such things but, I don’t know, this time, I felt I needed to voice an opinion of my own. Hope I don’t get into too much trouble.
My reasons are varied. First off, and I am going to be totally blunt here, have either authors of the posts read any of my works? And no this is not shameless self-promotion on my part and I’m certainly NOT saying mine are better than anyone else’s. I am asking because if you are making such a broad generalization then I hope you’ve at least read something of mine. I'm sure this will apply to my fellow authors as well. I’d appreciate it anyway.
Second, I’m uncertain what authors are being read here and what publishers they’re going with. Are the posters reading the same people over and over or are they looking for the hidden gems (as someone in the comments mentioned) from authors who are not on the Top 10 or Best Seller Lists? Just because we aren’t in that position, doesn’t mean what we write is poor. I can’t speak for other authors but I’ve gotten my share of rejections, no responses and “what, are you kidding me?” e-mails. And when I do finally get that wonderful acceptance, the publishers I’ve dealt with put me through the equivalent of basic training (and yes, I was in the military so I know how that is) when it comes to editing. And yes, I think this is a good thing because it tells me they care about my work as much as I do and are not going to let it out into the world until we both think it is perfect. I sure as hell do not want people to see typos, bad sentence structure and wording, flat characters and an overall uninteresting plot. It drives me insane when I do see people mention typos and the like. It means I haven't done my job. My name is on this work. It is a reflection of me.
Are readers too critical was asked? They should be but for the right reasons. I’ve gotten low reviews because a book is too short or too long, which has nothing to do with the plot, characters or the overall work itself.
I have always invited readers and now I will include reviewers to drop me a line about my works. I want to know what you like or what you don’t like. I will try my best to be as accommodating as possible. That doesn’t mean that I won’t write what I want first, and yes, I do write from my heart or gut or whatever as another commenter said. However, I also use my intelligence in the form of the research and plotting I do. But you CAN’T write fiction without some heart.
What exactly are the reviewers looking for? We have no idea unless you tell us. At least that’s how I feel. It’s easy to complain how books are “boring”, “uninspired” or “the same”, but it does no good without going in the opposite direction, giving us your opinion about what you’d like to see.
If you are in fact burned out by a genre, perhaps take a longer sabbatical away from it. Quite frankly, I believe if you’re so burned out that you’re thinking, “I can’t look at another piece of erotic fiction without screaming.” Then it seems to me that you were never really into the genre in the first place and should change completely.
I'll use myself as an example. When I first started considering a serious writing career at the tender age of fourteen, I wondered what I should write. I was raised by my grandparents and one of the things my grandmother and I did together was watching the old NBC Mystery Movies, some of you may recall like Columbo. So when I asked her what to write, she said, “You like mysteries do that.”
So that’s what I did for the first several years of my writing life. Churning out awful little things that could be used as blackmail material on me if they existed today. I tried for years but I just couldn’t get into it like I thought I should be doing. I became angry and frustrated. I remember at once point, throwing a WIP across the room. You had to actually print stuff out back then.
Then when I was about to give up, I was perusing the bookstore one day and I came upon the fantasy aisles. I’d never considered fantasy before. I don’t quite recall what book I picked up first. By the time I was done, mystery was right out the window. As you know I do a lot of fantasy but I find myself also getting into contemporary and paranormal but my first love will always be heroic fantasy and sword and sorcery. Haven’t gotten tired of it yet and it’s been almost thirty years.
Now as to erotic fiction, particularly M/M that was something I thought I would never consider. No way, no how. Then I wrote that first story and got paid for it…a lot. Or at least a lot in my book and pun fully intended. But at the time, I thought, let me try this and get it over with. It’s probably going to be like pulling teeth. So I wrote the story and I thought later, wait, this isn’t bad. This is kind of good. Then as I continued to write and dabbled into M/M I thought, hey not only is this not bad, it’s pretty good. I’m beginning to like writing this. Finally after I had a few stories and my novel under my belt, I told my friend Robin that I really loved writing erotic fiction. That I wanted to delve as deeply into it as possible despite what I’d said in the past. His reply was pretty much, “Well duh. That was obvious from the beginning.”
So if it’s not obvious from the beginning it’s a good bet it’s not what the heart and the head wants.
Wow, I’m getting tired. But I have a few more things to say and I’ll keep my peace from now on.
Let me comment a bit about one of MANtastic Fiction’s Observations –
Too many shorts -- Interesting. All I can say is when I write a short story, it’s so I can give my reader something quick and as entertaining as my longer works. Shorts are a challenge for most of us and I like to test my abilities by rising to that challenge. It doesn’t always work. I’m sometimes told, I wish the story were longer. Not that it was bad, they just wished it hadn’t ended so soon. And yes, I write them as sort of an introduction for readers new to the genre. I personally was glad for the shorts, giving me a little taste until I was ready to delve into something deeper.
Before I conclude perhaps I should actually answer the question. No I don't believe it's oversaturated. Do we believe straight romance is? And its been around for at least a good hundred years if not a few centuries. But people still buy it in droves. M/M is still finding its niche. People are still discovering it. If you've read my past musings you will see how I've noticed the same old types of books when I peruse the shelves at Barnes and Noble. A commenter on MANtastic said it perfectly -- if the market were saturated, we'd see a decline in sales not a steady climb. The same can be said for paranormal, romance and yes erotic fiction. I just appears to me is that the question is asked based on a matter of personal preference. Perhaps more care does need to be taken when perusing the virtual shelves.
I like to take my time with my work. I sometimes joke about dragging my muse out of the corner but in truth, if I don’t feel like working on something I won’t. Forcing yourself only makes for bad writing, so yes it may take some time for my new works to come out but I promise when they do they will be the very best I have written. I love what I do. I don’t believe in doing anything half-assed. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a perfectionist. If it’s not perfect you won’t see it. My word on that.
If I’ve offended anyone, I apologize, as that certainly wasn’t my intent. All right, I’ve spoken my peace for now and to my wonderful readers, fellow writers and the reviewers I say,