When Loose Id accepted its first m/m story in 2004, not long after we opened for business, both the author and Loose Id weren’t sure how it would be received. There was no precedent that either of us knew about for publishing m/m stories. What we did discover was that a market could be developed, especially because there was a large store of untapped m/m stories that were good and exciting. The trickle of m/m stories we released turned into a flood. By now m/m romance is a staple in much of e-publishing’s roster.
Things have changed enough in nine years that now m/m seems poised to go mainstream. I admit that even last year I had my doubts but mainstream publishing is looking for new material, just like e-publishing was when they took on m/m, and mainstream seems to be ready to gamble on m/m. We’ve seen big name authors write stories with two men as the protagonists and the trickle of m/m stories has begun into the mainstream market.
For those of you who already are m/m fans, that is good news and bad. Of course that means more m/m stories in new places. Right now, m/m has a small but expanding audience full of fans that may or may not like every m/m kind of story there is. Some are fans of “Gay for You” stories, for example, others not at all. Some either don’t mind or welcome het sex as part of their m/m story, others not so much. Since e-books allow for niche markets, it’s all good as long as there is some market for particular categories within the m/m market.
But mainstream is, by definition, inclusive rather than exclusive (or at least will try to appeal to the broadest possible audience.) I’m not going to predict the exact way m/m will attempt to appeal to that broader audience—with big name authors, traditional plots and tropes, lots of marketing exposure or build up within a series that starts featuring other characters than m/m ones–but I am confident the future mainstream m/m romance won’t look like the primarily e-book m/m romance. Mainstream publishers will want the stories to go broad, not narrow, for their appeal. They want a different, larger audience for m/m.
And if m/m is to stay mainstream, more readers will need to respond to this with more sales because mainstream publishers have much more money invested in having their books sell. If a genre is not successful, it will be pushed to the background. (Think recent historicals that aren’t Westerns, Regency or Scottish. Or, more accurately, how few there are.) So m/m will need to go big, pretty quickly, or go home. I wonder if m/m will hit it big with a story similar to how BDSM hit mainstream big with Fifty Shades of Grey. If so, the m/m romance for mainstream will be very different from the one independent e-publishers have developed.
I’m not good at predicting the future so while I think m/m will make forays into mainstream, I don’t know how successful it will be immediately. Our early attempts with m/m for e-publishing didn’t meet with immediate success in terms of royalties but, with time and patience, we built a market. It remains to be seen how patient mainstream needs to be to develop a big enough market for m/m and if mainstream publishers will develop the right m/m mix of story that will work for them.
Treva Harte became co-owner and Editor-in -Chief of Loose Id in 2004. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from University of Arizona (high honors), a M.A. in English Literature from University of Virginia and a J.D. from University of Virginia. She is a member of the Virginia and D.C. bars. From 1988 until 2008 she was a Trademark Examining Attorney for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Treva is also multi-published with several e-publishers in print and e-book, is a member of RWA, has been a member of PAN, and was winner of the CAPA 2003 award in the “Erotic Fantasy Romance” category.