Het vs. Gay: What’s More Lucrative?

AJ and I have been having an on-again, off-again discussion about the nature of our genre. After the latest round of disappointing royalty checks, the subject came up again.

I was upset and pacing and said, “I’m so stupid! I should just write het. If I’m going after the money, that’s what I should do. HET.” Being perpetually broke, I’m always thinking about the money.

“Het sucks. Het’s not growing the way LGBT is,” he said. “Het’s not what you care about. You write het and you’re selling out.”

Is he right? Let’s consider the facts.

It’s estimated that one in ten people are gay/lesbian. I’ve never seen separate numbers for bisexual, transexual, transgender, intersex, or asexual, so knowing how people often look at our group, I’ll assume they lumped us all together.

While I realize lots of women buy the books we write, it’s also true lots of gays don’t; they don’t read, they’re not interested, they’re too busy to care. If they want to get off, they watch porn, they don’t read erotica. I’ll go so far as to say more women read our books than men and without them, our books wouldn’t sell for shit.

Any way you look at it, our audience is more limited than those buying books that feature the traditional man/woman relationship. Look at The Hunger Games: Girl/Boy. 50 Shades of Disgusting: Girl/Boy. Harry Potter: Girl/Boy. Everything revolves around straight people. Everyone else has been shoved into a corner, and while we’re not ignored, neither are we catered to. We’re not a majority. We’re different.

Het bores the piss out of me. I want to write about men being with men, in all the iterations I can think of. That’s sexy to me. That turns me on. Girl/Boy does nothing for me. But a nasty little voice in the back of my head keeps insisting het is where the money is.

Is that voice right? If I write something other than mainstream, am I giving up any chance of making more than a buck or three every quarter? Am I relegating myself to the backwaters of publishing?

…And the discussion continues.

About Theo Fenraven

Theo Fenraven lives in St Paul, MN, where it is really cold most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
This entry was posted in publishing, RL, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Het vs. Gay: What’s More Lucrative?

  1. AJ Rose says:

    So try this: write a het story. Publish it the way you plan to with everything else you write. Compare sales.

    Sure, het’s reading audience is bigger, but so is the competition. That’s an ocean of other writers all vying for the same reader dollars, not just a sea.

    Also, if het bores you, that could come across in the writing. Hard to make something sing if your heart’s not totally in it.

    • You have a point about my heart not being in it. And I already did write it. Bringer of Light is essentially het (though I snuck some man on man stuff in there; heh!) and it’s not selling at all despite getting 5-star reviews from those that read it.

      I think the truth is: there’s too much competition in every genre, straight or gay. So many people think they can write (and they can’t) and self-publishing is relatively easy these days, so they throw their book up on amazon or smashwords or lulu, make a couple bucks, and keep doing it, flooding the market with garbage.

      How’s the reader supposed to find the diamonds in a sea of fake glass?

      • W. Lotus says:

        It’s more than just the market being flooded with garbage: your average reader is lazy as all fuck. It takes time, trial, and error to find a diamond. But as my cousin, who works in the publishing industry, pointed out: this is an instant gratification society. People don’t want to wait/search: they want it NOW more than they want quality.

      • That attitude is endemic these days. *sigh* So yeah, all I can do is keep writing, keep adding to my body of work, and hope when someone does stumble across me, they recognize I’m a pretty good writer who tells pretty good tales. :)

      • AJ Rose says:

        I don’t buy that, Wanda. The thing people are most stingy about is their time. If I’m going to commit to hours reading something, I don’t want to feel like I’ve wasted my time. The money I can get over. It’s a few bucks, but I can’t get that time back.

        Which all comes back to writing a good story. For people to feel it was time well spent, it has to be a good story.

      • She’s right about “I want it now” though. And it takes time to sift through the sheer number of books available, no matter where you buy them.

        It’s really hard for people to find what they want because of their need for immediate gratification and what you point out: lack of time.

      • W. Lotus says:

        To be sure, there are many of us out there who are that way. But I don’t think we are the “average” reader.

      • AJ Rose says:

        Where’s a marketing guru when we need one?

  2. Ki says:

    i honestly don´t know if het writers make more money, cause i only read m-m.
    if they do, it´s probably because het erotica is advertised more than LGBT. who hasn´t heard of sandra brown or jude deveraux? bah!

    but, how about u try it once? yes, it will take some of your time, but u can give it a shot. see how it feels, if u can do it, and if u can finish it ….
    see if it sells better. it doesn´t hafta be a novel or a novella. try a short story or smth :)

    if u write it tho, i´ll buy it, sure, u´re a great author, but i probably won´t read it, even if i´m straight :D . i used to, but m-m works do more for me :D

    probably your fans of strictly gay books will do the same. and if u add to that NEW strictly het readers … well …

    here´s hoping. :*

    have a good summer !
    and hopefully u will win the lottery :D

    PS : I´m stalking your CS page !!

    • Stalk away! :) Thanks for the comment. I put out Bringer of Light under another name because I didn’t want my audience to stumble across it, scratch their heads, and say, “huh?” That might have been a mistake, ’cause Lyra Blue has no audience at all.

      Oh well. I think AJ is right. I don’t want to write het. I love m/m storytelling. I think I’m right where I’m supposed to be. But damn, more money does sound good!

      I hope I win the lottery, too, and thanks for the compliment!

  3. Have you heard of the term yaoi? Essentially, it’s homoerotica geared toward women. You’re right that your readers are probably women, but you’re incorrect in your assumption they want to read about specifically heterosexual relationships.

    Personally, what I love about gay erotica, is two men communicating in a relationship. In our culture, boys are told they don’t have feelings. They grow into men who think they can’t have feelings. I’ve seen the damage this does to them. That’s why I love the relationships in gay erotica so much.

    instead of writing hetero, try writing gay erotica that’s geared toward women. Do a little research on the difference between the two. Try advertising your new story as yaoi (maybe not that term, but state it’s a gay story written for the enjoyment of women). See what happens.

    • I have heard of yaoi but didn’t know what it was. Thanks for the definition. You might have something there, about targeting women who enjoy homoerotica. While there is definitely that element in my stories, my writing style is not overtly emotional. My characters don’t obsess about their feelings. Their actions and dialog mostly reveal what they think and feel and want.

      • I don’t know if they need to obsess, people aren’t necessarily into that either. There is a lot of emotional build-up in the stories. Fairly stereotypical story arcs work well.

      • AJ’s been prompting me to add more emotional depth to my stories, and I’m doing that. When I said ‘obsess,’ I was thinking of books I’ve recently read where the MC goes on and on about his feelings to the point where I wonder if he’s really female. ;/

        I don’t like reading about men who sound like women, and this often happens when females are writing the story. I want to read about men.

  4. Ki says:

    I don’t like reading about men who sound like women, and this often happens when females are writing the story. I want to read about men.

    >>>>>well, those are mostly Siren books or even Silver, recently.
    i´ve gotten to a point where i judge a book by its publisher, and i know it´s not fair of me.

    for example : DSP books are 80% awesome and 20% so so :D

    and the definition of yaoi IMO : ¨ omg, don´t touch me there, it hurts ! But please don´t stop !!!! Oh, i´m so embarrassed, but please keep going ! more! more! oh stop, u shouldn´t touch me THERE ! ¨

    • ROFL Seriously? Doesn’t sound like anything I would write at all.

      You’ve read some of my stuff, right? What do you think? Nice amount of introspective thoughtfulness but not too much?

      I agree that DSP releases a lot of good stuff. I’m not familiar with Silver, as I haven’t bought anything from them yet.

      When I do find an author who writes good men (whether they are male or not), I tend to scarf up everything they’ve had published. J C Price comes immediately to mind. Now there’s a woman who writes good men. Damn hot and very sexy.

  5. Ki says:

    LOL
    relax, u´re a long way away from that shit. :D
    ur style is a little more … um… dry?!?!?! romantic-wise. or a little more serious, dunno if u get my drift. i´m no critic or whatever. difficult sometimes to express myself in english .

    u´ve yet to insert mushy stuff ( not good ) no girlie tears ( not good ) !! to NOT be joyee flynn is GOOD !!
    tho i wonder how much dough she earns. i mean .. the girl spawns a book like … every week. tho … the quality is what u´d expect.

    the only thing i disliked in ur book ( phoenix ) is that Artemis dismissed the way the phoenix killed so easily. i don´t agree with the whole ¨he gave his consent while having sex ¨. some of us don´t even believe a guy/girl saying I love you in the heat of passion :D .
    let alone a cop accepting this explanation.
    BUT, the rest was awesome. keep going. like i said before… i´m STALKING.

    what are ur fav m-m authors? >>>> off topic.

    • Well, stalk me here because I’m self-publishing the next one, which is book 1 in a new series. :) Or stalk me over at Voodoo Lily Press.

      You’re the first person to mention Artemis’s easy acceptance of Phoenix killing those pretty boys. What I’ve heard is they wished I’d paid more attention to the cops at the end. And the new phoenix brought all those boys back to life, so I figure it was all good. Heh.

      I don’t read a lot of m/m; I don’t have time. I edit books professionally and write, so unfortunately, reading is farther down the list than I’d like. Jordan Castillo Price is pretty good, as I mentioned. Who are your favorite authors? And don’t recommend books with girly men in them. ;/

  6. Ki says:

    wouldn´t do that to you. :)

    ok here goes, author and book i´m most fond of: JC Price, Marilyn hill mansouria( time present & time past ), abigail roux, jenna hilary sinclair ( admit one ), angel martinez ( a different breed ) , isabelle rowan ( u should read A note in the margin !!!!!! ), astrid amara ( the archer´s heart especially !! ), megan derr, dg parker, felicia watson and a few more. don´t forget YOU!

    AND , some of my favorite comedies : audra beagle & chloe west: private property; unholy matrimony + vic winter : every time a bell rings ( very short ).

    some of them unfortunately have only just one book out. it astounds me that these talented souls only publish one time. and then Poof! not to be seen again. so as new authors, they are amazing !

    *sigh* i´d go on and on and on.
    drawing the line at the end of the day : u gonna write Yaoi or het? or strictly m-m? :D

  7. Ki says:

    i have ur next book in my to buy folder.
    so why self publishing? not impressed with DSP?

    • I love DSP, and they’re very good. But I decided I wanted to control more of the process, as well as keep more of the profit. :) I love designing my own cover, making sure all the errors are caught and corrected… Yup, control freak, that’s me. :)

  8. Ki says:

    Good for You !!!

    it was lovely chatting with u. i hope i didn´t take u all over the map.

  9. Lindsaysf says:

    An interesting conversation.
    My gay friends I’ve sent stories to said “Very nice, but I’m more into pictures than erotic literature.”
    I find it hilarious that us women are so turned on to m/m sex. Not too long ago we sneered at het men being turned on by f/f. My, the circle goes round and round. :-)
    Sounds like the question is “Why are you writing?” Because the stories inside want to come out? Because it’s your passion? Or because you want to make money? Yeah, both. :-) I like the suggestion of having one alias under which you write your passion. And another under which you write what sells. I hear that’s what a lot of authors have done. The discipline of “writing to specs” might be worth developing.
    Along those lines, might it be time to attend a writers con or workshop? Maybe hearing what has/hasn’t worked for others and exploring the exercises they offer and the feedback they give? I hear that being able to listen to feedback and mine the manure to find the gold is a very helpful skill.

    • I’m sure it is, and when I find myself with extra time and money, this sounds like a great idea.

      There are a lot of things I want to do, and I hope I don’t have to put them off forever.

  10. Isa says:

    Here’s my thoughts on this subject. You should always write the story that you want to tell. I have read m/f romance for years and got bored with the stereotypes and felt like I was always reading the same stories. Then I started reading m/m romance. This gave me more variety in my characters but still gave me the romance. (I always want the happy ending.) When I read these books I don’t just want the story I want to know how does he feel, why did he say or do what he did. I don’t want a guy that cries every chapter but I want one that feels something.

    I also like to read longer books. I don’t like to read the short stories or novellas unless they are part of a series or sequel. I feel like I just get into the book and then it’s over and I’m left with questions. In the ending of your book Blue Paradise I was like what? It can’t be finished! What happens next? When’s the next book coming out? In Blue River I’m waiting for Quinn’s side of the story. I keep thinking of him seeing a car for the first time and using indoor plumbing, taking apart a toaster to see how it works. In AJ’s book The Yearning I would like to hear more from Eric and Spencer. I can see something happening in Justin’s life and Eric is over his shoulder still giving him a hard time. Something that is more of a comedy. Series and sequels are usually automatic buys for me. I think there is one book I have not automatically bought the 2nd book of the series. Your Three of Swords will be an automatic buy for me.

    In the Hunger Games the story really wasn’t about the romance. If it was supposed to be they did a bad job. To me it was about the fight for survival and what we do to survive. Even in the end of the series I still felt like she wasn’t happy with her relationship. Didn’t read 50 Shades of Grey cause it sounds awful. Watched the movies of HP and didn’t feel like it was a romance either.

    I do think you should try writing a book that is not considered a romance. (I think you would be good at this) The main character could be gay but any relationship he has should only be mentioned briefly more for background information on the character. You could write a paranormal or mystery or sci fi type of book and then make sure it gets promoted as that and not a romance. (Nothing is worse then reading a book you thought was a romance and then it isn’t.)

    The other thing is to keep promoting your name and keep writing. The more books I see by an author the more likely I will purchase a book and then if I like one book I will buy more books by the author. Do blog visits and let people know what you are working on and when your book will be released. If I’m reading another author’s blog or a review site where you are a guest I will take time to see what you have written and check out your website. This is how I read AJ’s The Yearning. I wasn’t interested in the book initially but enjoyed the guest blog post he did and then decided to give the book a try and know want a 2nd book. It may take some time promoting your work but your posts here are always interesting.

    Sorry for the long post. But please keep writing.

    • Don’t apologize! Your comment holds a wealth of information and I appreciate the time you took to write it.

      Blue River was part of MLR’s Christmas anthology. It was never meant to be anything other than a stand-alone story. I regret that I can’t write a sequel to it at this time; I no longer wish to publish with MLR. However, when I get the rights back, I may because I love Ethan and Quinn and you’re right. There’s more story there to tell.

      I also appreciate your support. Nothing means more to an author than hearing a reader talk positively about their work. Thank you so much!

    • AJ Rose says:

      You know, you’re not the first person interested in more Eric and Spencer, but I’m in the same position as Fen: MLR gets first look rights to a sequel and I won’t submit to them again. By the time I get them back, the timing won’t be right. However, I might consider expanding their story before the rights are released and then re-releasing it as part of a larger work. You’ve given me something to think about, that’s for sure.

      Thank you for your thoughts on this. This comment was full of win.

    • AJ Rose says:

      Also, the fact that you aren’t interested in 50 Shades of Vomit? Makes you my favorite.

  11. Isa says:

    LOL at 50 Shades of Vomit. I haven’t seen anything good about the book and the movie would be awful. Kind of like Twilight and the bad acting of Kristen Stewart.

    Didn’t realize that MLR had the sequel rights. I’m always looking for more to read and never like when a book ends. Next book on my list to read is Phoenix Rising! I’ll let you know what I think.

  12. Please don’t give up on M/M writing! I have always been a fan of gay stories and the best ones are so rare. Trust me they are becoming more popular. Just think of the characters that used to exist ten-twenty years ago. I would have killed for a good story with a strong female lead and they didn’t exist when I was a kid (besides Nancy Drew but even then…). Stories were usually about white straight males.

    The market has changed and strong females, race, and sexual orientation minority main characters are starting to show up more and more. People want to read about the underdog, they want to read about characters they can relate to. There are never enough minority characters out there and writing about male with male relationships is one that is hard to find. Minority characters have hundreds of years of writing to catch up on so don’t give up!

    I have a feeling gay characters will start taking off more and more once people realize the wonderful authors out there who write those stories (you included). It may not happen tomorrow but het stories have fallen to the back of the shelf for me once I fell in love with gay character stories. There is such passion in the stories and their struggle against the world. I know I’m a straight girl and could not understand first hand the struggles of being gay but I know what it’s like having to fight for your rights and break stereotypes. I think that’s why us girls relate to the gay characters so much, we have to deal with comments like, “You throw like a girl” all the time.

    Anyhow…that is my two cents. Don’t give up writing what you love because you are a passionate beautiful writer who may someday change the world!

  13. erin o'quinn says:

    Theo, I discovered you through the pages of a well-edited MS. Seeing the way you responded to my so-so story, I can tell that you’re a helluva writer. I want to tell you that you should definitely stick with M/M. I write for a pub who makes their bones on alternative and menage. The m/m stuff is consistently on top of their hit parade (tho I’ll admit that BDSM and multiple menage is gaining a lot of ground).

    I wrote m/f until I discovered that my muse was definitely gay. He/she (I still don’t know the sex) demanded that I write m/m. Even though I’m not physically capable of performing what my characters so exuberantly do, I’m definitely mentally capable. I’m a decent writer, but I’ll say that as soon as I began to write about manlove, I became a better writer–more impassioned, more complex, more seeking for answers to emotional quandaries.

    Like you, I’m bored with het. Let the public slowly wake up (while we writers starve), and I think that a few years from now the pendulum will swing to LGBT.

  14. erin o'quinn says:

    PS…I’d like you to read to my new Manlove blog “The Man in Romance.” It’s on my sigline if you can find it. You’ll see I’m definitely a rookie, but the word “impassioned” about describes me well. I’m not looking for free advice here, just a little look/ a little see (as Mooch says.) Slán, Erin

  15. I know a writer who writes both M/M and M/F under two separate pen names. She told us she made $70,000 last year and $50,000 of that was her M/M stuff!!! M/M sells. I thought M/M was huge. You need the right publisher though.

    • Who is ‘she’? If she’s that big, I’d recognize the name. I think most of us would.

      Seventy thousand a year, huh? Yeah, that would be great.

      • The thing is she is absurdly prolific so that’s a large part of it. I’m sure you have heard of her LA Witt. And she doesn’t make that a year I think she made that last year for the first time as she steadily increased. But she writes 11 novels a year plus novella, short stories and coauthoring. :-/ As for the other thing….there are all these women desperately searching for 50 shades of Grey replacements. :-/ Erotica and erotic romance were not getting this attention b4 that. It seems unfortunately that some of these people think that because 50 shades was self published that they must search among the self published books for another 50 shades. None-the less Dreamspinner has the third best sales of all romance epubs in existence.

      • Believe it or not, I’ve never heard of LA Witt. I’d like to think that’s encouraging. ;/

        I have to work for a living. I can’t write more than six novellas a year or possibly two or three full-length books. Writers who have a financial support system (like a partner/spouse who works) can spend all their time writing. I can’t. In fact, my editing job takes up long hours and I still managed to put out three novellas in the last six months. I consider that quite a feat.

        The question is, is she any good or is she simply prolific? Another author told me about someone like this, who cranks out shit day after day, and simply because her name is so prevalent, manages to sell quite a lot each month.

        I don’t want to put out shit. I want to put out quality stories that are well written.

        Erotica has been a booming business the last few years. It’s too bad I didn’t get into it then, when I loved writing it. But now I’m burned out on it. I can’t just write sex sex sex. It bores the piss out of me, not only writing it but reading it.

        Which brings up an interest question: If erotica is a gateway drug, what’s next?

      • She is good! She writes high quality stories for Samahain and Loose ID. But yes she writes full time and has a husband.

      • That does make a difference. I work full time and then some, and write when I get the chance. I’m hoping I can change that in a year or two, but right now, I’m stuck with it.

  16. For those rare HUGE books like 50 shades and Hunger games there are a gazillion M/F het books that don’t sell. That’s why I’ve taken to writing menage. lol

    • I’ve downloaded some of the free Kindle books at Amazon. All of them are straight, because for some odd reason, m/m doesn’t get offered for free there. (No m/m author signing up for Select?).

      A lot of them are poorly written and poorly edited, yet they have tons of four- and five-star reviews. How does one explain that?

  17. Sal says:

    Recently I discovered m/m. I tend to obsess on a genre, hunt for authors that sound interesting, and burn through everything they write. I rarely read professional book reviews prior to reading a new book, yet I study reader reviews extensively on Amazon? Whatever genre I’m reading the aspects of a story that appeal to me are world bulding, character devevelopment, novel themes, convincing dialoge – add wry humor and I’m hooked. Over the last week I have enyoyed reading three of your novels, all were great reads. The precog series has me completely hooked, I’m about to download the second in the series.

    When I discover a new author I like to learn a little about them which is how I discoverwd your engaging blog (oh yeah, add fav author’s blogs as another much used guide to finding new books). Hmmm let me figure out what has me so hooked on the series. I immediately became “involved” with the characters. The blend of action, dialogue, and inner reflection felt well balanced and I experienced each character as having a vivid presence, a character that for me had “depth”, and I love the creative theme. I want to hang out in their world and can’t wait to begin the next book.

    Keep writing!

    • Wonderful comment! It tickles me when a reader enjoys the story and characters the same way I do, sees them the same way, and expects the same things from a book.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s