So here’s a question I received over on my tumblr:
anonymous asked: Hi, I have a question if that’s okay. In my novel, the two main male characters are in a relationship, (one is homosexual and asexual, and the other is bisexual) but I don’t want to write a LGBT novel if that make sense, I don’t want it to be a big deal, just to be a YA novel with two LGBT characters. If I were to publish it as such, would there be any complications in mainstream publishers and how’s its presented? Thank you
That’s definitely okay! I don’t know if I’m exactly qualified to answer this, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I’m only speculating based on what I’ve read from publishers and authors.
With that disclaimer out of the way…
It’s really dependent on what you mean by a “mainstream publisher.” If you’re talking abut the Big Six (Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random, Hatchette, Simon & Schuster), you’ll definitely have a harder time than if you were to publish with a small house. The Big Six are not fond of taking risks, and unfortunately queer lit, especially if it isn’t centered around LGBT issues, seems to be considered risky. Malinda Lo did some research into the queer representation in YA lit, and only 47 LGBT YA books were published by traditional publishers in 2014. 24 of those were by a Big House publisher.
Young Adult fiction isn’t representative of the entire market, but given that it’s a very lucrative and wide-reaching category, it’s worth talking about.
When we’re talking about the Big Six publishers, as I said earlier, they don’t like taking risks, especially with new name authors. They want things they know are going to sell and that usually means sticking with status quo. While having cis-male characters definitely doesn’t hurt you (they made up 40% of the published YA books in 2014), it’s still harder to get published with the Big Six than anywhere else.
I can’t say much to the bisexuality or asexuality of your characters other than there’s a lot of horrible bi-phobia and bi-erasure in media in general, and I’ve seen maybe one novel with an asexual character outside of my own.
Rather than go after a Big Six, though, there are many small publishing houses that are going to be a lot more receptive to your characters. The first one that comes to mind is harmonyinkpress, an LGBTQ YA publisher, but there are others, as well, if you don’t fall into the YA category. While there are other issues to consider when picking a small publisher, they have a lot of great advantages, too, and much more likely to take risks on diverse casts and characters.
For now, you should really only concern with yourself representing the communities in respectful, accurate ways. When you’re ready to publish, the best thing you can possibly do would be to go through books with similar characters, themes, and genres to yours and look at who has published those novels. This will give you a much better idea of who you should be looking into and who you should be avoiding.
Hope that helped!