Hi gang! I don’t usually do live post while I am away at conferences, but I had a really great panel experience today at Romantic Times that I wanted to share. I moderated a panel called Crossing Over: Writing Straight and LGBTQ Romance with authors Amy Jo Cousins, Megan Mulry, Megan Erickson, Roni Loren, and Karen Stivali. We had an amazing discussion (people told me later it was their favorite panel at RT) and there was lots of interest on social media about the topic, so I thought I’d take a few minutes just to share some of the things we discussed.
We started off with all the panelists introducing themselves. All of the authors write both straight and LGBTQ romance in a variety of combinations. One of the first topics we talked about was whether authors found their publishers giving pushback about shifting from gay to straight romance (or vice versa) or with them writing various combinations across series. With the exception of a publisher that produces exclusively gay romance, everyone reported getting a lot of positive response from their publishers about the idea of branching out into different pairings and even combining them into one series. Roni noted that there has been a recent shift and that this wasn’t always the case, but now it seems that most publishers are open to at least considering crossover, even publishers who do primary straight romance.
One caveat to this was that often certain combinations don’t sell as well and several authors noted being warned by publishers that not everything is as marketable. It was specifically noted that lesbian romance is still a tough sell. Several of the authors noted trying to find a balance between writing the stories that they wanted to tell with the reality of needing to sell books, and that sometimes it is matter of thinking through scheduling to pace out the more commercial releases.
We also talked about branding and pen names, and whether the panelists used different pen names for different types of books. All of the authors on this panel use one pen name for all their work regardless of the romantic combinations, for a variety of reasons. The two biggest were the complication of keeping track of multiple pen names on social media and other communication outlets, as well as generally not wanting to divide up their books by orientation, but instead to have it all living together. However, Amy Jo noted that there are also good reasons why people might want to separate their pen names, particularly to have more focused branding and to help readers find the specific books they want to read. Megan Erickson noted it is important to think about whether you brand is going to be the genre or type of book you write, or if your brand is your author voice, because that may help determine whether you want separate branding/pen names.
Another big topic was writing series/books that combine both gay and straight stories. I was particularly interested in this topic as Joyfully Jay reviews primarily gay romance, but we do review straight romance when it is part of a larger series. Again the authors said that most of their publishers were really open to this and that it was important to them to be able to tell the stories that spoke to them without having to keep them separated into different books/series. I found it interesting that almost universally the authors reported that their readers who started with reading their straight romance were much more likely to follow them to gay romance than the reverse. Amy Jo noted that in part this may be due to some gay romance readers having the same misperceptions about straight romance as many readers have about romance books in general. Authors also noted that gay readers of gay romance are often more willing to cross over to straight romance than other groups.
For me the takeaway here was that authors should write the stories that they want to tell. There may be factors to consider, like marketability and reader interest/expectations. But ultimately it seems that both the publishing world and the readers are increasingly open to crossover stories. Personally I think that in the future the lines will continue to blur and there will be less focus on just gay romance or straight romance, and that all romance will be much more mixed together.
It was a super exciting panel and we had such a great discussion and a really engaged audience. I know that there are lots of things I missed here or issues that I may not have fully captured correctly, so please feel free to share your thoughts if you attended the panel (especially any mistakes I may have made recapping things here). And I would also love to hear thoughts from readers about this topic, so please feel free to comment here.
Thanks! And much love from RT!