“So, where’s your LGBT fiction?”
It’s no big secret that a large portion of the LGBT fiction market is online. Many books aren’t even available in print, which I know frustrates some readers (and authors!) who would like to find books in bookstores, libraries, etc. And heck, some people just like paperbacks.
But they aren’t in bookstores. Not in significant numbers, anyway. Even as larger publishers branch out into LGBT, they’re sticking to ebooks.
After talking to publishers, agents, authors, and booksellers over the years, I’ve come to understand one of the primary reasons for this is, quite simply, that queer lit doesn’t sell in bookstores.
With that in mind, I went on a mission this week. I visited five bookstores around Seattle and Portland - Powell’s, Half Price Books, and Barnes & Noble - and I asked the same question: “Where would I find the LGBT fiction?”
This is the LGBT Fiction and Non-Fiction section at a Barnes & Noble. The entire section.
But you know what’s extra aggravating?
This is where I found it:
I mean, great. Glad it’s near LGBT & Gender Identity (Though it’s literally the bottom shelf. The top three are Native American and African American non-fiction, which apparently are part of Cultural Studies but don’t warrant a sign despite occupying ¾ of the space…? IDK.)
Signage weirdness notwithstanding, look what section I’m in. I mean, if you’re looking for LGBT Fiction, you’d expect to look…in the….fiction section, right?
No. It’s in the non-fiction section. This is the view of the fiction section from the LGBT section:
Those are Graphic Novels, followed by SFF, followed by Romance. So if you’re in the mood for Gay Romance, you’re not even in the right ZIP code if you start perusing the romance section.
And if I wander over to the fiction section and look toward the LGBT section…
That far wall? The shelf with the LGBT books is perpendicular to that.
See what I’m getting at? There are literally only three ways someone will find the LGBT fiction section at Barnes & Noble:
1. Ask. Which is fabulous for people who are closeted, kids who aren’t comfortable asking, and people who don’t even know the genre exists.
2. Stumble across it. Which you’re totally going to do if you’re looking for a novel because you’d absolutely wander out of the fiction section to find one.
3. Already know where it is.
Can’t imagine why LGBT fiction doesn’t sell.
At Powell’s, the situation wasn’t any better. Powell’s is enormous. It’s multi-level with color-coded rooms because it’s just….huge. I made a valiant attempt to find the LGBT Fiction on my own, but after a full hour of browsing, including scouring all the rooms containing fiction, I finally had to go ask.
There was a reason I couldn’t find it - it wasn’t in any of the rooms dominated by fiction.
It was in the room with all the history books, tucked back behind Military History. Because God knows that’s where I go looking when I want some LGBT fiction.
To their credit, Powell’s had an impressively large section, and it was decorated with a gigantic rainbow sign….but what good does that do anyone if they can’t find the section?
Finally, Half Price Books. Behold, the entire Gay & Lesbian Fiction section:
And yep, that’s the non-fiction section. The Gender Studies and Anthropology section. All the non-queer fiction was downstairs. Not even on the same floor.
So…you know…I think I might’ve figured out why LGBT Fiction “doesn’t sell very well in print,” and what a shock….it’s not because people don’t want to read it.