“There’s not much interest in F/F.” Wait…what? by Andi Marquette

I was chatting the other day with a new contact about a recent romance conference at which the subject of F/F romance came up. My new contact wondered why F/F wasn’t represented at said conference and, in a larger sense, at other romance conferences. I contacted one of the conference organizers and offered to put a panel together that dealt with F/F for their next gathering.

And was told “No, thanks. There’s not much interest in it.”

The organizer was nice enough, and completely polite, but it was a shut-down. Not even a “well, in our experience, it doesn’t seem there’s much interest in our crowd in F/F, but sure, if you’d be willing to put a panel together, that would be great and we’ll see how it does at our next con.”

Could’ve been worse, I guess. Could’ve been an “ERMAHGERD LESBIAN COOTIES AIEEEEE.” Which I have, actually, seen (though not in so many words) in some discussion venues about why F/F is underrepresented (if represented at all) in romance.

It’s not the first time conversations like the one I had with the organizer ended like it did. Definitely not the first time any discussion I’ve tried to raise about including F/F in so-called “mainstream” romance venues has been closed down by said “mainstream” venues. Responses are usually a vague “there’s not much interest in F/F,” though I’ve seen a few online postings that included “icks” and “the thought of two women just grosses me out, but two men is hot” and even “I would never read that.” (translation: “ERMAHGERD LESBIAN COOTIES AIEEEEE.” Let’s not even get into the nuances of what F/F could encompass in terms of gender identity and expression, love, romance, and sex.)

I’ve also gotten a few puzzled “there’s not a market for it” responses.

At which point I give them a crash course in the thriving world of lesbian fiction publishing and a list of publishing houses and recommend that the readers swing by the blog I co-admin, Women and Words (with nearly 3800 followers), for recent lists of publications from said houses and indie publishers as well as information about the many authors who are working in F/F.

In other words, yes, there is a market for F/F, and I don’t accept that it’s just ciswomen who identify as lesbian or bi. I have readers who are cisgender heterosexually-identified women and they let me know that they enjoy it and love my characters. I assume I have queer and trans readers, as well, whose sexual identities are across the straight/queer spectrum. I’ll concede that the majority of my readers are probably ciswomen who identify as lesbian or bi, but it’s clear to me that this is not the only demographic that reads my work or the work of my fellow F/F writers.

Perhaps the respondents mean, “there’s not a market among ‘normal’ romance readers for it.” (possible variation of the ERMAHGERD LESBIAN COOTIES AIEEEEE response), though I’m a glass half-full kinda person, so I’m hoping that the idea just hasn’t been floated widely and readers don’t realize that there is a thriving F/F industry with a variety of writers and characters experiencing a variety of life and relationship stages and types, romance, sexualities, and sexual expressions.

Golly gee whiz, but that sounds like themes from romance in general. Love and romance are human universals, though how it’s packaged and expressed in terms of writing it depends on the characters and their different life experiences and baggage. Relegating F/F (and queer romance across the board) to the “not much interest” corner and keeping it out of larger romance venues ensures that it’s perpetually “otherized” and “exoticized” and, as a previous blogger here said, ensures that the sexual orientation of the protagonists isn’t a defining characteristic, but rather THE defining characteristic, which further serves to marginalize F/F as a type of story rather than, simply, a story.

But because I am a glass half-full kinda person, and I tend to see “no” as an opportunity rather than an absolute, I’ll keep chatting up conference organizers with my offer to put a F/F panel together (suggested tagline: “reading F/F will not make you a lesbian, but it might make you want to set your single lesbian friend up with that other lesbian you work with”).

Oh, and I’ll keep writing ERMAHGERD lesbian n’ GBTQ protagonists as well as a plethora of other characters. Here’s to a glass totally full of across-the-board romance by across-the-board authors: messy, fun, sweet, sometimes heartbreaking, vibrant, exciting, sexy. Because as KJ Charles said here earlier, we can all use another good book.

Andi’s Queer Romance Recommendations

There’s a giant plethora o’ F/F out there. Start with authors Georgia Beers, K.G. MacGregor, Jove Belle, Karis Walsh, and Heather Blackmore, Jae, and Fletcher DeLancey (for a wide variety). And please feel free to drop me a line if you’d like some more recommendations. Just go to my website and hit the “Contact” page. Cheers!

About Andi Marquette

You can find more about Andi and what she writes at:

 About From the Hat Down

From the Hat Down coverMeg Tallmadge is a veterinarian at a clinic in Laramie, Wyoming. She’s got a great job, great friends, deep ties to the family ranch, and big plans for her vet future. Sure, there are bumps in the road, like her mom’s continued denial about who Meg is and her painful and infuriating attempts to make Meg a “proper” woman. Then there’s Meg’s recent breakup with a girlfriend, which has her wondering why she can’t seem to open up to relationships. But Meg knows that life is messy, and sometimes all you can do is get through and shake it off. What she can’t seem to shake off, however, is her past.

It’s been almost ten years to the day since she met the love of her life, and about eight since she let her go. Meg has a hard time admitting that maybe she didn’t really let go, and that maybe some things you never really get over, no matter how hard you try. But her past is half a world away, caught up in her own life, relationship, and journalism career, and Meg isn’t one to chase the ghosts of past relationships. Even if they send you a birthday card and nudge what you thought were the closed-off parts of your heart. After all, second chances are the stuff of fantasies and movies where the good guy always gets a happy ending. You can’t count on something like that.

Or can you?

Grab a copy on Amazon US
Or on Amazon UK

43 CommentsLeave a comment

  • 100% agreed Andi! I hear a lot of “it doesn’t sell” and “nobody wants to read it” and “nobody’s interested” but you know, I hear too many people clamouring for it who don’t know it exists or how to find it to think that there isn’t something more going on here than just the matter of “F/F is a niche that nobody wants or buys”. I think a large part of the problem is visibility and marketing, which sure would be helped by stuff like F/F panels at romance and other genre conventions or by already successful romance presses picking up and selling F/F titles as a part of their offerings.

    • RIGHT? I mean, seriously. How hard is it to let someone who is totally willing to do the work to put a panel/session together and line up all the participants so all you need to do is slap it into your program? Not very, sez I. So you and I are on the same page…HEY! Do you want to do a panel? 😀 Keep in touch!

      • I’m always up for panels but I’m an M/M author vs. an F/F one at this point so I dunno how much I’d have to contribute LOL

        But here’s my personal guarantee that if you do do a panel and I’m at the convention, I’ll definitely put my butt in a seat 😀 and drag along as many other people as I can find.

  • Hi Andi! I’m a straight woman who reads f/f (I really enjoyed Some Kind of River btw) and I’ve seen a lot of negative attitudes, but the cooties remarks seem to be dwindling in the romance community. I also think there’s been a sincere effort by m/m authors and presses to be more inclusive. I wonder if conference organizers would be open to GLBT panels with a mix of m/m and f/f authors? They should be reaching out for diversity instead of shutting it down.

    • Hi, Jill! Thanks for stopping by and thanks for reading. The last time I saw a “cooties” remark was 2013. Or was it 2012? It was on a romance readers forum (don’t remember which one) and honest to god, the reader posted that the thought of two women together was disgusting. Okay, I get it. Some stuff just doesn’t turn people on. Fine. But that was pretty judgmental, I thought. Just say: “not my thing.” The term “disgusting” has a lot of baggage for those of us who are LGBTQ because we’ve been labeled with terms like that all our lives, and even for an old hand like me who’s got a pretty thick skin, it still stings.

      So the “cooties” issue does remain, though with the very public gains made in terms of marriage equality, e.g., I think that comments like that are becoming less common. Not necessarily because people’s minds have changed, but rather because other people are less willing to let comments like that slide. Kudos to straight allies for being willing to call comments like that out, too.

      Anyway. Yes, there has been a great effort by M/M authors and presses to be more inclusive–more kudos all around! Yay! But I’d argue that they’re more open to M/M than F/F, and I suspect (not to suggest I’m correct) that this could be because there are quite a few straight-identified women writing M/M while the majority of people writing F/F tend to be lesbian- or bi-identified women. So I wonder if that filter–“oh, straight women write this genre, too, so it must be okay”–somehow functions with readers and conference organizers.

      And I think, too, that because F/F does tend to be a “lesbian thing” that lesbians, too, have not been aggressive about pursuing inclusion in “mainstream” romance venues. Why? Because historically, lesbian communities have been insular, and marginalization forced them to create their own artistic communities. Hence lesbian and lesbian feminist music, music festivals, and publishing. I think there’s thus a sense of “If we give up our communities and go mainstream, will we lose our identities as lesbians/lesbian feminists?” I don’t know the answer to that question, but I understand the sentiment behind it, and it’s one that feeds a larger conversation among LGBTQ communities as marriage equality spreads. “Does this make us mainstream? Are we losing a vibrant element of our communities that yes, was fueled by marginalization but yet allowed us to create really interesting things and approaches?”

      Again, I don’t know. But what I DO know is that I’d like to see more F/F available in more “mainstream” venues because I remember what it was like for me, growing up in an isolated rural community wondering what the hell was wrong with me that I crushed out on girls all the time. It would’ve been nice to have access to a whole giant pool of F/F that explored a range of F/F relationships. It would’ve made those years a lot less difficult, if I could’ve gone to the library and found a copy of Nancy Garden’s “Annie on My Mind” in the YA section.

      And I’d like to see conversations about queer romance in general in larger venues, because the issues we all face as humans are pretty much universal and we have far more in common than not.

      At any rate, keep in touch! Let’s be on a panel together!

      • Yeah, I hate the cooties comments with a passion and I will call them out. I think there was an m/m discussion recently (this year) in which the subject came up that women are just bitchy so yay for m/m! So it’s a process and the championing of men over women/gay men over LBT is an ongoing issue. But these comments don’t go unchallenged like they used to.

        This is at the forefront of my mind right now because I wrote an f/f/m scene in my latest book and I’ve had some negative reactions. Some readers think that one scene ruined the book, so it’s a little disheartening. I get that many readers don’t find f/f sexy, but it ruined the whole book, really? I didn’t throw a baby down a well.

        I agree that there’s no reason to call two women together disgusting. Ever.

        I also hear what you’re saying about the lesbian community and I see echoes in the mainstream romance community. It’s a female space and we don’t necessarily want male readers/authors for validation. But that doesn’t mean we want dismissals and insults from them either!

        thanks again for the post & discussion

        • Do you think some readers are just freaked out thinking they might be turned on by F/F sex? Is it that basic? I think sex is sexy, period. Some stuff doesn’t float my boat like other stuff, but in general? Hot [adult] sex is…hot. And there you go. I dunno. I’m glad we’re having the convo. Thanks.

      • “And I think, too, that because F/F does tend to be a “lesbian thing” that lesbians, too, have not been aggressive about pursuing inclusion in “mainstream” romance venues.”

        I’ve wondered if this isn’t some of the problem with the “there’s no interest in it” response. M/M readers/publishers/event organizers look around places like GoodReads, where there is a large M/M community, and they don’t see a comparable F/F group, so they think that those readers don’t exist. The ladies are out there somewhere, they just don’t frequent the same places. We need a map to the lesbians.

  • I want to make all kinds of thoughtful comments, but ‘ERMAHGERD LESBIAN COOTIES AIEEEEE’ is still making me laugh too much.

    … OK, I think I’m better now.

    It’s really important that you wrote about this, Andi. I’m glad there are posts on QRM concerning the issues of getting queer romance out there.

    The (polite) refusal you got reminded me of this post I read by the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up (http://boysinourbooks.com/2014/10/06/blog-tour-gay-romance-northwest-meet-up-2014-wrap-up/), in particular one section on the challenges they faced:

    “Community partnerships aren’t about financial support. We don’t ask them for money or for capacity support. The only thing we ask them is this: “Can you publicly say that you’re happy that this LGBTQ romance event exists?” That and do they feel comfortable putting their logo on our site under “community partners”. Do they feel comfortable being public with that?

    I’m surprised with how hard it has been to get local RWA chapters to say “yes” to that question. And I’ve had chapters, two years in a row, refuse to be seen with us.”

    Even within a community that you should ostensibly be part of, you’re excluded. It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

    On the bright side, we have people and events that are getting the word out about the greatness of all types of love and romance. Thank you for being one of those people.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by. And thanks for the link. I think some venues are honestly ignorant about F/F and the industry, but I also think that the “yikes lesbians” factor and the fear of an anti-LGBTQ backlash might also be a factor. And yes, sadly, there might even be more endemic homophobia at play, too.

      But I’m a glass half-full kinda gal! Which means I will totally keep on trying to subvert the dominant paradigm with my groovy self and requests for F/F panels. The more of us who chip at the wall, the sooner that wall comes down.

  • Excellent post, Andi, and timely with a remark I learned a reader had left on an obviously lesbian romance. Something along the lines of “OMG! Lesbians! In Texas! Who aren’t in the closet!”

  • Preach!

    No really, I believe there are lots of readers out there who want to read f/f but constantly hear the “f/f is just not popular,” “no one wants to read it,” “eww girl kewties,” “it doesn’t sell,” “no one wants to sell it,” “no one will publish it,” etc, mantra— over and over. And for the record, I think this is mostly coming from cishet romance and m/m romance reading community. But I’ve also read lesbians dissing on it as well, saying it’s not interesting.

    I think this kind of thing does set up f/f as other and tells potential readers there’s nothing out there for them that might be interesting or even available. I also think it creates a neg vibe around it— who wants to be unpopular, reading an allegedly unpopular genre?

    When I first started reading it, I had been reading only m/f and m/m. Then I started reviewing f/f on that blog and regular readers started making passively neg comments about how two cocks were better and women didn’t turn them on. But I also started attracting straight and bi readers who were making positive comments about it, all saying they wanted to read but couldn’t find it. To be honest though, in those early days I had to be strong in my desire to read it and stand up for it due to the dissing.

    It’s true that those of us who love reading it and have been vocal about it do get to read “eww girl kewties” in comments here and there, which makes us feel oh so good. *sarcasm* But I’m reading that less and less and it’s such a small crowd saying that anymore.

    But what I really feel is that if everyone, the entire romance/ GLBTQ community, would start treating f/f as an equal part of the whole GLBTQ reader community and not try to constantly act like it’s a disease to avoid, I think it would be more and more accepted as an equally desirable part of reading GLBTQ. Meaning, readers who might normally not be interested, might try it and like it if everyone else is trying it. Or at least not dissing on it.

    If we all posted how much we love it, how there are stories that are interesting and full of great characters, and less about why it’s not popular, then the stigma would slowly go away.

    I think it’s slowly happening. And kudos to you that you keep bringing it up to have such panels.

    • Thanks for stopping by and thanks for all the work you’ve been doing with regard to letting people know about the books out there. I agree that people just don’t know that there’s this whole “parallel universe” (LOL) of lots of lesbian fiction to…ahem…explore, if you will. Of course some of it is bad. And some is mediocre. And some is outstanding. I mean, you can say that about any genre, right? There’s lots out there to read and figure out which authors you like, which is something readers do for other romances, so why not F/F?

      Which is why, I think, panels on it are a first step to introducing people to it as a genre. Lesfic 101!

      Who’s up for it? 😀

  • Great post, and timely for me. I’m getting more interested in F/F, having just published one and looking at my story ideas folder and thinking “well there’s no reason some of you can’t be F/F couples…” I’m definitely going to have to expand my reading though. I’d better seek out some recs.

    • Hi, Becky–drop me a line on the contact page at my website and I’ll gladly hook you up with some recommendations. You can also find freebie short stories on my website, so you don’t have to spend anything right away. LOL Lots of authors offer freebies on their websites. So seriously, drop me a line and tell me what kinds of romantic elements you like in your stories and I’ll suggest some F/F authors who write along the lines you enjoy.

  • “There’s not much interest in it” is such a nonsense response. There is never any interest in anything until people hear about it and learn more: that’s the basic principle of marketing! One has to create the demand. Just about everyone who now loves m/m didn’t even know it existed and stumbled across it by accident, and the same is sure to be true of f/f.

  • Great post, Andi, and I’m sorry that you had some of those refusals for a panel. (I’m the person who wrote that post linked above about difficulties with RWA chapters, so I can sympathize.) If you’re interested, we should touch base about the 2015 Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up in Seattle next September. We don’t do panels just on one kind of queer romance (m/m, f/f, trans*, etc) because our goal is to have all types of queer romance featured throughout, on all the panels, so there’s more mixing and dialogue across. But hit me up if you might be interested in participating. We’ll be opening up panel submissions later this month for 2015.

    And keep trying for the f/f panels. One route we just did this weekend was do a panel on queer sci-fi at GeekGirlCon and that went over great. (Packed room of a 100-150 people.) Not that we should stop trying to get into romance events, but I think it’s good to keep pitching to sci-fi and also mystery events as well. I’ve found sci-fi/fantasy events really open to doing more queer programming and I’ve also gotten traction focusing on mysteries.

    Also, I know Bold Strokes does some of the big romance events (RT, RWA, etc). What about RT 2015 for an F/F panel?

    • HELL YEAH, I’d love to go to Gay Romance NW. I had a schedule conflict this year. Throw me on a panel! I’m not a Bold Strokes author, so I don’t know how that would work, getting onto a panel at a Bold Strokes event. But if you’re in the know, throw me on there! Come with me! Panel pals!

      • For things like RT or RWA, I’d reach out to Bold Strokes and also Riptide Publishing and see if there’s interest in creating an f/f panel at those events. They both are usually there, and I’d just touch base with them and say, “Hey, loved to put together an F/F panel with y’all for these events!” And go from there. It’s good to see who’s already working in those systems and seeing what’s possible. Even if 2015 isn’t do-able (let’s say RT panels are already set, for example), it’s good to get those relationships and conversations started. Both Riptide and BSB are good examples of presses doing F/F and M/M and are working with these very traditional events so tying in to what they’ve learned and developed would be good.

        I’d also reach out to RainbowCon (which is July 2015). I bet they’d be up for an F/F panel, if not having more F/F authors on their other panels. They are a QUILTBAG event, so something also to explore.

        I’ll touch base when GRNW 2015’s panels open up this month. We’ll be taking panel submissions for next year (Sept. 2015), so we’ll be asking authors to help by suggesting/building panels. Our goals are for cross-spectrum dialogue, so that’s what we’re aiming for with panels for next year. (So a mix of perspectives on all the panels.) :-)

        • Thanks. And yes, I’ve worked with BSB and BSB authors over the years. BSB started as a F/F press. If anybody’s interested, there are several lesfic presses: Bella (the inheritor of the Naiad list); Bywater Books; Bedazzled Ink; Regal Crest; Sapphire Books; Ylva Publishing; Affinity Ebooks; LadyLit; Phoenix Rising; Launch Point Press–not to mention all of the indie F/F authors who have imprints.

          You can find a hell of a lot of F/F authors at the blog I co-admin, Women and Words. We have almost 5000 followers, so come and join the fun! And every Xmas, we do a massive F/F book giveaway for 12 days.

          I’m currently published by two lesfic houses and I also self-publish. I try to keep up with stuff going on. Heh.

          But yes, please do keep me posted! Let’s brainstorm n’ alla that!

  • Really, I’m here to find out more about where to acquire the t-shirt of ERMAHGERD LESBIAN COOTIES AIEEEEE!

    Just this morning on tumblr (oh, the stories that start out like that…) I saw a post pointing out that despite all the fan fic (since fan fic began) and all the fan art and all the fan everything being slash, slash, slash…TV executives still respond with, “Let’s have more cis het characters since that’s obviously all people want to see. Yep.”

    And I know hope for f/f, because at some point the official line on m/m in romance books was just where it currently is in TV. Either “ew”, or “okay, but only as the secondary story,” or “sure, but the gay guy ends up being the villain.” But now (although all that still exists TOO) we have a growing presence of m/m romance in books. There’s been change! And I can only hope the change will seep over into the f/f side too (and the poly side, and the trans side, and all the sides, until there aren’t any more sides).

    Because we know there’s a market for it. We know the readers are out there, and the writers are out there. And soon? Some of them will be wearing the most awesome t-shirts imaginable.

    • ROCK ON! Heh. That would be kind of a cool tee, wouldn’t it? Yes, you’re correct. There has been change. And there will be more change. I am trying to be part of it. 😀

      Thanks for stopping by and by all means, T-SHIRTS!

  • “In other words, yes, there is a market for F/F, and I don’t accept that it’s just cis women who identify as lesbian or bi.”

    As a lesbian and trans woman and someone who spends a lot of her spare time reading f/f books I have to agree with you and help prove the point at the same time. The main thing that kept me from reading f/f books was the not knowing it existed, even tho if I thought about it I would probably have guessed it existed but without actually ever seeing the books themselves you get left in the dark. A more minor reason for me being weary of it is that it can understandably be very cisgender centric, even to the point of not viewing trans women as women in many books, including books I adore, which can hurt quite abit, tho I’m still wishing for a f/f book with a trans woman as one of the two heroines.

    Also want to say I have really enjoyed the couple of books I have read of yours.

    • Hi, Erin–thanks for stopping by and thanks for reading. I absolutely agree that a F/F book with a transwoman heroine would be super-awesome. I think that’s changing, too, and I think that we’ll definitely start seeing more F/F with transwomen as the MC(s). F/F authors? There you go. Writing prompt!

      In the meantime, I did come across this story on Amazon that Giselle Renarde wrote called “Friday Night Lipstick” and it features 2 transwomen who identify as lesbians as the protagonists. It’s an erotic romance. I can’t speak to what type of read it is, since I haven’t read it, but perhaps that’s somewhere to start. Renarde calls herself a queer Canadian and she’s been published in dozens of anthologies.

  • I may be speaking in ignorance but I do wonder if the perception of F/F storylines are sidelined because the common perception is the target audience is Neanderthal man. Given his pre-dereliction for visual stimuli rather than the literary word, the consensus is ‘No market’. I’d like to stress, that’s not my opinion but I’m hardly the average guy, then again, I don’t understand straight men’s fascination with lesbianism, my wife doesn’t need any encouragement to realise she can do fine without me 😉

    • Hmmm. Not sure about that, since the majority of people writing F/F are lesbian-identified and certainly are not writing for the male gaze. But if that’s a perception, then clearly it needs to change, yes? After all, it’s not a correct perception. Not to suggest there isn’t erotic fiction out there that features F/F and is designed for the male gaze. There is. But there is tons of F/F fiction that is not even erotic and instead explores relationships and lives (which are just as mundane as heterosexual lives. Heh). Which makes is seem that F/F would be a perfect venue for straight women, since it’s a lot about relationships and emotional investments. 😀

      Regardless, something to ponder.

  • […] as I’m concerned. Lesbian cooties, masked as a “no market” argument. I’ve blogged about what I consider a myth regarding F/F romance. That is, “there’s no market for it.” Or its sister myth, “the market is […]

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