The web has been abuzz lately with discussion over the state of m/m romance. Some folks believe it's in a decline, primarily due to the influx of new writers and self-published works. Additionally, some folks believe the genre as a whole has taken a nosedive in all facets of the industry, from story content to editing to cover art.
I call it growing pains.
From the time Gutenberg cranked up the first printing press, the industry has always been controlled by a select number of people. First the church, then governments, and finally NY Publishers and Big Box Stores held the power to decide what works would be put into print for the masses to read. Readers and authors alike were held hostage by them. They decided, not only what authors would see their work in print, but what genres readers would be allowed to read. Eventually, it evolved into not how good your book was, but how good your agent was, and whether said agent had good enough contacts to sell it to NY.
While some people believe that meant only great writers were published, the poor and the mediocre filtered out, I don't believe that's true. I've read my share of real honkers over the years, books that I've wanted to throw across the room because of their inferior quality, poor storytelling, or bad editing. Even today, I rarely read a book published by NY that doesn't contain errors.
We are human, and none of us are perfect.
That said, the advent of the Internet and ebook publishing seemed a godsend to many writers who either didn't have an agent, or wrote in a genre NY publishing refused to consider, like M/M. Suddenly, erotic books and same sex books were being published, and put into the hands of readers via their computer monitors. With the miracle of ebook readers, the market exploded.
And just like any new industry, the ebook industry has gone through, and continues to go through growing pains. For a while, it seemed new publishers were popping up like zits on a teenager, there today, but gone tomorrow. Editing was bad, but has gotten much, much better. Cover art ranged from awful to cheesy, but has also grown in creativity and technique. The writing itself evolved from what was little more than one-handed reading to full-blown plots, and rich and nuanced characters.
With the coming of user-friendly self publishing platforms like Kindle, Smashwords, and CreateSpace, a tidal wave of self-published books has swept over the Internet as thousands of new writers, some great, some good, some not-so-good, and some truly awful, put their books out there. In addition, the popularity of M/M has drawn many hundreds of new writers to dip their toes in the genre, selling their stories to the existing e-publishers.
Which brings me to my point.
There's been a lot of talk lately that the quality of M/M books has declined. I disagree. I think the volume of available books has risen, and that, my friends is not a bad thing considering that just twenty years ago it was nearly impossible to find any books in our chosen genre.
The only answer to eliminating the poorly written books would be to limit who gets published, and I for one, would hate to see things go back to the way they were, when a small group of publishers dictated what the rest of the world could read.
Do we want e-publishing to follow in the footsteps of NY, where only the gifted or the well-connected may be published?
No, thank you.
What I suggest is for authors and publishers to make available substantial samples of the book for readers to try before buying. That way there's no question about whether a reader will like a writer's style, or the house style before buying.
That's my two cents worth on the subject.