The LGBTQ community has historically functioned outside of mainstream culture, but now it is slowly becoming more visible. This is also reflected in the publishing industry: we are slowly starting to see more queer themes and characters in books, especially in young adult fiction. However, the LGBTQ community is still an untapped audience for many large publishers and independent presses. By excluding this group from their marketing and promotion strategies, publishers lose out on a valuable and loyal audience. I am going to share three ways the publishing industry can include and support the LGBTQ community in marketing, promotion, or book development and explain why that is valuable to any press.
In some ways, the LGBTQ community is still largely untapped in terms of promotion and marketing in the publishing industry. Authors and publishers need to make it a point to be more inclusive when thinking about target audiences. The LGBTQ community is most often left out of any marketing or promotion plans for books because it has always been a counterculture. It’s only recently that we have started to see targeted ads for our community in any industry. According to Meg Boeni, “The gay community [is] also perceived to be very loyal to companies that advertise to them and that are seen to ‘support’ the gay community.” Representation and inclusion are powerful. We all know that most of the time, a press’s brand matters little when it comes to selling books. However, becoming more active in the LGBTQ community sends the message that your publishing house can be trusted. That trust and familiarity translates into revenue and an audience that will continue to buy your books.
A second way to appeal to the LGBTQ community is to use what Boeni calls “secret codes.” She writes that “throughout history, the queer community has developed a rich range of symbols and even created its own languages to communicate safely.” Nowadays, the LGBTQ community still has secret codes; however, they function differently because the world is, generally, a little safer for us. These secret codes have just become the vernacular and social fabric of our community. An example of a secret code would be the use of inclusive and gender-neutral language. Learning more about the LGBTQ community and the social challenges it continues to face is the best way to tap into these codes.
A third way that publishers can be more inclusive of LGBTQ audiences is by including or integrating an LGBTQ option into a program or promotion that is already up and running. For example, Gertrude Press is a small queer press that publishes a fiction journal here in Portland, Oregon. Gertrude is a great example of how a press of any size can be more inclusive of queer themes and readers. In addition to publishing queer fiction and artwork, Gertrude has its own book-subscription service called Gertie Book Club. The book club is a quarterly book box that includes two queer books.
A book-subscription service that includes books that have been handpicked by your staff is a great way to promote and support LGBTQ culture and identity. Other presses, queer affiliated or not, can also adopt these practices. Even a small press could implement a book-subscription service that could have a different theme each quarter. By including LGBTQ options, the press could develop a reputation for being diverse and inclusive, which is always a good thing. The press would also become familiar to the community.
The LGBTQ community is a traditionally neglected audience, and presses should be more inclusive of this audience when marketing or promoting books. By becoming educated on this problem and taking steps to correct it, publishers can increase not only their audience but also their social capital and revenue.