eBook standards in m/m fiction – random thoughts


I was talking with someone recently and laughing about corny lines from excerpts and plots when I started to get slightly annoyed. This was in conjunction with reading a light, fluff piece of m/m fiction that with time, effort, and attention to detail could have been an absorbing, fantastic story but was totally thrown away in the sea of hot sex and chiseled abs, ignoring the actual plot to include massive sex. Which begs the question that has plagued me since I started reading m/m romance and specifically from e-publishers.

Why is it ok to have poor fiction, loose plots, under developed characters and a total lack of cohesive story all within 90-150 pages – as long as it has several hot, explicit sex scenes?

It’s almost as if readers have come to accept an appallingly low level of product from eBooks and don’t mind. The poor editing is glossed over, the lack of actual plot is ignored, and the actual world building is slid to the side, all as long as there is hot sex and lots of it. Oh, and the obligatory happy ending of course. It’s almost as if authors can put any random writing on a page, add in a few sex scenes and it’s ok. I realize this is a gross generalization but if you look at the good percentage of m/m romance e-fiction, more are fluff pieces with sex than fully developed, well thought out and intricately crafted books of romantic fiction.

I enjoy my entertainment as much as the next person. I mean why else do I read so much fiction. I want more to it though than a couple of gay guys making it; I want an interesting and developed plot. I want a book that the author put more time into than I did to write the review. I’d like a book that the publishers have scrutinized for editing errors and are horrified even one misspelling slipped through as a mainstream fiction pub would (yes I DO know mainstream screws up). I want the same level of fiction that I expect from other genres as I want in m/m romance.

I don’t understand the complete throw away attitude towards m/m romance genre. This is from the readers to the authors to the publishers. Everyone accepts low level of service and calls it a day as the only way to get their m/m romance fix. Readers accept poorly written books but it’s ok because it’s entertainment. Authors accept shoddy publishing practices because it gets their work out. Publishers accept bad books that would never be published in m/f romance even if you changed genders. This is an inherent problem on all levels. Everything is swept under the umbrella of acceptance all for the allure of m/m romance.

This is clearly again an exaggeration and definitely not for every author. Not to play favorites in the sand box, I won’t name names but hopefully the authors that put the time into their work will know who they are. And believe me, readers like me do recognize and support your work. I really wish I could give shout-outs because some authors stand so tall amongst the crowd they deserve the recognition.

But to focus on the question, why do readers of m/m romance accept such low standards? Why do we not refuse to buy crappy covers, poorly edited books, poorly developed plots, outlandish and unremarkable books, and completely forgettable characters? Entertainment sure… I’m right there with you and certainly our standards will differ but I’d be shocked if readers didn’t know what I was talking about and didn’t agree to some degree or another.

So please, I’d love to hear some opinions.

Also before anyone slaps me in the face with a dead fish and points to their fabulous book of fiction, some of you I do applaud and loudly. Others, I’m sorry it’s still a dead fish. 


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7 thoughts on “eBook standards in m/m fiction – random thoughts

  1. I’m a bit uncomfortable admitting this, but I don’t read widely in my own genre for many of the same reasons you outline here. All too often I’ve found myself skimming a book and thinking, “This is a tired old retread of a plot I’ve read at least a dozen times before.” And don’t even get me started on poor grammar and crappy spelling. If I find more than, say, two or three errors in the first few pages, I won’t read any further. Authors who can’t be arsed to learn the basic tools of their craft get no respect from me.

  2. I agree with you 100%. While there are a few authors that stand out, there is a sea of mediocrity that has somehow become acceptable. I have a long list of half-read m/m books. Books that I started more than once and could not finish, because I could not bring myself to care about the characters or was bored out of my mind by the lack of plot. Not to mention the ones I did finish, but left me so unaffected that I couldn’t even muster the enthusiasm to write down my thoughts. Sad.
    To a great extent, publishers drive this problem. Many e-pubs do not invest enough time and resources on editing. As you point out, many potentially good books are ruined by lack of proper editing and thorough proof reading. Then there are a couple of e-pubs releasing books that just have no business being published, books that not even judicious editing could save. It’s like they are determined to build their m/m catalog fast at any cost. I have read some books where it was clear that the e-pub asked their popular m/f authors to write m/m “because it’s hot now” resulting in a well written book without soul, because you could substitute one of the main characters with a woman and have a stereotypical m/f romance. Blah!
    That said, I do believe that readers perpetuate the problem. Every time I don’t write a few words about a book that failed to meet acceptable standards, I contribute to the problem. Every time that I put up with typo after typo and don’t call the publisher on it, I contribute to the problem. Alas, it’s bad enough to waste my money buying a bad book and waste my time reading a bad book. I can’t bring myself to go further most of the time, but I should.
    I don’t know what the answer to the problem is other than to keep reading, keep finding those excellent authors that do the genre proud and keep shouting their names at the top of our lungs so everyone can appreciate higher quality books and raise their expectation of what m/m can and should be.

    • I agree with you that we help to perpetuate the problem. I do ignore those very things I pointed out. It seems too much effort to complain and I am totally part of the problem. I’m trying to be more proactive but it made me realize how rampant the problem is. I was curious for others’ thoughts.
      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Actually, I’ve found m/m erotic romance far better, in general, than most m/f erotic romance. Truly. Could be I’ve only been paying attention to longer works issued by more reputable pubs (electronic and print), but I’ve been fairly impressed. My gripe was always that readers of m/f romance accepted such low standards!
    Interesting perspective, Kassa. Now you’ve piqued my curiosity.

    • I came to m/m romance when I got sick of the tripe and usual story plots in m/f. I’ve found some are better but on the whole, the m/m romances are no where near the level of other genres. Id never accept a print book with the number of typos, editing errors, formatting problems and general level of porn-like prose.
      Hey, I like my sex in books *cough* but give me something else please! : D

  4. I agree with you 100%. I’ve learned the hard way to follow my favorite authors and now I’m submitting my m/m fiction where they submit. I’m working on the theory that if said publishers have taken on a well-plotted, character-driven piece of fiction with only *necessary* sex scenes [those that advance the plot and/or help to define the characters] from JL, then they might take a look at mine.

  5. I’m quite late to this discussion but here’s my two cents anyway.
    I have written extensively about the lack of plot and character development and the fact that it’s hard to find an error free M/M book. I suck it up because that’s what I review on the blog. However, the reason I switched a long time ago from het to M/M is I couldn’t abide the wishy washy heroines and the swashbuckling heroes in het romances. Women are not sheep even though a lot of het books seem to treat us as if we all fit the same mold.
    I still have a few favourite authors whose het books I read, mostly because I’m following a series, but on balance I find M/M books more interesting.
    I love sports and you probably would not find a lot of sports themed het books. I also love books where the characters are somewhat equal and that’s hard to find in het books where the female is usualy the weaker character or a hard nosed bitch (there doesn’t seem to be a lot of in between or variations on this premise.) Like everyone else I have (to me anyway) good reason why I continue to read this sub genre despite its many flaws. But I don’t give the authors or publishers a pass just because I love some of the books – there’s huge room for improvement but I could say that for just about any other genre published today, print and ebooks. I find similar errors in print books, whether regular literature, non fiction or romances (M/M and M/F). Most of us read M/M books for entertainment and they provide a way to pass the time, but there is a long way to go.
    I find that Samhain has the best books in terms of being relatively error free but their editing process is quite onerous – just talk to any of the authors who write for this publisher. TQ on the other hand is among the worst for the large pubs. in terms of errors, switched names, etc. I do not include publishers like Ravenous which I think is so bad I hardly ever read any of their books.
    I have asked ebook publishers about editing problems everytime I interview one of them and generally I get the same answer “our books are relatively error free” which tells me nothing. For me the sex in the books, while pleasurable, is not the main reason I read them. I love Josh Lanyon’s murder mysteries, and at most there are 2 sex scenes per novel or novella, if that. It’s all in the writing. I thoroughly enjoyed The One That Got Away by Urban and Aile which had very little sex at the very end – it was all about anticipation, terrific characters and a true romance (even though it was GFY which I don’t like). *g* There are many other examples of books that I enjoyed for various reason but on the flip side we have others like Saving Trevor.*g*
    I think M/M readers notice all the points you made but it’s like spitting in the wind mostly. Whenever I comment about this I piss off even more people:)

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