What’s The Deal With Menages? – The Results

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Thanks to everyone who commented on my post about what is being perceived by M/M readers as a world gone mad for menages, whether they are M/F/M or M/M/F. The post was really intended to do two things – get the publishers to give M/M readers a fair shake and also to remind authors who used to write M/M, but have gone over to “the dark side” recently, seemingly because of the lure of easy money, that we are still their fans and we hope that they will come back into the fold. Contrary to popular belief, there’s just as much money to be made in writing M/M as in writing menage stories, however, there has been a noticeable reduction in new M/M books on the market by some of our favourite authors because of a few lingering misconceptions. Obviously we understand that writers have to pay mortgages and support their families financially in other ways, but these are not mutually exclusive objectives. Just remember that what’s hot right now could well become cold in a few months.

Publishing is a business and no publisher can survive unless they make tough financial decisions AND make enough money to cover their expenses, plus make a profit. They are not running a charity. Readers do not expect publishers to support a sub genre if it does not make money, but clearly that is not the case here. We realize that menage books probably outsell M/M right now but part of the reason is not that M/M is no longer popular, but that M/M readers are now buying menage books by default because some weeks there’s nothing else offered to appease our taste for M/M. I and hundreds of other M/M readers fell into that trap and I only recently stopped buying menage books because I realized that if I didn’t, the very product we were complaining about would get a stranglehold on the erotic electronic book market and we might as well kiss M/M romances goodbye. It is a vicious cycle – cause and effect. Some people are calling menage the new “gateway drug” of the erotic publishing industry – women try it because it makes them feel better about reading about gay sex then the pubs move in and lure them into the real hard drug – “the gheys”. *g* Hey, I’m just repeating what y’all said – I can’t make up this stuff. 🙂 OK back to the business at hand.

Clearly the publishers heard us. Some stepped up to let us know where they stood. M/M readers are heartened by the overwhelming support we received on this poll by authors, other readers and by a number of publishers. Here are a few comments

Laura Baumbach, owner and President of MLR Press said it best

“At MLR Press we publish ONLY M/M. I’ve been offered menage by several authors very popular in the genre. I refused. In my own mind I can’t see threesomes as romantic. Fun, experimental, interesting in real life maybe, but they don’t make a romance for me.

M/M romance makes a statement about a gay couple’s right to be in love and to be together. Menage turns commitment into kink FOR ME. Not fun, not romantic. Not reading it or writing it.”

Here’s what Jill Noble of Noble Romance Publishing had to say

“Noble Romance Publishing would love to see more quality M/M submissions……please do get the word out. For us, M/M outsells all other sub-genres.

Sasha Knight, an editor with Samhain Publishing said

….. I edit a good number of the M/M (and on occasion M/M/M) releases . I edit Ally Blue, J.L. Langley, K.A. Mitchell, Claire Thompson, Joely Skye, and more recently Josh Lanyon and Z.A. Maxfield (plus several others). I would LOVE to be able to edit more M/M titles. LOVE to. Problem is, I can’t edit what isn’t submitted–we can’t publish what we don’t get. We don’t have limits on how many titles of a certain genre we’ll publish. If twenty fantastic, well-written, quality gay romance submissions showed up in my inbox tomorrow, I’d gobble them up. I am looking. I promise.”
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To those M/M authors who have complained previously on the blog and commented on the post about the glut of menage or polyamorous stories on the market, now you can do your part. Authors, put your money where your mouth is and submit your quality manuscripts to the publishers who say they are just waiting and eager for your submissions. Remember, the cream always rises to the top! 🙂 I do know that many authors write just for the love of writing and do not follow the money god; some have actually been approached by their editors to write menage and have turned them down. Kudos to you!

There were so many comments on the blog post that I could not possibly attempt to capture them all but I will try to highlight a few of them. But before I do, I would like to congratulate Alex Beecroft and Erastes for breaking the M/M glass ceiling with a large New York print house by signing with Perseus, a major NY publisher that will spearhead its new M/M campaign with Alex’s and Erastes’ new historical M/M books, False Colors and Transgressions. Running Press, a subsidiary of Perseus is launching a campaign on both sides of the Atlantic in early April featuring Alex’s and Erastes’ novels and I’m thrilled for them personally, and the genre in general. Lee Rowan also signed recently with Perseus and her book will be part of the next wave – congratulations to Lee also and I look forward to hearing more about her book when I interview her on the blog next month. Here’s hoping that Perseus may someday soon expand this initiative to contemporary M/M and that other mainstream print publishers will be encouraged to enter the M/M fray. Clearly, M/M is not dead if a major publisher is willing to invest significant amounts of its money on this type of campaign. I encourage all of you M/M readers to support Alex, Erastes and Lee by buying their books when they are released, and this way we can make a strategic statement that M/M is alive and kicking. Guys you can send my “agent” cheque to charity. *g*

The following is only a small sampling of your comments and I tried to be fair by including both sides of the argument, but because the pro M/M crowd was larger, most of the comments supported this genre and not menage-

I suppose the majority of romance readers are still straight women, so m/m/f menages work for them… who knows? maybe that can be a “taster” for female readers who aren’t into m/m romance 😛 But yes, I prefer my m/m romance served “straight” without female distraction *g*

I think you’ve just about summed up everything I think about the current availability of m/m romance recently.
I don’t read m/m/f or m/f/m menage for the reasons you have given. Plus the fact that there is often the issue of infidelity between at least one of the couples (even if it is a sort of consensual infidelity). Having not read any, I’m not sure whether this is handled at all in this type of menage or whether it’s just brushed under the carpet and forgotten in favour of sexual thrills. It’s this issue that mainly puts me off as well as not wanting a woman messing with my men! I have read m/m/m menage and enjoyed it. Does that make me a hypocrite, I wonder?

“Ditch the chick.” LOL, Wave. It’s exactly why I’ve started writing m/m. I was constantly shortchanging the one-dimensional and completely superfluous female character. So I ditched her. And I don’t want her back. Thank you very much.
I wonder if there isn’t something to your comment about readers having to feel better about themselves and their reading choice, as if the m/f part legitimized also reading the m/m part.

Oh man, Wave, you’re making me rethink one of my future books….lol. Of course, I don’t plan on writing any other menages, just that one. You make good points and I’m interested in hearing what other readers think as well.

I think that m/m used to be cutting edge and sexy because it was… oooh, slightly kinky and transgressive. But now people are starting to realize that actually it’s no more kinky and transgressive than m/f. So the people who were reading it because it was naughty and a little bit bad and unsafe are now looking for something that has the same boundary-pushing quality m/m used to have, and they’re finding it in menages.

I have been reading M/M romances for almost 5 years and it’s only recently that I’m finding the genre overrun by menages. It is not just me – authors are complaining as well because they are also readers. The publishers seem to have abandoned their loyal M/M readership which helped to build their companies and are now flocking to “H.M.S Menage” and flooding the marketplace. No original thinking here, let’s just follow the leader.

I just wonder whether the readers of m/m, who aren’t sheep, but those with a genuine preference for m/m, will lose faith in some of the publishers and the industry as a whole and the effect could actually be detrimental to the genre in the long run.

If people are looking for the next big thrill in their reading to brighten their otherwise colorless lives, what’s to stop the publishers and the writers from pushing the boundaries even further.

at least it clears out those who were only doing m/m and gay romance for a profit…which generally meant a kinda crappy product. Personally, I don’t like most menages, real or imagined (although I’ve written them into one story — but both men were bi). But like M/M to do it convincingly you have to have an understanding of the Poly lifestyle. Most people don’t, and don’t bother to try they just throw three people of various body parts into bed. my 2c

For what it’s worth, being that I’ve been a menage author since the beginning, six months ago you couldn’t fight your way past the m/m books to find anything else. I felt the same way about that as you feel about this.

I write M/M and only M/M because I LOVE the genre, I love my guys, and I want ONLY my guys in a story. As a reader, I’m the same way. Nothing irks me more than to have a great M/M story going along and suddenly, partway through the story or series, the author sticks a woman in the mix. It just leaves me feeling…I don’t know… Icky. Cheated. Frustrated. Depressed. And pretty much like I want to stop reading right there because for me it ruins the story. I guess as a writer and reader that makes me a purist.

You obviously hit a hot button here, Wave. I personally detest menage. In particular mixed sex menage I find the idea of a woman being a necessary ingredient to a satisfying homosexual relationship to be offensive. And likewise if we’re adding a guy to validate a pair of lesbians. And at the risk of making heavy weather of this, it troubles me largely because a) I’m secretly a Puritan at heart, and b) It invalidates the potential socio-political relevance of m/m.
Now how pretentious did that sound? I don’t mean it to be. I don’t mean it to sound like I look down on smut for smut’s sake, because I don’t. And I’m serious about this. Porn is a good and useful thing. ….. There are people out there who enjoy real life menage. But I don’t find it romantic and it doesn’t work for me. Heck, I couldn’t even date two people at the same time without just about having a breakdown, so full-blown committed threesome…not for me.

Why do we need women to “validate” a homosexual relationship? To me this smacks of another kind of discrimination. Some women readers won’t read M/M books unless there’s a female protag in there to make it OK for the guys to have sex with each other. If a man is gay there’s no way he wants a woman. If he’s bi, I can see it in the relationship but I still won’t buy the farm.

There’s going to be a glut of menage for a while, since the calls have been hot for it for about 18 months.

OK, my thoughts: I wasn’t under the impression that there were less new M/M books out there these days, just that there was an increase in the number of menages(is it to the detriment of M/F, I couldn’t say since I don’t read M/F erotica ebooks). To me, that increase was a good thing because it could lead readers of M/F to read some M/F/M, then maybe stumble on M/M/F and realize they loved M/M, which would be a good thing. No? Because of that, I thought the industry had moved forward somehow.

“Imagine Jake and Adrien with a woman in the mix! It could happen *g*
*shudders* Now that is one menage I could never accept. Scary prospect. Good thing I trust Josh. 🙂

On the subject of “girl cooties” infiltrating an m/m series. I certainly can’t speak for any other author but in my own experience the characters and what they want/need in a relationship tends to decide the focus of a particular story. All books don’t appeal to all readers just as all submissions don’t appeal to all editors or agents.

It’s too funny you should post this now because I just wrote an article about why women LIKE menage books. A lot of them do, you know which is why they sell really well which is why authors keep writing them. I agree with some of what you’re saying. I hate the contemporary plot of two gay guys who suddenly decide they want to share their lives with a woman–please. That’s why when I write menage, I usually make it a paranormal or sci-fi plot. That way you can have a plausible reason for the guys to have to share a girl that, IMO, doesn’t demand that the reader suspend disbelief nearly as much as the gay contemp theme. …….. But don’t be too hard on the readers who like to imagine themselves as the ‘meat in the sandwich.’ It’s still a popular female fantasy and the M/M action in a M/F/M menage may be as close as some readers will get to actual M/M.

I love M/M but I read different sub genres so that I don’t get bored. The menages I read seem to concentrate more on the sexual relationships between the characters, consequently a lot of the plots are very thin. This is not true for all of the books, of course, but I think a fair percentage fall into this broad category. Please also remember, as I said in response to another comment about the popularity of menages, a percentage of the sales of these books is because readers are buying them by default because there’s very little in the way of M/M available to us. So obviously the numbers will be even more skewed.

I like reading and writing both types of story. In fact I have two m/m WIPs underway at the moment, and I’m planning another menage for my ongoing series. The threesome stories definitely sell better, or at least that’s what I’ve found. I have to agree that there are a lot coming out at the moment. I’m definitely selective about what I purchase to read. Readers will burn out soon and move onto the next thing. That’s my prediction. 🙂

I do prefer m/m, Wave, and will purchase it over a menage of any type when there are viable options for me to choose from. I agree that the purchase statistics are a bit skewed, because people who like m/m and want a new book to read may default to m/m/f like I did in the absence of any other books to choose from. It doesn’t mean that the menage was popular, it means there was NOTHING ELSE TO READ. ………. It disappoints me when my fave m/m authors inject gurl juices into a book. I can’t tell you how sad I was when Jet Mykles told me the last book in the Heaven Sent series was going to be a menage. Not. Happy. But there are a few well-written menage books out there that I really enjoyed, and those two series that I mentioned are on my keeper shelf.

Okay. First off, I’ve been reading Jet’s new HS book as it’s being written (Ally the crit partner! LOL), and it’s awesome. AWESOME. And this is coming from someone who is pretty meh about menages in general. Not a hater, just… meh. But this one rocks. I have a girl-crush on Gretchen. You want a story? A plot? Three-D, realistic characters you can care about? You got it. And just to repeat what was already said, none of the Heaven Sent couple are being broken up. This is Gretchen the manager’s story. She gets her own guys. That is all I have to say about that *g*
Next. I am sure there are plenty of menages out there that use the girl as “validation” for the gay male relationship. That, of course, sucks donkey balls. BUT. I don’t think that scenario is always the case, and I think we have to realize that not all menages do this. Plenty of them — and again I’ll pick on Jet, because her menages that I’ve read do this — have male protags who are bisexual, or don’t identify themselves as any particular orientation. In other words, they are open to relationships, sexual and romantic, with males and/or females.

For some time now, publishers have been telling authors that menage is “hot.” New writers desperate to establish a readership are understandably eager to try a genre on for size that might get them some exposure. In a way, I think that’s good business sense. What if you heard “XYZ is totally hot right now!” and you tried your hand at it, and lo and behold, it’s like you’ve just come home, and you were put on this earth to be an XYZ Writer, and you never would have known if you hadn’t tried. But sadly, from the comments overall, it looks like readers are getting the sense that certain authors shoehorn a chick into the m/m relationship just to jump on the bandwagon and increase sales, rather than because they’re telling the stories from their hearts. I guess only the author knows for sure if the story is coming from somewhere authentic, or if it was a market-driven decision on his or her part.

First of all, I am one of the many readers who went from m/f to m/f/m, to m/m/f, and then to m/m. I’ve read and enjoyed menage in the past and there are a number of authors who have written these stories successfully for some time. Mine and others comments are not aimed at anyone specifically, rather at what seems to be happening in the epublishing world today.

I don’t want to repeat myself too much (I’ve ranted elsewhere *g*), but I will reiterate that the glut of menage on the market has completely put me off by this genre. There are authors out there whose work I’ve heard is terrific, but I won’t go near them with a 10 foot barge pole because they are menage. …… The saturation has also led me to have the view that m + f + m = m/m ok. I hate this message. As an author I know said, it’s a copout. There may be people who will get upset by this, but this is my honest reaction.

I admit the idea that m/m/f might eventually lure women into trying m/m hadn’t occurred to me. But then I have a little problem with readers needing to be “lured.” That’s not a logical reaction, I know. We have to be exposed to something before we can find it sexy or appealing, and there are a lot of built-in taboos within our society. Maybe that’s part of what bothers me about the dynamic — it seems so calculatedly commercial. But I get the need to make a livable wage, and to be absolutely honest in moments of panic I’ve thought about just throwing in the towel and writing Harlequin romances. If it’s just about the money…well, that’s where the money is. But for me it’s not just about the money

The menage trope is hugely popular, and popularity translates into sales. The vast majority of writers published through small presses aren’t earning nearly enough to support themselves (I’m one of them), so I’m sure as hell not going to spank any authors for creating what the public wants. I’ve done it myself. In terms of producing reliably steady income, this business makes most of us feel like Sisyphus. ……That said, I must admit I got tired of using female characters to justify male characters getting it on. It struck me as cowardly– an easy (and unrealistic) out. But that’s just me. I can’t in all good conscience pillory anybody for enjoying menage stories. Readers have a variety of fantasies, which they have every right to indulge, and authors have a variety of financial needs, which they have every right to meet…or try to.

Get the woman out of the book!!! I love my m/m romances and wish there were more of them.

It sounds as though there are a couple of different reasons why folks don’t like menage – one being ‘girl cooties’ and the other, infidelity or dilution of the intensity. That last is a huge turn-off for most conventional romance readers–one guideline I’ve read insists that after the One True Pair meet, neither can have sex with anyone else. (Works for me – like Josh, I can’t be serious about more than one person at a time.) M/M, F/F, M/F – pick somebody and put your heart into it. …. Nonetheless, I know people who have been in successful, long-term menage relationships, so I know it is possible–just not for me.

First, as a reader – I’m not wild about menages – at least not for the entire story. I find the whole thing sort of devoid of the human factor – the jealousy and insecurity that lies in all of us. His is bigger than mine, she spent more time with him, he did him with more passion than me. That you can “love” each (however many) partner equally. Those concepts bother me. I want to yell, “Pick one, dammit!” LOL! And usually, I find myself wishing the woman was gone or would disappear.

Seriously, the ebook writers doing m/f are having a hard time because mainstream publishing already does that, and does it as well as it can be done. Where ebooks and indie presses excel are in the niche markets…the kink and paranormal and GLBT…the power of which — and the appetite for — mainstream and traditional NY publishing underestimates. VASTLY underestimates, although it is changing slowly. So…while it might seem in our little corner of the world that no one is buying het romance, it’s far from true. Take a stroll through your B&N or even local indie bookseller. Het romance is alive and well in all its incarnations. And it remains where the serious money is made.

Simply as another reader, an issue I have with ménages is that sometimes it’s difficult for m/m authors to have all the necessary elements – great plot, imagination, creative and complex characters, an intensity of passion and connection, etc – before you add yet another character. That’s another layer of complexity often tackled by authors that are better suited to m/m only.

Speaking as an author here, not a publisher — the story where I had m/m couples and a m/f pairing and there was no cross-over–there was even talk about why there was none– did not fly as well as my “everyone gets a shot at everyone else” stories. One of my CPs said maybe the whole setup was too realistic for romance.


My complaint, and that of other M/M readers, is that the pubs are “pushing” so much menage at M/M readers that we’re suffering from overload and burnout. All M/M readers want are a few new releases every week to satisfy our insatiable craving for the kinds of books we enjoy! We just want a choice. Until I get that I’m holding out and
not buying menages b/c that’s all that’s available on any particular week. In the meantime, I’m buying exclusively from the pubs that give me what I want.

When I first noticed that mainstream publishers such as Virgin were printing menages I actually cheered, because I thought it was “the thin end of the wedge” and that they would be easing the public gradually in, and would start introducing pure m/m–but sadly that hasn’t happened. The one single thing about menages that drives me mad is that the woman has to be IRRESISTIBLE and the men who were often slavering over each other stop everything and fight each other tooth and nail to get her instead. Bleurgh. I’ve read some books where every single gay character immediately becomes bi by the Power of her Womanliness. Pleeze. My men are gay. Not gay for you, not bi curious but homosexual.

Well…I don’t care for most menage stories or threesomes (and there IS a difference), but I don’t hate them all and I can’t justify wishing that authors would stop writing them.

I think it’s just a matter of perspective and preference. Strict M/F readers get annoyed at having to dig through M/M and menage/threesome books. Strict M/F/M readers are grossed out over the flood of M/M/F. F/F and F/F/M readers are eternally pissed that none of the publishers seem to encourage girl-on-girl action.
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To bring some closure to this debate, for today anyway, we would encourage the M/M authors to submit their manuscripts very soon to those publishers which are eagerly awaiting them so that more M/M books can be released in the upcoming months. Just as we, the M/M readers, understand that the publishers’ financial viability must come first, we hope they understand that the reason for my original post is because of our concern about the recent gap, perceived or real, between the number of M/M versus the number of menage books being released.

According to Book Industry Trends 2008, print publishers sold 3.13 billion books in 2007 with net revenue of to $US37.3 billion. Romance fiction was the largest share of the consumer book market in 2007 with $1.375 billion in estimated revenue. But only 2.9% of that number is in the erotic romance category. The m/m genre in erotic romance makes for an estimated 40–50% of that 2.9%.

We hope that M/M readers can help increase that percentage.

M/M readers please support the following GLBT-only sites in addition to your favourite publisher:

ManLoveRomance Press

Dreamspinner Press (this publisher is now upping its releases of M/M books, which is a reflection of increased demand for quality M/M books)

Amber Allure

Torquere Books

I would like to thank Kris for her help during this project which in some ways was as much her initiative as it was mine – I only put the words to the music. Thanks for the input from a number of authors and other M/M readers who gave their perspective. Also, because of the keen interest in this topic, the number of comments vastly exceeded my expectations and Kris and Josh Lanyon both pitched in to help respond to the comments. Thanks guys. Obviously this post contains only a small sampling of the comments and I encourage readers and other interested parties to check out the full comments on the blog and also on my Livejournal

Thanks to all the readers, authors and publishers who dropped by the blog to give us their varied opinions. We appreciate your time and input

And that’s a wrap.

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

41 comments

  • Hi Angelia
    You are late to the party *g* which was a very nice black party; everyone behaved because there was no open bar.

    Back to your comment

    My M/M outsells my het, hugely (700 to 5). And my poor lonely m/m/f story gets no love either.

    I used to read other sub genres and then I started reading M/M romances and fell in love. Like many M/M readers, once you get there you can’t go back.

    I would read a het romance now before I read a menage (used to read them) because I don’t get it. In most menage books that I read someone was not getting any, or there was an artificial attempt on the part of the author to be even handed.

    I love poly stories like the paranormal Soul Mates series by Jourdan Lane and M/M/M menages because there are no females. I just find that in regular menage stories they are mostly about the female in the book and her problems, a desire to have a baby, too much emotional baggage, and lots of domestic “stuff” that I don’t want to read about any more – too real for me. Just my take.

    The thing is, there is a B in GLBT

    I agree that there are bisexual men and women in the RW. I don’t know how well TQ’s Bareback Angels imprint is doing since I have never bought any of their books, although I buy lots from TQ. I’m sure they have their own readers or they wouldn’t continue to offer menages.

    Reply

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