Guest Post: Is romance what lesfic is all about? by Emma Sterner-Radley

Emma Sterner-Radley is here. Woot!

I’m super excited to read her latest Making A Tinderbox.

Please welcome the super sweet and witty Emma.

Is romance what lesfic is all about?

Hello there, reader. What’s that you’ve got there? Ah, a lesfic book. Great! Thank you for supporting our community. May I ask if it by any chance is in the romance category? If so, good choice. You are guaranteed a lovely, warm, life-affirming reading experience. A chance to relax from all the stress, sadness and grim reality of everyday life. In short, you’ve bought yourself a dose of reality escape laced with the heart-tingle of romance. Perfect! But… when you bought it, did you ever consider buying a book that wasn’t romance? What we call a “genre book” meaning crime, sci-fi, fantasy, historical, horror, etc. No? Then you’re not alone. We lesfic readers love our romance, which isn’t a surprise as many of us identify as women and historically that is the market that buy romance novels.

There are, however, a lot of great books in the lesfic genre which often go unread because romance is the norm and everything else is quickly dismissed. When I was first pitching manuscripts to the bigger lesfic publishers I was told that sci-fi and fantasy didn’t sell so I should try to write romance. I did. Which is not a problem for me, romance is a wonderful category and we all need more woman-loving-woman love in our lives. Nevertheless, our tendency to just stick to romance does means that anyone who wants to read a book about astronauts in space, where the main characters just happen to be two women flirting with each other, won’t find many (if any) of those books. Sure, publishers and self-published/indie writers do take financial hits sometimes and splurge out on books that aren’t romance and sometimes they do actually sell really well. But as far as I have heard, never as quickly and easily as lesfic romance books do.

(Sidenote. As someone very invested in inclusivity and with a bisexual wife, I am not crazy about the word “lesfic”. I prefer Sapphic books or wlw books. But I know that not everyone wants to change the old term, so we’ll stick with lesfic for now.)

Many of us have heard the call for more fantasy, more sci-fi, more horror and more YA books on social media (users of tumblr, I’m looking at you) however, those calls do not seem to translate into purchases. Why? Well, I can think of a few reasons.

  1. Not all of the people calling for these books are out of the closet and they often need to ask a grownup to borrow a card or to use their paypal account for online purchases. So they end up getting straight books from their bookshops and libraries instead.
  2. A grownup might be there when the postman drops the package off. (Meaning that the buyer is outed or maybe just embarrassed.)
  3. Even if the young buyer is openly LGBTQIA+ or lives away from any parents/guardians, they tend to have less disposable income, meaning they might turn to cheap second-hand books or go to the library. Or, let’s be honest, stick to fanfic.
  4. We all think we want a certain book but when the time comes to read, we pick up something different. I know I’m guilty of this.

What is the solution? I guess we have to keep writing f/f genre books to normalize them and to get them into more small bookshops and libraries. Who knows maybe one day that story about the female astronauts who flirt while in space might even hit it big in the mainstream and end up in the big chain bookshops. Hey… a girl can dream, right? After all, Sarah Waters got her historical f/f novels out there. So, we should probably try to keep writing these books and hope that the younger genre-readers grow up to be voracious readers and start buying the books we have written in the meantime. We can always get a day job, or write mainly romances to pay the bills, while we work away at our genre books in the evenings.

Enough about the young readers. (Who don’t seem to be the biggest part of the lesfic market anyway.) Let’s talk about those of us who have sailed past the age of 22 and headed into a world of jobs and mortgages. How do I, as a writer who wants to write genre books occasionally, woo you? What can I do to make you try the book about the astronauts? Or the Nordic Noir crime novel set in foggy Copenhagen? Or… my latest novel, Making a Tinderbox. Let’s use that one as an example. Is it a fantasy book? Yes. Does it have a sort of historical setting? Yes. But look at what it’s about – two women who meet and fall in love. Ergo, it’s a romance. It’s a romance which has been nicely edited, doesn’t cost the world, and is getting good reviews. However… is it selling as well as my quick little romance novella? That’s a hard no. And the worst part is, I knew that going into it. Everyone told me this would happen. It doesn’t matter how much romance I put into it, as long as it is not a purely contemporary romance novel – it won’t sell as much. That’s the way the cookie crumbles so I have no right to complain about that. I’m just using that book as an example here.

I have gotten so many messages from people saying they liked my first book, or my fanfics, but that they won’t invest in Making a Tinderbox. Hesitantly, I asked why. Was it the blurb? The setting? The characters? They all replied that it was simply because they only read romance novels. No matter how much I mention that the main thing in the book is the romance, they still shake their heads sadly. Or at least put in an emoji which shakes its head sadly.

With that said, I sort of get it. You shouldn’t have to waste your precious spare time reading books you don’t like. Take me for example, I am not usually a fan of Westerns so I don’t tend to buy them. Likewise, now in my thirties I have stopped suffering through books I am not enjoying. Life is too short and my reading time is too precious. I know what I like and I’ll read that. End of.

Or is it?

I hate horror. I see no fun whatsoever in being scared. Not by haunted houses, not by movies and not even by books. And still, on my bookshelf is The Diviners series by Libba Bray and a lesfic book called The House at the End of the Street by Stephanie E. Kusiak. All horror. Why? Because they somehow spoke to me and I decided to take a chance. And yes, to try and broaden my reading habits. So far I haven’t regretted that one bit. (As long as I read them all in full daylight, with my wife and the cats within hearing distance, of course.)

Mentioning The Diviners did remind me of another point I wanted to bring up. Those books have LGBTQIA+ characters, but there are more hetero characters in them as they are mainstream books published by one of the “big five” publishers. One reason I often hear for why lesfic readers don’t buy our genre books is that they go to the bestselling mainstream books for that. Ignoring that the astronaut, the princess, the cowgirl, etc. are all straight. They’re just reading it for the plot. (Or perhaps they are into all genders and don’t mind the heterosexuality of the characters.) Then, when they want woman-loving-woman characters – with all the heart-warming, heart-breaking, and toe-curling romance and sex – they buy lesfic books. Ergo, they only need our niche for romance books. Could perhaps that be the reason? If so, they’re missing out on some lovely books written by “our” writers. I have read thrilling lesfic crime books, imaginative sapphic sci-fi, and Halloween-worthy wlw horror. In my opinion, these books should not be missed. Maybe you want to be brave one day? Try reading a sample from a lesfic Western novel (if you’ll do it, I’ll give it a try too.) Or maybe listen to an author reading from a sci-fi writer? Maybe our preconceived notions about what that genre is and how we don’t like it can be changed? Think of all the new books we can find and enjoy then!

With all that said, you’ve probably had a long day. The world is full of depressing politics, financial pressure, big decisions that must be made, dangers lurking in every corner, and the humdrum of another day at work. No wonder we turn to romance books, where our minds can relax and our hearts can defrost as the girl finally gets the girl and they live happily ever after. We all need some of that! Go and enjoy that romance book you’ve got there, you’ve earned it. I’m off to relish in writing another romance book. (Pushing away all thoughts about those flirting astronauts in space. They’ll have to wait until there are enough people who want to buy their story.)



E-book $7.99
Paperback $13.99
Also available in Kindle Unlimited
Release date: October 13, 2017
Fantasy / Romance

At first glance, the small continent of Arclid may appear similar to Great Britain at the beginning of the industrial revolution. However societal rules regarding gender, race, and sexuality are very different. These differences shape the lives of our protagonists, the would-be-princess Lady Elisandrine ‘Elise’ Falk and Nessa Clay, a farmer’s daughter who’s chasing her dreams.

Having to leave their old lives behind, they decide to travel together. They find things that make them different and should keep them apart. They also find themselves magnetically drawn to each other, no matter how hard they resist their increasing longing for each other.

In the modern and dangerous city of Nightport, brimming with exciting innovations in clockwork and steam power, strange events start to surround them. Unknown men ask questions regarding their whereabouts and small packages wrapped neatly in midnight blue paper with white ribbon start to arrive.

With the help of some new friends they meet along the way, Elise and Nessa start to unravel the mysteries — and their feelings for one another.

Great news for I Heart Lesfic Subscribers. You can get a 20% discount by purchasing MAKING A TINDERBOX from the Heartsome website and enter the code IHEART20.

Heartsome /Amazon US / Amazon UK  /Amazon CA / Amazon AUS


Emma Sterner-Radley spent far too much time hopping from subject to subject at university, back in her native country of Sweden. One day, she finally emerged with a degree in Library and Information Science. She thought libraries were her thing because she wanted to work with books, and being an author was just an impossible dream, right? Wrong. She’s now a writer and a publisher. (But still a librarian at heart, too.) She lives with her wife and two cats in England. She spends her free time writing, reading, daydreaming, working out, and watching whichever television show has the most lesbian subtext at the time. She’s published Making a Tinderbox, Life Pushes You Along, and the upcoming Long Distance Coffee.


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Thanks so much Emma for stopping by today.



About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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4 Responses to Guest Post: Is romance what lesfic is all about? by Emma Sterner-Radley

  1. Adan Ramie says:

    As an author of thrillers, sci-fi, and romance, I can attest to the same issues. When readers do try my non-romance books, they tend to like them, but getting traditional “lesfic” readers to take a chance is a hard fought battle. I hope one day more of us will take the plunge. Thanks for a great article!

  2. Carol Hutchinson says:

    I loved your post Emma. Inspiring. I think I would like to read the genres you mention. I just want to read all and anything that represents something I can identify with. That said, if you want to write the astronaut book, I will pre-order my copy now! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Link Round Up: October 19 – November 1 – The Lesbrary

  4. Pingback: I Heart Lesfic Guest Post: Is romance what lesfic is all about? - Emma Sterner-Radley

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