Sapphic fiction, self-published, is an unlikely pandemic winner

A few years ago, the self-publishing space saw a surge of Twitter. A straight male author, keen to squeeze into a captive market, is making a book of lesbian fiction with a lesbian protagonist, applying all the relevant tags. Writers and readers alike expressed outrage. The self-publishing community is a tight-knit, protective community—especially in its subgenres—who, as author KJ puts it, often “watches.”

KJ is the author of numerous popular self-published Safi novels.

KJ is the author of numerous popular self-published Safi novels.

I met KJ at Conflux Bendigo, a creative industries conference where we appeared on a panel on the future of publishing. My head turned as she spoke. Here’s one author who’s actually selling well during the pandemic — and self-publishing is key.

KJ writes sapphic fiction, a more inclusive update of “LesFic,” which includes trans women, bi women, pan women, lesbians — “all that stuff.” Her contemporary romance is set against the backdrop of AFLW, the social housing crisis and teaching. KJ is a teacher himself.

The publishing industry has a snobby attitude toward romance, despite wealth It has recently been reported that sales of the genre are second only to fiction in general, but romance novels in particular have a loyal audience. “There’s a lot of people discovering the ‘queer’ label and they’re looking for literature in which they see themselves,” KJ said.

On review site Goodreads, readers made lists such as “Lesbian books set in New Zealand or Australia”, while lesbian books were celebrated with dedicated awards such as the Goldies, IHeartSapphic and woman and words post Eight Ways to Encourage LesFic Writers to Publish During a Pandemic.

KJ off go home Five months into the pandemic, more than $21,000 in royalties were collected for the quarter. (She has published six more books since.) By comparison, my traditionally published book, also released during lockdown, sold about 14 percent of my previous work. With the exception of one local festival, all my appearances were canceled or crossed some impenetrable borders, and bookstores forced to close sent back in droves.

“0.0047 cents per page turn sounds ridiculous, but one of my books turned 1 million pages in a year.”


These are not concerns for self-published authors. Their sales are mostly e-books (70% of KJ’s readers are in the US), and many writers use pseudonyms, so they avoid public appearances in favor of BookTok, which likes hot romance. While traditional publishers are targeting coverage in the paper’s arts pages — a sharp reduction during the pandemic — self-published authors embed hyperlinks in their books, giving readers access to their stores or social media . In the past few years, conversation, australian financial review and art Center All are telling the story of self-publishing shaking up the world of books.

KJ uses Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), but there are other options, including the sexier-sounding Australian model, IndieMosh, and Tablo. She assembled a team—a designer and editor, and beta readers—which did cost some money, but the books themselves were either e-books or print-on-demand.

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