WLW Fiction Questionnaire Results 2019

Thank you to everyone who completed this year’s survey.

We had around 230 respondents, this is substantially lower than last year but last year the survey managed to hit quite a few “mainstream" readers and while that meant higher number, it also meant a lot of respondents from outside our genre. It’s my hope that publishers and authors will read and digest the information gathered and, where possible, make changes that can help improve the market.

When looking at this data, I urge people to keep in mind that this is still a relatively small dataset and was predominantly gathered through social media outlets. This will, of course, skew some of the data and it cannot be taken as an overall market snapshot. That said, there is still a lot of interesting data and trends to be reviewed.

Obviously, there is a lot more information that can be pulled from the raw data, especially for those of you who wish to break down the results into specific data sets. The raw data is available to anyone who wants it, please contact me to request a copy.

Previous results can be found here:

2017 Results

2018 Results

I have also published a blog post about my own interpretations of the data collected.

Thank you to everyone who filled in the survey and shared the posts!

A.E. Radley

About You

Gender

Age

Sexuality

Location

Are you an author?

Book Retailers

Which retailer website do you MAINLY use for book purchases?

Kindle Unlimited

Are you a member of Kindle Unlimited?

Buying

How many WLW books do you purchase in an average month?

Do reviews factor into your decision to buy a book?

Does chart position factor into your decision to buy a book? (i.e. if a book was number one on the Amazon chart)

Would you agree with the following statements?

I buy all new releases from my favourite authors

I buy all new releases from my favourite publishing house

Thinking about the WLW market over the last few years, do you think there were more books that interested you in 2018/19, or fewer?

Do you think the WLW market is becoming too crowded?

When thinking about purchasing a lesbian and bi women fiction book, what relevance are the following elements:

Authors

Do you connect with any authors on social media?

Does interacting with authors on social media affect your buying decisions?

Do you sign up to author newsletters?

Book Covers

How important is the book cover to you? 1 - not at all important 6 - very important

What do you think about the overall quality of book covers in the WLW fiction market?

Blurb

How important is the blurb to you? 1 - not at all important 6 - very important

What do you think about the overall quality of blurbs in the WLW fiction market?

Editing

How important is the quality of editing to you? 1 - not very important 6 - very important

What do you think about the overall quality of editing in the WLW fiction market?

Pricing

Do you think that WLW fiction books are generally... 1 - cheap 6 - expensive

What price do you think a standard-length WLW fiction eBook should be? (in US Dollars)

What price do you think a standard-length WLW fiction Paperback should be? (in US Dollars)

Are you willing to pay more for books by certain authors?

Are you willing to pay more for books published through certain publishing houses?

Sales

Do you visit websites when a sales promotion is running?

Do you wait for a sale in order to by a specific book that you are interested in?

Do sales encourage you to try a book that you weren't sure about at full price?

How do you hear about sales taking place?

Are you aware of MyLesFic.com?

Finding Books and Marketing

How do you find out about new releases?

Do you preorder books?

If you do preorder books, why?

Click for Responses

Favorite author
favorite author and/or description and/or next in series
To make sure I have them on release date or as soon as possible
To get it as soon as as I can have it!
Really interested in getting a copy asap
Favorite Author that I know I’ll buy all their books.  There a only a few for that though.
All-time favourite authors or books that I simply can’t wait to read
If it’s by a favourite author  and as a treat!!
I like to support the author
Afraid I’d forget
So I can’t forget the release date
To remind me that the book is available
So it appears in my kindle like a little surprise!
Particularly if the book is part of a series or favourite author
so I don’t forget when the book I’ve been waiting for comes out.
Sequel to a book I’ve already read or a very anticipated book I’ve been waiting for.
It’s often a lower price.
So I don’t forget to buy them when they come out
Normally it’s my favourite author and when  the ARC reviews are out, and that makes me excited to read I will preorder
If it’s from one of my favourite authors.
All-time favourite authors or books that i can’t wait for!
I want to get it as soon as possible and want to order it while I am thinking about it.
I enjoy my favorite authors and want to read their latests
“If it’s part of a series and I can’t wait to read what happens. I want to read it asap
So I don’t forget
To be certain I don’t miss it later, or to be certain I obtain a low pre-order price.
Don’t accidentally miss it when it is released since it automatically downloads.
So I can have it as soon as it becomes available and I won’t forget to purchase it.
To let the publisher know that the book is eagerly awaited
only if I am 100% sure I love the author
So I can read them as soon as possible
So that I’ll remember to get them a.s.a.p.
I trust the author and publisher to deliver a quality product I will enjoy.
I want to support my favourite authors
I only preorder from my favorite authors
I don’t want to forget about the release date and I like it automatically delivered to my device.
I don’t want to wait and get caught up in reading other books that I possibly forget
If it’s an author I really love or on sale.
Because I’ve read author before
If it is by an author I really like—I am always anxious to get it as soon as possible.
Sometimes there are preorder incentives, exclusives or sales.
I love the surprise when they pop up in my Kindle.
Favorite Author
If a book is from one of my favorite authors or part of a series.
It’s usually for a favorite author, so I get the book right away and to show interest
Usually one of my favourite authors.
Dont want to forget to buy when heard in advance about it
So that I can read it right away and and not lose track of it. Also, to send a message to Amazon that I prefer that author.
Love the author and maybe its a part of a series I’m reading and needing the next book
So I don’t forget about the impending release.
It’s an author I love or a non-fiction topic that really interests me.
So I don’t miss the release
The author does a good job of promoting the book and teasing the story.
Mostly as a reminder that a book is coming out
Usually the author is a favorite.
Because I don’t want to forget about new releases of my favourite authors.
Very rarely when I know I absolutely want to read something.
To buy Books from a favorite author.
If I’m truly interested in a book, I want to read it as soon as possible.
so I don’t forget to order it and also to get it asap
I like the author want the set
I see a book I am looking forward to at a time when I have money, that I know releases at a time when I won’t have money.
Favourite authors, word on the street aka social media buzz.
Favourite author & next book in a series
If a book sounds interesting or I really like the author I might preorder it so I have it as soon as it’s out.
I like the author
So I don’t forget
Want to support author
So I don’t forget
If I read a good review or a book by a fave author is promoted on social media I’ll order it so I don’t forget.
I don’t want to forget about it.
If it is by an author I particularly like then I will pre order.
Certain authors I’m willing to buy it ahead of time to get it first.
Favorite author or series
I don’t want to forget a release date
Don’t want to bypass it when it does come out.
Know the author
“Favorite author, early buzz
Helps me plan my book spending in advance, plus I take advantage of pre-order offers.
Authors I like
If it’s by one of my favorite authors and I know the quality will be good without having to wait to read reviews first
If it’s from my favorite authors, I want to be able to read them right away..
I trust the author and publisher to put out a book I’m guaranteed to love.
So I don’t forget & give myself a little gift to look forward to getting!
To show support to the author and have it ASAP to read
So I don’t forget they are coming out
To help the author
I feel confident in the story to know it will be something of interest to me
It’s an author that I enjoy
Books are pre-ordered based on author preference
Familiar with the author and looking forward to the new release. Want access sooner.
So I get it as soon as possible.
Because I know I want to read the book … usually it’s a new release from an author I enjoy reading so I expect it to be good
The pre-orders are from my favorite authors.
So I don’t forget to get it on release day
So I don’t forget to buy them.
It’s a favourite author so I know I will love the book or it is part of a series.
I tend to have three to four unread book in my kindle so I’ll forget when the book is released. Preordering acts as a reminder that “hey that book you really want to read is a available now".
support authors
Just want to be sure that I don’t miss it and also know that I will be able to read it as soon as it is available.
Because I’ve been waiting for it and want it as soon as possible.
I don’t want to forget the release of that book
I read everything by that author.
So I don’t forget to order them later
Cheaper and to be first to read favorite authors new books
Its one of my favorite authors.
Want it as soon as released

Regarding the marketing you see for books, do you think that...

Additional comments...

Click for Responses

Some Indie books are over advertised, many publisher books seem under advertised. If they are not reviewed by a couple of review sites they get missed
Depends on the author. Some push way too much, others not enough.
some are marketed too much. some are not marketed at all
Some authors & publishers do a good job, ylva for example. Others less so.
For me this question is too broad. It totally depends – ebook or paper, social media or not, etc.
Mostly, books are advertised just right, but there are a handful of authors that OVER advertise.
There are a few authors who overdo their promotional efforts, but overall, it’s just right.
Hard to tell. I’m not sure if people who might be interested in WLW fiction, but aren’t aware of it are being reached effectively. I only found out because I happened to look at an online forum and look up some of the books being mentioned.
Im not entirely sure … I suspect it depends on how it is advertised … I rely on Facebook to tell me via publisher and author pages so it could be extensively advertised elsewhere and I wouldn’t know

Awards

Are you more likely to buy a book that has won an award (Lambda/GCLS etc)?

Do you know what GCLS is?

Do you know what Lambda is?

Post purchase

Do you review the books you have read?

If you don't review, why not?

Click for Responses

I’m an author
I like to digest a book, and by the time I can get back to words on it, I’m usually on to the next book. I always end with a star review, at least, for Goodreads/Amazon because I primarily read Kindle books.
I don’t go online shop much so usually if I am happy I will just stick with my purchases my usual reviews are if I have a complaint
Not sure what to say
Because I’m an author and I don’t want to be seen as biased towards certain authors/mean/petty etc. I do rate books on Goodreads, and talk about books I enjoy on social media, just no text reviews.
I forget or don’t know what to say
Often, I read a high volume of books but am away from a computer where I could write a review. Other times, I try not to write negative reviews; if I disliked a book it goes into a list and I’m less likely to look for books by that author in the future.
Sometimes I don’t like a book and leaving a comment doesn’t seem right because it might stop another reader from reading who would enjoy it. The only way I leave a bad comment is if the editing is bad. That drives me nuts or it ends in a cliffhanger. I hate that. Hate the author trying to make me by another book to see what happens.
I’m an author so I see it as a conflict – I review books outside my genre.
I’d rather not
I read a lot so don’t always take the time. If I have really enjoyed it then I will leave a review.
Too lazy to write a review
Mostly yes but not always. More likely to for a very good book or favourite author.
My husband reviews but I contribute / may have an opinion
why would I?
I have a hard time writing reviews, and I don’t like leaving just a brief generic statement in their place.
If I don’t like it, I won’t write anything
It takes me so long to think about what I want to say about a book… I cannot do it fast.
Not safe in India
Primarily lacking the skills to do it properly
Lazy and i don’t think I’m good at it
I will not leave a negative review. So, if I didn’t like the book, I won’t review it.
No one is happy with a review. It’s too short or too long, to much detail or not enough, sites don’t allow only positive/5 star reviews but then it’s frowned upon to be honest and give a less than stellar review. It’s all way too controversial.
Would be negative
If I absolutely hate the book, I refrain.
I like to make my own opinions
I’m an author so don’t think it’s appropriate for me to review another author’s work publicly. I do recommend books I enjoy to my newsletter subscribers or on social media though.
I don’t think authors should write reviews of other authors’ books.
i’m a private person
Amazon is penalizing authors who review apparently. Too risky.
Don’t know what to write.
I try to review, but if I finish a book when I’m not attached to WiFi I quite often forget.
I usually have to say a lot about a book when I read it. Writing a review takes a long time for me (normally 60 minutes). Often I feel like I just don’t have the energy to sit down and write that damn review.
I don’t have enough time
Just 5 stars rarely comment
As an author myself, I don’t think it’s right to critique contemporaries.
I should as read a lot at the mo. It’s my personal opinion are other people that interested?!
I usually don’t think to do it. I would only want to review books I really like.
If it is a book that doesn’t have a lot of reviews, and I enjoyed it I will leave a review to give it a boost.
Because I am not good at writing
It’s rude to post negative reviews
Not sure if my tastes are same as others, don’t want to seem critical of books I don’t care for, I know it’s a hard job to write books.
It depends on real life, if it’s difficult at the time I may have read for the escape & therefore notin the right time/space to review, although I do try to review later. Also I was taught that if I can’t say something nice then don’t say anything! If only some others would follow that premise!
Author-to-author restrictions by Amazon
Too busy
Sometimes, I’m too eager to start a new one and I forget, sighs!
Not enough time.
Laziness, no interaction
As an author myself, it’s sometimes not in the best taste to review another authors work, if my opinion was less than favorable. Every book isn’t for everyone.
I have a hard time putting into words what I thought of it
I’m not good at writing reviews.
I find that I proof them while reading them and if there have been a lot of grammar mistakes, I don’t want the next person not buying them because I’m irritated by the lack of grammar and punctuation.
I’m often not the target audience for the books I read. A lot of lesfic that I find to be poorly written or unappealing rakes in 5-star reviews by the bucket. Why review if it’s not helpful to intended readers and hurts the writer, financially or creatively?
If it’s negative about the quality then Is rather reach out to the author directly & not torpedo them on the Internet. If it’s a preference thing then it’s on me.
Laziness
Amazon doesn’t let me
I wouldn’t put other readers off with a negative review.
My opinion isn’t important; other reviewers are more insightful/articulate
Sometimes I want to give a negative review but don’t want to detract from the author. I simply choose not to review at all.
Never thought to do it.
I’m intimidated by the author reading what I wrote – even though I leave positive reviews.
I try to get to as many as I can, but I won’t review if I didn’t like the book.
I’ll give stars mostly instead of a written review. But only if I thought the book was exceptionally good.
I try to avoid reviewing bad books, I will still give them a star rating.
Time, and if I don’t have something nice to say then I say nothing at all, don’t want to hurt an authors business.
i’m shy
don’t know what/how much to say

Have you ever returned a book you have purchased?

If you have returned a book, why did you do so?

Click for Responses

Really terrible quality, I think it was unedited
Once when I didn’t mean to click on buy and another time when the book was not a new release but a re-release I had already read and had bought a second time accidentally.
I’ve never returned fiction – I will return non-fiction rarely if I feel it’s been misrepresented and the value offered is significantly different to what’s being advertised.
problematic content (i.e., non-consent framed as romantic)
I didn’t want to purchase it in the first place. Bad UI design in the Kindle app facilitates mistakes.
Audiobook – skipping, poor narration imo
Only once, it was a scanned out of print book someone tried to make Kindle compatible, it was unreadable
It was horrible
But Sometimes I think I should do, especially when I DNF
Badly edited
Poor editing, grammar or writing; highly insensitive, problematic or offensive scenes, dialogues or characterizations
The writing was not of good quality. Once I bought a book that was a rewrite of a m/m book. You can’t just switch the pronouns and call it something it is not.
NA
Hit buy by mistake, or had already purchased it previously.
Really bad writing or editing.
Poor editing made the book hard to read.
Quality of printing so bad I could not read it.
Extremely poor editing
Bad bad editing.
It wasn’t as advertised, or the audible narrorator was hard to listen to.
Not good
Because it was faulty , ie print not readable
Serious lack of editing.
Just didn’t care for the content.
Realized that I already owned it
I accidentally clicked “buy" when trying to scroll down the page.
Damaged.. Usually get replaced for same book. All books I own are in mint condition.
Poor quality editing

In summary

What improvements do you think can be made in the lesbian and bi women fiction market? (optional)

Click for Responses

Good editing.
Covers. Grammatical editing. I cant stand the typos. Is no one reading these books before publishing!?
The authors I buy usually do have good covers and great editing. Some of the publishing houses and independent authors really need to spend more time on the covers and find even free betas for editing even if it’s just for spelling, grammar, and things that don’t match either timeline, names, descriptions, etc.
More story/trope varieties within the same genres
There should be more review sites other than the Lesbian Review. I think that the UK needs one of its own.
I would like to be able to search WLW or Lesbian on Amazon.
As a pansexual woman, I really like books that have characters that are either bi/pan or at least accepting of them.
I want a variety of genres and older characters, at least over 30. I get tired of reading the same thing by different authors.
I believe authors should try and not churn out lesbian mills and boon, I would rather pay top dollar for an excellent book, rather than a discounted amount for a few mediocre books.
More promotion by the publishers of their forthcoming books
easier to buy, books are often hard to find on australian websites or over priced when forced to buy on Au sites.
Editing standards need to be improved. Some publishers/authors have excellent standards in this regards (ylva, Cari Hunter), others, particularly bsb have increasingly slapdash editing, which means I don’t read much of their work any more.
More varieties in story tropes/plot lines within the same genre
Better editing especially for newer authors.
Most of the books (esp from BSB) are @250-270 pages. Sometimes the stories are rushed because of this. I don’t like spending $10 on a book I consider to be short
Better blurbs, more acceptance of plot diversity (I don’t mean characters being different, I mean plots not being strictly formulaic romances with fights at 75% etc). And the acceptance should come from readers as well as publishers. Don’t punish originality.
Some higher standards from some writers. Ie better plots, believable characters and situations. Some writers book length.
The quality of the writing still has a long way to go. Typos can be overlooked if the writing is good quality.
I don’t think I can really comment as I assume I am not the primary target market (not a woman). However I would like more acknowledgement of both non-binary and straight sexuality as being valid and worthy, even if secondary to the main plot.
more diversity in characters! I’m tired of books about two mostly femme, conventionally attractive 20-somethings. More butches, more fat women, more queers.
Editing! I cant believe some of the books (more often the cheaper ones) that are published without appearing to have had even a simple proof read.
Raise awareness – in publishers and authors alike – to the need for higher quality covers, blurbs, editing. I may have given the same answer last year, but this is what I hope the survey results will achieve.
More Hea books with older lesbians
There is a lot of drama in the lesfic community over the argument of over saturation. This needs to stop. Most readers like having more options.
More visibility? Crossovers? Most LGBT people I know will read “straight" fiction and enjoy it. However the opposite doesn’t seem to hold, straight people seem hesitant or even afraid to read lesfic, which is a shame because we have some truly gifted storytellers writing some really awesome books.
More variety and better covers would be great.
Some of the books are really expensive and they never put them on sale.. it is not always possible to buy all those books at MRP. moteover they are not on KU as well..
More books!
I don’t have a problem with the way it is now
Improved developmental editing because some books read like they’re several drafts away from being publish-ready (eg. filler chapters with too much previous scene rehashing and too much internal narration but little character interaction). More diversity in WLW fiction with more books written by WOC, POC or ownvoices authors that are actively promoted and supported by their publishers. Absolutely no more bandaid diversity where characters are barely a step up from stereotypes and don’t affect the story/other characters in any real way.
I think the quality and quantity of lesfic has improved tremendously. Independent authors or first time authors need to have the manuscript proof read by a fresh eye before it goes out into the world. I appreciate authors who release the audio at the same time as the print or ebook.
I wish there were more brick and mortar stores that sold them. I would buy paperbacks from those retailers.
I wish Amazon would subcategories L fiction better. Also, I wish there was a site with a comprehensive, if not exhaustive, list (with several subgenres) of WLW fiction, even if it was a direct sales site.
More advertising!
Self published books simply need to be edited better.
More author group/genre promotions.
I would like an increase in diversity of characters; for romances under 300 pages to be priced more cheaply; and to see more books published that fall into the commercial/literary fiction category.
Better editing. Pricing eg US$9.99 is currently almost A$15 which is very expensive for ebook.
Finding ways to expand the audience.
My biggest frustration in the WLW market is with characters on book covers not matching descriptions in the story.
Better editing & better covers (= better quality overall)
As ever, mainstream marketing and availability on the high street.
Mainly the covers. I often find them quite cheap-looking and it does put me off sometimes, even though I know it shouldn’t.
“Overall, covers have improved greatly, but some are still quite bad.
I think some social media interaction is tricky, either by content (too personal) or the sheer amount of posts. But most do have a good balance."
more books about younger people (teenagers), prettier covers (maybe keep it simpler, more mainstream, simpler fonts and no photos on the cover)
A wider variety of interesting & unique stories, not so many common tropes
I think the quality of the editing is the main thing – it’s often pretty poor both across self pub and small presses.
More for less
My greatest is with book covers, especially when the images of people are included on the cover that look nothing like the characters in the book.
More diversity beyond romantic novels – effective marketing of those that are a little different.
I would prefer more critical reviews by ihearlesfic and other sites
Try & make it more mainstream, there are a lot of good authors & stories (some crap ones too!) they never seem to get the recognition even in the lesbian press for e.g. diva uk they have a small section on books which is a dozen lines if your lucky, they could do so much more & go through old favourites as a lot of people are new to the led fix book world. Also looking at the future getting films & tv made of them, as looking over sky movies at Christmas apart from battle of the sexes there was no lesbian movie available! See now you know why I don’t leave reviews! Just joking & keep writing. x
Just more, I think it has expanded in the past few years but I think we need more. Also I would love for more mystery novels with WLW heroines.
Authors need to stop attacking each other
Honestly…as a man, I don’t know why more men are not into romance novels. They are pretty awesome…wonderful escapes from our stressful world. Maybe I am just a hopeless romantic. And WLW as well as other LGBTQ themed romances are some of the best. I discovered the genre more or less by accident when browsing Amazon. It seems like it is an untapped market.
Books have gotten crazy expensive. I would buy more hard copies and use less Kindle Unlimited if they were cheaper. I don’t buy nearly as many as I would like to. I find it ineteresing that there was a question about the market being congested. I actually think we need more authors. I read a lot and I’m struggling to find new stuff to read. Also, I think fan fiction needs to go away. It’s taking some very good authors away from original works.
More unique romance storylines.
I think more thought needs to go into better editing and also the blurb.
Better editing and increased reviews to make informed decisions about purchasing.
Better cover, more promo
Some published writers styles are very dull and lackluster. No humor or imagination. Dry, one dimensional characters and repetitive storylines.
Awards that are less biased towards the US market or US publishers. The same applies to some of the popular review sites too.
More diversity!
More resources to help you discover new authors/books based on authors/books you enjoy
Stop following the same old tropes. Surprise me.
I need to be a proof reader
Better revision and editing. More diversity in the construction of plot and romantic arcs. More sharing/promotion of WLW fiction that isn’t focused on sex and romance. More sci-fi. More exploration of attraction that isn’t focused on sex. More exploration of culture and history that doesn’t rely on stereotypes and stock elements. More subtlety. More sports. More depth, more realism. Less plots where the conflict hinges on poor communication. More middle-aged and older women. More asexual-spectrum characters, more asexual representation in romantic relationships. More diversity that isn’t just present to hit a diversity/representation checkbox.
Continue with the diversity of experiences, locations, characters occupations, etc. – stay away from stereotypical stuff.
Editing -sometimes the editing is disgusting and distracting. I also want authors to stop using descriptors such as “the blonde or the brunette" I can’t stress how off putting that is when used over and over to the extent that I can’t concentrate on the book or the characters become lost
More modern covers
Price the books a bit cheaper, the price is now putting me off buying so many books
Needs to be more inclusive of bi and pan authors
I don’t always pay that much attention to things, so I could be very wrong, but I feel like it’s a little difficult for an outsider to be aware that the WLW fiction market exists at all. I only believe this because I encountered someone on Tumblr who seemed surprised, pleasantly so, that a fake relationship romance novel with lesbian protagonists existed when to me that seems like a fairly common type of WLW book. I do think this is something that I and other readers could help with by sharing what we’ve been reading in “public" internet spaces.
Better editing of books. Honesty when it comes to poor quality books. Eradicate clicks within particular authors.

“Book covers are frequently smutty and less geared toward the actual story, to the point of detering me from reading. Or the people portrayed do no represent the characters described in the book.

There is a lack of lesbian asexual relationship representation in the market. Perfect Rhythm has set a high standard demonstrating that such a romance can be enticing. "
Marketing. Some of the better books are not marketed well. I don’t know if they are self-promoted or if they gave publishers?
Less porn, less stale ideas.
Need more of it in general; shouldn’t be marketed as niche interest
Book covers can be made more appealing, and the marketing of them can be increased. Genre differentiation can also be introduced, stepping away from the typical romance and into fantasy, horror, or mystery
Keep them coming! Maybe advertise a bit more.
More marketing/ advertisement
Increased diversity of characters situations from gender/sexuality through job and/or illnesses and other challenges
Regional reading groups/communities
Editing and sometimes the cost is too high for shorter books
As a pansexual person, I’d like to see more acceptance of characters who are or have been in relationships with men.
I’m satisfied with my care.
Editing quality
lenght of books be longer, stories that are series rather than stand alone, more inclusion meaning stories that show WLW as normalized.
I’d like to see authors stop tearing each other down.
Book cover, blurb.
Self publishing authors need more editing
Pricing is extremely high at the publishing houses, that’s why Amazon get my business, yes it takes away from author money but same aspect consumers need to have deals as well.
Better pricing structure for e-books. I sometimes think some publishing houses are taking advantage of their readers loyalty.
Diversity in genre – we don’t all read romance