Toward the middle of 2010, I wrote a Male/Male Romance, or M/M Romance, or Gay Male Romance, named “First Son”. This post tells the story of how I came to write M/M Romance, the journey the book took through publication, and how I went from fame to shame in the M/M Romance field.
I Take Up The Writing Mantle
There I sat, reading my latest rejection email from my wife Melanie’s editor at Dorchester Press. I was sure that my romance novel, “Travel Logged”, would be a hit, but apparently it was not to be. Not even having a foot in the door had helped. Looking back, “Travel Logged” is probably not a very strong romance novel (for one thing, it’s told from the male point of view), but at the time I was shocked and deflated.
In the hope of getting me out of my subsequent writing slump, Melanie suggested that I browse her Romantic Times magazine looking for another publisher. So, I did.
The first publisher that caught my eye was Loose-Id, a publisher of eBook based erotica. They seemed solid and interested in developing new talent. The thought of writing erotica intrigued me. When I noticed that they published gay erotica too, I was even more intrigued. After all, if I was going to go out on a limb, why not go way out?
Rather than reading anything published by Loose-Id, I asked Melanie what erotica was all about. She explained that it should have a limited plot and wall-to-wall sex. I decided that I could do that (I actually liked writing sex scenes) but that I would have to insist on having a plot.
So the story begins…
I Write “First Son”
The first idea that came to mind regarding a plot for my first M/M erotica novel involved a White House secret service agent who is repressing the fact that he’s gay but gets assigned to protecting the President’s gay son. Romance ensues. This indeed is the plot to “First Son”. I thought it was an intriging idea and began writing immediately. Along the way, I stuffed in an inordinate amount of sex and several comic scenes (I couldn’t help myself). I knew nothing about the secret service and the only thing I knew about the White House was what I could find via Google. But the book was fun and who was going to be concerned about the plot anyway.
I took three months to write “First Son”. I still hadn’t read a M/M romance or gay erotica by the time I’d finished. But I liked the finished product and boldly/naively submitted the book to Loose-Id for consideration.
Loose-Id Shows Interest
I’ll always remember the thrill of the day that I received email notification that Loose-Id was interested in “First Son”. The first line editor had loved the story and forwarded it to upper management for final approval.
I was about to be published for the first time. I was on cloud ten.
Rejected and Dejected
Several weeks later I heard from upper management at Loose-Id. “First Son” was the stupidest novel they’d ever read. It was totally unrealistic and didn’t address gay issues. It was rejected.
I was crushed.
Frustrated with my rejection by various publishers, I decided to self-publish my work. Gathering my previously rejected romances and horror novels, a collection of short stories I wrote in my junior college creative writing class, and “First Son”, I opened the required accounts and began self-publishing my work.
Next, I visited the Amazon Forums (which were much more open to self-promotion in those days), Facebook, and Goodreads to promote my work.
Finally, I crossed my fingers and waited.
My 15 Minutes of Fame: “First Son” Takes Off
To my surprise, “First Son” sold like hot cakes right off the bat. Eventually, it rose to #7 on the Gay best sellers list and #2600 in paid Kindle books selling 653 copies and grossing $1712 in it’s first three months. And early reviews were good.
Suddenly I felt like the king of M/M Romance. I felt vindicated and that Loose-Id had been hasty in rejecting my book. Sure I had to put up with razzing from my brother regarding my chosen genre, but I was a small-time smash success.
I was basking in my glory. Then November rolled around…
The Readers Rebel
I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, but really nasty reviews started to come in basically reasserting Loose-Id’s position that “First Son” was the stupidest book ever written. Sales dropped like a rock. I changed the Product Description for the book to point out that it was a silly romp and not a serious piece, but it was too late. I’d been an overnight success, now I was an overnight failure.
“First Son” ultimately became a failed/successful M/M Romance. It continues to sell a handful of copies per month to this day.
Back to the Drawing Board
I responded to my most recent failure by writing a second M/M Romance. By now I’d browsed several books in the genre and had a better idea of what to write. I wrote “Blood Lust”, a modern retelling of “Dracula” with gay characters and far less rampant sex. The book has not done well selling only a handful of copies per month but has at least managed to void nasty reviews.
Most M/M Romance readers will most likely be happy to read that I’ve stopped writing M/M Romances, at least for now. “First Son” is still available at all major online eBook dealers. For just $0.99 you can find out for yourself just how bad this book is (be forwarned that there is a lot of explicit M/M sex in the book).
Did I learn any lessons along the way (like do a little research up front)? Not really. I continue to fly by the seat of my pants writing what pleases me. As a result, I’ll probably always be failure as a published writer, but I’ll continue to have fun along the way.
I would like to thank the early supporters of “First Son”, especially those in the M/M Romance group on Goodreads, and say that I’m sorry for ultimately failing to satisfy expectations.
My latest book, “Sanderson House”, is a cozy mystery written under a pseudonym.
I still like the book “First Son” and am glad I wrote it.
by Brian Jackson
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