It's a point near and dear to my heart, as, well, I write in that market professionally, not to mention play a fairly major role in Fandom by posting fanfiction. I'm also a marketing professional turned full-time writer, so trends fascinate me.
I was going to leave this ridiculously long comment to her post, but it got so long that I ran out of room. I hope Acosmist will forgive me for calling out the post and replying via an entry of my own.
From the entry:
...am I right in believing that the m/m romance community is growing and changing rather quickly? That there has been an influx of new talent pretty much across the board? That a lot of the drama and strife which has been pretty much non-stop for the last year (maybe longer?) is because of that? Or has there always been this much infighting?
I've heard hinted about this, in comments and around the edges of other discussions but not fully addressed that I know of. As someone new to the community and until recently completely unaware of its inner-workings it's pretty confusing and sometimes a really, really scary place to be.
Well... I'd say the m/m community is most definitely growing, and fast. I'm not sure what country you're in, but speaking as a working author in the United States, I can say it's one of the largest marketing trends at the moment, and encouraged by main-stream media including homosexuality into their scripts/casting/plotlines like they never have before. Including showing two men in bed together talking about the sex they just had, as they did on "Smash," and showing a happy lesbian couple with their daughter in a JC Penny commercial. And that's just two examples of hundreds seen in the last year alone. I can think of "Glee" and "Sex in the City" examples, and I don't even need to mention that one of the most talked-about movies in the last ten years was Brokeback Mountain, which was a short story published in 1997.
Even Cosmo did an article last year about how m/m romance is THE thing turning women on these days, thank you True Blood, and the US is finally getting on board with the fangirl train, as seen in the strictly-for-the-fans hamming that the latest Sherlock Holmes movie (the Jude Law & Robert Downey Jr. version). Japan has used the fandom machine for years and years, doing everything from sanctioning fanfiction as additional plotlines, marketing anime/manga WITH the fanfiction or artist portrayals, and generally capitalizing on the word-of-mouth squee-age done by girls between the ages of 15 (yes, let's face it, a lot of 'em are underage) and 25.
Last year, Harlequin Romance opened a new section of their publishing house strictly for the male/male romances, and two other publishing houses followed suit. If you search for agents, publishing groups, or all-calls for fiction, you will find a plethora of m/m wanted signs.
Now, all that said, I think it's still being treated as a "trend" and not a fact of life here to stay. Yes, major publishers are opening their doors to novels featuring two men (or two women, or two men and a woman, etc), but they tend to be only ebooks. Now, some would argue that the ebook trend is more responsible for that than any going opinion that m/m romance is a fleeting fashion statement, as we all see bookstores and the hardback going by the wayside (and the days of a new author getting a "run" of print books via an established publisher and going on a book tour in person are becoming obsolete and being replaced by self-marketing and blog tours).
I'd say it's a combination. Publishing is changing more rapidly than the genre market, honestly, as it's feeling the effects the CD and music industry did a few years ago. The houses are struggling to maintain, adapt, and grow. Nobody wants to be the next Borders who didn't capitalize on the ebook "trend" and went under faster than the Titanic because of it.
M/M romance in this country is probably being seen as a, "Oh gee... how long do we have to put up with this?" and isn't being taken too seriously as of yet. I've seen that in the vastly varying qualities of sites that do reviews for such genre fiction, in the number of new online-only publishing firms that take any manuscript that comes onto their doorstep and hands over a contract to make a quick buck on the m/m runaway train, (which, sadly, hurts the genre overall in pushing lower quality of fiction), and that none of the brick-and-mortar locations are willing to contemplate carrying such fiction in their stores to any large volume as they do not believe it will sell. I can't really say as I blame them on that last point, because with the insane amount of free fiction in this genre in the format of fanfiction and just online publication by authors who think their m/m will never "sell" to a "legit" publisher, it's no wonder bookstores, who are already worried about staying in the black, don't want to add inventory that will gather dust.
This hydra issue also has something to do with media's tendency to latch and suck dry the latest "scandalous" thing and push it into the stratosphere with publicity. BDSM and kink have been the most recent victims of that hungry beast. In the 1970s, the only thing worse than being gay was being kinky. In the 80s, you had some hush-hush kink being produced, but it was still bottom-of-the-shelf. Along about the 90s, anything started to go, and now you have Cooper Mini commercials wherein a dominatrix takes a whip and riding crop to a car and makes the horn honk. Not to mention Adam Lambert who regularly includes kink in his videos, who is openly gay, and still selling records (Thank God).
Kink is okay. Gay is good. Different sells. But all of it is still considered not mainstream enough to be truly marketable, so you get a wide range of participants, publishers, and pushers. Now, with this blasted, Shades of Grey novel series that's being trumpeted to the heavens, (don't get me started on how it's essentially Twilight with mild bondage and it makes me want to weep for the Lifestyle, writers with talent, and the dumbing down done to appease the lazy masses) that might start to change, too, but again... that's capitalizing on the Kink is Okay! trend that started almost twenty years ago.
I think we have some time to kill before fiction that features two men, pansexuality, threesomes, bisexuality, or any derivation thereof is considered anything approaching note by the "literary" community. I think the publishing houses have to settle on a new formula to make money first, too, as until the Old Guard who clings to the, "Thou Must Have Print Contracts and Books In Stores to be Successful" is out, then the ebook market will continue to be semi-shunned, which means a huge chunk of the niche markets will be considered sub-par. Don't get me wrong, I love me some paperback and hardback books, but much like my bemoaning the damned Blue Ray trend, I realize that as time marches on, those will go by the wayside in the eyes of companies who have to make money and appeal to the busy, ever-changing, ever-unsatisfied, thirsty markets. So, the male-male trend has to stick around for a while (at least in THIS country; it's been everywhere else for a while now, but you know... we the people kicked out by the British for being too uptight take a while to get over our sexual selves) and be less sensationalized before anybody will take it seriously.
And therein, I believe, lies your answer about the drama in the community. With such drastic and differing levels of involvement, publishing options, standards of print/fiction/prose, and generalized debate over what is going to be the new golden rule of "success," you have a breeding ground for "My Way Is the Right Way, Take Yours to the *#@^)& Highway."
...but that's just my fifty cents. Opinion value adjusted for inflation. =)