01/13/2012 01:45 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

The 6th Lesbian Literary Award

The awards season is gearing up! The movie producers and the Directors Guild just announced their awards, and the Academy Awards are coming soon. There are so many awards around, for movies, sports, books -- it's an awards society! Some people think that we're too awards-happy, but I don't agree! So I started a new one a few years ago, and el!es' Lesbian Literary Awards program is still going strong.

I always found it disappointing that most book awards were only open to writers who were published in the year leading up to the award. You can't nominate a book you just finished writing, or finished two years ago, or a book that was published three years ago or even 10. To me that sounds silly. Lesbian readers are always looking for great lesbian books, and lesbian writers are always looking for opportunities to offer what they've written. So why don't we have the two come together? There are so many obstacles to overcome already; we don't have to build any more.

When I published my first book, Taxi to Paris, I was told by all the German lesbian publishers that my book was "dubious," as in sketchy, or shady, and the inference was that maybe I was dodgy as a person. The "dubious" story was about a lesbian prostitute confronted with real love, and she has to make up her mind if she wants to go for it or if she finds love too threatening to even think of getting involved. She prefers having sex for money and not having to engage her deeper feelings. But of course, riding out of the sun there comes the one who will change her mind and her life. It's not easy, involving a long journey not only to Paris but to the inner selves of the two women involved in this thing called love. It's difficult for both of them, the prostitute as well as her "savior," who can't bear to share "her" woman with so many others.

I think that is certainly a love story, a romance. I don't find anything "sketchy" about it. But the lesbian publishers at the time did. My manuscript was rejected.

Luckily I don't surrender so easily. Ultimately I published the book myself, and it became the foundation of the lesbian publishing house I started, which is now open for all books written by or about lesbians, whatever the premise, as long as they're love stories with happy endings. I wanted to do more to help other lesbian writers confronted with such silly and narrow-minded attitudes (surprisingly, even from lesbian publishers).

So I came up with the idea of a "lesbian literary award" to highlight all the wonderful lesbian romances out there. Two women getting involved and falling in love -- even though there are a lot of problems to overcome -- and then, a happy ending. Sex and Romance and Love and Tension and everything the lesbian heart desires.

And I wondered, too, why there are always professional selection committees for this kind of award. Juries of only a few people decide which book will be published next year. I thought, Why don't we ask the readers? They're the ones who have to like the books! I wanted to give unpublished writers the same chance as published writers, and I wanted to ask the readers which books they wanted to see published.

So we started the el!es Lesbian Literary Award five years ago, and it's been a great success. Lesbian writers can send in their manuscripts, whether published or not, and we post the first chapters of all the entries on our website. After four weeks, when all the readers who want to read the excerpts have done so, the readers vote. The winning book is announced, and then published by el!es as the first book of the new year, the following January.

But we don't only publish the winner. We publish the second highest vote-getter, the third, and more -- if the books are well-written and fit into the el!es concept. (This usually means a well-written lesbian romance with a happy ending. If you've been deprived and aren't sure how a happy ending goes in a lesbian novel, you can find out by reading any number of books from el!es -- just two great examples are Alison Barnard's A Walk in the Rain, or my Taxi to Paris, of course!)

So I now invite you to join the contest for the:

6th Annual Lesbian Literary Award

Have you written a 60,000- to 75,000-word novel with a happy ending about a lesbian couple falling in love and want to see it published? Then win a publishing deal with édition el!es.

The annual Lesbian Literary Award is exclusively dedicated to lesbian romance novels. If you want to participate, send your lesbian romance novel, a brief biography, and a synopsis of your book, including a summary of how the story concludes, by the March 31, 2012, as an attachment to:

The first two to three chapters of each submission, along with its synopsis, will be posted online at during the month of April 2012. Readers will vote for their favorites. Yes, the readers will decide the winner, which will be published next year by el!es as both printed and Kindle versions, at no cost to the winner. The winner will be announced during the first week of May 2012.

Good luck!