The language we use to talk about our books has changed over time. Right now, we use terms such as WLW books, lesbian fiction, sapphic literature, and F/F romance to refer to our category of books. There’s an overlap between these terms, but they are not identical.
Here’s my interpretation of these terms:
Strictly speaking, lesbian fiction, often abbreviated to “lesfic,” refers to any book with at least one lesbian main character, regardless of the genre.
However, the term has often been used as an umbrella term for fiction about women who love women, regardless of whether they both identify as lesbians, which erases the identity of bisexual, pansexual, and other queer women. Retailers such as Amazon still use terms such as “lesbian fiction” and “lesbian romance” for their categories.
The assumption is also often that “lesfic” is synonymous with “romance between two women,” even though lesbian fiction can be any genre.
It’s still a commonly used term when people search for our category of books, so it’s a great SEO keyword, but be aware that different people can mean different things when they say “lesbian fiction” or “lesfic.” Do they really mean books that are exclusively about lesbians? Are they talking about just romances or also about other genres?
WLW stands for women-loving women and refers to books about lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer, and other women who love women. The term is thought to have originated in the Black community, so there’s a debate about whether it’s appropriate to use when referring to women who aren’t Black.
WLW books is a broader term than lesbian fiction, but it doesn’t include sapphic people who are nonbinary or intersex.
F/F stands for female/female. The term originated in the fanfiction community and refers to books in which two women have a romantic and/or sexual relationship, so mainly romance and erotica.
It doesn’t include genres other than romance and erotica, and it also excludes books featuring sapphic nonbinary or intersex characters.
The term queer books covers all books featuring main characters who are queer—meaning not heterosexual or not cisgender. It’s a much broader term, and depending on the context, it might be too broad because it also includes gay, bisexual, pansexual, and queer men.
Some LGBT+ people don’t like the term queer, because it’s been used as a slur, while others have reclaimed it.
The term sapphic books or sapphic fiction includes all books about women-loving women and sapphic nonbinary and intersex people. It can be used to refer to books of all genres, not just romance.
For a more nuanced definition, check out my post What is sapphic fiction.
SapphFic is a portmanteau of sapphic and fiction, akin to lesfic (a portmanteau of lesbian and fiction). It means the same as sapphic fiction. While some of the big sapphic fiction sites such as I Heart SapphFic use the term, it isn’t commonly used yet, so some people might not be familiar with the term.
Overlap and differences—a diagram
Here’s a diagram to help demonstrate the overlap but also the differences between the terms I explained above.
Please be aware that the diagram is an oversimplification. There are gray areas that are hard to represent in a graphic, and the lines between the different identities and categories aren’t always so clear-cut. But I think the diagram is still helpful to give you an overview.
So what’s the best term to use?
In my opinion, each of these terms is valid. Just be aware that they all have a different meaning and scope. The best word to use depends entirely on the context and what you’re trying to communicate.
Pick the term that best describes the book—or the category of books—you’re talking about. That way, readers know what’s in the book (genres, identities, etc.) and can set their expectations accordingly.