Monday, November 4, 2013

The Female Imperative in publishing

It's not your imagination. The reason you have no interest in reading the vast majority of books on the shelf is because they are not written with you in mind, published with you in mind, marketed with you in mind, or sold with you in mind. And yet, the publishing industry affects to be surprised that you do not buy their products.
This NPR piece three years ago came to the conclusion that women read more fiction than men by a 4-1 margin. Articles like this madden me because I think they miss the big picture, or perhaps are even ignoring it purposefully. It's like discussing global warming, while completely ignoring the fact that hey, maybe we have something to do with it.

Nobody can deny the fact that most editorial meetings tend to be dominated by women. Saying the ratio is 75/25 is not overstating things. So needless to say when a male editor pitches a book aimed at men, there are perilously few men to read it and give their opinions. Not to mention that, because there are so few men, the competition to buy books aimed at men is astronomical. I was once shot down in an effort to buy a sports humor book because I couldn't get the support of a senior editor. The reason? This editor had written a similar book proposal on submission and didn't want to hurt his chances of selling it.

Men read. Tons of them do. But they are not marketed to, not targeted, and often totally dismissed.
There is, of course, one other factor that may prove to be at least somewhat significant now that ebooks are so popular. Men tend to know how to pirate things. I buy a fair amount of books because I like being surrounded by real books on bookshelves. But I don't actually need to buy most of those books, I only choose to buy them in order to support the author and encourage the publisher.


Heuristics said...

I am hoping that the new kind of publishing will change things around for the better. You (Vox) is one example and I recently found another by a young author thanks to the auto-recommendation feature of the android kindle app.

He has published two books in the trilogy so far and I highly recommend it if you are interested in some semi-standard fantasy without any transsexual dolphin love interests.

Crowhill said...

It would be very interesting to know whether men or women are more likely to illegally download digital works (books, movies, music, etc.).

Knowing how, or being willing to learn how, is certainly part of it. Another part of it is that some people have a hard time believing that a digital work can be stolen, because when you take a tangible thing, the former owner no longer has it, but when you steal a digital work, the owner still has it. I wonder if there's a difference in how men and women perceive that question.

paul a'barge said...

It's like discussing global warming, while completely ignoring the fact that hey, maybe we have something to do with it.

No, it's not. Because Global Warming is a hoax and a fraud and not everything else is.

szook said... took a whole 3 comments for somebody to take a jab at the slack-jawed AGW comment in the quote from the OP.

That said....anybody want a bootleg copy of the the Anarchist Cookbook for sale prices!

Anonymous said...

Larry Correia. Buy all his books. Nuff said.

If you need more, his books are full of guys (and some girls) with guns shooting monsters and blowing sh!t up. Pretty close to perfect.

@paul, your comment is spot on.

jaericho said...

@Heuristics, that book looks good... and now it's queued up. Thanks.

Matamoros said...

I make it a point to not buy books by a female author. The scenes are never done right by women; especially fight, war, male emotions, etc. Female author, forget it.

I also make it a point to not buy books with female lead characters. Usually these are really a male character, with female body parts. Dissonance. This is not as hard and fast as the above, but 95% of the time, a female lead character, forget it.

John Ringo's females, even the tough ones, are believable, same with Kratman's. But most are not; and simply ruin the story unless you make a conscious effort to read the book as if the character were a man.

And to maintain the frame, I hate beta boy main characters too. Make him a man or remainder the book because neither I, nor most other men want to read about soft, sensitive caring men in touch with their emotions who support their female co-workers, who are better than they, but suffer through a man's world. Puleeessssse.

Anonymous said...

Old article, but nary a mention about how the self-publishing industry is filling the void that fem-centric traditional publishing has created.

Brad Andrews said...

You can't be sure the author is really male just because the name is male.

I am finding that I am willing to buy more books recently from Amazon. I don't love the idea of them having too much control, but the Kindle system makes it so simple that it can be worth doing that over other potential methods. I seem to be making the shift to toward preferring ebooks for their flexibility, at least in this manner.

The price of some still keeps me away and that is something many authors and publishers should realize. Make it cheap enough that someone will buy it even if they don't read it right away. I often buy books long before I read them. Take advantage of that and don't fight it.

I did that when AToB came out, but read through it and all the novellas once I finally got pulled into the book. (That took a couple of chapters in that case. It seems a bit slow going at the start.)

Revelation Means Hope said...

@matamoros, Re: that John Ringo's females are realistic.

Thanks, that was good for a laugh in a relatively bad Monday. I just finished Under a Graveyard Sky. The book kicked butt, but the 13 year old character was about as realistic as Cally in the Posleen series or Dana Parker in the Troy Rising.

Anonymous said...

Causing a fury in academia: Prof won't teach female authors.

Huzzahs ensue!

I remember being disgusted by having to read The Color Purple, Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God, A Raisin in the Sun, et al, in high school. It wasn't so much the works themselves--although Toni Morrison is quite overrated--it was the opportunity costs of spending that time on inferior works to humour AP Test-writers. Would much rather have read Basic Economics (also by a black man!) or My Grandfather's Son.

Could have hit some Iain Banks, Anton Myrer, Sinclair Lewis, Margaret Mitchell, too.

Ecclesiastes said...

I'm surprised that you didn't pick up this nugget from the article referenced by Pinter:

"We see it every time in our store," says Carla Cohen, owner of the Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C. "Women head straight for the fiction section and men head for nonfiction."

Anonymous said... took a whole 3 comments for somebody to take a jab at the slack-jawed AGW comment in the quote from the OP.

That's the kind of preemptive self-defense you have to do when you write for the mainstream press. The author is about to say something slightly politically incorrect, so he opens with a complete non sequitur on another topic that assures his readers and fellow media drones that he's by no means straying off the liberal plantation here, so please don't stone him as a heretic!

It's the journalistic equivalent of, "I'm not a racist or anything, and some of my best friends are black, but I heard this great joke..."

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