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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Why publishers are not discriminating men!

I took a break from writing my novel and began doing some blog surfing. Yes, I love to click that “next blog” button and see where it takes me. Tonight I ended up on Nicholas Borelli’s blog and read his post, Publishing Discriminates Against Men.

In his post he discusses how more books tailored for women flood the market. He suggests that Louis L’amour would likely not be published today because of the publisher’s discrimination of men. Now, I’m a strong supporter of human rights and eliminating discrimination, but I don’t see true discrimination as Nicholas is describing it.

He says on his blog, “this feminization phenomenon is hurting the book business.” The feeling I get from his post is that he believes the publishing industry has focused on women to drive the market. While I can appreciate his point of view and possibly agree with some of his thinking, I must disagree with most of his post.

First of all, I believe it IS true that more women buy books than men. I believe there is a trend that over time more women have taken over a greater amount of the market share of buyers:



“Women buy 68% of all books.”
Lou Aronica, Senior VP Avon Books, Publishers Weekly. March 1999

“54% of fiction is bought by women.”
Publishers Weekly, May 1997, page 13



Allow me to make two points on this topic.

1. Women are more internal and emotional than men.
2. As children, girls show an increased tendency for leisure reading.

Point 1: I’m all for equality of the sexes, but let’s face the facts. Biologically and to an extent, psychologically, men and women ARE different, this includes our brain.

"Men and women are actually from the same planet, but scientists now have the first strong evidence that the emotional wiring of the sexes is fundamentally different.

For men, the cluster "talks with" brain regions that help them respond to sensors for what's going on outside the body, such as the visual cortex and an area that coordinates motor actions.

For women, the cluster communicates with brain regions that help them respond to sensors inside the body, such as the insular cortex and hypothalamus. These areas tune in to and regulate women's hormones, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and respiration.”

- LiveScience.com

Here's just one more article on the differences.

The romance genre has a long history and a huge following. Very few men read romance so by default nearly all of its readers are women. Romance novels provide an internal world full of emotion. The success of recent “chick lit” also provides some of the same need women have for an emotional tale. Bridget Jones’s Diary is an excellent example. Yes, chick lit may be a trend that has begun to wane. It may even have “dumbed down” fiction, but it meets a need and the demand is strong.

Point 2: A recent study was made with students to check their leisure reading. The results:

“Sex differences in leisure reading are also statistically significant, revealing more female readers (85%) than male leisure readers (65%). This finding of greater female pursuit of reading follows Walter's (1929) early study of youth leisure that claimed that, in 1929, female adolescents, much more than boys, engaged in leisure reading. No contemporary research into adolescent leisure or reading has noted gender differences in reading pursuits.”

If this was realized in the 20’s and is still a truthful condition… it’s probably safe to say that much of the trend for reading begins when children begin reading for leisure. Not for homework; not to improve reading skills; not because mom and dad said so – but to do it for pure enjoyment.

Part of the study asked the teens to identify their favorite leisure genre. Romance was the preferred genre by the girls and was four times higher than the next genre on the list. At this result, see point 1.

Publishers are not proactively dictating the market of book type. Publishers are fulfilling the basic principal of economics: supply versus demand. Publishing is a business. Any writer who doesn’t accept that fact will likely face some great disappointment. The main population of book buyers desires certain components and certain styles in the books they read. Publishers respond to that need. Now, publishers continue to present books in other genres, new and unique novels, and novels told from different views, tones and styles. After all, not 100% of book buyers all like the same thing. However, the publishers release those novels in smaller quantities and less frequently to match the need. There are tons of bestsellers that are written by men and also fit the arena of not being tailored specifically for a man or a woman. If there were a greater demand for the style or genre Nicholas is focusing on, I’m sure there would be a supply to meet it. It’s not as if publishers do not have a wealth of manuscripts being thrown at them every day to choose from.


Note: I'm completely bypassing an entirely different point that discusses the quality of writing and how agents and publishers select the best writing they see, versus mediocre, poor, or even crappy writing. And it is this point that is probably the most pivotal point of the publishing process. If your writing isn't good enough to sell to more people than your parents and a handful of friends... it's not worth their time.

As far as identifying feminism, “as something that is hurting the book business” I must strongly disagree. Let’s list internet, ebooks and television as the primary culprits and a few other things before we get to feminism.

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11 Comments:

Blogger LadyBronco said...

I read Nicholas Borelli’s blog as well. Hmmm...
I am seeing more and more folks out there that are trying to get representation that just do not have the thick skin it will take to handle the simple fact that maybe thay just will never be published. It's a scary thought, and one that could apply to any number of us struggling authors who want desperately to be able to tell our stories to the masses. I think Mr. Borelli was, more than anything, venting his frustration.
I still got a laugh out of it, tho.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Rashenbo said...

Yes... us writers certainly do a lot of venting... and sometimes it is to let of steam or to come to terms with the rejection we've received... it's not easy... I know I've had my moments too.... but I don't shout discrimination and I certainly don't open the door for a battle of the sexes. Even if you are angry, mad, or you don't agree with how you are being treated... there is still a time and a place, and a way to let loose.

I'm over it today but at midnight last night I was letting my emotion get to me as well.

4:19 PM  
Blogger The Unpretentious Writer said...

My sister works at Harper Collins, and according to her, the publishing industry is starting to be more men than women.

5:47 PM  
Blogger LK Hunsaker said...

Well, should I say that as a female, I'm much more likely to read male authors than female authors? Men limit themselves so much more than women. They read mainly horror, action, biographies, and history. A small percentage read literary fiction. It is harder to market to men.

At my book signing the other day, a man stopped and asked what it was about and I began by saying "It deals with relationships and..." and he stopped me, saying "Oh no, you lost me there. I don't do that."

My thought is more of them should. ;-)

9:43 PM  
Blogger Rashenbo said...

LK,

I completely agree with you!

7:39 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

I just think good old Nicholas would feel a lot better if he'd go and get laid, but I seem to be the minority in that opinion.

Who knows? Maybe he's gross to look at!

12:33 PM  
Blogger Talia Mana said...

Great commentary - love all the research you've done on this. I can't believe Borelli is complaining about publishers buying books that meet the demands of the market LOL

4:46 PM  
Blogger Henna said...

I guess the amount of frustration shows. I'm afraid I can only feel pity for him. No, the writing wasn't brilliant, but it wasn't laughable, no matter what some folk say. It just wasn't good enough to publish through a big house.

People keep going on about having thick skins etc, well, I'm sorry, you don't have to have a thick skin, you do have to be savvy enough to know when something is good enough.

I've belonged to a crit group for years, so I know what it is like to have your 'babies' pulled to shreds. It still hurts, but the point is, it doesn't stop me from trying. Persistance does pay, I do know that. Gobbing off about something where you really haven't done your research doesn't, and one wonders if he puts the same amount of research writing his novel as he did his research for his 'article'.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Nicholas' post really sounds like sour grapes. There are lots of "guy" books out there now - they are more likely to be technothrillers than Westerns, that's true, but that has to do with the current public taste, not sexism. And, of course, to say it's "hurting the book business" is just silly - publishers want to make money, and I find it very hard to imagine that a publisher would refuse to publish a book that would turn a profit just because it was "masculine". Honestly, the guys I know who read aren't having any trouble finding books that interest them.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Whether or not Borelli's prose is "laughable" is a question of your sense of humor. What is clear is that the vocabulary stilted and implausible, the grammar is unwieldy and often askew, and the gratuitously unnecessary details are strewn left and right throughout the text. It's not just "not good enough to publish through a big house," it's simply not good enough to publish, period.

Conspiracies are unnecessary when the product in question is crap.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Henna said...

Well, that was the point I was trying to make on Jenny's blog. I, personally, don't think anyone's writing is 'laughable', which is a great deal of difference between 'inadequate'. No one has taught the guy about narrative drive, certainly. So, yes, he does seem to be suffering from a few delusions. But he's certainly brought attention to himself, hasn't he? Unfortunately, I don't think it's of the kind he wanted.

7:22 AM  

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