Good Reading : August 2010
18 goodreading ı AUGUST 2010 It's one of the perennial questions of our time. Some say it's an endemic problem in the publishing industry, which believes the simple maxim 'men don't read' much more than it should, creating a culture that fails to adequately service what few men it attracts. In an angry rant on the Huffington Post last April, US thriller writer Jason Pinter blasted TV ads for Amazon's Kindle with their 'twee music that would make any guy groan ... Why would men buy an e-reader, considering the takeaway from these ads is you can a) learn about your pregnancy after falling for Mr Darcy, or b) become Amelia Earhart or Holly Golightly?' Pinter argued that the industry itself was alienating half its potential audience with female-targeted ads. 'The next person who tells me that Men Don't Read,' he concluded, 'I'll simply respond by saying Then You Don't Know Men.' Maybe it's the industry and maybe it's the customers, but it seems we package and sell books from a mostly female standpoint. Curiously so, considering there are as many men as women writing books -- whether in the home offices of rich authors or the kitchen tables of struggling beginners. And as every author will tell you, you should write what you know and love instead of trying to second guess a market or trend a year down the road. Because of the overwhelming number of books targeted at women, it's tempting to think a female aesthetic takes hold once a book enters the machinery of publishing. After all, women occupy marketing and editorial positions in overwhelming numbers. Bookstore shelves groan under the weight of books aimed at women, where those aimed at men enjoy a few regular spikes at certain times of the year. How literally should we take the connection? The authors, bookstores and publishing professionals I spoke to all praised the abilities of their peers to step inside the shoes of the opposite sex or different age groups to market a book effectively even though it wouldn't necessarily appeal to them individually. As we know, publishers publish books to make money. So is it just the market talking? John Bir mingham agrees there's a bias towards publishing books for women but calls it 'the logical outcome of having a market which is driven by female purchasing power'. After capturing the zeitgeist of share-house living with He Died with a Falafel in His Hand, Birmingham has found great success as an action/adventure/sci-fi writer with the 'Weapons of Choice' and 'Without Warning' series, and he's noticed even the areas traditionally dominated by male authors and readers changing. 'Even speculative fiction is now almost entirely a woman's game,' he says, referring in part to the Twilight phenomenon. 'I don't think it's because publishing is run by women, it's because books are mostly bought by women.' Text Publishing's fiction editor Mandy Brett agrees. She thinks the way books readers' life 1 We’ve been hearing it for a generation: men don’t read. Is it true, or is the book industry just not serving them? And is it really bad news or just the evolution of media? DREW TURNEY learns more.