Good Reading : August 2010
readers' life 1 are marketed might be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy rather than any inherent taste bias in the editor because of their gender. 'We often assume genre stuff or certain kinds of non-fiction is bought more by men, and I suppose we design books with that in mind,' she says. The biggest problem with marketing books to men is as simple as it is hard to combat. It's not so much that men don't read. Men simply don't shop. If you're marketing a book for guys, do it in August or November. 'Male' titles traditionally enjoy big spikes for Father's Day and Christmas -- the time of year when the girlfriends, wives, mothers or sisters of Australasia are buying presents. Because word of mouth is the publishing industry's most valuable sales tool, it is arguable that women -- as the most socially connected of the species -- enjoy greater scope to pass along recommendations. As bestselling action/ adventure writer Matthew Reilly points out, books just aren't part of men's daily world view. 'Where's the male equivalent of the Women's Weekly book of the month?' he asks. 'There is none.' The result is that the audience size or life cycle of books for men is viewed as a tiny sliver of the field as a whole. 'Of the top 10 books last year only two really interested men,' says Sophie Higgins, category manager for children's, fantasy, romance and business books at Dymocks. 'Paranor mal and kids were the growth genres and men's non-fiction was actually down 5 per cent.' To many, men's relationship to reading is in a state of crisis, and the problem starts when they are young. It's not a new refrain -- there are plenty of old tricks to encourage boys to read, such as disguise the identities of female authors. Would as many boys have read Harry Potter by Joanne Rowling or The Outsiders by Susan Hinton? We should also remember the sweeping generalisations we attribute to boys, girls and the reading market are just that -- stereotypes. A schoolteacher as well as an author, New Zealander Ber nard Beckett says the 'gnashing of teeth over whether we're reaching boys' drives him crazy. 'There's so much variation within each sex and I find the portrayal of the struggling, illiterate, fidgety boy somehow patronising,' he says. It may be that early difficulties with reading after being forced to do so in school puts many boys off reading for life. But instead of panicking because so many boys seem to lose interest in reading at around age 12, maybe we should consider it a natural progression. Do we think it's a problem because of a cultural belief that well-read people contribute to a better society, or because we have a change-resistant industry crying poor in the face of competitive threats? 'It's not for everybody,' Beckett says of reading for pleasure. 'Opera's not for me, but I don't think society needs to devote a great deal of resources to making me an opera lover.' Maybe men should read more, but since the first campfire adventure stories we've told and consumed stories for enjoyment. Endlessly cashing in on the same tired trends or cultivating a snooty grandiosity might simply be boring to today's time-poor, relaxation-starved average bloke. The Technology Connection As men reach their early teens, they start a love affair that will last most of their adult lives. ‘Men love gadgets,’ says author John Birmingham, referring to the iPad, Kindle and the e-book revolution they’re ushering in. As any psychologist or parent can tell you, there’s an innate male sense for utility and the technology that enables it, a hands-on need to build someth general than rea asks. ‘B they do With of techn written collecto manage Wakely ties into Wha how po cashes can (an regardle Rea Assassi the ‘Sta books f too. Som formats deployin will brin adding pursuits THIS MONTH'S 4th Estate PAGE-TURNER As bestselling action/ adventure writer Matthew Reilly points out, books just aren't part of men's daily world view.