Sunday, November 20, 2016

Men Don’t Read (Fiction)


This is version 2.0 of this post. After writing the first version where I pointed to the predictability, low ROI, and treating men like idiot I realized that I make a mistake. Most modern fiction is predictable and offers low ROI for most men. Likewise, much modern fiction puts men in supporting roles, even when they are the main characters, and talks down to us like we’re idiots. All my original points remain valid, but my mistake was taking them as the cause not the symptom. The cause is bigger, and the challenge to get men back into reading fiction is even bigger.
“Men don’t read (fiction) because the publishing industry marginalizes us.”
Women dominate the publishing industry. In a 2011 article in the Huffington Post, Jason Pinter points out “the fact that most editorial meetings tend to be dominated by women. Saying the ratio is 75/25 is not overstating things.” With a female dominated publishing industry it makes perfect sense why men don’t read as much as they did in the past.
My grandpa read fiction—I would say only but I seem to remember him reading a few biographies over the years. Most of these books were mystery, crime, and thriller novels; few of which would find their way into bookstores today. They almost always had a strong male lead character who thought and acted like a man. One of the most frustrating elements for me when reading Harlan Coben’s Tell No One was that the lead character (Dr. David Beck) didn’t act or think like a man. Throughout the book he was reliant on a cast of strong female character, and the one time he decided something on his own it was a disaster.
Men don’t want to read about how stupid and dependent on women we are. It’s no surprise that a female dominated industry would miss the mark by so much when attempting to market to men.
“Men read. Tons of them do. But they are not marketed to, not targeted, and often totally dismissed.” – Jason Pinter
As a man, I like strong female characters in books, but why do they have to come at the expense of the male characters. One of my favorite genre’s of music is Symphonic Metal, and if you know anything about Symphonic Metal you know that a strong female vocalist fronts the band most of the time. Despite this, Symphonic Metal—like all sub-genre's of metal—appeal to men at a higher rate than to women. Men aren’t opposed to strong women; we’re opposed to weak men.
The publishing industry seems oblivious to this concept, which is hard to understand since the Huffington Post article appeared in 2011, yet nothing has changed. Authors write books, particularly fiction, for women. Publisher market books to women. Where do men figure in the mix? The publishing industry marginalizes men with the self-perpetuating lie that men don’t read.
“Men aren’t opposed to strong women; we’re opposed to weak men.”
There’s a golden opportunity here for men to independently publish books interesting to men. If we present men with both fiction and nonfiction that speaks to men and our interests, I think we’ll be surprised at how many men start reading again. We have to solve this problem ourselves, we can’t wait for the (declining) traditional publishing world to solve it for us.