Men do not read fiction. That’s the verdict we’ve been handed from “official” surveys of the reading public for years (see examples here, here, here, here, here… ok, you get it.) I’d argue the point – hey! I read lots of fiction – but I know from my own experience that this true. I’ve had male friends tell me that their lives are “too busy to read fiction.” One even referred to fiction as “make believe.” It’s an interesting assertion, as I’m sure that none of these gents restrict their television and movie viewing to documentaries. What’s more, when men do read fiction, we tend to read books written by men. A Guardian article quotes a researcher on gender reading habits, “fiction by women remains “special interest”, while fiction by men still sets the standard for quality, narrative and style.” It would seem understandable then for fiction by female authors to just forego men altogether in its marketing. Yet I was actually surprised when this actually happened to me.
After reading Nicole’s review of Lauren Groff’s short story collection Delicate Edible Birds, I bumped the book to the top of my reading stack. After all, I had loved Groff’s The Monsters of Templeton. I’m happy to report that Nicole’s review was dead on, Delicate Edible Birds is a wonderful collection. After finishing the book, I closed the cover for the last time with a satisfied smile. Then I looked at the book mark that I had been using and that had come with the book. I forget the exact wording, but it said something about Voice being an exciting new imprint for discerning women readers – just like me! What in the what… It turns out that Monsters of Templeton was published on the Voice imprint, too! Oh, Dear God, what have I been doing?!
After a few weeks of soul searching and a little therapy, I was able to put the shock behind me and look into it a little further. Sure enough, the book’s imprint, describes itself like this on their web site, Every Woman’s Voice:
Voice is a new imprint of books for women at the center of life—fiction and nonfiction for smart, educated, busy, curious, seasoned women for whom reading is a passion. Women who want to read to figure out what they want next. An imprint by and for women—as women see themselves.
Hmm. Where does that leave me? In the end, it probably doesn’t matter. Since men don’t read books written by women, there is probably little risk to the author’s viability by marketing the book this way. And I suppose that guys like me who do read (and like!) this type of book will just have to get over this characterization of our demographic. Somehow.