Feminism and it's effects on the current book market.

by 11:09 PM 3 comments
Statistics.

Sorry, didn't mean to swear on my blog (well, this one anyways, lol), but at times they can be useful.

I will get to the Statistics in a bit, but I wanted to preface them first by giving a little context.

Unless you've been living in a cave, you know that we are in a down economy. As an aspiring writer attempting to be honest with myself, I have to realize that novels are typically one of the first things to disappear from the weekly budget.

Nonetheless, there is still growth happening in our little neck of the literary woods. People are still buying books, and year on year, the growth has been fairly impressive.

If you are a writer, this is reassuring news, as there just may be readers with discretionary income left in the economy by the time your novel is ready for publication.

The logical next step when marketing your new book might be to consider how much of that market might consider the genre that your novel will fall into. How much of that pie will you have access to?

Let's be honest, right now certain genre's are more popular than others. There isn't anything wrong with this, but the sales numbers in the Young Adult Supernatural Teen Romance category are really high right now.

But, is this simply a residual "Halo" effect from the popularity of the Twilight novels by Stephanie Meyer? It's possible, but to assume so is a severe disservice to the talented authors in this genre. A few people might unwittingly give a poorly written novel a chance, but in order to sell in the numbers that these novels have been lately requires word of mouth advertising, and people do not recommend poorly written books to friends.

Ultimately, the more people buying Kindle's, Nooks, and Paperbacks instead of watching reality television can only be seen as a positive turn for the industry. Authors like Stephanie Meyer, Amanda Hocking, Lauren Kate, Morgan Rice, Sara Shepard, Lauren Oliver (I could go on and on, there are a ton of great authors in this genre, but I settled for grabbing a few names I recognized from the Amazon bestsellers lists) are doing very well, and I think that is awesome.

So, what to do if your novel doesn't fit into this genre? Do you take up the torch and chase the sales of a hot genre, even though it's not one you are particularly enthusiastic about?

I hope not. I like to think that every story on Amazon or iBooks is a product of the authors soul, and not simply a moneymaking exercise. Is that a part of it? Probably, but I will get to that later.

If you have a great detective story, do you start inserting werewolves and vampires (sparkling or otherwise) into the plot, even if it hurts the story?

Again, I have to hope that this is not the case. There are plenty of other reasons why these novels work, and they don't all involve the supernatural. They don't all involve the romance, although that is a larger part, and perhaps the largest part of all (and the most reassuring to me as a writer) may be the "Young Adult" part of the formula.

Tastes change and evolve over time. Popularity of certain genre's will shift based on a number of factors, including which novels are currently being adapted into films or which genre happens to have the "Halo" novel or franchise at the moment.

I believe that there is an underlying thread beneath many of the popular genre's above.

Women.

Any guys reading this post may be scoffing right now, but hear me out, I've put a lot of thought into this.

The genre's that are gaining in popularity right now all have one thing in common-They have strong female characters, and an engrossing love story. Whatever else is going on, the vast majority of successful new authors and novels are making these aspects integral parts of their work. Again, why might this be?

I'm glad you asked! I am trying to improve in all areas of my writing, and part of that improvement will have to come in the form of marketing knowledge. Knowing how to sell your book is a requirement if you aren't fortunate enough to have a large sum of money to buy ad space in magazines and newspapers. And over 50% of the populace (the people you are marketing to) are women.

Even more important demographic information can be gleaned with a little research. Here's what a quick Google search (the pinnacle of irrefutable evidence, I know) turned up.

18% of new Kindle sales over the last year are to Men.
82% of new Kindle sales over the last year are to WOMEN.

(Okay, I reverse engineered the percentage of women, the figure I found spoke only of the men. I felt comfortable assuming that the percentage of people that were neither men or women were statistically inconsequential. No, I can't produce my source because I can't remember it. I hope you weren't at this site expecting sound journalism, lol. The figures could be off, but as Amazon guards their figures closesly, who really knows what is true and what is inaccurate?)

And with an installed base of those proportions, you can be rest assured that the percentage of books sold to each gender to be similar.

If you chauvinistically refuse to give voice to the women in your story (There are women in every story, unless....well....unless you write novels that target an even smaller demographic than the 18% above), you are doing two things-dismissing over 80% of the audience, and short-change yourself as an author.

Like I said, women  are an equal part of our world, and an overwhelming force in the literary world.

Again, am I saying to rewrite your novel to shoe-horn in as many women with memorable personalities as possible? No. I am simply saying be conscious of the fact that women need to be heard just as much as men do, and if you have no clue how to write convincing women, do not take your advice from Jack Nicholson's character in "As Good as it Get's".

The famous line from that movie? Jack's character ( I forget the characters name), is a writer that writes romance novels. A lady stops him in the hall of his apartment building and asks him and asks him how he writes female characters so well.

Sarcastically, he responds with, "I start with a man, then I take away reason and accountability."

Obviously he was being a sarcastic ass, but I think the ability to write convincing women is a talent that is lacking somewhat among my literary brothers. There are characters like Steig Larsson that I consider to be full fledged feminists, who also happen to be men. They write convincing, strong female leads and also manage to write men appropriately as well. But the skill is one, like all writing, that needs to be developed.

I am admittedly not the best at it, as I haven't written many female leads, and have no personal experience of being a woman to draw from, lol.

So I decided to keep it simple. Women are human, so I started approaching them like any other character.

I started out by determining two character traits-motivations and resources. I've found that if you know what drives a character to do what they do, and have a handle on their resources (both connections to other people and material things), you have a good start towards understanding that character.

Resources are really not entirely different between the genders, those are dictated more by class and status than by chromosomal differences.

So that leaves motivations. Undoubtedly any ladies reading this article will disagree with any possible motivations that I present in this article, but I am going to present them anyways-for the sake of discussion.

I'm sure you can find equally enlightening motivations for men, so I will try to compare the two. Keep in mind that I think the differences between the two genders are largely taught by society at large rather than genetic, so before anyone complains, take a long hard look and see if you happen to know people that have these same failings, on either side of the gender fence.

Women and men both seek admiration. While women have been encouraged to seek it through physical appearances, men prefer to gauge their worth more often in toughness or monetary measurements.

Women tend to gravitate towards social environments, while men tend to be more comfortable in more select company. The reasons for this are pretty obvious from my first comparison. While women are taught to draw satisfaction from the respectful admiration of others, Men are subconsciously engaging in mental pissing contests with everyone in the room that approaches their testosterone level.

The material possessions that seem to matter most to women are of the Jewelry/Home variety, while Men are more likely to spend the bulk of their disposable income on toys like trying to get the biggest/fastest/most powerful truck in their turf, the biggest TV, the newest smartphone, etc.

In essence, I think women are more nurturing and men are more protective. Why this is? Who knows. Perhaps the antiquated traditional roles die hard, perhaps they are still in place mostly because they've worked.

Of course these are generalizations, and not 100% accurate 100% of the time, but you can see many of these traits in someone you know. The Authors inspiration is often the people around them, so watch them closely and learn.

See what they get excited about, what they spend most of their free time/money on.  Man or Woman. Especially watch those around you that you DON'T identify with.

Anyone can write characters that embody the traits we WISH members of the opposite gender exhibited. When women write male characters, they tend to be either gallant and protective (while still managing to avoid becoming overbearing) or stupid, lazy and violent. When men write women, they tend to be either subservient and amazingly beautiful, or excessively strong willed and bitchy.

You see, there are opposite ends of the spectrum that neither gender hits very often. In my experience, writers either write characters for them to be liked, tolerated, or despised. The tools they employ to do that understandably come from what they consider to be an ideal or the opposite of ideal of the opposing gender.

Reality lies somewhere in the middle, and while I understand that the middle is synonymous with "boring", I simply mean to keep in mind the characters motivations and resources, and allocate intelligence more uniformly when deciding who gets to play with a full deck, and who gets a short stack of cards.

In Steig Larsson's Millenium Trilogy, There are really only two real leads-Mikhael and Lisbeth. While they both  posses good qualities, they both also share equally interesting faults. Lisbeth is tough, and a genius with numbers, strategy, and computers. Mikhael is stubborn and bull-doggish, but also resourceful and quite a charmer when the mood strikes him.

They both receive multiple layers, and while their resources shift and change over the course of the three books, their motivations remain somewhat linear. Lisbeth seeks to insulate herself from society as much as possible, only peeking her head out of a hole when a mystery requires solving or she runs out of microwaveable pizza's. Mikael chases a story relentlessly, but ends up pissing many people off in the process without much of a care.

So in closing, I say that we could ALL be considerate of the immense market share female readers now posses, and if you want to gain more interest from female readers, then you should expect to have to give them characters that they can identify with, and stories that keep their mind racing while pulling at their heartstrings. In order to do this, look around you, as far as I am concerned, there's more cases of study in female behavior than there are men to study them.

Write YOUR story, but recognize the fact that over half of the population in this world are women. If your stories keep them on the sidelines, then your story is weaker for it. Let them in the game, and you will not only  expand your audience, you will broaden your narrative.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Chris Godsoe

Developer

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