Via GalleyCat comes an article by one Tom Matlack, who thinks that the publishing business has given up on trying to attract male readers. The core of this theory seems to be based on his failure to find a publisher for a proposed anthology of what GalleyCat describes as “first-person stories about manhood”:
We hired the best agent in the business, wrote a detailed book proposal, and went shopping for a publisher. Fifty (that’s 5-0, including a who’s who list of the literary world) turned us down. They told us guys don’t read, would never read any kind of anthology, and most certainly wouldn’t read an anthology about men. Apparently we are all mindless fools. The publishers also said they were focused exclusively on the “sure-thing” celebrity books in the wake of deteriorating economics. Just about that time we noticed a well-received anthology in the New York Times Review of Books written by women during menstruation.
Well, I’m a male reader… and the prospect of a fifty-story anthology of first-person tales about defining moments of manhood is not one that has me enthusiatically opening a search tab on Amazon. My immediate instinctive response is that Matlack has perhaps mistaken lack of interest in a particular book proposal for a lack of interest in reaching male readers in general.
I’m willing to believe that men as a demographic may read less fiction, but if that’s the case then surely pitching predominantly for a female audience is actually a sound market-driven move by publishers? It’s a chicken and egg argument, really; are there less manly books for men because men don’t read so much, or do men not read so much due to the lack of manly books for men? The massive hype around the forthcoming Dan Brown book would seem to suggest that publishers have no problem with putting out male-orientated books if they think people are going to buy them.
Overall, I think the notion that publishing has “given up” on male readers is utter balls, even beyond the notably male-centric domain of science fiction; it sounds like a domain-specific re-run of those “OMG male white Anglo-Saxons are an oppressed minority!!1” whinges that get trotted out from time to time, and Matlack’s exasperated mention of a successful anthology about menstruation as somehow proving his point does little to dispel the whiff of affronted yet passive misogyny.
So, male Futurismic readers – do you feel that publishers aren’t putting out the sort of books that appeal to you as a man (as opposed to as a reader in general)?