The issue struck me again in the last few days. And this next may have been at least part of the reason. I was sent this the other day within an Instagram messages exchange with a reader:
You may recognize the passage she – from New Orleans, in the U.S. – included and then commented right below it. Given it is a pretty “big” book, so to speak, even if you have read it you may not immediately recall it, of course. (And this is not “school” – there is no test involved. LOL!) It is from Conventions and is said by “Robert” when in a scene in Paris in 1790 he is talking with another American (man) about the French revolutionary government.
Which I guess leads me here. I have learned over the last eight years or so in writing that you never know who will read your work and where they will be on the planet. Moreover that message to me from that reader is also no surprise in this sense: Insofar as I can tell, some “90 percent” of my readers have always been women.
I cannot answer why that gender “imbalance” – and it is not just Americans, but global – might be so, but I also cannot argue with the facts before me. For instance I have seen my book covers pop up, for example, on Pinterest boards… and which gender is still by far the biggest user of that social media platform? You guessed it.
When I started writing in 2012-13, while I was aiming of course for my own voice and style and originality, I was broadly thinking kinda genre-vaguely (because we have to) along the lines of Casablanca, Henry James, and, later, The Winds of War and War and Peace. I did not look to write books that appealed primarily to women. I hoped for something of a “balanced” readership.
But quickly it became obvious to me that was not to be the case; that my readership would be greatly gender “unbalanced.” I know now that women just gravitate to my novels far more than do men. That is simply how it is.
From a purely publishing standpoint, that is not necessarily a bad thing either. Women are much more likely to read novels than are men. Indeed that women read more novels than men has been well-known for over 200 years among publishers in the U.S. and Europe.
So come December or so when my latest above is (I hope) released, I have no reason not to believe that most of those who buy it eventually will in all likelihood be women.
I suppose as well looking at its probable back cover (a late-1770s French painting of a young lady carving her initials into a tree – a scene that should be familiar to anyone who has read Conventions), given the way many men can be I also would hardly be surprised they may feel it is not for them: they see a woman in a dress and think it must be a “woman’s” tale.
Still, men do read, for example, Anna Karenina. You may know I have been doing so. And that front cover did not put me off.
I would be pleased if more men wanted to read my novels. However, I just accept now that they will probably never do so in numbers anywhere near approaching women. I know who my readers mostly are and likely always will be.
Have a good weekend wherever you are. 🙂