Thursday, July 04, 2013

Can Men Write Fiction Women Want to Read?

Before I say anything more, I'd like to wish you a happy Fourth of July! I imagine many who read this blog on a daily basis might be taking a break to enjoy the holiday. Perhaps you're getting ready to host a crowd at a family barbecue or making plans to join a crowd somewhere else.

If so, you're probably not reading this today. If that's so, hope you had a great day yesterday.

Over the past several years, I've been interviewed on Novel Rocket several times and have occasionally written articles about the writing craft. Starting today, I guess you better get used to me. I've been invited to be a monthly contributor.

Thought I'd start off with something I'm curious about. The idea of men writing fiction. What's got me thinking about this is an honor I received last week when ACFW announced the finalists for this year's Carol Awards. I was thrilled to find my name on that list for my 5th novel, The Discovery (best Historical Fiction category). I've won 3 Carols so far, but I'd happily welcome a fourth.

The following day, Jerry Jenkins pointed out to me that I was the only male author in the list of finalists. I didn't know that. Read the list over and, sure enough, Jerry was right.

I'm kinda used to being in the minority by now (my first novel came out in 2009). It's readily apparent that far more women read and write fiction than men. Surveys I've read suggest an 80/20 ratio. That feels about right when I attend my monthly Word Weaver's critique group and local ACFW chapter. And I know whenever I attend a writing conference I never stand in line at the restroom.

But events of this past week have got me wondering if we might be dealing with a bigger problem than we see on the surface. Could there be any underlying issues fueling this gender gap?

Improving Our Chances


It stands to reason that if 80% of the buying fiction audience are women, then a significant percentage of women will need to "cross over" and buy books written by men, if the men are ever going to make it financially as authors. This poses two questions:
  1. Are male fiction authors writing the kind of books women want to read (and writing them well enough)?
  2. Do some women buyers struggle with a "prejudice" and only buy books written by other women?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this (especially the ladies). Some have suggested my measure of success is largely due to the kind of books I write, which are mostly love stories and family life dramas (reviewers often compare me to Nicholas Sparks or Richard Paul Evans). Typically, the kind of books women like to read.

But I've experienced a good deal of prejudice, myself (if that's the right word). I've lost count of the emails I've received from women who tell me they love my books now, but admit they avoided them on the shelf until after a friend recommended me. This even happened with my current book series, co-authored with Gary Smalley. When Gary was on the hunt to find a fiction author to work with on this new series, my publisher sent a box of books to his executive secretary to review. She later told me, apologetically, that I was the only male author represented in the box and, because of that, she read my books last.


Let's Fix This


So ladies...do we have a problem here? If so, how big is it? What can male fiction authors do to increase this "crossover effect" (get you buying more of our books)? Is it our covers? Our titles? The genre we're writing in? Is it the writing itself? If so, what's the fix?


Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 8 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, Remembering Christmas and The Dance.
He has won 3 Carol Awards and 2 Selah Awards. Five of his books have received RT Reviews “Top Pick” rating. Two were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (2011 and 2012). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where he and Cindi love to take long walks on the beach. To connect with Dan or check out his books, go to: http://danwalshbooks.com. He also blogs weekly with fellow male fiction authors Jim Rubart and Harry Kraus at: http://3menwalkintoablog.com.

54 comments:

Southern Gal said...

I may have had a little question about whether male authors would be "sensitive" enough to "get it right! :-) But any "prejudice" that may have been there has been erased by some of the authors whose work I've read -- including yours right up there at the top! I know the styles among this group are considerably different, but some male authors I've come to love are: Dan Walsh (with and without Gary Smalley), Randy Singer, Richard Paul Evans, Dale Cramer, Jerry Jenkins, Frank Peretti. As far as how to "fix" the "problem" -- I'm not sure. All it took for me was just to jump in there and take a look!

Rachel Muller said...

Hmm. That's a toughy. Dan, I read your books after an ACFW friend pointed out that I may be able to use them as comps. However, after I read The Homecoming I realized that you were an author I would most definitely read again--and I have!

Covers are an attention getter. Most people do judge a book by it's cover and I'm no exception to that. But I can see how a male author would not necessarily want his covers to be too feminine. Maybe a publisher would have a happy medium.

I think Revell does a good job with their cover art. Sarah Sundin's book covers seem to be appropriate for both genders. :)

A good title will get you far. A woman most likely won't pick up a title like The Raptor or Bloodshed On the Mount (titles from my imagination only). We prefer flowery, sentimental titles or something that piques curiosity.

Hope this helps somewhat and thanks for asking our opinion :)

Mary in GA said...

It's not about gender, it's about genre. And talent/craft.

My reading taste ranges all over the board: Jack Higgins, Celia Hayes, Michael Crichton, Kristen Brittain, Elizabeth Moon, Grisham, Dan Walsh, Terri Blackstock, Angela Hunt, Gayle Roper, Sue Grafton, Rita Mae Brown, Clive Cussler, Harry Kraus, Louis L'Amour, Dick Francis, Earlene Fowler,SM Stirling, Kristine Kathryne Rusch, Tom Clancy, Heinlein, T Davis Bunn's early works (before he started writing mostly romances)...

I've read Nicholas Sparks - that lasted about 3 titles before they all started sounding the same to me.

I honestly do not care about the gender of the author, and I don't know that it makes a difference to the book. But then, I also don't care if my friends have the same philosophical beliefs as I do, either, or the same skin color or sexual preferences. What matters is the person, not the packaging. Same thing with books.

When it comes to books, what matters to me is the story, and the presentation of the story. Your book about the unfinished Christmas gift - I could only read it in snatches, but I didn't open another book until I had finished yours because I wanted to see how you resolved the conflict.

Give me well-crafted stories with believable characters, and a plot that makes sense (even if it's in outer space or an alternate universe), and I'll read every book you write in that series. Give me pablum and glop and saccharine cliches and I'll drop you like a hot potato. Gross inaccuracies, whether in grammar or in facts will have the same effect.

I don't care if you bring your faith into the story or not, but if you do, DON"T PREACH AT ME. If I want someone to preach at me, I'll go read a book of sermons.

If you can show me Christians who struggle with their faith the way I struggle with mine, more power to you (you did that, btw, in that unfinished gift book). Terri Blackstock hooked me with Evidence of Mercy, because she shows *real* people in her books. There's a reason she's an NYT best-seller. But I don't need Christ to be blatantly visible in the book - He's the power behind your words, the motivation behind your actions, and your faith can shine in your books without the name of God or Christ ever being mentioned, as long as you write from your heart.

this might not have been what you were trying to find out, but the label "womens' books" is a hot button for me, probably because I see myself as atypical. And if women like to read "love stories and family life drama" then how have Terri Blackstock's legal thrillers been so successful?

Maybe the real problem is that publishers pigeon-hole the audience due to their own biases and assumptions (like the exec secretary who saved your book for last) and the resulting lack of choices prevents publishers from finding out the real truth. Or maybe I'm the one-off, the exception that proves the rule.

But I remember when almost the only thing you could find in CBA were prairie-romances and re-issues of Grace Livingston Hill, and authors had to fight to get other genres even considered, let alone published. As I recall, Terri's first legal thriller represented a huge leap of faith, and Harry Kraus' medical thrillers the same. My friends and I, all female, devoured them, and couldn't wait for more. Same with the Thoene's WWII series, back in the 90s.

Maybe it's not just a gender thing. What's the typical age of the women buying those "love stories and family life dramas" ? What's their social demographic?

*sigh* Sorry I couldn't give you a cut and dried answer to your question, but thanks for getting my brain going before coffee. :-)

Dan Walsh said...

And we're so glad you did! Thanks for taking a chance :)

Dan Walsh said...

Great input, Rachel. I agree, covers matter. A lot more than people think. That old saying is relevant precisely because we DO judge books by their covers.

And I think neutral covers help. For most of my books, that's what Revell has done. With this series co-authored by Gary Smalley, they just dove in entirely marketing to women. Gary and I appealed for more neutral covers, because the books really are written with a 50/50 men/women focus. But the marketing folks wanted to draw in this huge fan base from Gary's last series with Karen Kingsbury.

I get marketing, a little. But guys won't stretch that far, for the most part (reading a book with a cover clearly tailored for the ladies).

Jessica Dotta said...

Dan, great post!

IIt's got me thinking about the subconscious choices I make. I tend to buy books written by men that have male protagonists. I've read female characters written by men before that struck me as untrue. I wonder if you see this when you read male characters written by us :-)

With that said, however, one of my all time favorite books (I think one of the top ten book of this generation) is Memoirs of Geisha, by Authur Golden. He not only wrote a convincing female protagonist, but the entire cast. He absolutely nailed it.

Ane Mulligan said...

Dan, after reading your novels, ABSOTOOTINGLUTELY!! And to be honest, the others I've read that were traditionally published (vetted and edited) were excellent.

As long as the man is able to get input from a woman for the thought process (think bowl of spaghetti) and doesn't make his heroine think like a man (think compartmentalized boxes) . ;o)

I think that's the harder part, harder than getting the emotions right. Women think differently than men. Some women don't get that when they write a man's POV. Men think in a straight line. A to B - there are no C,D,E,etc. A woman's thought process goes through the entire alphabet.

Dan Walsh said...

Mary, sounds like as a reader you're an author's dream. So versatile in your tastes and open-minded, in terms of things like gender. For you, it's about the story and characters and how well a book's written.

It does seem like you might also be in something of a minority, though. There is still a huge audience of women with more "focused" tastes. For example, could anyone have predicted how long this "all things Amish" craze would have lasted? It's actually become something of its own genre. Some months, half the books on the bestseller list are clearly written for a women-only audience.

Having said that, it's only half. We are seeing more and more books that reflect more diversity (like Terry Blackstock) and several other authors whose books men or women might enjoy.

Thanks for the thoughtful answer.

Dan Walsh said...

Jessica, I think most people assume...we don't get each other. Men and women, that is. Lots of evidence out there to feed that assumption. Half the comedians make their living focusing on that theme.

We have this strong attraction that is often frustrated when we try to get close, because we don't look at life the same way.

I think the only thing that can bridge this gap is listening, lots and lots of listening. Not just listening, but listening at a heart level.

If a writer wants to write from the other gender's POV (works both ways), they'd be wise to ask a member of that other gender to read their stuff before sending it in. And not argue with them if they say, "That's not right. That's not how we think."

My wife reads every chapter I write and constantly speaks up (and I want her to) if I get something wrong in the female character's part.

I've read quite a few books written by ladies from a man's POV. Sometimes, it just falls flat. Don't know a single guy that would ever say or do what I just read.

Another benefit of getting that kind of input...over time, you really do gain more insight into how the "other side" thinks. Which is kind of nice.

Dan Walsh said...

Mary, sorry, but I didn't reply to your post here, but down below.

Dan Walsh said...

Ane, totally agree. Just wound up saying pretty much the same thing in my reply to the post just before yours.

I will add this...one of the benefits, I think, of getting that kind of input as part of our rewrite process (input from the opposite gender) is that we can further the understanding of our readers about the way the opposite sex thinks.

That is, if we take the time to get it right.

That kind of thing is showing up a lot in this series I'm doing with Gary. He's all about men and women getting each other. So we're working hard at making sure those nuances show up in the thoughts and dialog of the characters.

Nicole said...

A really great question, Dan, and though I'm not nearly as versatile in my genre choices as Mary in Ga., I can say I generally prefer novels written by men and the usual genres they produce. I read few secular authors, my favorite of all being the late Vince Flynn. Admittedly, I'm an exception to what we perceive as the CBA demographic, but I'm definitely not alone.



I don't think men should cater to women's so-called tastes, maybe especially in CBA, because then we get more of the same. We need men to write like men.

As a writer, most of my protagonists are men, and I work hard at getting their complex voices right in the love stories because, although some men are very romantic, tender, etc., many men are not and are befuddled by the whole "romantic" mess. I think many CBA women readers want (without realizing it) these fantasy male characters who think and act like romantic women. And, honestly, I think a lot of women readers in CBA want to eliminate the reality of the sexual components men bring to the story.

In spite of primarily writing love stories, I don't read many romances in CBA because of their tendency to ignore the sexual component of romance and love. For me, this is totality unrealistic. However, for those male writers tackling love stories in CBA, it seems they too are restricted in this area. (Please note, once again, I'm not talking about including graphic sexual passages.)

All I can offer for men is be who you are. Whatever kind of man you are: write that. Be genuine and don't adhere to typical CBA formula men. That's why I read the CBA male authors I read: because they're male from start to finish. Some do women better than others, but I'd rather read about real men than women.

Anonymous said...

Since you asked me to weigh in, Dan, I'm doing just that. I don't think I've ever had the prejudice you mention about choosing only female authors. I think I naturally drift toward choosing male authors, even though I am female. So, yes, men can write books that women love to read!
I'm an avid reader with favorites ranging from Agatha Christie to John Updike. Currently, I'm reading a series written by a Polish man, Oliver Potzsch.
I'm not sure that the gender of the author makes a difference. I think it's all about the story. If the story intrigues me, then I don't even look at the author's name or creds. I simply get the book. Joy Ross Davis

pol said...

Hi Dan, I am a avid reader of many different types of books, historical romance being one I like best but do read many others.
I think there are not as many men writing as women thus I read more women then men...saying that...I do read several male authors,yourself included.
If a story has not been researched and written well adding both facts and fiction to make it interesting the story won't be as rewarding. I have learned much in my reading and also had much enjoyment. I have traveled to more places then I ever will get to in real life.
I am in awe of the authors that take the time to put lot of facts in their books, I remember reading all of Eugenia Price when she was alive and great stories,even traveled to see Christ church that she wrote about and saw graves there of many people that she had written fictional stories of.
anyway getting away from the men huh?? I love to read a good book no matter male or female author....
Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)
a Ga reader

Dan Walsh said...

Nicole, loved what you said here: "I don't think men should cater to women's so-called tastes...because then we get more of the same. We need men to write like men."

I think you're onto something about "CBA women readers want (without realizing it) these fantasy male characters who think and act like romantic women." Of course, if that happens, the book can't be realistic. Even if a guy is romantic (and many fall down in this area), he will still do "guy romance" the way guys approach the subject.

Dan Walsh said...

Music to my ears. Thanks for 'weighing in' :)

Dan Walsh said...

Thanks Paula. And thanks for including me as one of the male authors you read. You hit on one of the main things I love about reading...getting to go places through books I may never get to see in real life.

Ane Mulligan said...

And that's why I LOVED The Dance so much. It was all about "getting" her. You did it so well. :)

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Such an interesting conversation here! I'll say that Smilla's Sense of Snow had a male-written female main character and the book is on my all-time fave list (beautiful prose, but some very non-Christian scenes, just a disclaimer there)...but women written by men in the ABA are sometimes a) more aggressive than many women--thus, Smilla, Girl w/the Dragon Tattoo, etc, or b) more sappy than many women--thus, Nicholas Sparks. I do think Memoirs of a Geisha was great, but again, women were quite catty in that book, across the board. I've recently found Anita Shreve, who wrote a very convincing male MC in All He Ever Wanted. These are all ABA examples...I will say that Peretti was one of my all-time fave male CBA authors, mostly for subject matter. A throwback example of a classic male writer who really got into his female MC's heads is Thomas Hardy. Hardy seemed to instinctively understand the motivations in different types of women.

Sorry for rambling...just very interesting thoughts. Bottom line--I buy books based on subject matter, not necessarily author. I'm not a big romance reader, so it might explain why I do enjoy male writers...but Nicholas Sparks and even Louis L'amour would be in that romance category, in my mind. Just not my cuppa tea, so I think I don't rep women readers as a whole, esp. CBA female readers. I think even for a FEMALE CBA writer, having "Romance" in your genre name is a sure way in the door.

BK said...

I'm going to give you an answer from a female that isn't going to help you crossover and sell more books, because I probably represent less than half of 1% of the female reading population.

What's going to make me read fiction is finding books THAT ARE NOT ROMANCE. I like plots that are deeper, wider, and full of action. If there is a romance in the story, I need there to be a heck of a lot more going on then whether Jill gets Jack or vice versa. The romance should be a side (and hopefully small) thread to a bigger story. The only genre I typically have any success in finding something that fits the bill is suspense (and they are usually written by male writers), though historicals set in America are my favorite category.

Guess that's why I read far more non-fiction than fiction.

Evelyn Lortz said...

Maybe I'm part of the 'exception to the rule' bunch. Five of my six favorite author's are male. You, Richard Paul Evans and Jason F. Wright. I will admit I stopped reading one popular males books because they were all very much the same. Change the main character's name, change the occupation, kill off a main character and voila....a new book. He was just too much repetition. Your books (as well as my other favorite author's) make me think and, more often than I like, make me take a good look inside myself. All I can say is I hope you keep writing for a very long time.

Rachel Muller said...

I completely understand that. I thought Revell did a wonderful job with your book covers and I honestly like the way you write your novels.

Happy 4th!

Pat Dyer said...

Honestly, Dan, I've read mostly female authors, although I used to read John Grisham books--not romance novels for sure.

I find my tastes a lot like "BK's" in that the romance thread should not dominate the story. I'll turn down a "formula romance" in a heartbeat, but give me suspense and real-life spiritual issues without sounding preachy and I'm ready to read. Yes, make me look inside myself and help me grow.

Historical fiction, such as The Discovery, are captivating to me. But I'll avoid Medieval novels like the plague. Romantic suspense can be enthralling as long as the romance part is ancillary and doesn't insult my intelligence. Sappy just isn't real.

To answer your question, male authors need to know their audience. If they're of the sort that 'can't understand' the complex female mind, they certainly won't be able to reach the part of the heart that wants to listen...or finish their book.

Dan, keep doing what you're doing. You have a handle on it, you're on a roll, and word-of-mouth is the best advertisement there is.

D Liesner said...

Dan, I enjoy your reading for three reasons - one, a big draw is that each story I've read was based on a true incident and then what could have or might have happened. They answer questions I have wondered in a satisfying way. It's like reading a Biblical fiction that makes me want to go back and read the real story again. Second, because you write about men being men and thinking the way men do. I grew up in a very separated setting, to the point that I thought men did not get cold (because they always shoveled, started the car, etc.) and that men did not have any romantic feelings. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my husband cares and feels as deeply (or more so) than I do. I enjoy the romantic aspect of your stories for that reason -they give us women a little more insight into our men. Third, I enjoy your writing style and find it hard to put down until I am done reading.

Patrick Craig said...

Dan,
As a newly published author, I find myself in the unique position of being one of the few men writing Amish fiction. You might think this would disqualify me from 'crossing over' and reaching the hearts of women readers. However, I have one thing going that is of great help to me - I read every Zane Grey book I could find when I was young. Grey is not only the master of adventure stories, action-packed thrillers, and great Western sagas, but in every story he has an incredibly deep and challenging romantic thread - a love between a man and a woman that oftentimes is not resolved until the last paragraph of the book. As I follow this model in my Amish books, I find that my readers (mostly women by the way) can deal with the action side of my writing because each book also has a deep love story.

Friend Across The Sea said...

No prejudice involved at all......If I do not read everyday you can bet I am too ill so this post is coming from an avid reader. The AUTHOR is the defining factor, not the gender.

Some of my favorite male authors are John Jakes, Jim Stovall, James Scott Bell, Jerry Jenkins, Tim LaHaye and, of course, Dan Walsh. Also Nicholas Sparks from my home state...Edgar Rice Burroughs and the master, Louis L'Amour. All are fabulous writers and keep me eagerly turning pages. Actually I'm surprised this topic has come up, never even entered my head before.

Karen S. said...

I do believe it's about gender. My mother said it best, "Men's emotions are like water faucets, they turn them on and off- while women linger with emotions, like a constant dripping faucet! I do think when an author gets their work out always helps, especially with short little blogs like this! Now, after reading this, I need to get your latest work!

Dan Walsh said...

Thanks for responding, Heather. Even though my novels are compared to Sparks, I see differences in our books (not the least of which is he sells in the millions, me in the thousands). I would include a significant love story element in most of my stories, but they aren't "romance novels."

I usually have a lot going on in the story besides the romantic themes. For example, in The Discovery we have Nazi spies, FBI interrogations and manhunts, etc.

I also don't have tragic endings, which Sparks seems to use often.

Dan Walsh said...

Thanks BK. That's what I like, too, and read mostly when I do get to read for fun. I enjoy a good love story built in but that can't be the entirety of the plot. So I don't classify my books as romance novels.

I was talking with another male fiction author, Murray Pura. He said something I agree with. We're writing stories using the classic template from a different era where there's this big drama unfolding but a love story is part of the plot.

Dan Walsh said...

That's the plan, Evelyn. Glad to be among your favorites.

Dan Walsh said...

Thanks so much, Pat. I love writing books like The Discovery. Have several more stories roughed out for my next proposal, which I'll turn in sometime before the year's out (hope they go for it).

Dan Walsh said...

And I enjoyed your comment immensely. Thanks for the kind words.

Dan Walsh said...

Thanks "Friend.' Us guys probably talk about it and think about it a bit more than the ladies. So I thought I'd toss it out and see what you all think.

Bruce Judisch said...

Dan,

Good question, and I've read the above responses with great interest. I certainly hope that any 'prejudice' gap will close, as I try to appeal to both men and women in my novels.

At the risk of this sounding like a veiled marketing ploy--it really isn't, I'm just trying to address the issue from a male writer's perspective--I surprised myself at how much I enjoy writing from a woman's POV; in fact, a female reviewer commented on "The Word Fulfilled," "As a woman, I greatly appreciate how Bruce (like Lloyd) develops his female characters." I've written one novel that I think would largely appeal more to men (but am willing to be proven wrong... :-) ), then three that I think would have strong appeal for women. TWF has been commented upon above. "Katia" is written in 1st-person POV by a 21-year-old woman and deals with her encounter and relationship with a 60-year-old woman from another era and another culture. The sequel "For Maria" is again heavily slanted toward female characters and perspective.

How well I write is up to the reader to assess; I hope my style and craft are appreciated, although there's always room for improvement. In any event, I think the answer to your question as to whether men can write for women is 'yes'. I look forward to the day that your second question would be answered, "Prejudice? Whatever do you mean?" :-)

Thanks for this article. I enjoyed reading and responding.

Cheers! Bruce

Dan Walsh said...

Thanks Karen. While what you said is typically the case, there's a percentage of us guys who feel things pretty deeply on a regular basis. My wife would say, at times, I react or respond to situations sometimes with more emotion than her. And I often take days to get over things that she gets over fairly quickly.

Maybe I'm missing a gene, or have one too many :)

rachelallord.com said...

Some of my all time favorite authors: Bret Lott, Leif Enger, Nick Hornby, Michael O'brien, Victor Hugo, John Steinbeck. All men, all have captured women (both characters and readers) in varying and beautiful ways. It's all about the work. And I almost hate to admit this, but sometimes I refuse a book because it seems like it's going to be too "sentimental" and those are usually written by women. (sorry sorry!)Looking forward to checking out your work!

Ric 'The Turtle' Ryan said...

I don't know about bias but check out the number of male comments. That might say something. Last year was my first year at the BRMCWC and I did instantly see that men were in the minority. There was some prejudice too. Men were not allowed in the Zumba sessions. LOL. One of the classes I wanted to take was speaking to groups and it was restricted to women. I talked to the instructor and Vonda Skelton assured me it was not prejudice. This year she offered the class to men also,but I had not noticed it and already had my schedule full. Next year Lord Willing it is a sure thing.

As a writer I do not read a lot, at least not as much as I did before I started writing. My wife however goes through several books per week. She favors romance but reads a lot of male authors also. I only read the ones she raves about. They seem to be equally divided between between men and women. They are also evenly divided between thrillers and romance, but she does tend to favor males in the thriller department. As for your books I have not tried them yet. I will get one for my wife and see her response.

The one difference I have noticed in this post from others on this blog is the length of the answers. They seem to be much longer and more detailed in this post. I was scared my replies were to long, but now I see them as about normal. Will be checking out the links you gave for sure.

Dan Walsh said...

Thanks for responding Bruce. I do think one criticism I have heard from women when reading male author's handling of women in their books is that they have the women (sometimes) reacting more like men would.

To me, this is easily avoided by making sure we have women read those parts in the rewrite phase before sending it in.

Having said that, I think women writing as men need to do the same.

Dan Walsh said...

Leif Enger's first book is in my Top 5 list.

I have a hunch that authors who wind up writing from the opposite gender's POV, and do it well, probably relate well to the opposite gender in life.

Sybil Bates McCormack said...

Hi, Dan. Look out. My innate biases are about to show. :-) I read books written by both men and women, but I tend to want different things from each. When I read a book by a woman, I look for a heightened sensitivity and "awareness" from the female protagonist's perspective that I wouldn't expect a male author to achieve. I enjoy clean contemporary romances and historicals by women for that reason. (I'm afraid I haven't read any of your books yet, but I'm mature enough to realize that I should do so now. :-))

If I read a book by a man, on the other hand, I look for grit and urgency. I'm a lawyer and sometimes "get into the mood" for a great legal thriller. Most of those books--even in the inspirational market--are written by men by default. That being said, I hope to get published in a hybrid romantic suspense/legal thriller genre someday. The question is, will either women or men want to read such works when they see my name on the cover? Great topic, by the way...

Dan Walsh said...

You appear to be very observant, Ric. A good thing for a writer :).

I've really enjoyed the long answers. Tells me people are thinking this through. I don't actually have "answers" for this dilemma. Just wanted to move the ball down the field a few yards in the right direction.

I think the prejudice thing really goes both ways. I know men who won't read a book written by a woman, period. Even if it's a thriller.

The problem seems to be, we are prone to generalize and stereotype each other. If something happens 3-4 times to us, it becomes like the Law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be changed.

Correcting a prejudice seems like a slow process. But it can happen.

Dan Walsh said...

Sybil, you can always go by "SB McCormack," keep 'em guessing. But I think that prejudice thing shows up for some right at the gender level.

But a great book is a great book. Seems like word-of-mouth recommendation is required even then for a biased person to break out of their mold and read something they typically avoid.

Thankfully, this does happen, or there's no way I'd be writing my 11th contracted novel right now.

Will Schmit said...

Dan, I think a better question might be why don't Christian men read/write anything besides the sports page and comics? I'm a fledgling author, ACFW member and quarter finalist in some first author contest I don't remember. I think I share a common problem with other men in that I/we don't want to be told I have to change my storylines and style to fit a female perspective. My first effort about an aging boxer that leads his former opponent to Christ was rejected out of hand because women wouldn't want to read about men hitting each other. True I had plenty of rookie errors as well, but was told to introduce a daughter/wife/love interest etc to make it more marketable to ladies. Where's the male market?

I'd love to see a focus on perhaps the YA market to get men and boys interested in reading/writing. It's time to turn the page in the world of Christian fiction.

Bruce Judisch said...

Agreed. My wife is my foremost beta reader--she makes sure I don't get away with anything like that. :-)

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Yes, I think I read that Sparks is a "bittersweet" ending-writer. All the best to you and thanks for bringing up this interesting topic!

Dan Walsh said...

Will, hate to say this, but as I read your comment the thought came, "...in a perfect world..." What you're talking about isn't something you or I can fix. That is, why more Christian men aren't reading fiction. Maybe they should be, but that's not something we can change.

Since they're not, publishers have to deal with the market as it is, which is 80/20 (some might even say 85/15) slanted toward women.

If you don't want to write books that take that math into account, you won't find many Christian fiction publishers who will give you the time of day.

Picture me, talking to the owners of JoAnn Fabrics about setting up a cigar kiosk in their stores. Not gonna happen. Might have a better chance in a car parts store where a greater percentage of men shop.

My advice would be to learn everything you can about self-publishing through the Ebook world. One of the big bullets on everyone's list who writes about this is: "Complete creative control over the content of your book."

The male market is there, just not in Christian fiction (way bigger ratio in non-fiction). The numbers are just not large enough to sustain enough sales to make the amount of money a publisher would need to make to say yes to your book, as is.

IMHO :)

Dan Walsh said...

Will, I accidentally replied to your comments below, without clicking on the Reply button that would indent my comment beneath yours (like this one will). So this is my 2nd comment.

Just thought of something else, maybe more addressing your "why" question.

One of the cause-issues I've experienced is how few pastors and church leaders read fiction. They rarely, if ever, quote from it, or promote a fiction book. I was a pastor for 25 years. I was the only pastor guy I knew who read fiction. I sent my first novel to about 25 pastor friends, all who said this was the first fiction book they'd read since literature class in high school. But they read, quoted from and promoted non-fiction books all the time.

Another cause, I think, is the attitude of Christian media in general. In the last 5 years, I've run across many Christian radio and TV sources who have a policy of NOT interviewing Christian fiction authors, only non-fiction ones. Some do, but the majority do not.

I can't tell you why this exists, but until it changes, I think it fuels the problem you've raised.

Dan Walsh said...

Thanks so much, Rachel!

Dan Walsh said...

Thanks Ane, worked hard on that. Glad it came through.

Dan Walsh said...

That is wise. It's great having our wives help and support, isn't it? Sadly, I've talked with so many women authors who aren't getting that kind of help from their hubbies.

BK said...

Will, I sympathize with the tedious feedback about "introduce a love interest" and this does not just happen to men.

It's one thing if my characters need development to make them strong and leap off the page, it's another to say "introduce a romantic element" by rote.

Janice C Johnson said...

Speaking as a reader, I enjoy a number of male authors' works, whether overtly Christian or not. One reason is that the male characters tend to be realistic. In women's books, especially romances, the leading man is more likely to come across as impossibly sensitive and understanding, more like a girlfriend with whiskers than a real guy.
Don't get me wrong: there are some awesome women novelists out there that I also like, but you didn't ask about them. ;)

Anonymous said...

I have coordinated at book club in our church for the past 11 years. I checked our reading lists, and at least one selection each year was by a male. I pick titles by genre and reviews,not whether the author is male or female. Some of our all time favorites are early Ted Dekker and Charles Martin (one of my personal top 10). Summers, I like to do a theme. Last summer it was "Fiction by Men": Athol Dickson, W. Dale Cramer, and Lee Strobel. We had not read novels by them before. This summer it is "Medical-themed books". Two out of the three selections are by men. You will be pleased to know that when I choose this years books, The Discovery, made the cut for November!
--Buffalo Patty

Gina Holmes said...

I have to say most of my favorite authors are men: Charles Martin, Stephen King, Leif Enger, John Irving,Arthur Golden... to name a few. I think you guys do quite all right. I've heard great things about your latest, Dan. Can't wait to add you to that list!