Why Men Don’t Read Romance

If you’re a Christian man who reads Christian fiction, well, you’re a dying breed. Call it payback for centuries of misogynist tyranny, but finally karma has caught up. Don’t believe me? A stroll down the Religious Fiction aisle will cool your jets, bubba.

When it comes to Christian fiction, men are in the minority.

Many have undertaken to analyze the publishing industry’s tilt toward women. One of the most common explanations is simply the masculine constitution. Men aren’t wired to read. Compounding this genetic drag is the startling fact that 80% of the novels out there are romance and/or women’s fiction. EIGHTY PERCENT! So not only must men struggle against their Neanderthal nature, we must do so in an industry that doesn’t care much about us. A while back, blogger Becky Miller revisited this complicated and controversial issue in a post entitled Women in Fiction. She wrote: I heard a startling figure this last weekend—fully eighty percent of all books (not just Christian books) sold in the US are romances. Accurate or not, I think the perception is telling—we are a culture seeking relational bliss, women with men. Yes, there are coming of age stories featuring guys. Hatchet comes to mind as does Peace Like a River. And there are some action-adventure stories mostly about guys. Alton Gansky has written at least one such book. So has Ted Dekker. But for the most part, women show up in fiction, if not in the protagonist’s role, then in a role demanding her own subplot. So I wonder. Is this why men notoriously don’t read fiction? Do guys really not want to read the romance, just as they do not want to go to movies identified as romantic comedies? Do they not read because they don’t want to know what Jo and Meg and Beth and Amy were whispering about in their attic? Do they not read because they don’t care how Ann Shirley felt as a little orphan girl arriving in a home that expected a boy. Do men not read because books are too cerebral and not visceral enough? Or manly enough? And if women protagonists become tougher, more clever, stronger, and independent, will men want to read about those women more? (emphasis mine) The connection between men not reading fiction and the market’s glut of romance is, I think, perceptive. Could it be that men simply don’t read more fiction because most of the fiction out there is romance?
Personally, I have no problem following a female protagonist. None. And to answer Becky’s question, I don’t require fictional females to “become tougher, more clever, stronger, and independent.” In other words, a more “manly woman” is not attractive and definitely would not coax me into reading a straight romance novel. In fact, I’d suggest it’s women who want “manly women” (confident, strong-willed, independent, professional females) in their tales, not men. As regards romance, “getting the girl” is the stuff of men (and boys!). Heck, that’s practically all the guys at my work talk about. (Of course, what that means for them is a whole other story.) Still, men want to be with women… it’s just that that means two different things for perspective parties. Which could be part of the literary divide.
Why women’s fiction dominates the Christian fiction industry and how its presentation of romance aligns with a biblical model are questions that female Christian writers and readers should undertake. But having got my hand slapped last time I undertook to do so, allow me to offer three reasons why male readers do not read romance:

  • Men fear complicated emotions — Deal with it. We don’t process feelings, nor express them, very well. It’s the downside of our left-brainedness. So entire novels based on processing emotions scare the crap out of us!
  • Men define romance differently than women — Sorry. You’re dealing with genetics here. Candlelit dinners and fireside snuggling must lead to the bedroom… which puts Christian romance at an even greater disadvantage. Furthermore, reading about romance / sex is not satisfying to a species preoccupied with the physical, as opposed to the emotional, side of the dance.
  • Men view romance as only part of their story — Males — especially males who read — are driven by things other than just romance. Career, competition, adventure, technology, food (okay, maybe food is just my drive), are bound up in the male psyche. Romance is just a compartment in your man, not his whole world.

So in answer to Becky’s question, I agree that men don’t read fiction because most fiction is geared toward romance. I would also add that it’s not female protagonists, strong or weak, that keep men from reading romance, but a view of romance that is lop-sided and defined primarily by female novelists and their fans.
But this is just one Neanderthal’s opinion.Mike is a monthly contributor to Novel Journey. He is represented by the rockin’ Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. Mike’s debut novel, “The Resurrection,” is available in stores and online now. You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.

The Power of One

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? Luke 15:4
“I love your blog. Keep up the good work…” My tears blurred the rest of the e-mail as I bowed my head. “Lord, You knew just what I needed today. Thank you.” The last few weeks had been hard as I tried to adjust to the changes that my continued eye problems necessitated. With reduced computer time and daily tasks taking longer, I had decided that morning to let go of blogging.
But through the day, as the words of the e-mail flitted through my mind, I reconsidered my decision, and marveled at the influence of one person’s words. As the sun’s rays disappeared beneath the horizon, I remembered the Shepherd who left the ninety-nine in the pen to search for the missing one. The One whose love embraces us one at a time, whose call reaches one heart at a time—something that’s sometimes obscured by mass communication, social networking, platform building, and marketing’s emphasis on numbers. So I’m still blogging, keeping in mind that God’s economics are different than mine. His words, written through each of us, wrap themselves around the hearts of one reader at a time, and maybe one reader reaches out to another and another…the power of one.

When Anita Mellott isn’t homeschooling, she writes to encourage others (From the Mango Tree  (http://amellott.wordpress.com/). She has more than ten years of experience as a writer/editor in the nonprofit world. Her book of devotionals for homeschooling parents will be released by Judson Press in summer 2011.

Today Only !

Okay Guys,

If you’re not subscribed to the Barnes and Noble newsletter, you might not know that today they are giving away a free cup of coffee for people who come in and test drive a COLOR Nook.

(As if we needed an excuse to go browse Barnes and Noble and take in the smell of books and coffee!)

Guest Blog ~ Don’t Fear ! ~ Erin Healy

Don’t Be Afraid of the Editing Process

By Erin Healy

I’ve been a writer since I was in first grade and an editor by profession for almost twenty years, but I only published my first novel in 2008, so that pretty much makes me a greenhorn. It would be dishonest to say I started writing without thinking I had an edge. With all this storytelling savvy encoded in the wee gray cells, all this experience working with the industry’s best authors, surely I could write a bestseller on my first try.

I know, I know. I might as well have been a Scandinavian brain surgeon with no English-speaking skills writing for a US audience. The very short summary of my humbling initiation to this new career is that I am still on a steep learning curve. The Editor Erin and the Writer Erin don’t even exist in the same hemispheres of my brain. After five novels, though, I’ve succeeded in getting them to shake hands across my corpus callosum. They’re even starting to like each other.

When the shock of discovering that editorial skill does not equal writing skill faded, I was comforted by the fact that editing nevertheless lent me one clear advantage: I don’t have any fear of the editorial process. And I believe that all the dread associated with urban-legend-variety editorial horror stories doesn’t have to be a part of your experience either, even if you’ve never been an editor.

Very few novelists don’t fear the process. Some have unwavering confidence in their creative choices. Some writers are only “edited” by friends. Some have only known editors who don’t have high expectations. Some approach editors as a necessarily evil, like a lecturing doctor; we submit willingly because we feel we must, while we grit our teeth and chant, This is for my own good. This is for my own good.

More often, a novelist sends off a manuscript and then hunkers down to make battle preparations, anticipating the editor’s objections, formulating arguments against the editor’s prejudices, and compiling feedback from an inner circle of readers who loved!!! the first draft.

This defensiveness comes from the belief that the editorial process is essentially a debate about who is right or wrong. I confess there are editors who have nurtured this idea, that I was such an editor once upon a time. As representatives of your financial investor (read: publisher), we get to pull rank and sometimes must. Worse, though, are the professionals who believe it’s their job to set authors straight and aren’t very good at thinking of their role as a partner. But Deuteronomy 2:10 instructs: “Do not plow with an ox and an ass together.” So I say to authors and editors alike: Don’t be an ass. Both of you had better be strong oxen pulling in the same direction.

When I grew up, I set aside my belief in editing-as-debate. An attitude of editing-as-partnership serves me well as an editor and serves me even better as a writer. I need my editors, because it is impossible for me to read my work the way they do, and they are trained to help me write bridges that reach my readers. My novels would be sub-par without them, in spite of all the editorial knowledge I possess.

If you’d like to have a fearless encounter with your editorial partner, try entering the experience with these assumptions:

1. Believe that the editorial process is really about learning how other people read your work, and how to get more people to read your work. Good editors will bring a great body of collective knowledge to this goal. Expect them to! Invite them to! The more information you have, the more informed your decisions will be.

2. Believe you and your editor will have a good relationship. Sure, things can and do go wrong. Not all matches are made in heaven. But many relationships go bad merely because one of the partners expects the worst at the outset. The opposite also tends to be true: respect breeds respect. The more you respect your editor’s contributions, the more you will be respected as a writer.

3. Believe that disagreements are worth having. What good is an editor who doesn’t challenge you to see your work from a surprising perspective? You don’t have to agree with everything your editor says. Neither should you disregard what you don’t like. Participate in the disagreement or risk stagnating. (Editors also grow this way; we’re students too.)

We novelists face enough fear and insecurity just because we’re artists. Why add to the burden we already carry by fearing the very people who want our art to be well-received?

Yesterday I delivered a 7,000-word editorial memo to a new client who’s written her first novel. She has poured blood from her heart into this story. I lost sleep worrying how to say without devastating her just how much work I believe the book needs. I figured she’d hate my opinion, and maybe even me. Instead, she wrote this: “It was overwhelming and I shed a few tears, but then I began to look at it as a new adventure, and a way I can take my writing to the next level.”

She’s a strong ox. She’s going to do just fine.

Erin Healy is an award-winning editor and bestselling co-author of the supernatural suspense novels Kiss (Thomas Nelson | 2009) and Burn (Thomas Nelson | January 2010) with Ted Dekker. Her solo debut, Never Let You Go (Thomas Nelson | May 2010), ushered in a new brand of fiction, building on her work with Dekker, that melds supernatural suspense with female-friendly relational drama.

Healy is the owner of WordWright Editorial Services and specializes in fiction book development. She has worked with popular authors such as Frank Peretti, James Scott Bell, Melody Carlson, Colleen Coble, L. B. Graham, Brandilyn Collins, Rene Gutteridge, Michelle McKinney Hammond, Robin Lee Hatcher, Denise Hildreth, Denise Hunter, Jane Kirkpatrick, Gilbert Morris, Lisa Samson, Randy Singer and Robert Whitlow.

Healy earned her bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in communication studies from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., and began her career as an editor for Christian Parenting Today during the mid-1990s. After advancing from assistant editor, to associate editor, to editor while working for the magazine, she moved on to serve as a book editor for WaterBrook Press.

Healy currently resides in Colorado Springs, Colo., with her husband, Tim, and two children. She is a member of International Thriller Writers and the American Christian Fiction Writers. Visit www.erinhealy.com for more information.