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F. P. Dorchak

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Picking at Scabs
6/30/2007 2:08:19 PM    [ Flag as Spam or Inappropriate ]

In the June 11th issue of Publishers Weekly, I read Sara Nelson’s column, titled “A Delicate Imbalance,” about (in her words) “What do women want?” She discussed a survey performed by contentconnections (see link, below), called the Women and Books 2007 Survey. The first thing that came to mind as I read this was, here we go again, another splinter being shoved into male-female gender issues. Then, as I continued to read, I thought: why was this survey even needed? Aren’t women the largest book buying segment of the public? Aren’t many agents and editors women? If THEY don’t know what they want, how is some survey gonna ever help them? Shouldn’t said survey have centered about men and their habits--why they aren’t moving as much product from shelves as are women? In fact--riddle me this, BatGirl--I’d be real curious to know, way back when, when men were more in control of the publishing industry, what were the male/female buying habits like then?

Then I dropped my eyes down to the called-out line in article: “Women buy the books. Why don’t they write more?”

Will, that about set me off the deep end.

Why don’t they write MORE?

Now, I may not be an expert, and I did try to research this some over the Internet and through my fellow writer loops, but no one had any stats for me on just how many women writers there are, but from my experience, and from those with whom I interact, most every writer I personally know, or ever meet--is a WOMAN.

And more power to them--to ANYONE--who can publish a novel!

But, in my ever-so-humble experience, all I see around me are a SEA of women getting THEIR manuscripts published. Sure, there are a handful of dudes, but for the most part, where I live and breathe, with those writers and their worlds in which I participate, it’s WOMEN I see getting published. Now, I haven’t ticked off all their books in PW’s (or anyone else’s) reviews--for one thing, I’m not even sure how representative of the total book population those reviews really relate--but I could probably make a pretty good bet there’d be a good deal of anima therein.


Sarah Nelson went on to say that women don’t seem to get the serious stuff published as often as men, i.e., as in publishing nonfiction (which implies many women therefore publish fiction, which also seems to be borne out in my experience). Maybe, as is also so often touted, women being the smarter sex and all (which could also explain why I see more of them getting published than, say, ME), they’re smart enough to not want to write serious stuff. Maybe...women just wanna have fun. Maybe they’re leaving all the serious stuff for guys to tackle, and they’ll just have fun making stuff up (not going there...). Would that be such a bad thing?

But, geez, Sara, you get an inch you want a friggin MILE?

Who cares WHAT they write, isn’t it good enough that anyone (call them men, women, aliens, whatever) write at all? Why does there always have to be some push for whatever faction is the concern d’jour (race or sex or social status) that whatever it is “they” are doing, it ain’t enough? Why can’t we just be pleased that “something” is already going on, and going on well (at least in my humble opinion)? Why not focus (in this case) on the real problem: MEN and their lack of book buying...or the insane glut of books, some of which just aren’t all that good? That whole survey (available at the link below) seemed a lame duck, preaching-to-the-converted effort, as I looked it over. I grow so weary of the constant bickering about some form of “man v. woman” issue. We all know we’re different--and the same. One set of us do things one way, like to read certain things, while the other set does things differently and read different material. But everyone wants some form of a good read. Does one instance have to be wrong and the other right? Do we have to constantly try to figure out WHY this is? We know differences exists, so why not just publish those things that each faction likes to read?

Am I just too naïve in proposing this? Isn’t it what we’re already doing?

And what if men aren’t buying as many books because what is being published is based upon the PURCHASES of women who might not ordinarily purchase something they (a guy) would really like to read, and which, resultantly, would cause said guy to not go into a bookstore, because all he knows is what his girl brings him? I’ve read this isn’t supposed to be the case, but to me, that would provide for a far more interesting and useful survey.

This contentconnections survey also presented such gems as word-of-mouth being the big seller of books among women over reviews and other standard marketing ploys. far of a reach is that? This from the sex that PRIDES ITSELF on being the Master of all-things Interpersonal?

Another Huge Discovery from this survey: that many women are also interested in, not only writing, but (hold your breadth)--the PUBLISHING process!

My heart be still.

This coming from the main constituents of the book-buying public?! The ones who BUY books. Want to and WRITE (just not serious) books?!

Do I really need to hammer home the connection?

And, finally, one other line of Sara Nelson’s really got me, even caused me to laugh. She asks: “...if women have so much to say, they so rarely say it.”

Oh, Sara, you TEASE!

I typically enjoy and look forward to Sara Nelson’s editorials, but this editorial just hit one of my pet peeves. I don’t like anything that constantly picks at the differences in people or the Human Race, like a sore’s scab. My momma and daddy always told me not to keep picking at scabs cause they’d never heal. Nothing’d get better. We need to play nice with each other. Quit pointing out our differences and pull together. If you keep focusing on differences, you never focus on how well we compliment each other. All the good we do. How well we go together. If you keep focusing on the differences--and that goes for anything--we’ll never grow as a individuals, or as a [Human] Race.

DISCLAIMER: I know Sara had a healthy curiosity about her subject, it’s her job, and I admit to taking her to task to illustrate a point. In this instance, the publishing industry DOES know what women want, because they’re out there BUYING it, and in huge numbers. I personally saw contentconnections’ survey as inherently flawed and a waste of effort. The real issue is that publishing doesn’t seem to know how to better draw in the MALE audience, and that is what I’m getting at in my most circumlocutionary way: the survey should have tackled THAT.


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