April 3, 2012

Women's Fiction - Top Shelf or Bottom?

If someone asks what I write I tell them contemporary fiction. If you ask my publisher I'm pretty sure they classify it as women's fiction. Is there a difference and what does that mean? Does the term women's fiction mean it's less serious? Or does it simply mean that men are not the targeted audience?
I know my book What More Could You Wish For is not one a man would pick up off the shelf - the cover's all pastel-y and light, kind of fluffy, and certainly doesn't denote any car chases or intrigue or high body counts.
I've heard from a few men who read it in its self-published version which had a more 'serious' cover (but an even less man-attracting title, Mr. Right-Enough) and they've all said that although it's not the kind of book they'd ordinarily read they couldn't put it down. Nice reviews, all, but how do I get men to read my book if they're not related to me? Maybe I could provide them with a fake cover wrap with an AK-47 on it so they wouldn't be embarrassed to read it on the CTA.

Interesting article in the New York Times about women's fiction.

The Second Shelf
On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women

Published: March 30, 2012

If “The Marriage Plot,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, had been written by a woman yet still had the same title and wedding ring on its cover, would it have received a great deal of serious literary attention? Or would this novel (which I loved) have been relegated to “Women’s Fiction,” that close-quartered lower shelf where books emphasizing relationships and the interior lives of women are often relegated? Certainly “The Marriage Plot,” Eugenides’s first novel since his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Middlesex,” was poised to receive tremendous literary interest regardless of subject matter, but the presence of a female protagonist, the gracefulness, the sometimes nostalgic tone and the relationship-heavy nature of the book only highlight the fact that many first-rate books by women and about women’s lives never find a way to escape “Women’s Fiction” and make the leap onto the upper shelf where certain books, most of them written by men (and, yes, some women — more about them later), are prominently displayed and admired. 
Read the rest of the article.

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