Writing for Women, Writing for Men

I read about a workshop at the RWA Conference whose topic, I think, was writing for women versus writing for men. I didn’t attend, so the actual title didn’t stick in my mind. However, it sparked thoughts, and I of course had to pour those thoughts into a blog post. With a hot picture of Josephine Baker wearing a top hat.

I write for women. At least I think I do. The line that publishes my novels, Harlequin Spice, is aimed at a female audience, so by default that says I write for women, right? I’m not sure what that means, exactly, beyond “books most women will like,” which to me also suggests “books some men will also like.”

I’ve had reports from a few men who’ve read either The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover or The Moonlight Mistress or both. Most have been boyfriends or husbands of female friends who’d bought the book. All of the men whom I’ve heard from, about five, so it’s not a large sample, have liked the books; most commented not only on the stories, but on the erotica. They commented very favorably on the erotica; more so than some female readers who told me they were uncomfortable with the language I used.

I didn’t really expect to hear anything from male readers, especially not that they’d liked the sex scenes. Possible factors include 1) these particular men like reading erotica in general, and are willing to talk about it; 2) my direct language in the sex scenes appeals to men; and 3) they were just being nice.

I don’t really have any conclusions. Though I do wonder how I might market my books more effectively across genders.

Thoughts? Comments?

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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4 Responses to Writing for Women, Writing for Men

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think part of the problem is what we've decided is okay for men to read vs. women. You know, good old gender-norming. The whole discussion going on in YA/MG right now about "boy books" and "girl books" clinches it. Personally, I think there is no such thing, that a book is a book, and if you take away the conditioning we all get, the individual may or may not relate to said book. But we won't really know until we get rid of the gendering.

    /end rant. ;)


  2. Victoria Janssen says:

    I think part of the problem is what we've decided is okay for men to read vs. women.

    And the deciding is often subconscious, too, I think. I agree that a book is a book – but marketing often doesn't seem to think so, if that makes sense.

  3. Asha says:

    I wonder also if there's an assumption that men will be interested in reading things that are more direct, hardcore, and taboo-breaking, and which involve more sex, less plot (kind of like a lot of the free Ellora's Cave releases on Amazon). Versus books with plot, romance, emotion, AND sex (which is possibly written with less direct language). This kind of sectioning off happens in pornography as well (pornography marketed to straight women is very different from that marketed to straight men).

    But yeah, the whole marketing industry is predicated on the assumption that there are certain things that men want to read, versus what women want to read, so a book can never be just a book. I'm with Shveta…I think if we could get rid of the conditioning/gendering, we'd find that things are much different. But unfortunately I don't see that happening anytime soon.

  4. Victoria Janssen says:

    Yes! And I think a lot of it's marketing. At the same time, marketing is done the way it is for a reason…and it self-perpetuates. Marketing, I think, can encourage mediocrity at some level, not mediocrity of quality but of…style, maybe? Themes? Diversity of taste gets ironed out. I wish I knew more about the whole topic. Like how niche marketing fits in.

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