It’s true. In 2012, The Romance Writers of America report showed sales of $1.4 billion with a 16% slice of all sales across all genres. That’s about as much as the mystery and sci-fi genres combined. Surveys have shown that approximately 80-90% of all romance readers are female and that women read more books than men.
And yet, according to studies conducted by VIDA, the major media publications review a higher number of books written by men than women and most of these reviews are written by men. In 2013, the New York Review had 212 male book reveiwers and only 43 female. The BBC actually had a segment about this weird state of affairs and included a statement from the London Review of Books about why 82% of its book reviews and articles about books were written by men.
This is what the London Review of Books editor had to say about it:
“I think women find it difficult to do their jobs, look after their children, cook dinner and write pieces. They just can’t get it all done. And men can. Because they have fewer, quite different responsibilities. And they’re not so newly arrived in the country. They’re not so frightened of asserting themselves. And they’re not so anxious to please. They’re going to write their pieces and to hell with the rest. And I don’t think women think that way.”
Does that answer the question of why, if more women than men are reading, more male-written books are reviewed and the majority of book reviewers are men?
Here’s a thought not original to me because others have have had the same idea but it bears thinking about: Could it be that the highbrow tendency to sneer at romance writers as well as readers is not about genre but gender?
Since the vast majority of romance readers are women, and men are dominating not only the choice of which books are reviewed but also doing the reviewing, doesn’t it seem likely that the smear campaign about the romance genre boils down to nothing more than the fact that few men read it?
Why most men don’t read romance (or admit to reading romance anyhow) is fodder for a whole different discussion. Without being an armchair shrink, it seems to me that most males avoid romance books like the plague because they’re afraid that being caught reading one would tarnish their macho image and make them seem less manly.
Two best selling authors, Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, were interviewd by Huff Post about this very subject back in 2011. Jennifer Weiner basically said that in her opinion, if a man wrote about love and feelings and family, it’s considered “real” literature. But if a woman writes about those same things, it’s delegated to the lower echelons of fiction and labeled as the much denigrated romance genre.
But at the end of the day, the numbers tell the story and the numbers come back year after year with the romance genre leading the pack in sales.
That’s what really matters. The authors who write romance and the readers who read it.
I’m nearing completion of Book Two in my Forever Cowboys series, The Color of Forever. I had hoped to release it today but sadly, my plans went awry as plans so often do. The best laid plans of mice and men, etc. Honestly, I hesitate to even buy green bananas anymore due to the plans I make getting derailed so much of the time.
Still, I’m working on it and am so enjoying telling Samantha and Ben’s story. What happens when two people meet and fall in love is fascinating and with this particular couple, it’s a rocky road indeed that leads to happily ever after!