Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Men don't read. A self-fulfilling prophecy?

I planned to review E. O. Wilson's excellent Anthill today, but instead, I want to point out an article Jason Pinter wrote for the Huffington Post late last month titled, "Why Men Don't Read: How Publishing is Alienating Half the Population".

The article recounts the difficulty and blank stares Pinter faced when, working for Grand Central Publishing, he pitched an autobiography by professional wrestler Chris Jericho to the editorial board.

Like many boys, I grew up watching pro wrestling. I knew that Jericho was not only a huge star, but a genuinely smart, charismatic guy who had some incredible stories to tell. In an attempt to convince the editorial board, I brought in Chris's videos, action figures, CDs, anything I could think of to prove to a skeptical room that this guy was a big deal and his book would work. Nobody was buying my pitch. Nobody had heard of Jericho. . . If you've worked in publishing, you've heard the tired old maxim: Men Don't Read. Try to acquire or sell a book aimed predominantly at men, and odds are you'll be told Men Don't Read. This story is not an isolated incident. And while the book I'm discussing is not everybody's piece of cake, is is a microcosm of what I believe is a huge problem within the industry.

Pinter illustrates how declining male readership has become a self-fulfilling prophecy: Men don't read, and so publishers are reluctant to put out books aimed at them. And since there's no books out there that grab their attention, men don't read.

Thanks to Pinter's dedication, Chris Jerico's book, A Lion's Tale did finally get published. In fact, it landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Pinter (a bestselling thriller writer himself) ends his article with a plea and a promise to the publishing industry: Publish more books for men and boys. Trust editors who try to buy these books, and work on the marketing campaigns to hit those audiences. The readers are there, waiting, eager just under the surface.

It's a promise I hope we here at Guys' Lit Wire are helping to become a reality.

(Cross posted on my blog.)


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