Monday, December 19, 2005

SB Day: On Male Romance Readers

It’s Smart Bitches Day once again, and as usual, whatever brilliant thought was spawned by last week’s SB Day has decided to make its way to the ocean without me. Stupid Metaphor! So instead I’m going to blatantly rip-off Douglas’s post on “What this boy wants from a romance novel,” and talk about what romance novels I see men pick up.

First off, I think my male customers get fooled.

Yep, you heard me. I know that most of my men who buy romance novels have no idea what they are buying is classified as romance. Usually what happens is they see it on the bestseller wall bay surrounded by other books they have read and heard about. They do not seek it out in its natural habitat, the romance section. Oh no, they get it unlabeled.

Secondly, there are no naked bodies on the cover.

This is important! The story revolves around a woman and her thoughts and feelings, but on the cover there is no naked clinch. There can be a woman’s face or body, but she is not doing anything sexual with anyone else. In some cases there aren’t any people present at all, Gabaldon’s Outlander (considered the most romance-like of the series of books, although all are shelved/classified as a romance) has absolutely no people on the cover, just a symbol. The J.D. Robb books, while more mystery than romance, just have the titles and sometimes a cityscape. Tami Hoag’s early series (before she was reclassified as fiction) had moody pictures of the bayou or the country, nary a person in sight. The lack of nakedness is a huge selling point because it gets them to pick up the book. Now they just have to get by the back copy.

Thirdly, the books picked contained no sparkiness.

The back copies of all the books tend to focus on just the female character and her hunt for her father/brother/sister/cousin in the face of adversity/danger/threats/losing her own job. They do not go into how she meets so-in-so and despite the danger/threat/timing sparks fly and they want to get into each other’s undies. Sparks that fly seem to burn the men looking at the book. They do not want sparks, they want suspense, drive, a fast read!

Which brings us to number four:

The books contain suspense or mystery.

While a lot of women readers are boo-hooing the world of romantic suspense, these are the books that my male customers tend to love. What they see (from the back copy) is a book about a suspense journey or mystery involving a woman. Something a lot of male author’s write. In fact, the emerging prevalence of female characters written by male writers may have inoculated my male customers against the automatic putdown of a female authored book with a female protagonist (a subject I could go into with much ranting, but I won’t because I don’t have time. Needless to say I think that this attitude has a much to do with parents/teachers saying that little boys will only read books with male protags instead of getting them to try books with female protags has something to do with the low number of men willing to read across genre lines by choice). They’re there for a plot driven story with well drawn characters and it doesn’t matter what is the sex of the main person.

So, if you are a female romantic suspense author trying to get your book to appeal to both sexes, here’s my advice: keep the man-titty and breast heaving off your cover, focus your back copy on just one of your characters (don’t be afraid to make that character a woman), and get your publishing company to shell-out for some front of store marketing. You may lose a few female readers this way, but let’s face it, you lost them when you went to romantic suspense. You can’t please everyone, but you can reach a male audience if you try hard enough.

You just have to ask yourself if it is worth it.


Michele said...

Hey, I happen to LIKE romanctic suspense. Many times, I prefer it. I like meat on my bone. is a link to teach you to link in HTML comments secion or whereever...really cool.

Click Here For HTML Goodies

Actual link:

Click here for the page of directions hopefully

I'm experimenting in your comments, hope you don't mind.
I've got my fingers crossed, I'm about to hit the send butotn...

Michele said...

Oh Wow Cool..the directions dissappeared so you have no idea what the heck I just did!

Well that's a fine kettle of fish.

OK , If the link works MINE anyway, then it will take you to the page that Avindair told me to go to so I could show you.
I haven't heard from Nicole who has the blog with the side bar templates.. 1 out of 2 isn't bad, right?

Douglas Hoffman said...

Hey, you didn't rip me off at all! This was interesting,BSC.

So: how do I get on your brain-rot list?

Bookseller Chick said...

With a wink and a smile of course. Actually ask and ye shall receive. Behold, you are now billed as definitive brainrot material for a girl who works in the valley.

And perhaps ripoff was a harsh term. Let's call you inspiration.

Bookseller Chick said...

And Michele, thanks a mil! We'll figure out the book thing eventually.

Anonymous said...

How about a supernatural suspense novel, 1. written by a man, 2. with a male protagonist, and 3. incorporating strong romance elements? Where would you shelve that one?

(I'm thinking in that little bin behind the counter. You know, the one which gets emptied each night. Cross genre rocks!)

Nicole said...

Hey, I'm here, I'm here. And I come with my meager book advice.

If you can put a link in your sidebar, you can put a picture. *g* And as I see you have lots of links, you can do this, too.'s not accepting my html. I sense a blog post coming on. Will get it up in a few minutes.

Nicole said...

Okay, it's up.

Maili's the one who had the original post that I learned from, but a freak accident (she sorta deleted her blog once) made the relevant post disappear.