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Thursday, 5 November 2015

Do you read 'he-books' or 'she-books?'

An early cover design for Baggy Pants and Bootees. Can you see the baby in the sky?

There's a man on the front cover of my debut novel - a soldier to be exact. Quite a few men have read Baggy Pants and Bootees  since it was published last year, so  I do know it appeals to both sexes. 

There is, however, a strongly held view among publishers that men don't buy books written by women. I wonder why? They've always read women's magazines as far as I know - if only to understand the logic of the female mind - so it follows that they should read our novels. Or does it?

In an article in last week's Times newspaper, Antonia Senior, a writer of historical fiction, says 'I chose to write primarily from a male perspective. In my gender, if you choose a female protagonist who falls in love in even the smallest sub plot, she will be placed on the front cover, decorative and bosomy, gazing winsomely into the distance.' In short her solution was to 'go male.'

Antonia reserves 'a special convulsion of rage' for the women's fiction prize, formerly known as Orange, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week.  The newly named  Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction has been described as sexist by both novelists and critics alike.

Which brings me back to Baggy Pants and Bootees,  a story of love, loss and war. Did I subconsciously soften the title to make it more acceptable to the female fiction- buying public?  And should I do the same with the sequel? The heroine, Sophie Wainwright, is a woman in a man's world - not bosomy or particularly 'winsome,'  just a typical sixties girl.

I wonder what she'll look like on the front of the next cover?

Baggy Pants and Bootees

Antonia Senior's novel The Winter Isles is available from November 5 2015.


Barbara Fisher said...

Hello Marilyn, I read books intended for both male and female audiences but the merest hint of a decorative, bosomy, female gazing winsomely into the distance is enough to put me off completely!

Guernsey Girl said...

Hello Barbara - my thoughts exactly! So pleased to know you agree. Great to hear from you again.