"I see a lot of guys here. But guys don't buy books."
Yow. This, I thought to myself, is a woman with a very different perspective than mine. And it's her job to know what she's talking about.
All the guys I know buy books, and read them. Okay, not all the guys I've ever met, but all the guys I'd call a friend -- even a Facebook friend! Even the guys I know who pay attention to sports also pay attention to books (sorry sports fans, personal blind spot there).
But Ms. Rapp wasn't the only one talking about women as the market that matters for books. Rebecca Oliver, an agent with William Morris Entertainment, said almost the same thing in a hallway conversation: since most books are sold to women, she remarked, "all books are ultimately women's books."
The press release for Bowker's 2008 report, 2008 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Report ($999 for single-use PDF!) says that "57% of book buyers are women" and "women purchase 65% of books sold in the U.S." (that's nearly two-thirds, or it was the last time I did the long-division). And "women made the majority of purchases in the paperback, hardcover and audio-book segments" though "men accounted for 55% of e-book purchases" (way to go, guys...).
A fascinating set of slides presented by Kelly Gallagher, also of Bowker, and apparently riffing off the same report, counts mystery/detective (34%) and romance (24%) genres as more than half of the fiction market. Women are 63% of all fiction buyers, 73% in general fiction, and (no surprise) 84% in romance fiction. The only genre category in which guys take the prize is science fiction, at 55%. When you start counting dollars spent, the numbers are even more skewed: women pay 71% of dollars spent on fiction.
What does that mean to an author who is also a man? Maybe not so much? Consider Grisham, King, Brown. Updike, Roth, Murakami. And my reading group. Membership fluctuates, but over our 11+ years we've been mostly women by a long stretch (for years I was the only guy) ... but two-thirds of the books we've read together were written by men. The book we just discussed last night was written by a woman in a man's voice (Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson).
What do you think? If you're a woman, does the fact that a book was written by a man make you less inclined to read it ... or more inclined ... and why? If you're a man, what proportion of the books you read are written by women, and how would you characterize the difference -- if you see any?