This week we have author Mickey J Corrigan. She talks about Sex and the Male Reader. She also has a new book out, Me Go Mango.
Originally from Boston, Mickey J. Corrigan writes tropical noir with a dark humor. Novels include Project XX about a school shooting (Salt Publishing, UK, 2017) and What I Did for Love, a spoof of Lolita (Bloodhound Books, UK, 2019).
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The task of an American writer is not to describe the misgivings of a woman taken in adultery as she looks out of a window at the rain but to describe 400 people under the lights reaching for a foul ball. This is ceremony.— John Cheever
As the author of textbooks and educational books on health, I never worried about the sex of my readers. Both male and female readers were interested in or assigned to read my nonfiction books. But when I began my second career as a fiction writer, I worried about whether men would reject my work as "women's fiction." So I decided to use a pen name, something gender nonspecific.
Was this a sexist decision? No, it was factual and based on research. I based it on the fact that studies show the vast majority of male readers prefer stories told by men. A recent study conducted by a Guardian journalist found that only 19% of the readers for the top 10 bestselling female authors are male. But with the top 10 bestselling male authors, 55% of their readers are men.
Throughout history, women have disguised their sex with pen names, use of gender neutral initials, and even fake male names. In earlier times, women writers were not allowed to publish or their work was summarily rejected. (See above quotation by Cheever.) Times changed but some things didn't. JK Rowling's explanation of why she chose her pen name was simple: she wanted boys to read about Harry Potter too. It worked…like magic.
Research data shows that 80% of book buyers today are female. And according to Nielson, the data research company, women buy more books in all of the fiction categories except for science fiction/fantasy and horror. Despite my gender neutral pen name, my own audience appears to be at least 80% female. Perhaps that's because authors need to provide a photo with every book release. Perhaps it's because women will read stories told from the male point of view, but men prefer to read only those stories—and tend to ignore fiction from the viewpoint of a female protagonist. I have no data to back me up on this, however. Just the fact that my novels from the male point of view only garnered a minimal percentage of male reviewers.
One time a female reviewer noted that "Mr" Corrigan knew "nothing about young women." I took that as a backhanded compliment. At least she thought I was male.
My husband reads books by both genders, although he focuses on nonfiction. My millennial son reads both fiction and nonfiction by both male and female authors. Could this indicate that the younger generations are more open-minded in their choice of books to read? Are the times changing enough that the pertinent data will soon morph into a more balanced gender division? Are men becoming more interested in women's lives, and less driven to read only about male-dominated "ceremony"?
What do you think?