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hastingspress
07-25-2008, 11:16 AM
Many thanks to JA Konrath for producing his ebook, which I have been reading closely.

I'd like to ask him to expand on something in it, and also ask others on the forum to give an opinion.

On pitching to potential readers/buyers:

"If the gawkers are mostly women, I mention that Jack is short for Jacqueline. If they're mostly men, I leave that part out."

I'd like to get to the bottom of why men are not interested, or why people think men are not interested in books about women (other than as sex objects, presumably) or by women, or with female heroines.

In 2005 I published a book called "Railwaywomen". It's the first history of women who worked on the railways of the UK over the past 170 years. The reviews are fabulous ( see http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/railwaywomen/railindex.html )

Time and time and time again railway-specialist booksellers (who should be my main retailers) have refused to stock the book. When I ask why, I am told 'Because most of our customers are men.' That, they seem to think, is a satisfactory explanation, as though it naturally and logically follows that, being men, it is self-evident that they will have no interest whatsoever in books about women.

If I press them to explain further, they will say overtly 'Well, obviously, they won't be interested in books about women.'

Of course the annoying thing for me is that if my book isn't stocked, then potential buyers won't see it and so we'll never know if they would buy it or not, because the book-seller is censoring what his customers will and will not be allowed to see when they are browsing.

Now, the funny thing is, of my trackable sales, i.e. from my website, 95% of the books I have posted out have gone to men. 32 of my 35 reviewers were men. When I have done public talks, the audience were mainly men and I sold books to them, too. In fact, the lack of female readers has troubled me greatly.

My new book is called "Notable Sussex Women", a collection of 580 short biogs of women who lived in my county. During a recent newspaper competition to win a copy, one-third of the entries were from men.

So, be very interested to hear from y'all, especially JA Konrath who admits in his e-book that he tells female potential buyers that Jack is a woman but holds back that information from men.

Helena Wojtczak

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 02:50 PM
I can't speak on behalf of JA, but I can say Joe is widely recognised as one of the hardest working authors in the business when it comes to marketting.

I can't answer why the things are they way they are with women preferring a female MC and men preferring a male MC. But I can recognise that it is the case and if you want to sell your books you need to treat it as something that is prevalant in the business and target your marketing as such. You'll note of late a lot of female authors using initials instead of their full name. Even males like myself are. Why? We want our readers to judge the book on it's content and not our name (at least when we first start out). Same with our MCs. A lot even have names that could be male or female. Mine is called Jay. I am not trying to be deceptive, I just don't want the reader to put the book down after reading the back cover and discovering the sex of my main character.

It's a good question and I don't know why people prefer one or the other. We just do. I prefer a male lead, yet I'm reading one at the moment with a female lead - her name is Mak.

It's just good marketing IMO to keep it neutral.

JJ

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 03:06 PM
Hi JJ

"It's a good question and I don't know why people prefer one or the other. We just do."

So where does that leave writers of non-fiction books, such as myself?

Helena

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 03:17 PM
I'm not sure, Helena.

Maybe a better understanding of the audience you are pitching to and planning the marketing well in advance. Everything from character names, titles, blurbs, covers - all need to be considered carefully.

My book is a year from publication and the marketing department at my publisher have already started on strategies for sales, as have I.

But it is fiction and I have no experience with non-fiction, sorry.

JJ

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 03:26 PM
Yes, I did all that. Railway history is a huge business here in the UK, we are made about railway nostalgia, we have numerous preserved steam railways up and down the country, hundreds of railway societies, clubs, etc.

There's nothing wrong with my marketing. There's nothing wrong with my sales, either, the book has done really well and has won two awards.

My gripe was that most railway bookshops, run by men, will not stock the book because they believe that men will not buy any book that is about women.

I'm asking why men aren't thought to be interested in what women have done/achieved, yet women buy books all the time that are about men.

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 03:44 PM
Through my previous work I met a lot of personalities interested in railways. I figure around 90% of them were men. Knowing that, if I wrote a story about women in the railway it would only be pitched at 10% of those interested in railways, maybe a bit more. Have a look at any forum on the internet regarding railways and I'm sure you'll find the majority of members are male.

You can write a fantastic book with detailed historical information, but unless you are targetting the right audience, it won't sell well.

I'll go out on a limb and say your title killed a lot of sales. That's a marketing mistake in my opinion. And it is only an opinion and no swipe at your book or your writing.

JJ

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 03:49 PM
But it's not "a story", JJ.

I have already said on this thread that the book is non-fiction and that it is the history of women who worked on the railways of the UK over the past 170 years.

You think the title "Railwaywomen" has "killed sales"?

I am intrigued to hear what title you would give such a book?

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 03:59 PM
What's the theme of the book? Saying it is a history of women in the railway to me means you list every woman who has been in the railway over the last 170 years in chronological order. Start and fish date, role description etc. Any actual stories involved? Was there a transformation of acceptance for women working in the railway? Did they fight for their rights to work alond side males? Did any rise from apprentice to CEO? Were there periods of sexual harassment that they fought through? How has equity and diversity changed the way a railway operates?

Tell me what the book is actually about and I'll give it a go at getting a title for you.

JJ

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 04:05 PM
A list of names would not constitute "a history of", would not have attracted the magnificent reviews on the webpage upthread, and would not have won two awards.

http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/railwaywomen/railindex.html

Would you be so kind as to look at an excerpt, it's faster than any other way of explaining.

http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/railwaywomen/excerpt.pdf

http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/railwaywomen/excerpt2.pdf

I wait with bated breath ....

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 04:21 PM
That's the thing. A theme should be no longer than a sentence. Until you have that at the ready and willing to share with consumers, people won't follow your links or pursue an interest. It's a sales pitch - a hook.

My son won an award today for sitting up straight in class. I am very proud of him, but it's not going to win him an automatic scholarship to university studying ergonomics. It's like calling your book 'bestselling' because it was in the top ten sales in your local bookstore in any given week.

JJ

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 04:31 PM
You just aren't making any sense to me at all, JJ.

You don't seem to have read anything that I have written on this entire thread. For most of it you thought my work was fiction. And I have said again and again I have no problem with sales, what I have a problem with is railway specialist booksellers refusing the book without even seeing it, based purely on the subject matter.

I have had thousands of sales, dozens of reviews, and no-one has ever said the title was wrong. But as you took an interest, and you wanted more info, I gave you excerpts, and you come back with no new title as promised, just a non-sequitur that baffles me, and some attempt to try to belittle my success in winning two prizes.

Changing the title (which I would NEVER do) would not change the subject of the book, and thus would not affect the male railway bookseller's refusal to stock the book!

Are you drunk, or did you just set out today to be deliberately insulting or to pick a fight, or to sneer down your nose at me? There are people who are lower down the ladder than I am in this business, and I would never be so rude to them as you have been to me.

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 04:49 PM
You just aren't making any sense to me at all, JJ.

You don't seem to have read anything that I have written on this entire thread. For most of it you thought my work was fiction. And I have said again and again I have no problem with sales, what I have a problem with is railway specialist booksellers refusing the book without even seeing it, based purely on the subject matter.

I have had thousands of sales, dozens of reviews, and no-one has ever said the title was wrong. But as you took an interest, and you wanted more info, I gave you excerpts, and you come back with no new title as promised, just a non-sequitur that baffles me, and some attempt to try to belittle my success in winning two prizes.

Changing the title (which I would NEVER do) would not change the subject of the book, and thus would not affect the male railway bookseller's refusal to stock the book!

Are you drunk, or did you just set out today to be deliberately insulting or to pick a fight, or to sneer down your nose at me? There are people who are lower down the ladder than I am in this business, and I would never be so rude to them as you have been to me.

Actually, I'm not drunk. And I take offence at the suggestion.

My replies have been well considered and polite. I have given you my opinion. You claim your marketing has been very sucessful and yet still wonder why certain outlets won't stock your book. That's confusing. I am well aware that your work is non-fiction. I do read your posts before replying.

I applaud you for winning two prizes that you have not any given details of.

Please detail where I have been insulting, where I have sneered down my nose at you and where I have been rude.

BTW - could you please outline the theme for your non-fiction book?

JJ

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 05:04 PM
BTW - could you please outline the theme for your non-fiction book?
JJ

I already answered this query once. I said:

Would you be so kind as to look at an excerpt, it's faster than any other way of explaining.

http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/railwaywomen/excerpt.pdf

http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/railw...n/excerpt2.pdf

MaryMumsy
07-25-2008, 05:35 PM
Now, the funny thing is, of my trackable sales, i.e. from my website, 95% of the books I have posted out have gone to men. 32 of my 35 reviewers were men. When I have done public talks, the audience were mainly men and I sold books to them, too. In fact, the lack of female readers has troubled me greatly.

Have you tried explaining these statistics to the booksellers who won't carry your book?

MM

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 05:39 PM
Have you tried explaining these statistics to the booksellers who won't carry your book?MM

Hello Mary!

Yes, indeed, I could not help myself. The responses were along the lines of "That's as maybe, but I know my own customers". I also found that admitting to selling the book via a website seemed to put their backs up a little bit (I guess the internet is killing small, specialist bookshops?) and some of them snapped at me: "well carry on selling from your website, then!"

Helena

Clair Dickson
07-25-2008, 05:47 PM
Are there comparable books that detail the lives of men like yours does women?

As an atypical woman, I'm really leary of buying a book that's anti-man, full of female perspective on clothing, parenting, fashion, etc. Even female history's can come off wrong because they (often) make a big deal about how the MEN (evil men!) have kept women down.

With my OWN bias, I can see where many men might have the same leariness. Is it fair? Why do you think J.K. Rowlings initially published under her intials? Word I heard was that the publisher was concerned young guys wouldn't want to read a book by a woman. Probably because of the same concerns I have-- not wanting to read "girly" stuff.

That's my two cents. I admit I have only read this thread and not the links (slow connection) so I apologize if that's rude.

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 05:56 PM
Are there comparable books that detail the lives of men like yours does women?
...
Even female history's can come off wrong because they (often) make a big deal about how the MEN (evil men!) have kept women down.

Hi Clair

(1) Yes, there have been several books, one called Railwaymen, another called The Railway Workers (though when you open it, it's only about men). I called mine Railwaywomen to be the counterpart of the one called Railwaymen. You cannot beat a one-word book title!

(2) If you were a university-trained historical researcher, and your research uncovered cast-iron evidence that men in the industry you were investigating DID, in fact, keep women down, what would you write in your book?

Would you pretend you had not seen such evidence? Would you leave it out of your book? Would you skew it so it looked like men were supportive and accepting of women all the way?

I'm genuinely interested to know what you would do.

Best regards

Helena

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 06:08 PM
I already answered this query once. I said:

Would you be so kind as to look at an excerpt, it's faster than any other way of explaining.

http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/railwaywomen/excerpt.pdf

http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/railw...n/excerpt2.pdf

No. I asked you for your theme. Not links.

Again, can you please detail where I have been insulting, where I have sneered down my nose at you and where I have been rude.

And, of note you did not offer any explanation of your conclusions that I am drunk. I'd be happy to hear them.

JJ

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 06:13 PM
One excerpt is worth a thousand words. The theme? To describe the work that women have performed on the rys of Britain since railways began.

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 06:21 PM
It seems you still have a some more to learn about the publishing business, don't we all?

How about having a crack at these ones:


Again, can you please detail where I have been insulting, where I have sneered down my nose at you and where I have been rude.

And, of note you did not offer any explanation of your conclusions that I am drunk. I'd be happy to hear them.

JJ

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 06:35 PM
Stop playing games with me. You know full well that it is an insult when an author says she has won a prize and your response is, so what - my son won a prize for sitting up straight in class. You still haven't done what you said you were going to do: i.e. you criticised the title of my book and said you could come up with a better one. We've all yet to hear it.

I again congratulate you on your prize you will not elaborate on.

Let me know the theme without directing me to links. Simple for an experienced writer like yourself, I'm sure.

And I'd be interested in some responses to the following:



Again, can you please detail where I have been insulting, where I have sneered down my nose at you and where I have been rude.

And, of note you did not offer any explanation of your conclusions that I am drunk. I'd be happy to hear them.


JJ

Claudia Gray
07-25-2008, 06:39 PM
IMHO, neither men nor women are as fixated on MCs of their own gender as marketers are determined to think.

Toothpaste
07-25-2008, 06:39 PM
My son won an award today for sitting up straight in class. I am very proud of him, but it's not going to win him an automatic scholarship to university studying ergonomics. It's like calling your book 'bestselling' because it was in the top ten sales in your local bookstore in any given week.

JJ

Well I'll have a go. This is pretty offensive. You are basically equating her awards with those "everybody is a winner" awards you get in middle school. You are putting down her credentials as if for some reason they even matter to the argument at hand.

Having read the whole thread JJ, I will have to say from the beginning you were quite dismissive of her opinion. You basically said, "Them's the breaks, deal with it." That may be the way things are now, in fact it is quite obvious that's how things are now, but "why" was the question asked. There have since been some interesting conversations about why in this thread. You just came in to defend JA (who wasn't being attacked in the first place) and to tell her, well sorry hon, you write a book about women, you should expect men not to read it. I can tell you for one my father would be offended at being placed in such a narrow category. He enjoys books about history in general, and would read something about women. He prefers to be considered a thoughtful individual and not some sexist jerk who can't see past his own gender.

The issue at hand is why do people feel automatically turned off by someone writing a book about women? Many think, "Well why can't it be all encompassing, talk about men too?" Because those books are already out there. Almost all the histories out there focus on men. But they aren't "about" men, they are about the topic at hand, whatever it may be. Nonetheless, women are often left suspiciously absent from said histories. How do we fill the void? By writing about them. By stocking the shelves. If the gents at these railway stores always say, "I won't stock this book because men won't buy it" it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Duh, no men will buy it because you don't give them the option. If we always said, "That's how it is, deal with it" then we would not have had the advances in gender and race relations like we have had these past decades. If we never had these discussions, then we would never learn to open our eyes to new ideas.

I think it's an interesting discussion to have.

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 06:55 PM
Well I'll have a go. This is pretty offensive. You are basically equating her awards with those "everybody is a winner" awards you get in middle school. You are putting down her credentials as if for some reason they even matter to the argument at hand.

Having read the whole thread JJ, I will have to say from the beginning you were quite dismissive of her opinion. You basically said, "Them's the breaks, deal with it." That may be the way things are now, in fact it is quite obvious that's how things are now, but "why" was the question asked. There have since been some interesting conversations about why in this thread. You just came in to defend JA (who wasn't being attacked in the first place) and to tell her, well sorry hon, you write a book about women, you should expect men not to read it. I can tell you for one my father would be offended at being placed in such a narrow category. He enjoys books about history in general, and would read something about women. He prefers to be considered a thoughtful individual and not some sexist jerk who can't see past his own gender.

The issue at hand is why do people feel automatically turned off by someone writing a book about women? Many think, "Well why can't it be all encompassing, talk about men too?" Because those books are already out there. Almost all the histories out there focus on men. But they aren't "about" men, they are about the topic at hand, whatever it may be. Nonetheless, women are often left suspiciously absent from said histories. How do we fill the void? By writing about them. By stocking the shelves. If the gents at these railway stores always say, "I won't stock this book because men won't buy it" it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Duh, no men will buy it because you don't give them the option. If we always said, "That's how it is, deal with it" then we would not have had the advances in gender and race relations like we have had these past decades. If we never had these discussions, then we would never learn to open our eyes to new ideas.

I think it's an interesting discussion to have.

I'll give it a go, too. What are her awards? And yes - them's the breaks deal with it and work around it.

You may have read the whole thread, Toothpaste. Perhaps you can go and have another look at how many times I said that I have no answer to why men would not read it.

So, I suggest you get off your 'high horse' bullshit attack on me and let the OP answer my questions.

JJ

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 06:59 PM
I just summed up the theme in my previous message to this board, and now you are asking me again. Please leave this discussion, you are contributing nothing to it.

Thank Goodness I see that Toothpaste has replied in an honest, reasonable, sensible and intelligent manner.

No you didn't.

And still some questions you are avoiding:


Again, can you please detail where I have been insulting, where I have sneered down my nose at you and where I have been rude.

And, of note you did not offer any explanation of your conclusions that I am drunk. I'd be happy to hear them.

JJ

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 07:01 PM
Toothy brings up an interesting point about race. What if my book was about black people in the military, in the goverment or on the railway, for that matter?

Would bookstores with a predominently white clientele refuse to stock it - "Sorry, my customers are white, they won't want to read book about blacks." Suddenly, it sounds offensive.

The fact that 95% of my direct/online sales go to men does in fact show that men are not averse to reading women's history. It's not them that's the problem; it's not even male bookstore managers: for example last month I visited the gift shop of the London Transport Museum in London and showed the manager a copy and he ordered ten on the spot. It's just railway bookstore owners with their prejudices.

I quoted JA because he alluded to exactly the same thing in his e-book, he conceals his detective's gender, presumably because he thinks his male readers will be averse - I wish he'd come on here and tell me in his own words.

Sheryl Nantus
07-25-2008, 07:01 PM
not to derail the discussion, but maybe the booksellers aren't telling you the real reason why they won't carry it.

it's a self-pubbed book - automatically that sends a red flag up to many booksellers because of the problems of distribution and taking something on consignment. Instead of being honest with you they may have just leapt on the nearest excuse instead of telling the truth.

not to insinuate that your book isn't a good one, but there is/has/will probably always be a stigma with self-pubs and the problems therein. So maybe this is a red herring....

jmo.

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 07:03 PM
No you didn't.JJ

YES I DID IN MESSAGE #19.

And I have explained and so has Toothpaste, what you said that is insulting.

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 07:09 PM
not to derail the discussion, but maybe the booksellers aren't telling you the real reason why they won't carry it.

it's a self-pubbed book - automatically that sends a red flag up to many booksellers because of the problems of distribution and taking something on consignment. Instead of being honest with you they may have just leapt on the nearest excuse instead of telling the truth.
jmo.

Thanks for joining in Sheryl. When I call a bookseller, I never tell them the book is self published. I have on my desk here a file index box of over 100 retailers (bookshops, museums, tourist information centres) who I have done good business with for over six years. The only retailers I've had this trouble with are railway specialist bookshops, in relation to this one book.

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 07:15 PM
YES I DID IN MESSAGE #19.

And I have explained and so has Toothpaste, what you said that is insulting.

I like to call it as it is. If that was your theme then no wonder they aren't stocking it. Probably has nothing to do with it being a male hating a female orientated book. More likely other reasons.

Yep, I'd rate my boy's award for sitting up straight above yours because you still have not told us what they were for or who awarded them to you.

You refuse to give me explanations for your conclusions that I am drunk, rude or sneered down my nose at you. You clearly have no idea what a theme is and calling it for what it is - you are full of it.

JJ

hastingspress
07-25-2008, 07:20 PM
And still some questions you are avoiding:
JJ

It's YOU who is avoiding the question. What alternative title have you come up with for my book? You said the title was "killing sales" and I have challenged you to come up with a better one.

In the UK there is only one body that gives awards to self-publishers. It is a joint scheme between Writers' News, a major British publication, and the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust. Mr Thomas owned a major publishing company called David & Charles and when he sold out his share when he retired he used the money to set up a charitable trust in order to give prizes and awards to writers.

Among the many prizes (for poetry, fiction, non-fiction, children's writing etc) are special ones for self published books in each of those genres. The competition is very fiercely contested

Last year (2007) my book Railwaywomen won two of the top awards, the Best Non-Fiction and the Self-Published Book of the Year. I won 1,000 and held the Silver Cup for a year (had to give it back then).

I'm certain that JJ asks me about these awards so that he can sneer and insult me, saying he's never heard of them, but then they are UK only, so why should he?

Put it this way: these are two of the most important prizes that my book could possibly have won. The book was also nominated for two other prizes, by the way.

For someone who worked in a manual job on the railways from age 19 till 39 and works entirely from her living room, doing all the typesetting, cover design and layout herself, I think that's pretty damned good, actually! I was up against rich people who paid others to do all those things, and I still won!

Helena

Toothpaste
07-25-2008, 07:28 PM
I am sorry you think I am sitting on a high horse, and that what I wrote was bullshit JJ. I am especially sorry you in any way saw it as an attack. I don't think I said anything insulting to you personally, but you seem to be reacting very strongly to this thread, so I am thinking there is more going on in this conversation than I can see, something more personal for you at stake, so I apologise if I somehow struck a nerve.

I merely pointed out where you said something that could be construed as offensive since, you know, you asked for someone to point it out to you. I then explained maybe why your answer was less than satisfactory to the OP. I didn't say your answer was wrong, or that you weren't allowed to say it. Nor did I actually insult the answer. I don't know why you think I was talking bullshit or why you thought I was on a high horse. I wasn't judging you in the least. In fact I was more interested in the original topic than your back and forth with the OP. I was simply saying why this conversation is necessary and interesting, and pointing out that just because things are a certain way, doesn't mean it is right, and doesn't mean we can't keep pushing for change. That is all.

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 07:28 PM
Congrats on the awards, Helena. A big achievement I'm sure fo a self-publisher. You shouldn't assume though:


I'm certain that JJ asks me about these awards so that he had sneer and insult me, saying he's never heard of them, but then they are UK only, so why should he?

And you may have missed this quite a few times:


You refuse to give me explanations for your conclusions that I am drunk, rude or sneered down my nose at you. You clearly have no idea what a theme is and calling it for what it is - you are full of it.

JJ

JJ Cooper
07-25-2008, 07:37 PM
I am sorry you think I am sitting on a high horse, and that what I wrote was bullshit JJ. I am especially sorry you in any way saw it as an attack. I don't think I said anything insulting to you personally, but you seem to be reacting very strongly to this thread, so I am thinking there is more going on in this conversation than I can see, something more personal for you at stake, so I apologise if I somehow struck a nerve.

I merely pointed out where you said something that could be construed as offensive since, you know, you asked for someone to point it out to you. I then explained maybe why your answer was less than satisfactory to the OP. I didn't say your answer was wrong, or that you weren't allowed to say it. Nor did I actually insult the answer. I don't know why you think I was talking bullshit or why you thought I was on a high horse. I wasn't judging you in the least. In fact I was more interested in the original topic than your back and forth with the OP. I was simply saying why this conversation is necessary and interesting, and pointing out that just because things are a certain way, doesn't mean it is right, and doesn't mean we can't keep pushing for change. That is all.

I apologise, Adrienne, for coming across they way I did. I'm frustrated that the OP is pushing her own agenda without answering the direct questions posed to her. I cannot answer the questions regarding why males would not like to read about females on the railway.

I guess your post just gave the OP another excuse to avoid why she is claiming that I must be drunk etc and I took it out on you. Apology again.

JJ

Dawno
07-25-2008, 07:37 PM
Thread closed. Do not take this into other threads or start a new one to revive the argument here.