Monday, September 1, 2014

Boys, Books, and Marketing

Monday, September 1, 2014
While the "broken record" line might be a cliche, it's certainly fitting when talking about Hollywood or sports. The same excuse is said time and time again, that "more men see _____ movies" or "only men like sports." It doesn't matter how many times this has been disproved. Even with female-driven movies such as Frozen dominating the box offices - and the fact that "since Title IX, the number of high school girls who participate in sports has gone from 1 in 27 to 1 in 2.5," - movie and sports marketing is still geared towards men, with the alleged philosophy that this is what makes money. 

And then you have the book industry.

In YA lit, female authors are in the majority, certainly more so than in adult fiction. And studies have shown that more adolescent girls read than boys. Now, if the marketing heads were to follow the example set by the two industries above, the plan should be simple: gear advertising towards women and girls, because they're the ones who bring in the money.

But that's not really what happens.

It's not enough that women make up 60% of book buyers- no, marketing is still geared towards men. This goes hand in hand with what has become known as the "John Green effect"- the idea that something is only literary if a man writes it. (Just look at this week's New York Times best sellers- the teens list is composed of a majority of male authors.) Conversations are all about how we need more "boy books" and how to get boys reading and while I'm all for more male readers, why does it have to be at the expense of women and girls? 

And why does an industry whose main demographic is women and girls need to market to men? Why doesn't the same philosophy that runs the movie and sports industries apply here? If it's supposedly all about making money, shouldn't you work to appease your consumer base? 

The answer lies in, of course, the structured sexism that oils the cogs of our society. As the brilliant Kelly Jensen said over at Book Riot, "In 2014, there are still people who are fine with women’s success as long as it’s not too successful.

And what this ultimately means for the movie and sports industries' excuses is that they're just not true. Marketing departments choose to target men. They decide that men are the more important demographic, leaving women on the sidelines (no sports pun intended). 

To say this is disheartening would be an understatement, especially since very little is changing. How many times must women prove that there is an audience for their stories before our media starts listening? 

That's the thing, though: in an ideal world, women wouldn't have to prove anything- we'd already be considered equally important. 

What do you think about the marketing for YA books?