Orsayor: Brian, I know that the literary industry is highly stressful and competitive. But lately it seems like the stress is starting to make authors turn on each other – genre bashing; new authors versus old authors; and now I’m hearing female authors bash male authors. In particular, I’d like you to speak on this assertion I’ve heard female authors make that male authors (especially the good looking ones) get better treatment from readers than female authors do.
Brian: Orsayor, I hear the bashing too, and honestly, I think it’s sad. I can speak on all of them, but I’ll address the issue of female authors versus male authors. I think the notion that male authors get better treatment just because we are “male” is flawed on several levels. I’ve even had a few of my female peers (some of whom I greatly respect) tell me I’ve been the beneficiary of this favoritism.
Are there some female readers that will buy a man’s book based off of his looks? I’m sure there are. But, to imply that many women don’t have enough common sense to see past a man’s looks and focus on his writing ability is an insult to female readers.
Secondly, it’s an insult to male authors. To say that every decent looking man automatically gets favoritism from readers (predominantly female readers) is ridiculous. That’s just as insulting as suggesting that any woman who is in an Executive position at her company got the job by flirting (or sleeping) her way to the top. Isn’t it possible that some of us sell a lot of books because we can actually write? Or, maybe some of us excel at selling books. I compare it to the music industry.
Let’s take the singer Ciara for example. She’s a beautiful young lady, but most people recognize that she can’t sing. If she was on one of those talent shows like American Idol or The “X” Factor, where singers are judged by their vocal ability, she probably wouldn’t make it past the first round. I don’t hear anyone checking for Ciara these days…and the last time I checked, she’s still pretty and sexy.
My point is, your looks will only get you so far in any industry—you’d better have some skills to back up those looks. Now, take my argument and apply it to male authors. A good looking man may attract a few readers to his table at a literary conference. He may even sell a few books at that conference. But all that guarantees is success for that one particularday, that doesn’t mean he will gain a loyal fan base. In fact, if that book is garbage, readers will let him know—either via email, social media, in reviews, or they will hit him where it hurts—they simply won’t buy his next book. Especially in these tough economic times when everyone has become more conservative about the way they spend their hard earned money.
Lastly, I think this notion that male authors have it better is flawed because when I look around this African-American literary industry, all I see are women dominating the best seller charts. If you took a poll today and randomly asked 100 readers who their top five favorite authors are (mainly in any genre besides Urban Fiction/Street Lit), I guarantee you that the only male names you will probably hear in most of those lists are: Eric Jerome Dickey and Walter Moseley. Conversely, I’ll bet you’ll hear several of the top female author names mentioned on every list: Terry McMillan, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Mary B. Morrison, ZANE, ReShonda T. Billingsley, Victoria Christopher Murray, Brenda Jackson, Pearl Cleage, etc. So, in an industry that is clearly DOMINATED by female authors, I don’t understand how anyone can fix their mouth to suggest that men get better treatment. When you remove “emotion” from the argument and look at the issue “logically”, it just doesn’t make sense.
The bottom line is this; readers buy books that are written about topics that they can relate to; are entertaining; and well written. All authors (male and female) should spend more time focusing on writing stories that are unique (as opposed to the recycled storylines that are flooding the market) and getting out and selling the heck out of those books. In this industry these days, an author better have just as much personality as writing skills. Otherwise, he/she will just be a talented author with a garage full of books no one wants to purchase.