Women's Fiction – What message does it send?
Consequences of segmenting the author/book market
As a college student in the 1960s, I took a class called “Black Literature.” “Black” being the culturally accepted term of the day for African American. We read works including Native Son by Richard Wright and poetry by Langston Hughes. Though the class was taught by a female professor, we did not read anything by black women authors.
During that same time, courses in women’s literature were offered in the gender studies program.
My thinking at the time was that both “black literature” and “women’s literature” were special and worthy of study. I did not consider that by shining a light on a particular group of authors, the courses may simultaneously elevate and demote those authors.
Meyers observes that: “… to publish on Amazon, you must pick a category from a list of wide ranging possibilities that include ten sub-genres of Women’s Fiction and, zero that are labeled Men’s Fiction. The message is clear. Men are the norm. Women are a sub-category.”
From a marketing standpoint, which given a thirty-year career in marketing is how I think about many things, segmenting the market is a good thing. The closer I can get to finding readers who are interested in my specific product (fiction, World War One-era, United States, family, women), the more efficient my marketing and the more likely I am to achieve a sale.
Amazon marketing is sophisticated, and I’ve benefited greatly from their ability to know that “if you liked this author/book, you’ll like that author/book.” I wouldn’t want them to stop.
At the same time, I know that if Go Away Home is considered “Women’s Fiction,” by default the implication is that men may not find it as interesting. But we can go down the list, if it’s World War One-era fiction, people who do not care about that era may not find it appealing. If it’s United States based, people who want to read about Asia may not choose to give it their time. If it’s fiction, people who only read non-fiction are likely to pass it by.
There is a wealth of good literature out there. How do any of us decide? I admit I’m torn on this topic. I’m not fond of the idea of labeling anyone if it somehow makes them “less.” I am fond of knowing who the reader is because if you market to everybody, you market to nobody.
What do you think readers? Is “Women’s Fiction” denigrating to women authors and even women readers? Or is it a reasonable function of market segmentation?