Friday, March 4, 2011

Meeting Men on the Internet

By Rebecca Forster

I have been meeting a lot of men online lately and they all want one thing – to talk about books.

Not what you were expecting? Well, I gotta tell you this is a new experience for me, too. Not meeting men, of course. I’ve known a couple in my life, I just don’t remember them very well since I’ve been married like forever (think Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion and if you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and get thee right now to Netflix).

Since marrying I’ve also met some neat guys. They repair my car, my plumbing and take care of my yard.

What makes these new on line guys so amazing is that they are (get ready) readers of fiction. Before the internet, I assumed all men were like my husband and read history (tons and tons of history) or magazines and newspapers and owner’s manuals. Of course, there were always the aberrations like the men who read Tom Clancy or David Morrell. But I’m a little suspect of those readers. I have it on good authority that the publisher lays down a thin layer of testosterone on each page during the printing process and that’s what attracts men to that fiction. That’s tantamount to carrying a ham hock in your pocket to make a dog love you.

The men I’m talking about read MY fiction - and I'm a woman author. I think my books are pretty thrilling considering I write legal thrillers. There’s always a good murder (and I’m talking really good). There are fight or flight scenes. There are sex scenes (okay, maybe not real sex scenes. My mom reads my books, after all. She loves a creative murder but sex? Not so much). There are bare-knuckled-intellectual smack downs in my fictional courtrooms that men would love. I could see how some of this would attract male readers but my books also feature women leads and emotional entanglements. I figured that took me and a whole lot of other authors off the male radar.

The cool thing about all this is that these guys not only love to read fiction, they are like book mechanics now that I’m E-publishing. They are quick to point out a problem with a file and happily help me fix it. I’m assuming they are happy to help since the dialogue between us continues over weeks and months and, in some cases, years. I know about their children and grandchildren, we swap travel stories and suggestions for good reads. I get a little jealous when they don’t add ‘but your work is so much better’ to their recommendations but I get over it.

So, here’s a big heck yeah! to all the guys who read fiction - my books and yours. Knowing they're out there on the internet has sort of changed the way I write. Now I swipe a little more testosterone on those pages just to say thanks.

Thoughts on appealing to men who read fiction:*
Be smart if you’re writing a procedural. If your book is about cops, lawyers, doctors and even priests, men readers will expect sharp, crisp dialogue.
Introspection isn’t their favorite thing.

Not every character has to be beautiful. I have been surprised that my male readers like to discuss characterization. They honestly don’t care what these characters look like as long as they ‘read real’.

Male readers are vocal. Typos, inconsistencies, continuity problems – expect a letter. I haven’t had this experience with women readers. Conversely, they are usually incredibly nice when they point out a problem and go straight to the author before they post a bad review.

*Based only on my personal experience.


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