I first wrote about “Writing to Men” in this post five years ago. I still hold the same opinions about this issue, but today I want to take a different angle.
One of the many factors explaining why more books are not read by men and more authors don’t write to men is that we tend to view them as a singular group who are all alike. Not so for women, as there are books for just about every life stage and personality.
In reality, men are just as varied and nuanced as women. Thinking of committed Christ-followers I know personally:
Never-married guy who works hard every day at a good job making a difference in the world.
Never-married guy working as a missionary, going where God wants.
Never-married guy who focused on a long career and now is retired.
Married man with young kids juggling all the things you can imagine.
Married man with no kids who, for various reasons, didn’t or couldn’t have children.
Married man struggling with adult children who abandoned the church.
Divorced dad who juggles competing demands of work and custody of kids.
Guy in addiction recovery.
Friend who is very ill and probably not long on this earth.
I could probably come up with many more combinations, but hopefully you get the point. Which of these is the stereotypical Christian man? None of them. Because stereotypes aren’t real people.
Even averages aren’t real. No family has 1.7 children.
Far be it for me to suggest what an author should write, but more male authors should take up the task of writing for men in all their varied facets.
In my opinion, three underlying factors are working together, affecting Christian men today:
- Ongoing negative portrayal of maleness in general.
- Wide disagreement on what it means to be a Christian man.
- Men in general have a difficult time making and keeping close male friends.
Putting these together, we have a cruel combination of discouragement, confusion, and loneliness, creating fertile ground for enemy Satan, who prowls about devouring Christian men through all his various schemes.
I don’t propose writers write anything in particular, as you need to “own” what you write, which means you need to write from your heart, not only your head.
But no matter what is written, a substantial component of it should be to push back against discouragement, confusion, and loneliness, encouraging men to be “strong and courageous” in their lives and faith. This is a call throughout Scripture, so it should be ours as well.
When men were children, we spoke, thought, and acted like children. (Roughly 1 Corinthians 13:11.) Frequently, when we played, we pretended to be heroes doing heroic things: astronauts, firefighters, police, military, sports, superheroes, etc. You know, those who are strong and courageous. But when we became adults, we put off those childish things.
But God still calls us all, both men and women, to be strong and courageous.
Strong and courageous Christian men are not easily discouraged or confused; and they encourage others, which builds strong bonds of friendship. They are not threats to anyone, except the enemy of our souls.
Thousands of Christian books each year are published in the U.S. alone. Maybe a few more for men and we’ll discover men read too.
They said I should now put aside
those vain and childish things,
join the world, not try to hide
behind weapons, dogs, and wings.
Step out in vulner’bility,
put down the youthful shield,
develop the ability
to bend and weep and yield!
Yes, I tried I really did,
the berzerker at the ball,
but journey’s end, I am glad rid
of the need to hear that siren call
that promised, then, to make me whole
at cost of my bright hooligan soul.
Dan, thank you for this much-needed observation. Writing for men has been neglected. Is it any wonder women buy most of the books?
Question: My WIP is for pastors. Should I use only my initials with my last name on the cover? If they see a woman’s first name, would that hinder sales?
Good question. Off the top of my head, I’d say don’t use initials unless you want that to be your permanent author name. Use an introduction to explain why you are writing.
While I am trying to encourage more men to write to men, I also don’t want to fall into “identity writing” which asserts an author can only write to people just like them.
Thank you Dan, for your input. That’s why YOU are the literary agent and I’m still learning.
Excellent article; couldn’t agree more. Christian men ought to be strong and courageous in their faith like the apostles, not weak with a “sheep led to the slaughter” mentality.
Timely writing. Are editors even interested in books written to men? Women tend to be the book buyers? From my vantage point it is all about the almighty dollar.
Yes, women buy books more than men, but publishers will buy a well-written book for men. The financial element is part of this, for sure, but most agents see book proposals for two groups, women and “everyone.”
“Everyone” is not a market.
Lancia E. Smith
Dan, I so appreciate this good reminder and clear explanation. I spend quite a bit time talking with my editorial team and writers about how critical it is that we keep space for men in the way that we pray, think, create, and provide content. What you have shared here will help reinforce this perspective. Thank you!
An observation: many Christian novels that would be enjoyable reads for men are packaged with covers that only appeal to women. It’s a choice being made by the publishing houses, not the authors, but it’s not wise marketing. A top-selling Biblical fiction author just had one of her novels released in a new edition. The original cover had both the male and female faces divided by the title panel. The new cover only has a woman. The first cover said “important male character here, not just something for women.” The second did not.
I write early-church novels that both men and women enjoy. I’m very careful to choose covers that attract men instead of turning them off. I did some research on what made a cover attractive to men (or repellent, which is equally important to know). The results of that research are at my website (linked to my name here). Some of what I learned might surprise you. Andrew, who shares his poetry here, was part of the research effort. I hope this link proves helpful for anyone who has input into what their covers are. Perhaps sharing it with the people who pick their covers will give them more male-friendly covers.
Men’s fiction should be a thing.
Actually it is a thing. Or at least there are books that would, on the surface, appeal to men…as well as women.
Dan Brown has a number of military-related novels (from Zondervan). He started with a JAG series (since he was a lawyer with the JAG in his military days). He has a novel “Beneath the Black Ice” which has a near WWIII break out over the discovery of oil in the Antarctic.
Ronie Kendig’s brand is “Rapid Fire Fiction.” Her novels are perfect to give to a man. (As with all novels, many women enjoy them too!)
Bryan Litfin has a “early church” novel with Revell called “The Conquerers” (book one in the Constantine’s Empire series) that would be a good one to give to a man who enjoys history and a well written story.
I could go on and on. These are literally off the top of my head.
Authors like Joel Rosenberg, Steven James, James Scott Bell, Robert Whitlock, Ted Dekker, Jack Cavanaugh, Paul Robertson…are all authors who have written strong novels from a Christian worldview that would resonate with the male reader.
It is a myth if anyone says these type of novels don’t exist. I know they do. I have them on my shelves!
Very, very well said, thank you! Walk in His beauty
Thank you for this. My 32-year-old husband feels those points deeply. I think it also couples with the attitude we’ve faced in churches we’ve attended. Every fall, a whole calendar of women’s Bible studies are introduced and promoted. Every now and then, a very light men’s Bible study would appear. Usually offered incredibly early in the morning (we understand why, but not great for families with small children), the studies expect next to nothing from the participating men. It seems churches are so grateful to have men participate that they expect nothing. Women’s studies, on the other hand, at least have homework. Or something more intense, like Precepts.
My husband joins where there’s a place for him, but our children definitely see me attend church discipleship much more often, as those are the opportunities available. As men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders, I find this incredibly disheartening.
Thanks for your post!
Good writing. Agree.
But I was distracted with your reference to 1.7 children, remembering Andy Griffith & Opie’s dialogue about Horatio, the half boy.
Wonderful post. Full of truth. I love it.
Some of my favorite books are male-centric stories. Captains Courageous by Kipling, Treasure Island, Stevenson, while not totally faith-based. We read about men of commitment and young men working to learn commitment to what is right. I hope others will follow this writing path. We need more.
Thank you for this! It needs to be said more! Both my brothers were avid readers, and they often shifted out of the Christian realm to find books published for guys. As an author, I write young adult suspense and action/adventure novels more particularly written for teenage boys because I believe that we do need to be creating books with guy characters who walk through struggles, who trust in the Lord, and who become courageous heroes.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Men absolutely are a varied and individual as women and our books should reflect that. Now that you mention it, I realize that books tend to be written for a certain kind of man. I see many books written by men for men in non-fiction and not as many in fiction. I’m curios though and left wondering why you seem to presume that books written by women cannot also be instructive and enjoyable to men? As women, we read books authored by men all the time. I have three sons who are all voracious readers. They don’t even notice if a book is written by a man or a woman. What they notice is the story craft (they read a lot of fiction) and whether the tale is interesting, compelling, thought-provoking, and adventurous.
My life and writing goals are to push back against discouragement, confusion, and loneliness– my great nemeses. Well-said. Thank you, Bob!