Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Women's fiction": because we only read Danielle Steel

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I don't know what I bought on Amazon that convinced them I am interested in "women's fiction". This may seem odd to you, considering that I run a feminist blog, but you haven't heard what exactly "women's fiction" is - every few months, Amazon sends me a helpful email advertising choice works such as Love in Bloom by Sheila Roberts, One Day at a Time by Danielle Steel, and of course the classic Vision in White (The Wedding Quartet, Book 1) by Nora Roberts (because of course every mention of my wedding day sends me into a tizzy of excitement...I can barely type just thinking about it!).

But seriously, there are so many things that are problematic about these ads that I doubt I can count them on two hands. Yes, Amazon is only trying to sell their books - yes, this is a particularly weak marketing ploy. But I would really, really like to think that whoever is putting these ads together has more respect for me - and my fellow females - than to assume that all we're interested in reading are book forms of the Lifetime channel.


At March 3, 2009 at 11:24 PM , Anonymous Christina said...

If you're worried about what counts as "women's fiction," it's really not Amazon who is deciding that--it's actually what the publishing industry as a whole seems to call that genre. (Chick-lit is tarred in the same brush, and romance too.) That's just what they call those kinds of books, probably because the vast majority of people who read those books are women (though of course not all women read them). Like anything else, it's just a label that makes it easier to organize the books in a bookstore, to let the publisher know what market the book will sell to, to help authors find an agent whose interests match the genre of their work, etc.

Whether or not it's appropriate to name the genre "women's fiction" is an entirely different matter, but the point is that Amazon can't be blamed for using an industry-wide label, especially when the people who read women's fiction know that's what they like and go looking for women's fiction. And I'm not sure it's a necessarily weak marketing ploy--for people who do read those kinds of books, periodic e-mails advertising more books in the same vein is sure to help Amazon's sales. It's obviously not going to work on you with this particular genre, but that's an unfortunate (for you) result of whatever way Amazon determines who is interested in what.

At March 3, 2009 at 11:46 PM , Anonymous AC said...

Stereotypes exist because there ARE such underlying tendencies. And of course if it didn't work, the market would favor companies that profile more efficiently. How's Amazon doing, eh?


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