1. Sadie B. says:

    Thank you for the article! I will say that I’ve never actually heard the phrase “men don’t read” but I am not in every circle there is. I do know more girls that read than boys, but I never thought to generalize. I feel like saying that publishers have “given up” kind of undermines many of the small scale, hard working, publishers and indie authors out there. But these books are out there. It’ll take work on the consumers part to find those stories, but what good things come without a little work? I didn’t like the constant barrage of romance novels, so I had to slowly build up a following of people whose stories I was interested in. I didn’t wait around for anyone else to just hand it to me. The consumer has to be interested in more than the status quo if things are going to change for the better!

    Again, thank you!

  2. Mike Duran says:

    This is a subject that needs talked about a lot more in Christian circles. Thanks to the author and the Lorehaven staff for publishing this. I wrote a two-part series on this subject not long ago and would like to suggest that there’s several other reasons for the lack of disconnect. One is that evangelical churches are losing men. The Church’s difficulty in attracting males may be due less to a deficient outreach model and more reflective of a much larger cultural issue — the feminization of boys and the shaming of traditional masculinity. Secondly, “clean” fiction is not a high priority for most male readers. Face it, boys who became readers were often drawn by things they liked — dinosaurs, space aliens, nuclear mutants, heroic exploits, and… girls. Frankly, “clean” fiction is not a huge motivation for today’s young men. Again, I appreciate you guys tackling an extremely important topic!

    • Great article. One of the reasons I became a author is because I find it hard to find new books that promote male heroism without being nihilistic or too dark or anti-God. Writing to boys and men may seem a small market compared to the female readers, but we are here and there are enough us. We just need good writing. I hope to do what I can fill that need.

  3. I think the reason men are being lost as readers is because there’s little for them past middle grade, and the genre shift between MG and YA/Adult is very dramatic. They go from stories of cats fighting over territory to YA love triangles and dry sci-fi. Pretty much all YA is more focused on relationships and such than adventure, and that’s not something boys want. There are a few good boy books out there in YA, but they’re hard to find.

    I believe that more adventure targeted at teen male readers would help keep those readers from leaving books and getting their story fix from video games. I don’t think it’s very likely that one can turn an adult non-reader into a reader, but I think that turning a pre-teen reader into a teen reader is possible if that teen has books he likes, so I think this is where the focus should be. Give them some fast-paced adventure with a bit of wonder sprinkled over it, and keep giving that to them as they grow up so they don’t have to spend their whole teenage years reading about 11 year olds and cats because there aren’t any adventure books for teens.

  4. Thank you so much for your insights! I searched the Christian book market for years to find books I wanted, but the quality in my preferred genres was never quite there, for action-adventure or speculative fiction. As an indie author, I now write stories for the general market that feature Christian heroes and the pulp fiction type action and plots I like.
    I often ask writers, “If Indiana Jones was a Christian, how different would his stories be?” The answer is, “Not much.” As a Christian, he could still run from tribes and soldiers, swing on vines, have car chases, and even punch people or shoot a gun to defend himself. He simply wouldn’t cuss, kill people so flippantly, or sleep with the girl. The action of the story would stay mostly the same.
    Yet most Christian publishers have no idea how to write an exciting or fun story with great Christian heroes. It feels like they take all their cues about what male readers would accept from readers who don’t actually read such books. So it’s not that Christian men don’t read fiction. It’s that many Christian women readers don’t read the kind of fiction that appeals to men, and those women make up the current CBA audience that publishers try to hold onto. The large Christian publishers have not welcomed men, but have asked women what their husbands might read, and produced women-approved fiction that men often tolerate, since they’re not being offered anything great.

  5. Publishing more ‘manly’ Christian fiction and having readers actually buy it would be a good start, so in that sense I definitely agree with the article. I really think there’s far more to this issue, however, and it comes down to a lot of complicated, subtle things in our society that need to be fixed.

    I’m a girl, but I’ve always read a lot of ‘guy’ books because I wanted stories with a sense of ‘coolness’ and ‘epicness’ about them. Growing up, I was trying to figure out life, and a lot of ‘masculine’ stories and male characters were written in a way that helped me do that. Of course I still liked a lot of female characters and stories aimed at women, but the guy books still taught me a lot. Many of these stories were dark and gritty animal stories, survival stories, or scifi and fantasy that explored how to survive, be a good leader, deal with difficult situations, etc. That’s one of the reasons why I’m invested in the topic of ‘guy’ books, along with the fact that I care about men as much as I care about women.

    When comparing modern stories to many older, grittier ones, I sort of lament what we’ve been losing. I’m not saying that ‘old fashioned grit’ stories are the ONLY ones we can have, but we are slowly losing them altogether, along with our ability to understand their depth. Some people passive aggressively say they want to ‘critique’ older stories, when in reality they’re just chipping away at the old stories until they lose their meaning and ultimately cease to exist.

    Over time, I think we’re getting stories that have a veneer of grit, but are still rather neutered in the sense that they’re only there to deliver a sermon on certain woke ideas, instead of being a real and honest exploration of life (or at least the author’s perspective). It’s ok for some stories to be woke or whatever — in fact, it’s necessary to have all perspectives out on the market. But, that’s just it. People are starting to act like the only ‘acceptable’ stories are the ones that contain woke ideas. In many cases, they AREN’T allowing for a full marketplace of books/ideas to take place, and that’s something that needs to be pushed against.

    In a general sense, writing good books for men is something that might help with part of the problem, but it isn’t the whole picture. There’s nothing wrong with specializing and aiming a story toward one demographic or another(men in this case), but it’s not always as necessary as one thinks.

    I am working on a lot of stories that probably would appeal to men, but I don’t write specifically for men OR women. Some of the intrinsic struggles that people have are more fundamental to being human than being a certain sex. The main character of one of my stories, for example, is a male that is very masculine and independent. He shows some aspects of what it is like to be a good father, and he dies trying to protect his family. But his character arc reflects a lot of what I went through when coming to terms with the way that various collectivist ideologies have started to take hold and control everything. Making sense of such things and learning how to stand against them (instead of being afraid) is very vital for everyone to learn. If we don’t, then everyone, including our families, will suffer. Books like that can help bridge the gap to male readers without having to be specifically for men. (Which may make publishers more willing to take a chance on them)

    Ultimately, the most important thing is to focus on writing a damn good story. A deep one. A magnificent one. One that brings the audience on a journey of life and death and understanding. There will always be plenty of people that will want to read those books, and plenty of them will be men. That approach also allows men to discover and enjoy these stories on their own instead of feeling like their wives, sisters, girlfriends, etc are dragging them into it. Also, saying that a ‘manly’ story focuses on action rather than relationships is way too simple. Stories like Naruto are written primarily for teenage boys, and they strongly emphasize both action AND relationships. Considering such stories can easily run for a decade or two, the authors kinda HAVE to develop character relationships in order for the story to make sense and have a plot. But the action and relationships have to be well written and ENHANCE the plot, otherwise they’ll feel like a boring and needless distraction. Considering how beloved the Naruto/Naruto Shippuden series is throughout the world, we can see that writing both action and relationships well can be very beneficial.

    A good story should also wrestle with what it’s like to be human, and therefore be willing to show flawed characters. I think a lot of where Hollywood and ‘modern’ stories go wrong is in terms of how they depict flaws. Often, their depictions don’t drive the character toward something meaningful.

    Characters don’t have to always know when they’re wrong or ‘learn a lesson’ by the end of the story. But it is important to show the genuine ups and downs of their lives and struggles, along with the full depth of how their choices affect things. I have characters that are promiscuous, for example, and they don’t always know their behavior is wrong. But the reader can often see that the promiscuity comes from an unhealthy place inside the character. Or they can see how it negatively impacts the world. It’s not about being preachy, but it is about being honest with what happens. Hollywood, etc. can talk about ‘being honest’, but they’re only honest about certain things. Maybe Christians can start writing more stuff that’s honest about EVERY piece of reality. Not in the sense of writing graphic sex scenes just for the sake of realism, but in the sense of exploring all aspects of human nature, especially the things that people tend to overlook.

    Also, it’s not just about whether men read novels or Christian fiction. They might be reading manga, comics, or enjoying other creative hobbies like video games and tabletop rpgs. So having stories in a variety of formats is important too.

  6. Lilly says:

    Hello! As a fan of fantasy and Christian romance, I think it is time that many people realize this: the problem is not that Christian fiction is full of romance and fiction for women, if they left that aside, the problem would be the other way around: the girls would go to the secular in search of reading. No, now that we have female writers and a popular genre like romance has enough representation in the Christian industry, let’s also pay attention to the fantasy boys that everyone likes.

  7. Dan Daetz says:

    James, I just ran across your article after meeting Zack at a conference. Well done, brother! I’m a former military aviator like you, and my target reader for my sci-fi is a young dad named Ben who loves Jesus, strives to be a great husband and father, and still faces plenty of insecurities regarding his place in the world. A good story encourages him to keep going on his own “hero’s journey” as a man. And why can’t those stories be clean, God-affirming, and adventurous at the same time?
    Thanks for sparking the good online dialogue here. I hope we can find time together at Realm Makers this summer to connect and continue this conversation. Personally, I’m motivated to stand in the gap as a male author amidst a market that can benefit from that point of view. Appreciate you being in the fight with me!

What say you?