Super Dad and I were just talking about what sort of market there actually is for all of these mommy books out there. And today he sent me this article:
Mommy Books: More Buzz Than Buyers By MOTOKO RICH
My first thought before even reading is that this is about more than Mommy Books–it is about books about “us.” “Us” being pretty much any demographic that has been identified, buzzed, and marketed to.
The books I purchase generally fall into three categories: useful references I believe I will turn to repeatedly (baby books by doctors, good cookbooks); non-fiction that reminds me I used to fancy myself edumacated; and fiction that I know to be or hope is a work of astounding beauty.
None of these include books that cause me to say, “Yup, that’s right. My friends and I say that all the time. And here it is. In print. Cool.”
It is not that those sorts of interesting ideas paired with anecdotes don’t have their place–I’m an avid blog reader and I do occasionally read magazines–it is just that reading a book is a commitment. These books just don’t justify that sort of expenditure of time…or money. $24? I could buy one piece of ultra-chic baby clothing with that…or a whole bunch of really cheap things for Baby Diva to destroy. Either way, more fun.
Here are some excerpts from the article and my thoughts:
But the book that prompted [Moen] to write a 1,200-word post on her blog,
www.mommiesparadise.com, was “The Feminine Mistake” by Leslie Bennetts, which Ms. Moen has not read and has no intention of reading.
Having seen an article from HuffingtonPost.com by Ms. Bennetts and a review of the book [...] Ms. Moen believes that she knows enough about it to debate its premise.
“I really think she laid out what she wrote about in the book in the article,” Ms. Moen said. “The whole article rubbed me the wrong way, so I’m not inclined to read the book.”
A lot of these ideas are fascinating enough to sustain a blog post, an article, or even an essay…but a whole book? So much of these books seem to be padding, or they repeat themselves over and over.
But the truth is that, with rare exceptions (and it’s too early to say whether Ms. Bennetts’s book may be one of them), these so-called mommy books fail to transform their talk-show and blogosphere buzz into book sales. Talk, it turns out, is much cheaper than the $24.95 cover price.
“There is a lot of discussion out there about this issue and that’s why we’re having these books,” said Nancy Sheppard, vice president of marketing at Viking, which last year published “Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World” by Linda R. Hirshman. “But it’s mostly just a discussion.”
Discussion. We can get that on bulletin boards and blogs and with our friends. I am more interested in hearing a wide variety of opinions surrounding this idea than lots and lots of words on the topic from one woman.
[...] What is striking about these limp sales figures is that these books cover a topic that raises fierce passions, as anyone who has spent time on a playground or near an office water cooler knows. But that may get at the heart of why women are not buying books about these subjects.
“I always felt it was something that women didn’t want to look at too closely,” said Jonathan Burnham, publisher of HarperCollins, who was editor in chief at Talk Miramax Books when Ms. Hewlett’s book, which suggested that women who pursued high-powered careers could end up childless, was published five years ago. “It was a problem that touched very complicated feelings, so while they read a magazine article or watched a segment on ‘Oprah,’ they didn’t want to read a whole book about it because it was such a difficult subject.”
Oh, please. If a book is truly challenging or earth shattering, people will read it no matter how disturbing the truth it expresses. Maybe no one is buying it because they just aren’t interested in reading it. Not buying it.
Because it’s such an unresolved issue, women have a “desperate need to express their feelings and have a discussion,” Naomi Wolf, the feminist writer, said. “You don’t really need to buy a book to do that.”
Wow. I agree with Naomi Wolf.
“Among full-time homemakers, this overdeveloped capacity for denial is often
accompanied by a highly combative sense of indignation about views that
challenge their own,” Ms. Bennetts wrote in a HuffingtonPost.com article.
Now, I find it appalling that someone attacked Ms. Bennetts’ weight and appearance instead of her ideas. However, Ms. Bennetts, just ’cause you use big words, it doesn’t mean it isn’t an ad hominem attack. Haven’t you ever watched the British Parliament? Saying that anyone who disagrees with you is in deep denial is not helping your cause. The buzz ain’t selling your book and it will only prolong your fifteen minutes just a few more seconds. Get back to the ideas and I may be interested. Otherwise, blow.
“I guess the media world has changed in such a way that a book is just a pretext for television appearances and blogging and writing for The New Republic,” Ms. Hirshman said. “If the world is divided into people who don’t need my message and women who don’t want to hear it, it’s a miracle I sold any books.”
But for many busy mothers, it is simply the only-so-many-hours-in-the-day factor. “I’m home-schooling, I have three children, and my reading time is limited,” said Heather Cushman-Dowdee of Los Angeles. With many of the mommy books, she said, “I think I get their points through the articles that they’re writing without needing to delve in.” Declining to buy the books, she said, is a way to “protect your sanity a little bit.”
This is a fascinating comment on our society. Hopefully we really are taking that time and spending it on something useful instead.
Speaking of which, I should go do some writing and then get some rest so I can enjoy playing with my baby tomorrow.