I Am Not a Target Market: Questions for Mike Astbury

Last week I announced a new series called I Am Not a Target Market aimed at uncovering the reading habits of men (click here for all the back story). Halifax bookseller Eric Rountree was interviewed and he told us about his love for sci-fi and that he was surprised that A Time Traveler's Wife was marketed towards women because he thought it a great time-travel story appropriate for anyone.

He also told us that he didn't typically seek out fiction "by guys, for guys" but he felt the lad lit genre balanced the number of chick lit books and that there was also a healthy number of authors that weren't intended for either sex but appealed to both, such as Jasper Fforde.

I posed the same questions to Mr. Mike Astbury and here are his responses:

B: Who are you?

Mike Astbury. Videographer at St. Joseph Media. 26 and live in Toronto. Nerd, cook, constant reader and plaid enthusiast.

B: What literary genre do you usually prefer?

I will read almost anything, though it does usually turn out to be fiction of some kind. When my girlfriend isn't looking and/or it's hammock season, this expands to include a healthy (?) selection of sci-fi, fantasy and comic books.

B: Why did you decide to give The Time Traveler's Wife a whirl? I'm told that you enjoyed the experience - given that this novel has been largely marketed towards a female audience, why did it appeal to you?

I first read The Time Traveler's Wife when I was in college a few years ago. I remember devouring it and it is probably one of my all-time favourite books. To be honest, I can't say I ever considered the marketing. I knew that I was really enjoying what I was reading and that was enough for me.

What I liked about it was the sci-fi twist with the story skipping through the years. What really got me reading though was the author, Audrey Niffenegger's, style - it does feel a little non-masculine to say this, but it had a compelling love story. On top of that, the author wasn't afraid to do downright brutal things to her characters (Henry's feet!) and I liked that about it too. Lots of authors play it kind of safe with their characters but it didn't feel that way with this one - I had a kind of ominous feeling throughout.

B: Can you name any other books that you've enjoyed that was likely not marketed to yourself?

I read and really enjoyed a good number of books in the past year, from Fall On Your Knees to Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!. One of these is for children and one was an Oprah book (not that Oprah precludes male enjoyment, but I would be surprised to hear it was featured on Jimmy Kimmel too) so I doubt either of them was marketed towards mid-twenties guys but that didn't prevent me from liking them. I also read two Cormac McCarthy novels, two John Irving novels and a comic series about the last man on Earth so I'm kind of all over the place. I'll try anything really (except Diana Gabaldon).

B: Do you feel any affiliation with so-called 'guy lit' ex. Nick Hornby, Douglas Coupland, Jonathan Tropper, Thomas Pynchon etc.

Of the authors listed, I have only read Douglas Coupland, whom I thoroughly enjoy. I wouldn't classify him as man-lit though. I'd put him in the much more depressing, modern-life-is-empty category. I don't really feel like I'm affiliated with any "guy lit." While I look forward to the next Coupland or Palahniuk novel, I'm just as excited for Audrey's next book.

B: The argument has been made that fiction is now a largely female domain. Do you agree with this and if so, is it natural or do you think it's exclusionary?

Tough question. I was going to say I don't agree but I have to admit, I can't remember the last time I saw a book ad targeted at me. But I could probably name three or four books from TTC ads alone that were clearly geared towards women. Movies, TV, music, video games - I'm inundated with ads for these things every day. But books, I'm not even sure I can think of one. I can vaguely recall an ad for I Hope They Serve Beer In Hellbut it mostly made me feel nauseous.

I do a lot of work online and the ads and freebies and contests there are almost always for woman-oriented books. Maybe this is a missed opportunity? Before I started dating someone in publishing (which is like dating a library), I had a hard time trying to figure out what I would like or want to read next, and would usually just browse around Amazon or walk through Chapters on a lunch break.

Thanks Mike! You are officially guilty of having an awesome vest/tie combo. OK, so thank you to everyone who emailed/tweeted me about participating! Up next is going to be a SURPRISE! Heh heh. I'm excited for this one. I'll be tweeting about the posting date but likely you'll see a new Q and A up late this week or early next.


karen said...

jumping in for a sec - i would put money on the comic series being "y: the last man" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y:_The_Last_Man ) - one of the first comics i ever read, and one i find myself recommending frequently. and i'm not a comic target market, for what it's worth.

Guinevere said...

This is a really interesting series of posts. My husband, who was a voracious reader as a kid, is not much of a reader anymore except for the occasional well-written, plot/politics heavy fantasy books. It makes me crazy, and also very curious -- I'd like to write at least some books that are universally appealing, as much to men as to women.

I'll be continuing to read... following now. Thanks for posting these.

B.Kienapple said...

Hi Guinevere, thanks for checking out my blog! Fantasy books appear to be well loved by some men, often to the exclusion of other types of fiction. I think. I'm still sussing this out. -B


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