That Lad Word

August 5th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Lad lit, if anything, should be considered something of a minor miracle. It has died and been resurrected so often, surely there are mystical forces behind its scenes. Especially given its relatively short existence. But despite its tenacious grip on life (we imagine it to be a bit like the ants that won’t quit, even when it’s quite obvious that we have superior technology and powerful motivation), lad lit is apparently not really grabbing the male reader by the…well, at all.

We understand the need for neat marketing terms. Honest. But from our vantage point (Pasadena), no man calls himself a lad. Maybe it’s different in other places, but when you slap a silly title on a sub-genre, you have to expect the worst. Chicklit, we’ll agree, is just as silly, but after years of hearing rancorous discussion on the label, we’ll accept the argument that it’s women reclaiming a title for themselves. As far as we know, men aren’t clamoring to reclaim the “lad” designation.

In an effort to pretend we’re a “reporter,” we went the extra mile on this topic. We conducted a poll, and discovered no man of our acquaintance (and these are reading men) would pick up something marketed as “lad lit.” The husband, part of the group by virtue of meeting our criteria, appeared terrified at the concept.

So there’s that. Then there’s the cultural thing:

“No male reader wants to be identified with a guy who can’t get the girl,” says Christopher Napolitano, editorial director of Playboy, one of just a few large circulation magazines that regularly prints fiction – mostly male-perspective stories – since its first edition in 1953.

Not that men are shallow and can’t handle rejection. It simply strikes us that this so-called trend is an attempt to take a female-oriented concept and slap a guy label on it. Unfortunately, it takes more than that to make a book appealing to men (heck, it takes more than that to make a book appealing to women). We are going to suggest that women have grown jaded by marketing labels designed to entice them (they don’t work, but we suspect most marketing curriculum is quite dated); we’re going to suggest that men are wary of similar tactics. After all, they haven’t been raised with countless cleaning product commercials geared at people just like them. It is only recently that marketers have discovered that men wash dishes (had they dropped by our home for dinner, this would have been obvious years ago).

We’re not sure why fiction requires tags to sell it. We get that people have favorite genres (though sometimes we wonder how sales would be affected if all fiction were given the library treatment — would more people read something outside their box? We like to think so.). We simply think that forcing concepts that don’t exist (hint: men have been writing about the male experience for a really long time) into marketing funnels isn’t the best way to sell books that probably would do much better without helpful labels.

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