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How to Write for Men or Women (or Both!)

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Write a book that resonates with your audience, whether male or female.

Many aspiring writers have questions about how to write a book for men vs. women. Should authors employ a different style or voice for men than they would for women? Will an author have more success writing to his or her own gender? Is it wise for an author to switch audiences?

Nancy Erickson weighs in on the topic with good news: it’s not nearly that complicated.

Many Subjects Appeal to Both Men and Women

When you start writing a book, regardless of subject matter, begin with a careful analysis of the target audience.

“You have to know to whom you’re writing because that affects how you’ll deliver your message,” Nancy says. When she works with writers, they “spend a great deal of time answering a series of Foundational Questions” to determine the audience for the book.

Many topics turn out to be more universal than expected, says Nancy, and writers who envision speaking exclusively to women or to men may find eager readers in both camps.

Business and career coach, Tina Asher, discovered this while working with Nancy on her upcoming book Teetering, which advises readers how to transition from a corporate career to a different career and lifestyle. Asher began with the assumption that the book, which was largely based on her own personal journey and featured personal stories from other women, would appeal to women in the corporate world. Yet as she and Nancy gathered more anecdotes for the book, they had just as many stories about men as they did about women. Nancy and Tina realized the message of the book could help either sex on their journey out of the corporate world. And so, the book’s audience expanded.

The same thing happened to an author in The Book Professor’s® Group Mastermind program. Her book was about breast cancer, which seemed like a very female topic. Yet men can also get cancer of the breast tissue; more than 2,000 men receive such a diagnosis every year. Thus, the book could help both women and men navigate a challenging illness.

Even Dr. Kathy Maupin’s book Got Testosterone? has audience overlap. The book explains the benefits of hormone therapy for men, but wives and girlfriends often read the book first in their quest to help their partners improve their health.

Your Topic May “Lean” One Way or The Other

But some topics lean heavily toward one gender.

For example, The Book Professor® client Rich Daniels wrote A Tourist In My Own Life, a book about how fathers can form close bonds with their children. Some moms likely read the book too, but men are the obvious targets of its advice.

Another client, Heather Carey, writes about women’s relationship to food and how it connects to body dysmorphia and eating disorders. While some men struggle with these issues, women have historically borne the brunt of social shaming as it relates to the body. So Carey directed her writing toward a female audience.

“One thing I’ve found is that men and women have an equal yearning to communicate their message,” Nancy says. She’s worked with a multitude of clients and has seen equal talent, equal determination, and equal joy in the writing process from both men and women.

Find Your Voice and Stick to It

Should writers adopt different tones for different audiences—for example, a more direct tone for men and a gentler tone for women? “Not necessarily,” says Nancy. “The most important thing is to discover and maintain your authentic voice, regardless of the audience.”

“We never, ever want the author to change their voice based on who they’re addressing,” she says. She tells writers that their future readers “need you to be you.”

In fact, one of The Book Professor’s goals is for each author to learn to write in their own unique way.

Make Your (Male or Female) Audience Feel Included

So what, if anything, should differentiate a book for men vs. a book for women? Not much, Nancy says, save a couple of guiding principles:

Consider your metaphors and whether they’ll appeal to the intended audience.

Nonfiction authors often use similes and metaphors to help readers grasp a point. Choose your metaphors wisely depending on whether your book speaks to men, women, or both.

A book that uses sports examples might strike a strong chord with men, but would it appeal to most women? An author with a mixed audience—or a female audience—should evaluate this before comparing every challenge in the book to sports.

Likewise, women may be more likely to employ metaphors about family life and parenthood. In general, men are less apt to look at life through that lens.

Review your metaphors and your story examples and imagine how they’ll appeal your ideal audience.

Count the number of stories you tell about men vs. women.

Nonfiction books often feature stories of clients, friends, family members, or coworkers to help illustrate points and give examples. Notice whether your stories feature all men, all women, or a healthy mix of both.

If you hope to sell your book to women, you should ensure that many of your stories and examples feature women. Likewise, if you write for men, use mainly men’s stories. If you hope for a mixed audience, have a mixture of both.

“Always make sure you keep the reader inside your circle,” Nancy advises. “Don’t make them feel left out or excluded.”

Do You Need to Identify Your Audience?

You have a story to tell, but maybe you don’t know who would read it. The Book Professor® can help!

Our coaching program helps you identify your audience. Who will benefit from your story? Who would find it interesting? This process goes far beyond men vs. women and takes into account various factors that could define your ideal readership: age, background, career status, and much more.

Readers need your story. Only you can tell it. Let The Book Professor® guide you.


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