If you have walked into a book store recently or visited any online bestseller lists, it is of no surprise to you that many of the most popular titles are graced with the words “girl” or “woman”.
Do you ever wonder why that is?
Why women have such a focus in crime novels and thrillers?
Why female authors are most common for these books?
Why the trend first began with the word “girl” and is now progressing to “woman?”
“I have talked to other crime writers that have been urged by various professional people in their life to put the word girl in their title. It’s not necessarily an issue with the content of the book itself, but there’s this sort of shorthand that if it has ‘girl’ in the title, then I know what to expect.”
-Megan Abbott, Author
This trend has been fixated back to the release of Stieg Larsson’s, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Vulture.com analyzed this trend’s proliferation into the industry and cited 91 imitators up until 2014, whereafter they stopped tracking the trend.
They analyzed the trend by year and genre, however they were only looking for the word “girl” in titles, and as we know as readers the word “woman” has become vastly popular in titles recently as well. Since the count ended in mid-2014, how many more books do you think could still be a direct result of this trend? And who’s counting?
Males are fixated on this trend as well.
Insert: Daniel Mallory.
Although, you may know him by A. J. Finn, author of the new bestseller The Woman in the Window. Mallory received a two-book offer for $2 million from his own publishing house, William Morrow, where he is an executive editor, and deals with 37 international publishers as well as a film deal with Fox 2000. This kind of attention is very unusual for an author, especially an author who is an executive editor at the same house they are published with.
“While he had long considered writing fiction, it was only when he clocked the popularity of “Gone Girl” and “Girl on the Train,” two commercially successful descendants of the classic genre he’d long loved, that he realized the market was ripe for the kind of story he might want to tell.”
-The New York Times
It is important to establish why Mallory decided to publish under a pseudonym. Mallory claims it was so he and his established authors would not be competitors. While this may be a factor, it is also significant that many of the authors who submit to this trend are female. Thus, the male authors who write for this trend have reason to choose a pseudonym in order to make their books marketable.
“While exact numbers are hard to source, women readers have come to dominate fiction, where they’re widely touted as representing as much as 80 percent of the market. And while crime fiction and psychological thrillers are often associated with male readers, women read most of those, too—between 60 and 80 percent. Dr. Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, a lecturer in publishing and book culture at University College London, told me that women also prefer to read books by women, citing a Goodreads survey that found 80 percent of a new female author’s readership is likely to be female.”
– Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic
Thus, a pseudonym is a easy way for male authors to conform to the ideals of the market. However, what matters most is if male authors can adequately represent female characters in their books. This seemingly endless amount of vulnerability and negligence connected to women today is only proliferated by this trend and its sentiments that a female narrator is unreliable.
“I think a lot of these other books that have climbed upon the “girl train” so to speak is … people are gravitating toward these unreliable narrators. I know that when I read Gone Girl it was 2012, we were only a few years removed from the economic crash of 2008, a lot of people felt their lives were completely upended, they didn’t know who to trust, and so a book like Gone Girl, which gets at the heart of a marriage that seems to be stable but is anything but, I really think that did speak to people.”
-Sarah Weinman, Author
While these violent and hard to follow novels are intense and intriguing for readers, women are being perpetually shown as weak and unreliable to vast audiences.
Today, when women are trying endlessly to show their strength, they are being daunted with the task of intaking stories about their vulnerability and not being shown ways in which to overcome it
“Women live in fear of male violence, and of being disbelieved if they report it, so it’s hardly surprising that some of the most successful fiction of recent years plays on that. But acknowledging that we – and our fictional heroines – can be flawed, and at the same time truthful, might be a way of challenging the dominant idea that women can’t be reliable narrators of our own experience – a story that has served real predators for far too long.”
-Stephanie Merritt, The Guardian