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to read, that is.

Middle-aged women are the biggest readers, the largest group of book purchasers.  Therefore, a writer, before setting aside a year to write a book, might want to ask, “What do middle-aged women want to read about?” 

It's a question I always ask of readers when I meet them.  Many want stories to escape in, or stories where they learn something, about history, or science, or religion.  Above all, female readers want sensuality.  Color and feelings.  Adventure, landscapes, travel.  They love moments when they gasp and say, “I've felt like that before!”

Women want to read stories about:

-A female protagonist who sacrifices everything and endures hardship for something she believes in.

-Someone who has lived without love for a long time and discovers true love.

-Someone who leaves (escapes) a life of limitation, and begins a second life of rejuvenation, exploration, and empowerment.  Who takes her throne, fulfils her destiny.

-Someone who embarks on a spiritual search for self-discovery. 

-Someone who is suddenly needed.  Who discovers purpose in her life.

-Someone who, much like an adolescent girl, is frightened, sexual, hopeful, afraid of her new life, her new adventure, but has the gumption to try.

Any other thoughts?
 

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Yeah.  I'm 53 and I don't want to read any of that.  I like mysteries and thrillers and I don't much care if the main characters (usually detectives or some such) are men, women, or a combination of both.  I also like historical fiction.  I am way over romance novels of any sort.

eta: "uplifting" novels I find to be usually incredibly annoying. :-\
 

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I'm in my mid to late 40's so I guess I fit into that 'middle-aged' category. :)

I buy a ton of books as many avid readers do, and I've never once thought about looking for any particular kind of storyline.

I think that most women readers look first for a good story teller because they know if they pick up a Nora Roberts or Debbie Macomber or Danielle Steel or Lisa Gardner, Claire Cook or whoever it may be that they'll enjoy the way the story is told.

What all those women have in common is that they are great at creating memorable characters and emotional stories that keep the reader engaged and caring about the characters. Nora Roberts writes Romance as well as a futuristic suspense series, Debbie Macomber does small town, warm Women's Fiction,  Danielle Steel does glamorous Women's Fiction, Claire Cook writes Women's Fiction with humor, and Lisa Gardner does pretty dark thrillers.

One thread that seems to run through all is that they write strong women, women who are able to overcome whatever obstacles come their way and usually find a bit of romance.


 

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I'm 54 and I don't see myself in your list.

My dream book would have Harry Bosh or Arkady Renko solving a mystery in a "Snow crash" type of setting with steamy interludes with one of Jasinda Wilder's big girls...
If there is such a book let me know pleaaaaase!
 

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Catana said:
My instant thought was "Could you get any more stereotypical?
Okay - I fit this category.

Yes, I read and write romance.

No, that is not the only thing I read. In fact, there is almost no genre I don't read. I also know many, many women my same age who do not read romance at all.

Most of us don't care that the protagonist is a woman.

I'm so NOT into that 'Someone who embarks on a spiritual search for self-discovery.' I did those books in college. (And not the eat, pray, love variety either).

I find the 'much like an adolescent girl' phrase insulting for such a broad statement. What? Adult males aren't afraid of a new adventure, but have the gumption to try?

"Someone who leaves (escapes) a life of limitation, and begins a second life of rejuvenation, exploration, and empowerment. Who takes her throne, fulfils her destiny." - Wow. That could be just about anything, couldn't it?

For myself personally - Although I enjoy many genres I do look for emotional impact in fiction. It does not have to be romantic, but a simple laying out of actions doesn't do it for me. I need to identify with the characters emotions.

Sex is also nice ;D but not a requirement. I don't like sex just stuck into a story so there will be sex.

Finally, when I sit down to write, I ask myself, 'What do I want to write?" I've found that approaching it the other way (what do readers want to read) just doesn't work for me.

Of course, you won't find me on any bestseller lists - so take that with a grain of salt!
 

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I'm going to guess that 75% of the readers of Feels Like the First Time fit this category. I got a lot of feedback telling me they liked reading a romance told from a geeky, skinny guy's perspective. It was different, and people seemed to respond to that. This book was non-fiction, but I've got a follow-up in the works that will explore similar ground.
 

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My mom's sort of in that range, maybe a bit on the opposite side, but she reads medical texts and Greg Isles serial killer novels.
 

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I am woman and have lots of women friends. What we really want is for people to quit stereotyping us and let us just be people. As people, we have a variety of tastes. For instance, when a friend of mine thinks of a hot scene, she is laying on the beach, still clothed, deep kissing and embracing.  When I think of a hot scene, we're doing something deep but it "ain't" kissing! Nor is any "romance" or clothing involved.  Most people would say only guys find that hot. Um, not so. Women are as different from each other as men are. Write for people. Period. I am so tired of people deciding for women what they "want"!

P.S. Uplifitng novels? ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Give me drama or give me death (however, I prefer my drama to stay fictional). The things you listed sound like something a young girl in the 1950's might read.
 

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My mum, who is perhaps a little older than middle age, but definitely falls into the female target audience, only reads gruesome thrillers and horrors with detectives and serial killers. What is it with forensic psychology that gets women going? I've never seen the appeal, personally.

I work with women in their 40s - 50s and they are obsessed with serial killer TV shows. They love it! Mad for murder -that's what the ladies want!
 

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IreneP said:
Finally, when I sit down to write, I ask myself, 'What do I want to write?" I've found that approaching it the other way (what do readers want to read) just doesn't work for me.
That and: "What do I want to READ?"
 

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kayakruthie said:
Women want to read stories about:

-A female protagonist who sacrifices everything and endures hardship for something she believes in.

-Someone who has lived without love for a long time and discovers true love.

-Someone who leaves (escapes) a life of limitation, and begins a second life of rejuvenation, exploration, and empowerment. Who takes her throne, fulfils her destiny.

-Someone who embarks on a spiritual search for self-discovery.

-Someone who is suddenly needed. Who discovers purpose in her life.

-Someone who, much like an adolescent girl, is frightened, sexual, hopeful, afraid of her new life, her new adventure, but has the gumption to try.

Any other thoughts?
If that's true, then Baptism for the Dead should be THE BIGGEST BEST-SELLER OF ALL TIME!!!! It covers all the bases! I can't wait until it takes off. ;)

Seriously, though. That's an insightful list. Did you adapt it from some other source, or are these all your own observations?

ETA: after having read through the thread, I am surprised at how many people assumed that the bullet points Kaya listed above apply only to romance. My novel Baptism is most definitely not a romance, and yet it manages to hit all the points she listed. I have read many great books that fit the above, and were not romances, nor were they "uplifting." I think the most stereotyping comments in this thread were the ones that made the assumption that because we are talking about women readers, we are talking about romance or Oprah's Book Club picks.

I'll be 33 soon, so I'm not yet middle-aged, but I've had the same reading preferences since I was in high school. I love literary fiction, which gets me way into a character's head, deals strongly with emotions, and is full of beautiful language. That's what I read the most by far, and that's what I love to write more than anything else, although I also write historical fiction. I am also a big sci-fi reader, though I haven't found a new sci-fi novel I really loved in a long time. I think many of the bullets above apply to me in my reading preferences, although I want exactly the same things in male characters' stories, and I will read male or female protagonists with equal enthusiasm. I have never read a book by Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber, or the other writers offered somewhere up there as readers women typically gravitate toward.

None of us fits an exact profile of "woman reader." But such generalities are pretty useful in predicting which books are more likely to strike a chord with a large audience.
 

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My middle-aged girlfriend likes zombies, would like to chop up handsome vampires, live in a spaceship and beat me in an arm wrestle. I bought her a chick-lit book once for a laugh and I've never seen it since - perhaps she reads it in secret?? but I suspect it was shredded for cat litter.


 

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I'm about to turn 33 and I like to read about all of those things. And I read across all genres. I definitely love character focused pieces with really honest observations about life and emotions and things.
 

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I also like to read about these things, but first they must be well written.

And yes, I read anything. My favorite genre is the martial arts novel, and I used to get weird looks from people *shrugs* But as a female reader I think it's easier to read across genres. I think men might be more embarrased to check out a romance novel than women with sci-fi or hard boiled mysteries.
 

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I think the more pertinent question is: What does the author really want to write about? This is art (even when it's sheer entertainment) and the key thing is for the author to be engaged, stimulated, obsessed. It's all well and good to keep some idea of the target audience in the back of your mind, but if it's in the forefront, then one risks hackdom IMO.
 

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I write political thrillers with heavy emphasis on espionage and military content. To my surprise and delight, I found that as each book came out, I acquired a growing female reading audience. They email me with feedback or leave comments on my blog, FB and LinkedIn pages. I think what makes my writing agreeable to many women is that it doesn't fit the stereotype of testosterone-laden, shoot-'em-up action/spy thrillers. Violence is implied, not graphically depicted in my stories and my use of rough language is limited -- mainly because I don't myself feel comfortable writing or reading gore and F-bombs. I also put a lot of back story to my characters, which always feature strong, smart females, just as I've encountered in real life.
 

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I think it's a fool's errand to try to capture "what women want to read."  There is no one standard version of a woman, there are way too many variables, with the most obvious being age, relationship status, lifestyle (by which I mean how they grew up or live now:  rural/urban/suburban, poor/middle-class/wealthy, etc.), to name just a few.

I have a few years under my belt  8) but I most certainly do not fall into the categories in the OP.  If a novel is nothing more than a book-version of a Lifetime Movie, I won't touch it.  I also don't read best-sellers like Eat, Pray, Love, or anything by Nicholas Sparks.  While I sometimes get into a reading streak of a certain type of novel (thrillers or historicals, for example), I eventually shake it up by reading something entirely different.

I echo to "IreneP" and "nellgavin".....  when it comes to writing I could give a flip what's currently popular, as I'm not a bandwagon-jumper.  I write what interests me and the type of book that I would want to read.  If it turns out that nobody else wants to read it, then at least I have one satisfied customer.  :D
 

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sarahdalton said:
I work with women in their 40s - 50s and they are obsessed with serial killer TV shows. They love it! Mad for murder -that's what the ladies want!
Oh, yes. I'm all over Dexter (also Breaking Bad and The Borgias). And I'm a romance writer. What is WRONG with me?
 
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