I found this recent blog post by thriller writer and former book editor Jason Pinter thought provoking. He brings up a lot of points we hear often in the book biz about men not reading books, and not being the target market publishers are looking to reach. And it is in many ways out of date and completely short sighted, not to mention the fact that it's just not true. Look at the bestseller lists for fiction and nonfiction, and there will always be a fine collection of books squarely aimed at male (and female) readers. Books about politics or history or science or technology on the nonfiction side, or what about big runaway bestsellers like Freakonomics? I don't think the target audience there was women. On the fiction side there are the big thriller writers like Michael Connelly and David Baldacci, currently number 1 on the New York Times list, and what about Stephen King? These are just a few examples of big time authors whose audience is made up of a large percentage of men. The story Pinter uses to illustrate his pitch for the Chris Jericho book is pretty funny, but also a little ridiculous. It's the kind of thing that can drive forward-thinking agents and editors a little crazy when there's a good idea or project outside the box--it takes a serious load of convincing and ultimately a leap of faith to get it through. And then when one of these "risky" projects does work, a whole slew follow until the market is saturated and you're back at square one. I don't think there's an obvious answer here, but it does beg a further discussion and perhaps a shift in our collective perception about readers and how we find them.
I understand publishers have limited resources, but the goal, especially in this day and age when there are so many opportunities to draw in new readers, needs to be to stop using old excuses and start implementing new tactics to find the audience, whichever gender they might be.