Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

While giving a talk to a group of men and women about relationships, author John Gray realized he had a hook for a new book. He told the women in the audience that their husbands were like E.T.—from another planet. “Where’s my husband from?” one woman called out as the room erupted in laughter. “Mars,” Gray replied reflexively. The idea for the book hit him immediately.

When Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus was published by HarperCollins in 1992, it quickly became a phenomenon, selling more than 50 million copies and making Gray a leader in the self-help genre.

HarperCollins’s history of producing seminal relationship and self-help books extends back to the genre’s boom era of the 1960s and 1970s. With the Vietnam conflict, the threat of nuclear war, and the influence of counterculture, readers began exhibiting an increasing desire for self-exploration during this time.

When Harper & Row printed 7,500 copies of Thomas Anthony Harris’s I’m OK—You’re OK in 1969, expectations were modest. But the book’s central tenet of transactional analysis proved surprisingly popular with the public, and sales gradually rose into the millions. Three years later, Avon (then a separate company) bought paperback rights to the book for a record $1 million. Later titles published in this rising genre included Wayne Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones (1976) and Bernie S. Siegel’s Love, Medicine and Miracles (1986).