I read about this great initiative, the #ReadWomen2014 Twitter campaign earlier this year.
In recent years, a lot of attention has been focused on the gender bias in the publishing industry. Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of readers are women, male authors still enjoy the lion’s share of media attention, awards, covers of popular magazines, and reviews in influential newspapers and journals.
Organizations such as VIDA do a tremendous service by holding book review publications accountable with its widely-read annual counts. Take a look at the 2013 count here.
The counts show – by publication – how many books were reviewed each year, breaking it down by books written by male authors and female authors. In 2013 in The London Review of Books – a staggering 245 books by male author were reviewed versus a mere 72 by women authors. This is really a shame, since there are so many talented female authors out there who do not get their fair share of mainstream media attention.
In this type of atmosphere, it’s not surprising to see social media stepping in to level the playing field. I was pleased to discover social media’s attempts to narrow the gender gap in the publishing industry.
Sites such as The Writes of Women do a great job of reviewing books by female authors, and I’m always excited to read the (newly named) Bailey’s Women’s Fiction Prize Longlist (just out for 2014).
The #ReadWomen2014 is another great initiative. In recent years, my reading list has skewered heavily female, so I expect 2014 will continue in that vein.
But I think it’s important that women readers- especially as the predominant consumers in a position to influence the publishing industry – take it upon themselves to get the word out about all the wonderful books out there by talented women authors who apparently will never be found in the pages of The London Review of Books and other mainstream review outlets.
So readers, inform yourself about this worthy campaign and support female authors in 2014. Happy reading!
It’s not that I disagree with the #ReadWomen2014 initiative, and I’m definitely not saying that there is no such biases out there. But I suppose I would suggest that one looming factor could be content. Perhaps this whole thing has been blown out of proportion simply because what those males wrote about, the reviewers liked. I can’t say I’ve ever made a book purchasing decision on the gender of the author. I’m also not everyone, but if anything I actually do judge the books by their cover… if it piques my interest, then I give it a shot! Would I say I read mainly male authors? After looking at my bookshelf, it would appear so. But I loved the Hunger Games and Harry Potter, for me it definitely comes down to content! Speaking of which, I like fantasy type novels (Lord of the Rings and the such) do you know of any good upcoming female authors writing that sort of stuff?
But TJ, that sounds like an assumption that female authors are not writing the same kind of content that male writers are, which is simply not true. The research given to this issue has done comparisons, also, of similar books. A frequently thrown title has been Jeffery Eugenides’ “The Marriage Plot”. Had this same title been written by a woman, might it have gotten the same review time? Or would the title and female author combined have stymied it because suddenly it sounded like 50 Shades of Grey?
Thanks, Janet. Did you see the fabulous cover switch last year? The mock cover of the Marriage Plot had the author been female was brilliant.
It’s a bit of an assumption, I will agree to that. I definitely have not done any polls or research into who is writing what and what their gender is. I am well aware that females write in many different genres, but I would also say that there would be genres that are dominated by women and likewise for men (because of personal preference of writers, or content, or otherwise!)
Although because of my own preferences… I wouldn’t read a book called The Marriage Plot no matter who wrote it. If I didn’t know what the Red Wedding was from Game of Thrones and someone tried to sell me on the series using that part alone… I may have even run in the opposite direction (despite it being my favourite series).
I also don’t understand the whole 50 Shades of Grey craze… but then again, I suppose my own tastes are very narrow! I suppose as a struggling writer I’d be hoping for some sort of “Give a New Writer A Chance Month” That’d be great too!
Also – to help with fantasy – HuffPost just posted this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zola-books-/how-to-readwomen2014-in-g_b_4995677.html
Thanks, TJ, for your comments and sharing your views – and thanks, Janet, for helping out with the relevant post for TJ. Alas, I’m no expert in fantasy. I’m the minority in my male-dominated household (husband and sons) – all in love with Tolkien. While still appreciating his genius, I never manage to get beyone the first page… : )
Hmm, that Hundred Thousand Kingdom book sounds interesting and the cover has caught my eye! Thanks! 😀 Now… to find the time to read it!
Hi TJ – Love your idea of supporting new/debut authors – another positive aspect of how social media can be used.
Thanks! That’s why I’ve enjoyed my time on WordPress, getting to know others and reading some unknown works. It would be great if there was a “Read an up and coming” month, or some website similar to the whole crowd funding but solely for books. People could set up a page, once enough interest was generated the books would get published as you’ve already got a crowd started!
You are so right to support this campaign. I am too! The publishing world (less for children and YA literature) is largely supporting male writers. The literary critics are in majority men. So of course the exposure of female writers is smaller. I read an interview of Jodi Picoult once where she told about this issue. She said that no one would describe literature written by men as men’s literature while it is the case for any book written by women. What about chick lit? Many of my favorite writers are women and only because they write exceptionally well, regardless of their gender.
Thank you, Kimberley for passing the info. Best to you.
Thanks, Evelyne, for weighing in! Yes, Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner are quite vocal on this (important) topic – and more power to them. I understand why some women shy away from the term women’s fiction for the reasons Picoult cites. Personally, I embrace it. As someone who has studied and worked in business management (a lifetime ago), when you dominate the market, run with it. Women are the overwhelming majority of readers, so what’s wrong with cultivating that secor of the market? I’m a real supporter of campaigns such as this working to give female authors their fair share of attention. And I categorically refuse to pick up publications like the London Review of Books that so unfairly exclude all the talented female authors out there today.
This is probably the best reaction to the argument for/against women’s fiction that I’ve seen. “What’s wrong with cultivating that sector of the market?” What are we afraid of? That we’ll be successful with this endeavor? Isn’t that something that we need to press through on? Let’s “Lean In” this way.
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Thanks so much, Janet!
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Oh, wow. Thanks, Evelyne! Headed over to see your character blog tour!
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