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The books world is sexist – and a one day promotion isn’t enough to fix it

8 March 2018

From The Guardian:

Women are used to living off scraps that fall from the table. Whether we’re being patronised by politicians touting for our votes, or being told by advertisers we’re “worth” a £3 bottle of shampoo, we have learned to take any crumb of grudging appreciation. And we even have a day each year – 8 March, International Women’s Day – to feel special.

In this context, the decision by bookseller Waterstones to banish the boys and give over the entire front page of its website to “celebrate” women’s writing on International Women’s Day seems par for the course. But while it may be good PR, it isn’t enough in a market that would collapse without women, whether readers, writers or publishers.

For anyone who doubts this, and as they say in the shampoo ads, here comes the science. According to Nielsen BookScan, in the 11 months from January to November 2017, women bought 57% of all books sold in the UK. This isn’t a blip: that figure holds up year after year. On top of that, women account for the majority of readers of the big blockbusters like The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, whose readers were 70% female, according to BookScan. Simply put, the numbers show that, regardless of gender, few novelists would have careers without women buying their work.

. . . .

But while we get the public vote, the literary establishment continues to overlook all bar a handful of female writers. According to the latest Vida survey, which monitors the literary press by gender, from the London Review of Books to the New York Times Review of Books, men dominate all books reviewed and the critics reviewing them by two to one.

Does that matter? Well, yes. Reviews create a virtuous circle that ensures writers of quality fiction continue to be published, and coverage in prestigious publications paves the way to major prizes, such as the Man Booker, in a market dependent on these prizes to generate sales. A good review in a well-regarded journal may encourage publishers to submit a title to a major literary prize. And before anyone shouts “Hilary Mantel”, they should know that women are still under-represented among authors submitted to the Man Booker, which remains the only prize that can guarantee an author remains in print. Back in 2015, author Kamila Shamsie was told by Booker organisers that just under 40% of books submitted by publishers to the prize were by women. That figure was consistent five years in a row. So no wonder men have dominated the Booker’s long-, short- and winner’s lists over the past 20 years. This figure alone justifies the existence of the Women’s prize for fiction, the longlist for which has just been announced.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG says women (and men) don’t have to put up with the whims and biases of a literary establishment, whoever or wherever it may be, when they indie publish.

Big Publishing, Non-US

One Comments to “The books world is sexist – and a one day promotion isn’t enough to fix it”

  1. Mind over Matter. We don’t mind because they no longer matter.

    The ‘Nielsen BookScan’? Those jokers couldn’t track who was watching TV back in the day, I know they can’t track books – much less ebooks today.

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