Pub Rants

Publishing Is Where The Boys Are Not

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STATUS: Off to the Rockies game tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LIVIN’ THING by Electric Light Orchestra

Hey, nothing like ending a week on a controversial note. Really, I shouldn’t open this can of worms but heck, it’s a beautiful fall day. Why not throw a monkey wrench into it.

So in a spare five minutes I had waiting for something to download, I popped open my latest issue of PW and there was an interesting article on the lack of men in publishing and whether that impacts what gets published.

Jason Pinter did an editorial at the HuffPo saying it does.

Stuart Applebaum at Random House says it’s not keeping him up a night.

For my part, I just want to sniff. Sorry. There are SO many male-dominated industries and yet I never hear much discussion about whether the lack of women in those professions significantly impacts those industries so yeah, I’m inclined to just snort.

(Interesting side note, Alloy Entertainment, the folks behind all the Girl commercial teen products like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Gossip Girls etc. is run by 2 guys and no one seems to think twice about it….)

Then I wondered if I was being automatically dismissive and there is something to an industry being impacted by a gender leaning in one direction.

I imagine some of you might have decided opinions on this topic so air away.

78 Responses

  1. Ramsey Hootman said:

    Um, excuse me?

    What industry has, for basically all of history until now, not only been dominated by men, but intentionally excluded women? What industry still continues to give the bulk of major awards to men?

    There are more women in publishing now? OMGWTFBBQ, the world’s gonna end.

  2. Anonymous said:

    The only reason there are more women is publishing is that it’s a lot of work for not much pay.

    Louise Curtis

  3. Eddie Louise said:

    Maybe it also has something to do with the ominous statistic that says girls read more than boys.

    Maybe it isn’t girls winning out – maybe it is guys ceding the territory.

    But hey – a chance is a chance. What will the world be like if it is a bunch of these ‘upstart females’ that ‘save’ the publishing industry and blaze the way to a bright future?

    I say seize the day!

  4. Remilda Graystone said:

    I’m right there with your sniffing. I don’t think this impacts what gets published, because, just like men, women have varying tastes. We’re all different, and that doesn’t mean that boy books aren’t going to get published or anything like that. We, just like men, again, pick what we like and our tastes have to do with many things and are very different from one another’s tastes.

    I’m not sure that made much sense, but I’m just a bit irked by this news. If they want more men in the industry, then what’s stopping them? They need to find the ‘problem’ and fix it.

    And I find that parenthetical tidbit interesting. I’d never have thought that…

  5. Evangeline Holland said:

    This topic is interesting in the wake of the Jodi Picoult vs NYT Book Review discussion from a few weeks ago. If there aren’t as many men working in the industry, isn’t the near exclusion of women authors (and reviewers) from prestigious book review sections in newspapers and magazines a way to keep an “Old Boys” network alive in a female-dominated industry? As well as the imbalance of salary to workload for editors and the like, AND the derision of the industry’s cash cow–the romance genre and its ilk?

    It seems to me that when the gender balance in an industry shifts towards women, respect and salary begin to decline. IMO, Female editors (and female agents) acquire just as many insightful, beautiful, and thought-provoking manuscripts as male editors, and if acquisitions require an editorial board for review, what’s the difference between what catches the eye of a female editor versus a male editor?

    What about within the romance genre, where we have such respected editors as Chris Keeslar of Dorchester and John Scognamiglio of Kensington, who are just as able to acquire excellent romance titles as Cindy Hwang of Berkley or Carrie Feron of Avon, et al?

  6. Jason Pinter said:

    Hey Kristen – If I can add a quick two cents: I don’t think that the argument of ‘some industries are dominated by men, therefore it’s ok if publishing is dominated by women’ holds water. I would hope every industry fairly caters to people regardless of gender, race, creed or sexuality. And as I’ve said, the publishing and critical apparatuses are very different. I’m fully on the side of Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult, and believe that commercial fiction, especially written by women, tends to be disrespeted by the literary establishment. But these are two different issues with two very different support systems. You can’t tell me that an industry that is 80-85% one gender does not cater to that gender, whether consciously or not. And I know there are make dominated industries that are the same way. In the end it does not have to be–nor should it be–an us versus them problem. We all love books. We all want as many readers as possible. As a man who hears so often that men and boys do not read, all I want to do is try and combat that notion, or find a way to reverse the tide if it is true. And I hope that that notion is something people can get behind regardless of race, creed or gender.

  7. Ted Cross said:

    I can’t say it any better than Jason above. I agree with him. I have a ton of respect for all the amazing women writers and agents I meet online. They are extremely supportive. But, the rate of bloggers the last time I checked my followers was 11-1 female. I can’t help but notice that male genre fiction (if you aren’t an already established writer) feels like it is not being picked up at nearly the rate of that for woman writers. In Barnes and Noble the other day the entire first rack in the fantasy section was nothing but supernatural YA (and why is that in fantasy BTW?) with only a single one of those written by a male. I am not trying to anger anyone by stating how I feel, and I love your blog and I really appreciated how you did give my MS a shot, but I do feel there is at least something to this trend.

  8. Joseph L. Selby said:

    85% of publishing employees are women? This is not a surprise to anyone who works in publishing. 🙂 Where’s the other statistic? What percentage of publishing upper management is women? That number gets suddenly smaller, eh?

  9. Joseph L. Selby said:

    Just so there isn’t a dogpile on Ted, I will say that the active sf/f agent-o-sphere on the internet is almost entirely female. And when they announce new clients, it is almost always a woman.

    I think that’s coincidental. I certainly don’t think there’s an agenda. That’s just what comes with the visibility some agents have created for themselves.

  10. Ted Cross said:

    Joseph, I agree that I don’t believe there is any agenda. But, like Jason said before, it is hard to prevent a bias from creeping in. I have a book aimed at gamers/D&D players, which is a big audience but almost exclusively male. When agents have to (very logically) choose books they resonate with them and almost all of them are women, how am I to sell such a book? Yes, I know there are some women who love D&D, but I haven’t yet encountered any of them who are agents.

  11. Rachael said:

    I’m smelling some classic “oh noes, what about the mens???” here. But maybe I’ve got something of a jaded view, considering the geological sciences are still most decidedly a sausage and meatballs club. No one seems all that concerned that plays are going undiscovered because there’s not enough estrogen around. -.-

    From my view from the science, I wonder if the large number of women in publishing (and similar industries) balances out the still small numbers of women in tech and science, and is quite possibly linked to the fact that girls seem to get steered away from the sciences from an early age. All the lovely ladies that aren’t engineers or geologists or theoretical mathematicians have to go somewhere and I somehow doubt that translates to back in the kitchen to bake some pie.

  12. Writer Lee said:

    How about the fact that starting salaries in publishing are so low as to be pathetic when compared to other industries/functions that are predominantly male (financial services/sales for large corporations)? Coincidence that a low paying industry is predominently female yet run by a male leadership (just last week Penguin Canada named Rob Prichard Chairman of Penguin Canada – if there are so many female professionals in publishing, where was the winning female candidate?). For every Carolyn Reidy (CEO S&S) there are at least two men (Hachette CEO David Young, HarperCollns CEO Brian Murray, Random House CEO Markus Dohle, etc.).

    If 80% of the workforce is female why are the leaders groomed for the top male?

    I think it’s pretty simple why the male:femal ratio is so skewed: few men stick it out in an industry with so little upside in the long run (although if you look at the numbers, men seem to have a better chance at the top position than women do). How to change this: women should increase their standards for pay and professional advancement – when publishers can’t hire people anymore because they won’t accept their meager career prospects, maybe things will be forced to change.

  13. Joseph L. Selby said:

    In regard to Penguin Canada, Rob’s boss–all their boss–is a woman named Marjorie Scardino. She is the CEO of Pearson (Penguin’s parent company). She’s also rated Fortune’s #1 most powerful woman in business every year. I’ve had the opportunity to see her speak, and let me tell you, it’ll blow your flipping mind. Why am I not all doom and gloom about where publishing is going? Because I’ve heard Marjorie’s vision and they lady is well equipped to handle the changes coming her way.

    As for pay, hello pet peeve of mine. When did publishing only become editorial? Everyone always focuses on editorial. The rest of us work here too, ya know! 🙂 Yes EA’s starting salaries are crap. They also make the least out of all the positions. Sales, marketing, production, media all get paid better than editorial do. As a media project manager for a major publisher, I’m willing to bet I get paid more than a lot of the people that have posted to this thread.

  14. Anonymous said:

    There is nothing more perverse than pointing to one bias to excuse another.

    If you think it’s ok to ignore a bias on the one hand because it exists on another, then you are simply selective in your outrage.

    Some of live in a world where wrong is wrong. There is not more or less wrong. Wrong is an absolute.

    Sniff all you want. When a single gender dominated industry selects the majority of its product from the same gender I get as suspicious of that as i would a bunch of middle aged white business men hiring middle aged white guys disproportionally.

    Call me over sensitive if you must. Call me preachy. I’m cool with that.

    You can say publishing is different.
    You could say it’s a drop in the bucket compared to all the evil white guys out there,
    You could say I’m blowing it out of proportion.

    You could say those things – but you;d be wrong.

    Maybe there is no gender bias in publishing. But if you want to close your eyes and simply believe that, you then have to close your eyes and refuse to measure the potential in other industries.

    If you can honestly do that, I say snort away.

    If not… maybe you need an attitude adjustment.

  15. TLH said:

    Sniff on, dear. You have every right to sniff. The business world in general is still, whether men believe it or not, dominated by men. Can’t we have our little corner? We seem to be doing pretty well for the most part.

    A handful of industries seem to have become a great home for women since we emerged into the workplace – writing and publishing being a major one. Photography and design is another (in which I’m also involved), as well as childcare (in which I used to work). We’re just good at it! We’re drawn to this work. Science has already told us women have more artistically-inclined brains, in general, and we’re more instinctively talented with children. It’s just genetics. This is why men like sports and cars and other such simple things.

    (I’m really just kidding, boys, play nice! :D)

    So, sniff all you want. Women in our industry are strong, passionate, and talented. And hey, if we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna own it!


  16. Anonymous said:

    I’m a woman involved in both nursing and publishing (both female dominated) and I’m aghast at all these women so eager to accept -any- double standards. How can we complain about sexism in other fields if we tolerate – nay, celebrate – it in fields like this one?

  17. Shelli said:

    Are we trying to say that equally qualified men are being turned down for jobs in favor of women? I don’t think so.

    Personally, I see it as a logical outcome to the fact that most readers are female. It makes sense to me.

    And I haven’t seen any statistics to show that male authors are having a hard time getting their material published. Isn’t that the true test of bias?

    Nah, I’m not gonna cry any tears for these guys just yet.

  18. Anonymous said:

    Kristin, my favorite post of yours ever.

    Please boys. This is the one area I’ve ever found where women are not at a disadvantage. And it’s only because of the stats – 80% of the readers are female.

    It’s not because there are fewer male editors.

    Women have gotten the short end of the stick for so long, I can’t believe you’re whining about this.

  19. Anonymous said:

    I personally don’t care about the plumbing of the person I’m working with or how they use that plumbing. I’m only interested in working with good people.

    So, I do agree with the sniffing. It simply doesn’t matter. It could be that women are just better at jobs in this industry. Or it could simply be that women are more interested in working in this industry. If they are getting less pay than their male counterparts, then it’s time to demand more pay. You have the majority.

    I will say that male dominated industries, whatever that may be, do get drug to the carpet often. It is pointed out that things could be different or better or whatever if more women were involved. It may be 100% true, but it is still the case that the disparity is pointed out and analyzed. Is it important to do so? I guess not if it’s not important to understand why publishing is now dominated by women (outside of the corporate boards, that is).

  20. Anthony said:

    The question is not if there is a problem with women running the publishing industry. The issue on the table is: even with a gender inequality in the publishing business, can male customers find books to buy that they like?

    The answer to that one is “hell yes.” I personally have problems trying to figure out which books to get and still have some semblance of a budget. There is a glut of fiction and non-fiction books that appeal to myself and my male friends. We can’t keep up. Thus, if the market for men buying books is met by the publishing industry, most everything else, like the gender of said industry, is moot.

    Now, I believe there is a problem with the self-fulfilling prophecy of “boys don’t read” which is a complex issue mostly filled with people talking out their butt without evidence or proper analysis (or even rational thought).

    I’m not convinced that is a problem attributed to gender discrepancies in the publishing industry, however. Correlation is not causation. Once could make a good case that the “boys don’t read” cycle would exist with either sex dominating publishing.

  21. Joanna St. James said:

    we talked about this on my blog this week, agents and publishers buy what will sell irrespective of who wrote it.
    the article said 85% of people with less than 3years experience in the publishing industry are women.
    serously if guys have a problem with this and feel passionate about it, get into the industry and balance it out.

  22. Robert said:

    |So 85 % of publishing empoyees with less that 3 years’ experience are women. To get the true picture, we need to ask more questions. What’s the percentage after 5 years? After 10? What level are the women at in the company?

  23. David Kearns said:

    When my people got to this country, there were signs on the shops in the streets of ole’ Bean Town (start Ullian pipes here) that read NINA. Beneath the letters were four little words “No Irish Need Apply”.

    Racist? Oh yeah. Class warfare? You betcha. Religious intolerance? Uh-huh. The justification was a battle raging 500 years in the UK and Ireland between protestant and catholic. Idea being, we let the papists in, they’ll have this country bowing to the pope.

    I guess, snort, this sort of thinking is all the rage in publishing now. It’s just out in the open. Yayyy!Go girl!

    Meantime, half the people who used to read, HAD been male! Always good to alienate a huge swath of the market when the economy is in the tank. Great business model.

    Only the written word, reading and publishing at stake here as we settle old scores, gang.

    But I guess it’s like – what-EVER!

  24. Simon said:

    I am automatically skeptical when a man blames a frustration he has about his own gender’s reading habits on women. And I don’t think it’s true that men read less because there’s nothing for them to read. If, in the billion books available to us all, any voices are being marginalized, it is emphatically not first-world, English-speaking men.

  25. David Kearns said:

    Not a good business model looking to the future of publishing in a down economy. Fact.

    Not when ‘it just didn’t grab me’ is the criteria and subjectivity rules the day.

    Mostly women review the manuscripts we’re admitting this here.

    We have diversity in business, law enforcement, politics, to get the whole spectrum of opinion, debate, and so on.

    By not having a passing representation of half your potential readership making the cuts, you don’t produce works that speak to at least half your audience.

    The math will work itself out, and not to the good of publishing.

    Think if we only permitted children – actual kids, from, say, eight to thirteen – to be the ones who decided what is to be read in the book stores?

    Nee-nee-naa-naa doo-doo, fart etc. would come out the other end.

    Oh wait, we’re nearly there!

    Never mind. Snort

  26. Anonymous said:

    Inclined to agree with you. As long as there’s not a sign saying “Boys Keep Out”, I’m not going to worry my pretty little head about it.

  27. brian_ohio said:

    First of all… if I was single, I’d be gettin’ my a$$ a job in the publishing industry, stat!!! 😉

    I just went to an SCBWI conference, and of the 150 attendees, I’d say 125 were women. So why wouldn’t that statistic carry through the industry. Makes sense to me.

    I’ve got my 3rd book out on submission and I’m still waiting for that 1st sale. Are my books being passed on because I’m a male writing toward teen boys? I suppose it’s possible that plays a small part since it’s a fact that less teen boys read. Why buy a book with no audience? But, as they say, write a great book and it will sell. No matter what.

    Brilliant minds think alike, Kristin. But I don’t think that has anything do to with the fact that I blogged about something similiar.

  28. Susan Spann said:

    I’m against quotas and forced equalities (except when necessary to correct a lack of access that exists for inappropriate reasons). That said, I think there’s no problem with a gender discrepancy in publishing, for many reasons. One of the more important:

    Historically, women seem to buy (and read) more books than men – speaking in the aggregate. It makes some sense, then, that women might be more drawn to careers in that field, but more due to a higher percentage of women among readers than because women have some innate tendency to like publishing. Some industries are strongly male-dominated less because women can’t get into them than because fewer women want to. Publishing may be the same.

    I haven’t done the research to know whether or not this is true. I say it with the caveat that if I’m wrong about that, I’m willing to be corrected. But until I see some evidence of discrimination beyond a mere discrepancy in statistics, my inclination is to say “OK, there are more women in publishing. Plenty of male authors are getting published, so let’s just go buy some more books and not worry about it.”

  29. Karen Sullivan said:

    Part of me wants to say “What the guys said,” and another part of me wants to say “TWO SNORTS UP!” As a woman who spent her entire career in male-dominated fields (science, upper management, and for 10 years, a sea captain) and who is old enough to have stories about pay imbalance, unequal treatment and sexual harassment, I would like to make two points: 1.) I’m delighted to hear that women dominate in this creative and intelligent arena, and 2) I expect gender not to trump merit when it comes to agency and publication; from what I read, quality and demand does. I also expect that the industry in general responds to the market. There’s no room for anything else nowadays.

  30. Ted Cross said:

    Take this article and swap out the wrestler for gaming/Dungeons & Dragons and that is how I feel with my book. I know there is a huge audience, but it is mostly male. I have to make a book aimed at a male audience somehow resonate with almost exclusively female agents. It’s not always about what will sell; it’s about what will sell AND what happens to resonate with the agents who see it.

    Books are not being bought and marketed to the male audience, so of course you see a downturn in male readership. When I walk through the fantasy section in bookstores these days I see far fewer books that appeal to me than I used to.

  31. Tiger said:

    I dream of the day when we can stop having discussions like this.

    It all comes across as vagina fear to me, not to mention biological determinism. Ick. Gender is largely a social construct and we don’t cook our meat over hot rocks anymore. Come on now. (Just goes to show that people with privilege never, ever want to give it up)

  32. Miss Aspirant said:

    This sounds like the huge debates at Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s forum over whether short SF publishing had an anti-female bias because only about 25% of the stories published were by female authors. Some argued that the male publishers /editors (Such as Gordon Van Gelder) of the short fiction mags just picked the best stories according to their own tastes and that gender had nothing to do with it. IF there were fewer women authors published it was primarily because there were fewer women writers submitting stories. Other people argued that male editors pick stories by male writers because they like “boy stories” and men are more likely to write “boy stories”. So unless women writers write boy stories, they are less likely to get published in the short SF markets.

    I haven’t decided yet what I think. It’s a bit of the chicken-egg dilemma.

  33. Joseph L. Selby said:

    Karen, you reminded me of what is perhaps the lowest part of my eight years in professional publishing. I was still at the first publisher I was sexually harassed by a female employee. I was unsure what to do. I didn’t know if anyone would believe me. Those kinds of things are not usually thought of as happening to a man by a woman and not the other way around.

    When I finally said something, the response I got was, “You’re a guy. You probably liked it.”

  34. Weaving a Tale or Two said:

    Joseph, that person was an ass.

    A lot of good points have been made here on both sides of the issue. Men and women are different beyond the obvious physiological ones (I know none of you were aware of that, so I hope I broke it to you gently).

    I have four sons, and while I read to them as they were growing up (Heinlein, Crichton, McCaffrey, Rowling, etc.) our tastes now they are all adults are different somewhat. We’re all into the latest Wheel of Time or Hunger Games books, but a strictly romantic tale is a complete turnoff for them.

    Jo Rowling used her initials because they didn’t think boys would want to read a book about a boy wizard written by a woman. Boys have loved the series (as have girls). Would they have given the book a chance though if they’d known up front that Rowling was female?

    Would a cadre of all female editors exclude books that are targeted only to males? I hope not. Rather than targeting all books to the largest audience who reads (apparently female), I hope editors are also trying to find books that would draw in those males who aren’t reading.

    They said children wouldn’t read a book that was 750 pages.


  35. Ashley Girardi said:

    My take:

    The issue for me here isn’t whether men/women are over/underrepresented in fiction but whether or not this is because of deliberate exclusion. I can’t imagine that an eager male intern would ever be denied a position at a publishing house simply by virtue of his sex. If men want a bigger piece of the publishing pie then they need to take it.

    To the commenters above complaining about how their literary babies are drowning in a sea of estrogen, I have a question: Do you buy books like the one you’re trying to publish? For the D&D guy, do you subscribe to speculative fiction magazines? Do you support the small presses that focus on unusual stories and settings by buying their books? If not, then I humbly propose that you stuff a cork in it. If you don’t even support you’re own genre, how do you expect anyone else to.

    That’s one thing I love about the YA community. YA authors buy YA books, usually by the caseload. It’s the only genre I’ve seen where the authors are such good friends that they go on tour together.

    Almost every agent or editor that has a web presence has mentioned at least once that they’d love to represent/acquire more boy-centric books, especially for MG/YA. But they need someone to sell it to. If the Big 5 thought the public was clamoring for more fiction based on fantasy board games with convoluted scoring systems they’d acquire and sell it.

    They don’t and that should tell you something.

    This discussion upsets me. I don’t hear anyone making noise about the miniscule percentage of published offerings that feature Black, Hispanic, or Asian perspectives, not to mention LGBT. The deliberate white-washing of ethnic works is a blip on the radar. But because affluent white men have found the one aspect of American culture over which they don’t have complete and utter dominion, the whole house should come down.

    I don’t like it.

  36. Ted Cross said:

    Since you addressed me directly (and quite rudely IMO) I will respond. I have bought every book I could find (I own thousands) that seems at least passable within the genres I love. It isn’t right to equate books with short stories, as there are actually people like myself who are not particularly fond of short stories. I do buy them occasionally, but generally within collections.

  37. Ashley Girardi said:


    My comment was a little pointed, and I apologize for being rude. My point remains the same, however. Lamenting the state of the publishing isn’t going to help you.

    Your novel is one of two things: 1. not very good or 2. not something a publisher thinks it can sell in large enough quantities to make it worth the investment. So you have a choice, either self-publish which means work your butt off to sell the hell out of it through whatever channels you have available to you and prove the traditional publishers wrong or cut your losses and write something else that might appeal to a wider audience.

    Neither of those choices include blaming the publishing industry for being women-centric to publish anything that appeals mostly to men. Books like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and anything by James Patterson put the lie to that.

  38. David Kearns said:

    Here’s a run-down of the canned arguments to muffle men from publishing, voicing a concern for the direction of the business, and of course to dissuade them from reading or going into a book store.

    1. Men don’t read.
    2. Women are more artistic anyway.
    3. Women are historically abused and so this power grab is okay.
    4. If you voice an objection to any of the aforesaid you are a misogynist, and possibly racist.

    I am reminded of Jimmy the Greek with every one of these arguments.

    Nice going ladies. All class.

  39. Ted Cross said:

    Ashley, how about

    3. Not a single publisher who likes gaming-style books even getting a glance at my book? All the ones that I know about have a policy against unsolicited submissions, so I must go through an agent. If there are no agents who like said books then I am pretty much out of luck.

  40. Josh Lechlitner said:

    I personally have no problem with women being a majority in the industry. However, I do have concerns because I just finished a book that I know will appeal more to a male market and not a female one.

    I also think that the reason why we are seeing so many female writers, is because of the state of the industry. Because of the onslaught that is Twilight and the fact that this is a business, publishers are putting out books that will sell. And, whether we like it or not, there is a huge market our there right now for dark/supernatural romance. Personally, not my taste, but I see why there are so many books like that on the market. They sell.

  41. Anonymous said:

    It’s interesting how people want to *snort* at this statistic, but I bet these are the same people who would cry foul if the shoe were on the other foot.

    It’s interesting to me how people will bemoan ideas like there aren’t enough women doctors, fire fighters, or soldiers.

    No one is ever concerned that there aren’t more male nurses, educators or–apparently–editors.

    Whoever mentioned the low pay hit the nail on the head. Men generally won’t do hard work for very long unless compensated appropriately.

  42. John K said:

    Yeah…that’s why I can’t get an agent…I’m a man…yeah, that’s the ticket!

    I have asked both men and women to be beta readers for my story (if it’s ever published I will call it a novel)

    Each woman asked has finished and responded favorably, and offered feedback that made it apparent they were paying attention.

    3 of the 5 men asked liked the early chapters, then fell off. I stopped asking.

    When I tell a male friend I’m going to the library, the look I often get is of surprise.

    Women read waaaaay more than men do. Quitcherbellyachin’.

  43. Idem said:

    To Ted Cross and others, I want to apologize for the unjustified rudeness you received from some representatives of my gender.

    As a woman in science, I am appalled at the responses many female commenters have made to this issue, dismissing the statistics and belittling male commenters who have legitimate and reasonable concerns about finding an agent for work targeted to a mainly male audience. If the tables were turned and this discussion were about women in science, we would never allow men to say, “Well, it’s no problem, let the women have their own professions” – nor should we allow such an attitude. The sciences are working hard to identify sources of bias and discrimination because we realize that missing out on the talent and potential of half the population can only be detrimental. I think the argument is probably even stronger in a personal and subjective field like publishing.

  44. Cat said:

    I totally agree with Idem. In the early 90, I have studied forestry. Ever since, I have been a defender of women’s rights in this field. I took part in Gender Studies, joined the club “Women in Forestry” and did other stuff. It’s a uphill battle. One thing we learned though is that we can’t change the situation if women and men fight on different fronts. We need to work together. Generalized (always dangerous) men and women have different ways of handling things. Both benefit if they work together, not against each other.

    I do agree with Kristin that it’s utterly pointless to bemourn the fact that there are currently more women in publishing (the same goes for early education). Far more important is that all those who are involved remember the importance of making good books.

  45. Tara Maya said:

    But I think part of the question here is whether agents and acquisition editors, in their role as gatekeepers, are inadvertently keeping out books for which there IS an audience, albeit perhaps a smaller one than the female audience.

    So two problems may be at work: (1) the agents/editors find it harder to relate to male-oriented fiction, (2) even if they did, the pursuit of the highest possible profits means that it would still make more sense to go after female readers. And the more publishers do this, the more it creates a feedback loop.

    If true, the readers are there, and there are writers are trying to reach them, but can’t, because those readers are invisible or at least marginal to traditional publishing. How many reject letters include the explanation, “I didn’t LOVE it.” Is it really unreasonable that some books are going to be less lovable to people who don’t share quite as much in common the writer/character/theme/topic?

    It reminds me of the argument often put forth by New York agents that the fact so many industry people are in and from New York in now way prejudices the kind of books they buy. And yet the single most common city featured in fiction is… New York.


  46. Rowenna said:

    For my part, I have heard a lot about how male-dominated industries/professions could be unintentionally hurting women by the sheer lack of them in those professions. For instance, though improving now, it’s been pretty conclusively shown that medicine, a male-dominated profession, harmed women quite a bit by treating them like “small men.”

    Which makes me much more open to discussing ways in which a female-dominated industry could be inadvertently shutting out male voices and ignoring male audiences. My inclination isn’t to snort–it’s to question if we are turning off male voices as a byproduct of having a gender imbalance in the industry, and how shutting out male voices doesn’t hurt only men.

  47. Hart Johnson said:

    While I am a writer, half broken in (have a contract), by day I am a statistician, and I can tell you, it matters and isn’t fair:

    More women write, agent, etc. But the PERCENTAGE of men who make is is HUGELY greater, and they make more money when they do (for not, necessarily better work). The unfortunate detail however, is that this is true because men have higher rates of selling well (so from the industry, this is rational)–women read men and women. Men are gender biased in their reading–so men are more likely (not exclusive… but in terms of odds) to have a blockbuster because they have access to a larger audience. What we NEED is an effort to enlighten men in their reading habits (which would be helped by REVIEWS and HYPE that are more balanced.)

  48. David Kearns said:

    My novel (purely and example) about a Canadian hockey player who makes it big in the NHL is rejected over and over.
    “Too much jargon” and “what’s this title all about?” Icing! “It just didn’t grab me.” “Not right for my list” etc.
    Now is this happening because I have so horribly executed, or is it because 85 percent of the desks I am sending it to are held by women?
    Does the story within the novel need to be told? Maybe. Maybe it says something about celebrity. Maybe it would sell like hot-cakes, who knows?
    Maybe the book would actually draw men into the book store, coax them back to reading in greater numbers!
    Ask a woman, and what do you think she will say?

  49. Ted Cross said:

    @Hart – I am not sure men WANT to be broader in their reading tastes. I know I don’t. I like what I like, and I don’t even really have enough time just for that.

    I agree with the frustrations of women in how long it is taking to overcome centuries of men and women generally being shunted into specified fields with disparate pay rates. It isn’t fair. But, it is a societal issue rather than simply being the fault of men. I don’t recall ever hearing a father tell me his daughter can’t deal with math, but I have heard a number of mothers say that about their daughters, and it always galls me. They should be trying to overcome these generalizations by consistently encouraging their daughters to enjoy the sciences. We all need to continue to improve on this.

  50. Ted Cross said:

    BTW, it’s just my opinion, but I feel that the huge shift toward YA and paranormal is hurting men’s reading habits more than what we have been discussing.

  51. Vivian said:

    Ted, I just want to say, unnecessarily perhaps, that I’m a woman and I would never buy a paranormal romance. Blech. I’m as displeased as you about how this sub-genre is dominating the market. That and all the zombie novels that poor Jane Austen had nothing to do with.

  52. Anonymous said:

    I think Kristin’s knee-jerk response says it all. Publishing professionals would rather poopoo the problem than address it.

  53. Joseph L. Selby said:


    I disagree. It’s not a matter of poopooing a problem. It’s a matter of questioning whether a problem exists at all.

    I continue to believe there isn’t one. Or, if there is one, not enough evidence has been provided to convince of such.

    The discussion here has ranged from interesting to depressing. If ever I claimed women weren’t paid equally or represented more fairly in [x] profession because they just didn’t try hard enough, I would be bludgeoned to death with virtual rocks.

  54. Wendy Tyler Ryan said:

    Well, I can’t believe I’m going to say this because Ted and I have crossed swords before on our blogs – I think the shift toward YA paranormal is not only hurting men’s reading habits – it’s hurting mine also and I’m a woman. I know you’re smiling Ted, but wait.

    Now, let me back track. This statement REALLY bothers me. “I am not sure men want to be broader in their reading tastes. WOW. REALLY? How sad. I know lots of men who read books written by women. Heck, my husband read Jodi Picoult.

    Sadly, while I don’t think Ted’s comment about men not wanting to branch out is the norm, I do know that there are men out there who feel this way. A friend of mine picked up three romance novels and wanted to buy them. Her husband said that she had to go to the checkout with them, because he wouldn’t be got dead doing so. God forbid someone think he was reading them. How sad, how utterly sad – and you wonder why women buy these books, they buy them to get something no one else is giving them?

    I really beleive there is a much larger bias to worry about here. The bias against wonderful writing in general because it doesn’t fit the tiny little mold open to us.

    My bookshelf is littered with books that I have not read past the half way mark – sometimes even less. The craft is weak, the turn of phrase is nothing special, and the plot – oh please, let’s not even go there. Somehow, somewhere, someone said – I can publish this – and they did. It is scary to think that as a writer, I am slowly becoming disinterested in reading. I have received more satisfaction from reading unpublished writer’s blogs than from purchasing poorly written books of late.

    The most intelligent statement I have read from a publisher went something like this: We’re not as interested in genre as we are in really good writing. Hurray, spread that ideal around would you!

    I think agents have the ability to be trend-setters if they want to be (not that I’m a fan of trends). Yes, they have a business to run, yes, they are all worried about the almighty buck, but I think a lot of them (and publishers) are discounting some really great writing and wonderful stories. The ratio of writers to the people who make the decisions is a very scary thing.

    So, the bigger bias is the individual bias – the people making decisions for us ALL as to what we should read next. You say “It just didn’t grab me”. Well, the books that are getting printed don’t grab me right now, and I for one, won’t be spending any money on them. Authors, male and female alike, should rally against this bias – the bad writing because it will turn a buck bias. How? I haven’t got a clue. You are leaving a large part of your audience out in the cold. If you give some of these (non hot trend) books a chance, you might be suprised how much of a readership there is for them. You are sorely mistaken if you think an entire world wants to read about werewolves and people under the age of twenty five.

    Since I’ve started blogging, I have had the priveledge of reading work by other “want to be published” authors – male and female. In fact, two of the best I’ve read out there are one of each – a man and woman. So, maybe this is where my reading enjoyment will have to come from for now, at least until the next wave of what someone with a red pencil thinks should be published comes along.

  55. Wendy Tyler Ryan said:

    Sorry, it’s me again, but there is one thing I wanted to say to Kristin.

    I do thank you for having a blog that encourages this kind of free expression. More than that, I thank you for giving us both the information and insight into agenting and publishing that you do. I have just very recently taken an agent’s blog off my list because day after day I was finding nothing but inane chatter that meant absolutely nothing to me and provided me with no advice or constructive – anything.

    We are hungry for information – keep doing that.

  56. Ted Cross said:

    Wendy, I’m not sure why you took my comment about liking what I like to mean that I don’t want to read women authors. I read tons of women authors, and I even blogged recently about my favorites. What I was saying was that I know what I truly enjoy most – history, historical fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, and horror – and I really don’t care to read much outside of that given that I won’t even be able to read everything within those genres that I wish during my life. Male of female author has no place in my reading decisions.

  57. inomeith said:

    With a gender gap like that, it’s absolutely worth examining the industry for systemic bias. I’m just not sure whether the gap in entry-level publishing will turn out to be driven by cliquish behavior (hiring practices, employer expectations) or by self-selection (social gender norms, employee expectations). I’d guess the latter, but again, it should be examined and, as far as possible, corrected. All such striking disparities should.

  58. SylviaSybil said:

    Numerically, there are more women. But the average woman’s salary in the publishing industry is $65k and the average man’s is $105k. With a forty thousand dollar gap, you will excuse me if I don’t believe that women are “dominating”. Men rule in publishing just as they do everywhere else. The only difference is who’s doing the work.

    When women start earning more pay than men, or hell, earning equal pay with them, then we can talk about who’s “dominating” the industry.

  59. David Kearns said:

    So in the end we all hold our noses, while swallowing the Fool-aid, never seriously addressing this issue. Even though it bodes ill for sales, relying only on half a market, going forward.
    Well as long as we get our dogma pitchforks into the flesh of the author of all life’s ills; the big bad man up in his castle.
    We don’t know precisely who he is, nor do we care that salaries have nothing to do with this argument, since salary is a discrepancy best taken up with a human resources department of the publishing house itself. Little more do we care that alienating readers – and contrary to opinion many men can and do read! – in no way mitigates for lack of clout at the publishing house experienced by any employee, male or female.
    David Byrne said it best “same as it ever was.”

  60. ChristianRB82 said:

    Frankly, I don’t see why the gender of the professionals within the industry should matter, and gender politics discussions of this type bore me. Yes, publishing is heavily female-dominated, but I don’t think male authors are suffering for it.

    The only time I’ve come up against (in my view) unfair gender politics in publishing is when my urban fantasy ms was turned down – in the agent’s words – because the protagonist was a gay man, not a young, straight woman.

    This echoed the view expressed on several agent blogs that urban fantasy by definition must have a female protagonist, when we all know that’s not the case.

    I realise most publishers need to make a sale and therefore need to pitch most of their product to the majority, but this is the kind of attitude that really adds insult to injury when trying to query a manuscript.

  61. Lisa said:

    Publishing also has the problem of publishing too few books for boys/men. I have wondered if there is a connection.

    I know part of that is guys read fewer books than girls, but walk into any bookstore, and you’ll find a 15-to-1 discrepancy in the new release section.

    At some point, a lack of eggs leads to fewer chickens.

  62. Anonymous said:

    someone said:
    “It’s interesting how people want to *snort* at this statistic, but I bet these are the same people who would cry foul if the shoe were on the other foot.:

    Uh, the shoe has been on the other foot. Since how long?

    SylviaSybil said…
    “Numerically, there are more women. But the average woman’s salary in the publishing industry is $65k and the average man’s is $105k. With a forty thousand dollar gap, you will excuse me if I don’t believe that women are “dominating”. Men rule in publishing just as they do everywhere else. The only difference is who’s doing the work.

    When women start earning more pay than men, or hell, earning equal pay with them, then we can talk about who’s “dominating” the industry.”

    Exactly. Just spoke to an older ex-editor, a woman, who said that men would not take the very low-paying, entry level positions at publishing houses when she started.

    But things have changed. Is everyone aware that the male author who wrote the article left his job as editor because of his large multi-book contract?

    I read the comments and I can see winning attitudes in many of the male writers. They’re not blaming the system for why they haven’t been published yet. I read those comments and think how he sounds like a reasonable person, this could be someone I’d work with. But the whiners, yeah, it’s gotta be discrimination why your Swedish rugby player book hasn’t been bought. You know, the one that’s going to bring all the men back to reading.

    Thank you, Kristin.

  63. Anonymous said:

    I can’t speak about the world of adult publishing, but in the world of children’s literature, where I dwell, I have been asked on two ocassions to change my main character (female) to a boy. Why? Because boys won’t read about girls, but a girl will read anything.

    My reply (to myself) was – but boys don’t read so why should I bother rewriting my novels for them?

    And why can’t I put my name on my book? Why do I have to use my initials? Because boys won’t buy a book written by a woman. And again – But I thought boys didn’t read? And whether they read or not, why should I have to cater to their whims?

    Publishing may be dominated by women, but the people who get the big bucks (in the children’s field at least) are the few men who are in it, whether they’re on the publishing end or the writing end. And the big concern is always about the boys.

    There is no girlie non-fiction in existence for kids because that would mean losing half the market, because boys won’t read girlie books. So, once again, girls have to do without and settle because of boys who don’t read. But if boys don’t read, how can they be half the market? It’s ludiscrous.

    So while it may not be right, or fair, I don’t care that men are underrepresented in the field. It’s my belief that women are not actively trying to exclude men from publishing. The men aren’t there for the reason given by the second poster. It’s a lot of work for little pay.

    And if you feel you can’t sell your work because you’re a man, do what women have done for centuries – use a female pseudonym. Or use your initials. Or write women’s fiction.

  64. Jeff Baird said:

    I was prepared to state a very obvious feeling about reading ability men to women. I.e. women definitely read more than men. Then I thought, what about SAT scores? USA Today Article 8/26/2009 on results, “2009 SAT Show disparities by race, gender and family income.” Based on a top score of 800 Critical reading average was 501 with females 498 and males 503. Writing average was 493 where females averaged 499 and males 486. Compared to math where average was 515 where females were 499 and males were 534. It makes since because most men don’t want to graduate with an English degree etc. But it appears at least at the high school level the critical reading and writing nationwide is very close to the same. Note: women scored better than men. To me, it doesn’t matter but at 85% female in publishing, it would be an indication how non-biased they are otherwise, a man couldn’t get a book published if they were. At least a little factual data for our discussion! Great Blog!!!!

  65. Eric said:

    Anonymous said…

    ” There is no girlie non-fiction in existence for kids because that would mean losing half the market, because boys won’t read girlie books. So, once again, girls have to do without and settle because of boys who don’t read. But if boys don’t read, how can they be half the market? It’s ludiscrous.”

    I think you’ve built yourself a nice straw man there, errr, or maybe straw woman? I get your point, but you’re also over-stating it.

    Boy, and men, won’t read “girlie” books, for the most part. Boys and men will read books with female protagonists. I do all the time. I did when I was a boy. Ever heard of Nancy Drew?

    I wouldn’t have read a book about relationships and feelings as a boy because it would have bored me to tears. Little Women comes to mind. I generally wont read a book like that now unless it also happens to have a real plot. So, if you write books that are going to appeal to women and not men, well, then that’s just the way it is. It may be more difficult to get published like that, but you’ll still have a market. If your book is good, it will get sold. If you want a bigger market, then yeah, you may have to modify what you are writing. Is that fair? I don’t know but it’s just the way it is. I guarantee you there are books out there that mostly appeal to men and sell very little to women. The old gnarly Destroyer series is probably one of those.

  66. Joseph L. Selby said:

    Numerically, there are more women. But the average woman’s salary in the publishing industry is $65k and the average man’s is $105k.

    Citation please. These numbers are significantly higher than national publishing averages. Significantly, as in men and women alike in the industry will grab our torches and pitchforks to find all these people making a million a year that are skewing the averages.

    Ratchet these values way down and you start to get real publishing average salary.

  67. David Kearns said:

    Anonymous? (And hey if you’re going to kiss up to mommy why not tell her who you are?) what about those of us who whine merely as readers?
    Forget the writing.
    As a male reader, I want to yank my own eyes out by the roots, every single time I go into the B and N.
    Mass fiction? Scotsmen with good abdominals, werewolves and vampires. These three genres have replaced the earlier chic lit craze.
    No more meaningful science fiction. Space opera and “fantasy” a catch all for a quasi dungeons and dragons sort of dealio.
    The end result is our young men are convinced that reading is an effeminate activity. This is pervasive in schools today. Ask a young man what authors he enjoys. It used to be a fair question. Nowadays?
    How do I know this is programmed, that some people are inside the game, the joke being played on us? People such as yourself flat refuse to address the mathematical certainty of reduced sales going forward.Not today, not yesterday, but tomorrow. We decide that a whole segment of society isn’t worth addressing. In no business model, other than a sham, or a front, do we consider dismissing half the market a viable strategy.
    The laundromat that decides it won’t cater to men, or people with dirty clothes? I wonder if they’re running a brothel or a numbers racket in the back room.
    The overall planned destruction of reading AND writing is what we’re seeing here folks.
    Men tossed under the bus today. Go girl! Yay! Does big corp stop there, gals? No. The next phase is the reduction of the book, the story, the sentence, to suit the needs of a hand held device that needs constant service and upgrades.
    Try reading a legal contract as an adult if you’ve been raised on nothing but video games, people.
    The literate person is in staged obsolescense.
    Some of the apologists and the explainers of that which makes no sense, are inside the game. They are likely found on this page.

  68. Kristi said:

    I am a woman software engineer.

    Talk about an industry where women are underrepresented. My current job is the first of 3 employers over 12 years where I have had other women as coworkers that I see on a daily basis (at least, as coworkers who weren’t secretaries or non-technical managers). In fact, there are so many women in this working group that we make up almost 25% of the engineering staff. That is huge. And I am not being sarcastic.

    Do you hear about the problems due to the lack of women in engineering? Well, you do if you’re a woman engineer. But the media only rarely talks about it because the loudest media-savvy engineering professional voices are men. They don’t even notice the lack of women in their offices.

    I am not so close to the business of publishing (yet!) to really understand how things work among industry professionals. But if there are men in publishing who have the ear of the press (or who are members of the press), then you most certainly will hear about the subject from their point of view.

  69. Megan said:

    I think what’s interesting about the publishing’s demographics, is that it was once male dominated. How many industries have undergone that shift? I can’t think of any, and I don’t believe it happened randomly.

    David, I hope society changes and boys once again can be seen with books in their hands instead of xbox remotes, but women are not to blame for what you see as deficiencies in publishing. I don’t get the impression that the publishing industry is interested in changing the habits of twelve-year-old boys. Right now, Scotsmen and werewolves are promoted hot and heavy, but the day boys start buying books en masse, is the day that life-size cardboard cutout of Edward Cullen is removed from the entrance of B&N.

    Luckily, everything is cyclical, and boys may put down the football start reading again. In the meantime, ease up on us girls. If it weren’t for voracious women readers and dedicated authors, agents and editors, this blog might not exist. Thank you Kristin, for this thoughtful post.

  70. David Kearns said:

    Meantime, as I work honing my novel to suit the tastes of conscientious agents and publishers, I am gratified to learn today that Snooki from Jersey Shore will be placed at the front of the line. Her novel will be published!
    Yay! You go girl!
    So much for credibility.

  71. Anonymous said:

    Most of the postings here seem to completely miss the issue at hand. It isnt whether women are compensated equally to men. It isnt whether publishing is fair to male authors. The issue is whether publishing is failing male readers. That is the issue. Many educated, well read men see this issue. It’s real. And it truly is a shame, and the shame is compounded by those that turn this into a political/social debate. It’s a question of whether the market is providing for a particular demand. As a man who reads, I believe my needs (or wants) are not being met. Or, to put it into dollars and cents, publishing could be selling me more books, if they were listening to me and providing me what I like to read.

  72. Joseph L. Selby said:

    @David: CRYOBURN comes out this November. It is a a sci-fi space opera, the latest in the Vorkosigan series. Yes, it’s written by a woman, but her writing of both genders is tremendous. If you haven’t read any of Bujold’s work, I recommend you pick up CORDELIA’S HONOR so you have time to read the entire series before the new one comes out.

    @Megan: Education was once male dominated. To answer your question of any other industries having such a polar switch of gender dominance.

    I’m not much into Urban Fantasy, which is the kingpin at the moment, so there isn’t a lot genre-wise to catch my attention (Brandon Sanderson seeming to be the only consistent deliverer–though Tad Williams’ fourth Shadowmarch book comes out later this year).

    But, that hasn’t stopped me from reading. I’m waiting anxiously for the next installment of the Healing Wars series (a YA series I am into, which doesn’t happen very often). I’m currently reading JULIET by Fortier and that’s been a great book so far. It’s good to read other genres from time to time.

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