Any woman who's been writing and publishing for a bit feels the gender gap pinching, and it's pretty much from the word go. Laura Miller at salon.com has written an interesting piece with lots of links about this gap. I encourage you to check it out:
I've finished my third book and can't seem to find a place for it. It was an experiment, and I knew going into it that it might not have a place in the current marketplace. I'm going to shop it for six months and then if it doesn't sell I'll self-publish it. It's a very fun book, with some insight into writing within a genre and trying to carve a writing career out of the rest of one's demanding life. Oh, there's a little romance in there and a huge tribute to Jane Austen. I think it's a niche book, and I think it could be a big niche, but it doesn't seem to be grabbing people.
The fourth book? This relates to the above. I'm struggling with what exactly to write because, yeah, my time is very limited. I'm now working full-time and my evenings and weekends are the only time I have to write. Kids are more or less grown (son is driving), but still. If I spend all day editing engineering I'm brain dead when I get home. I can barely speak, never mind trying to put my own sentences together.
That said, I'm toying with writing a legal thriller. If I do, I"ll write it under a male pseudonym. Because see above. Because, yes, I think there is a bias. My first two books aren't particularly cozy, and, in fact, this is a problem because they are neither "knit" or "grit" but somewhere in the middle, therefore, they appeal to a limited number of readers. But the reality is that I'm branded now as a cooking author, and if I were to write something that was grittier (read, more marketable), I would have a hard slog. Plus I think women do get ignored and marginalized by male readers (and male authors--thank you, big name author who trashed cooking mysteries in your presentation while I was in the audience and had just had lunch with you). So if I do write that thriller I'm thinking about, then I will write it under a male pseud. Because enough. The playing field isn't level. It's biased. I didn't need a bunch of links to tell me that, but it's always nice to have your suspicions confirmed. I think the bar for women writers (at least in mystery) is higher. I just finished a mystery written by someone who is extremely successful and while I generally like his stuff, this is a weak book. I doubt that if a woman had written it, they would have a contract. The weakness is so glaring, so in your face, that it makes you wonder, what the hell?