Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Gap and the State of Me

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 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?

So. Onward.


kimboosan said...

*nods* Nothing I disagree with there. And I think there is also the discrimination against "romance" novels; I can't buy the argument that the genre "suffers a surfeit of bad writing" when frakkin' CLIVE CUSSLER puts out the most badly written Larry!Stu books put to paper. Gimmeabreak.

You should read Joe Konrath's blog; he's hyper "rah rah self publishing" but if you get past his ego, he compares his traditional publishing life to self publishing quite honestly, and it's a brutal assessment. And lets be honest, you shop your book around a publisher picks it up...then what? You're STILL stuck doing all your own promotion. Konrath's stories of his book tour are downright horrifying, tbh.

As for the name change, I think you're right, especially for the thriller market where there is definitely a masculine bias. But I would not throw away what you've done under your real name; if the rights to those books are yours again, go ahead and throw them up online. It's insanely cheap to do and what can it hurt?

Claire M. Johnson said...


Yeah, I've seen his site before and I do understand what he is saying. I know people who are successful at this model, and I also know people who don't get a single hit. It's like when anti-government people complain about waste and then point to some egregious example of welfare fraud. Yes, it happens, but that's not the whole story. I think it works best if you do have an establisehd readership. There are a number of mystery authors who have been dropped by their publishers who are putting their new material up on kindle at bargain basement prices, and naturally their readers are thrilled.

I think there are two problems. It's one thing for NY to control the market, but it's another thing when they control a crappy market. Readers have lost faith in NY, IMO. I now think twice when I actually purchase a book. I got a bunch of money for Christmas and I bought a bunch of books with it, and I've plowed through four of them and the only one that is half-way decent is an annotated copy of Persuasion by Jane Austen. THAT tells me a lot about the industry.

The second issue is pricing, and Konrath talks about this a bit. Except I see if from a different POV, which is related to the above. NY used to be the gatekeeper. They filtered out the crap. Now, with the push toward getting material on the shelves in a never-ending drumbeat, even writers who used to be fairly decent are turning out mediocre material. So there is currently no filter. Which means that they don't have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to pricing. If you have a decent book, then you're willing to pay $12.99 for the e-version. If you have a mediocre book, then it's a lot harder to push that pricing when there are books of better or similar quality out there for $2.99.

Publishing is crazy right now. I'm dead curious how it's going to shake out.