Random (but not really)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Women Writing Books

Two different articles today on women writing as men: the WSJ article, Why Women Writers Still Take Men’s Names which looks at fiction in general, and the iO9 piece that focuses specifically on SFF.

I’ve long had a preference for female main characters in my SFF, but haven’t been very particular about mysteries, so I decided to see how my reading preferences have panned out for the past several years.

I didn’t categorize by genre–hey, I’m doing this all by hand as it is!–but did have five gender categories: male authors, female authors, women writing under initials or male pseudonyms, men writing under initials, and male-female partnerships.

The last category is pretty much Ilona Andrews and Phil & Kaja Foglio, and was not folded into any other category.

So what did I discover?

Over the period of 2009 to 2012, I read 556 books. When I divide those books by the (known) gender of the author, I get:

Male authors: 44.4%
Female authors: 53.1%

That’s actually a pretty even split, considering. From correlations, it’s also dependent upon what genre I’m reading: in 2010 I read a lot of mysteries, so I ended up reading more books by male authors (53.4%) than female authors (45.3%). This year I read primarily fantasy, so the authors I read were predominantly female (69%).

Genre Chart

What is interesting is how things look when I break down those categories further.

Male: 43.9%
Female: 46.4%
Male Initials: 0.5%
Female Initials/Pseudonyms: 6.7%
Team: 2.5%

(That 0.5% for male initials was exclusively T.A. Pratt‘s Marla Mason series.)

The percentages are much closer when we compare male names to female names.

And if I add female initials to the males instead of the females (which is what both articles are suggesting happens when female writers use their initials), I get a higher percentage of authors with male names:

Male Names: 50.54%
Female Names: 46.40%

(I’m leaving T.A. Pratt and the team writers out of this calculation.)

Now, I admit that (with the exception of Girl Genius) I classified comics and anthologies under the name of the writer or editor. So an anthology could have primarily female authors but been compiled by a male editor. And the issue of comics is even more of a gray area, but as this was done out of curiosity, not something I’ve compiled for publication that needs to pass scientific rigor, I don’t care if you don’t like my classification system. :P

So, even though I have a stated preference for books with female characters, which tend to be written by female authors, male names or pseudonyms still seem to come up on top.

It’s interesting, but also sad that women still have to pretend to be men to sell books.

Author Names Screen Capture

Compiled from my book blog: Random Reading

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