Monday, October 8, 2007

We’ve been through the same debate over awards. But I’d like to go a few verbal rounds with those among you who feel that inequalities against women no longer exist in the mystery field. Times have changed, right? Sisters in Crime had a place in our past fight for equity, and that’s where it belongs, in history. Thank you, Sara, and those who followed in your footsteps, but we really don’t need your services any longer.
Yeh, right. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I’m so pissed off!
The latest example:

When my local library selects books to add to the collection, they, like most libraries, use two publications EXCLUSIVELY. I won’t mention names. Okay. Yes, I will. Library Journal and Booklist. I’m part of the monitoring project for SINC. Booklist is my quarterly target. Four times every year I tally up a count – the number of women mystery authors reviewed vs the number of men.

I’m not happy about the results. Not happy at all.
You guys out there are getting the reviews. Twice as many, at least. Last quarterly count was 102 to 50.

So I asked myself why? Are there that many more men writing mystery? Nope. In fact, take a gander at the list of Bouchercon attending authors. Way more women.

Then what? I know. Maybe Booklist doesn’t review paperbacks. I’m pretty sure more women write mass market than men although I’ve never seen statistics. Is that the problem? After careful analysis, I’ve deduced that booklist certainly does review paperbacks.

Could it be that the mystery reviewers prefers suspense and thrillers over cozies? Sure, women write suspense and thrillers, too. Those are the women who are getting most of the female reviews. If my guess is correct, and the reviewers for this massively used publication really favor certain sub-genres (not cozies) over others, then women are in real trouble because that’s where a lot of us have been categorized. How are we supposed to get our books into libraries if booklist won’t review our non-suspense, non-thriller mysteries? Who are these people behind the reviews? And where can I find them?

I’d like to have a word.


Mark Terry said...

Be careful about your generalizations. I'm a man and my latest book was reviewed by ZERO publications except for a local newspaper and an online reviewer that I sent copies to myself(out of almost 50 that I sent out myself).

Books just aren't being reviewed.

Deb Baker said...

Mark, It is really tough. But I'm not saying that all men get reviews, or that no women do, or that men get more positive reviews. I'm not even speaking from personal experience, because I was lucky. My Yooper series has been reviewed in all the mystery magazines and a few small newspapers. And our very own Candy got a great review from Booklist in August. But after several years of recording lopsided numbers, I had to blow it off.

Keith Raffel said...

Guess I'll be renewing my membership in Sisters in Crime....

Mark Terry said...

I used to review books for ForeWord Magazine, briefly for Mystery Scene Magazine, and for a couple year, The Oakland Press before they essentially eliminated their reviews. I reviewed probably 40 to 50 books a year for The OP. There was no conscious gender bias. I reviewed books that looked interesting to me. If that meant they were written by men, fine; if that meant they were written by women, fine. I have no clue if I reviewed more books by women or men. My editor actually reviewed romance novels--find a newspaper that reviews romance novels. I reviewed books by Sue Grafton and Karin Slaughter and Roberta Islieb and plenty of other women authors. I also reviewed books by John Sandford and Randy Wayne White and Rick Riordan.

I'm not at all sure you can just count reviews and determine men versus women. Do they get big reviews? Short reviews like Publishers Weekly? Are the men getting the full-page spreads in NYTBR? What, Janet Evanovich, Patricia Cornwell, Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen, PJ Tracy, Faye Kellerman, Kathy Reichs aren't getting reviewed?

I'm skeptical.

Of course, yes, this is may be a hot-button issue for me. I'm a writer who was turned down by a literary agency because they "only handle female authors."

Bill Cameron said...

Mark makes a good point, but another thing I'd look at is just how many books are really being published by each gender. I'm not sure the list of Bouchercon attendees is an accurate indicator of the number of writers and/or books on each side of the setter/pointer divide.

That said, it wouldn't surprise me if you were right in your analysis. But it would be interesting to see if there is some way to determine just many books are made available to Booklist, then see how many get reviews. Is the problem with Booklist? Is it with the publishers (i.e., are publishers pushing their male writers more)? A little of both. Or is something else at work?

In any case, I don't doubt for a moment that SinC remains an important organization, not the least because of this issue.

Candy Calvert said...

I don't know why, but I've gotten TWO really nice reviews from Booklist now--same reviewer.
I'm thinking that if you get reviewed by any of The Big Boys (Kirkus, PW, Booklist, Library Journal)on your debut that they look for you again?
Frankly, I was darned lucky to get two good ones on DTK, then got some snarky stuff on my second book. And now am going a third round--which has been positive, so far. On the other hand, the mystery reviewers have barely touched my books.
Except for Whodunnit, who gave me a nice review, but also called the book "a modern day bodice ripper".
Hey, let's be clear here--NO bodices got ripped. Just a slippage on the mermaid costume . . . ;-)

Omigosh, Mark--the agency actually said they "only handle women authors"?? I'm floored.

Felicia Donovan said...

I'm still trying to fathom all of this because THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY did get reviewed in Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, The Mystery Reader and several others.

I don't doubt that the numbers are skewed, hence my membership in SINC, but my own experience has been a good one.

Is there any source for actual numbers of male vs. female mystery authors? MWA, perhaps? I'd be curious.

Mark Terry said...

Yes, the agency actually said they were only taking on female writers.

I wonder in what other industry you could get away with that. Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders?

Candy Calvert said...

Personally, Mark--I'm certain you could shake those pom poms better than any girl. And, hey, I'd like to see that.

Where can we find white boots in your size?

Yee haw! ;-)