Survey: Traditional Publishing is for Men, Self-Publishing is for Women

In News by Dennis Abrams

The Guardian reviews the results of a survey that suggests “self-publishing helps women break through the book industry’s glass ceiling.”

By Dennis Abrams

womenatworkAt The Guardian, Alison Flood looked at the results of a survey that suggests that “self-publishing helps women break through the book industry’s glass ceiling.”

First some contest: In the UK in 2013, according to Nielsen book, sales for self-published books rose by 79% from 2012, with a total of 18 million books sold. In the US, according to Bowker, there were more than 458,000 titles self-published in 2013, up 17% from 2012 and a remarkable 437% from 2008.

And now a report from the online publishing platform FicShelf has found that “the authors doing best in the medium tend to be women.” Of the most popular titles found on the top self-publishing platforms – Blurb, Wattpad, CreateSpace and Smashwords – the study found that 67% of those were written by women. Compare that with the top 100 traditionally published titles found on Amazon of which 61% were written by men.

(The study did not include self-published titles on Kindle because Amazon does not segregate self-published titles from those traditionally published, but FicShelf is “confident that the survey’s results are representative of the market as a whole.”)

Monique Duarte, chief executive of FicShelf, which released the results on Sunday for International Women’s Day said, “More and more female writers are seeing success in self-publishing. It’s a level playing field.”

And one cannot say that traditional publishing is a level playing field. FicShelf found that “men are more likely to receive recognition of their work…with preconceived notions of a ‘literary canon’ and curated lists of top titles still dominated by male writers.” For example, FicShelf found, male writers made up 80% of the titles in the Telegraph’s “100 Novels Everyone Should Read,” 85% of the Guardian’s “100 Greatest Novels of all Time,” and, among more contemporary listings, 70% of the Telegraphs Best Books of 2014.”

Self-published author Alison Morton told Flood that, “There’s a definitely a gender disparity among traditionally-published authors. More women buy, write and read books in numerical terms, but more ‘weight’ and status is given by publishers to books by male authors. With self-publishing, it’s the effort by the individual that counts, irrespective by gender.”

“The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Make It Happen’, and our study proves that self-publishing is making it happen for female writers across the globe,” said FicShelf’s Duarte. “In self-publishing, there is no glass ceiling to smash through – it’s about the individual rather than the usual old boy’s club mentality. It’s not about who you know, but what you can do – and what you can write.”

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About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.