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The argument ... in pieces

I probably should have waited till I had all the bits of the maths in my hands and not said anything in advance. My intention is not to sit and point at men and say how much they suck and how sexist they are. Or how sexist male editors are - that's not remotely interesting to me as an argument. A lot of my closest friends are male editors (heh) and it's not the point, you know? I don't think male editors look at names and dismiss female authors. I don't think they set out to only like stories written by men. That's a boring position in the argument to take.

I blogged my comments earlier because I was looking at the big name overseas markets, many of which struggle to hit 25% female authorship across a bunch of issues in a single year. I was depressed because that's not a lot of places for female writers to be competing with and doesn't leave many spots for new female writers to break in. For new voices to be heard.

My argument was going to be more looking at the business model. Taking into consideration the drop in circulation of the top mags, I thought I would look into various stats. Here's the thing, they struggle to publish women. It's possible that then, they also struggle to appeal to female readers. If you look at the last two publishing phenonemona that swept the world - JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyers - the one thing you can't deny --> they sell. The other thing you'll note is that women read. Two somewhat important factors, I would think, when looking at markets. If it were me, I'd want to look into why those sold and how I can get a piece of the action.

What's interesting to me is that the female audience is never ever (at least publicly) considered. It's not even allowed to be openly discussed without defensive males (editors) jumping up and down and telling you it's not a problem. But what if it IS? What if declining readership could be correlated to declining or low numbers of stories appealing to female readers? Why wouldn't you look at your product and see what market you want or could target it to?

It seems to me, that female writers tend to write female stories - not always, and not necessarily overtly or through only using female protagonists. But ... can men really argue that they write so well that they can write *for* women and thus we don't need to give voice and page space to them in order to hear what they have to say? For me, it's not about needing gender equality in ToCs to show that we're all fair and equal or that sexism is dead. It's actually about there being products out there that appeal to ME, that are made with ME in mind and that give voice to issues and concerns that affect ME. And I don't think you can effectively argue that magazine and anthology after magazine and anthology that only print stories written by white men can do that.

You might not care. You might not want to produce that kind of product. And I don't have to pay for products like that. But the thing is? When I look around at what I have actually handed cash over for lately? It's novels written by women. I used to subscribe to several mags - online and print. And I used to hunt others down in the newsagent. But the truth is, they bored me and they felt like a waste of money for me because I am clearly not the target audience. So when you talk about declining circulations and you wonder why, why not ask around and why not take notice of the answers? Because I am included in many of those stats for readers taking their money elsewhere.


Jan. 11th, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
Heh. Now you're just saying that!
Jan. 11th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)

I think you're right about the business side. The SF-reading audience has changed, and mags need to adapt to that. They'd be crazy not to at least consider the very reasonable suggestion that appealing to the female species as well as the male one might be worth a couple of extra subscriptions. :-)

I don't *fully* agree with any assumption that tastes are gender-related, as you know, but I don't have any data, and so it's possible that it *could* be true for a majority of people, if not for me.
Jan. 11th, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC)
Yeah I think you raise an important dimension to it - taste is not gendered. I guess there must be columns in our spreadsheet that we could figure out how to run numbers?

I often find in LSS that I most likely will have the same taste as you OR Tansy to a story but not necessarily for every story/genre. It's not linear.
Jan. 11th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC)
I don't think I think taste is gendered either. Which I know comes as a shock to Ben, but it's true. But statistically, I know that women are more likely to write stories that I connect to and enjoy. Not all women, it's just - probability. Like I am more likely to be drawn into an awesome story with a female protagonist, or a book with a theme that I love.

I want choice, like any reader. And if a magazine or an anthology doesn't represent my gender strongly, it sends a message to me that I'm probably not the intended audience. So I go elsewhere.

I think Ben and I have always had very similar tastes in short fiction (not exact, but very similar) and I agree gender isn't always an issue. But lack of a gender *is* an issue. It's also a self-perpetuating cycle.

When I see a market or a table of contents that is predominantly male, I feel excluded as a reader as well as a potential writer. And I take my purchasing power elsewhere. That doesn't mean the fiction is going to be bad. I might even enjoy it. But to be honest, fiction chosen by someone who doesn't think gender balance is important is simply less likely to be exciting, or of interest to me. I do find these things go together.
Jan. 12th, 2009 01:20 am (UTC)
What is upsetting to me is ... there are a bunch of women in this thread, readers with cred, reviewers and editors, women with education saying there is a problem. I haven't seen any women enter the debate yet and say it's not an issue - that there is lack of gender and that it is a problem - yet men can turn around and say it's not. Why are we not heard? Or allowed to be heard. WE say it is a problem FOR US. Why is that not enough? For THEM?

How can you say you are not being biased when the alternative view point is not allowed for?

I say I want to read other stories. How can anyone else come in and honestly think it's ok to say that I don't want that? Or that it doesn't exist?
Jan. 11th, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
May I advance something important to point out? Most publishers, with the exception of the bigger presses, and some smaller, are not business-oriented, and don't tend to think in those terms, at all. Hell, anyone with any skills would probably have left this field for greener pastures :p

Editing, or even publishing, and good business sense do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. How many people actually sit down and do a five-year business plan, identifying their intended demographic, or how to reach those goals? And the few times I've brought it up it seems like I catch flak, from people who are horrified that we're not publishing for the love, only, and that business considerations are simply not thought of . . .

Ultimately part of the problem may be that some magazines are not publicly stating: "Hey, we're targeting men, we don't care about women" rather than muddling the issue, and give lipservice to the issue, but blaming women: "Hey, we would LOVE to publish more women, but we can't get them to submit."

Is it easier to blame the victim than actually do something?
Jan. 16th, 2009 07:03 am (UTC)
And the few times I've brought it up it seems like I catch flak, from people who are horrified that we're not publishing for the love, only, and that business considerations are simply not thought of . . .

I know this is true and I know it's true here in Aussie small press. But I wonder at what the alternative is? To constantly have an overturning of small presses as the older ones run out of money and the new ones come in to fill the niche but lack experience? No wonder no forward movement is achieved.
Jan. 11th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
The funny this is that this happens in other fields all the time, when a business might redo their image, or their product-line, in order to target a new demographic. Current examples include:

"Best Buy launched its eq-life store, a retail concept that incorporates health, wellness and, of course, technology. The store is geared toward women ages 35 and older and also builds off Best Buy’s consumer electronics expertise by offering MP3 and DVD players."

Ultimately businesses, in sf and fantasy, need to understand this:

"Women today are more financially independent, intelligent, fussy, savvy and information hungry as consumers. They are a diverse group and there is no single “right” way to target them."—http://www.marketing-interactive.com/news/8357

Jun. 13th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
Not to mention Nintendo

...turns out actively catering/marketing to demographics other than young boys leads to record-breaking sales figures, even while the rest of the market is tanking

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