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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.


Comments

oldcharliebrown
Jan. 11th, 2009 11:44 pm (UTC)
It's reported on the BBC website, but not directly attributed to the publisher: "Joanne was published as 'JK Rowling', as she had been told she should use her initials to disguise the fact she's a woman - apparently boys would not be as interested in reading the books if they knew the writer was a woman." I seem to recall confirmation in some of the biographies that came out, but I don't have them at hand right now.

Wikipedia: "Although she writes under the pen name "J. K. Rowling" her name when her first Harry Potter book was published was simply "Joanne Rowling". Before publishing her first book, her publisher Bloomsbury feared that the target audience of young boys might be reluctant to buy books written by a female author. It requested that Rowling use two initials, rather than reveal her first name"

This is further backed up by this:

http://burrow.sub.jp/library/original/03122001b.html

I'm surprised that it would be a surprise, in this field, or otherwise. I've even suggested authors change names occasionally, myself, though I tend to want to eliminate initials from author bylines. In any case it happens all the time in NY publishing. You know that for a fact.
jonathanstrahan
Jan. 11th, 2009 11:50 pm (UTC)
I am mildy surprised. I certainly know it goes on, and that it's even justified in some cases, but this one does surprise me a little. Crazy ass world of publishing.
girliejones
Jan. 12th, 2009 01:14 am (UTC)
You know it is!
cassiphone
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:52 am (UTC)
Well, they didn't know at the time she was going to be a mega hit. And it was a lot more common in... when did they start, late nineties? Than these days.
jonathanstrahan
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:00 am (UTC)
Thing is, most of the name changes I know of are because of sales, not gender. But still - crazy industry.
oldcharliebrown
Jan. 12th, 2009 01:42 pm (UTC)
That's possible, though in some cases it's to muddle the gender. Was Tim Pratt's name shortened to TA Pratt to confuse the sales records or to position his series to a female-oriented audience? I'd guess it was a little of both, personally :p
crankynick
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:24 am (UTC)
I'd want to see it from a direct source somewhere before I relied on the story - it has the feel of urban legend to me. That link doesn't seem to provide much support:

JK Rowling: my real name is Joanne Rowling my publishers wanted another initial, so I gave myself my favourite grandmother's name as a middle name 'Kathleen'

And neither of the others provide any direct source or quote for the reference, either.

No saying it isn't true, btw, but I'd want more than that before trusting in the truth of it.

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