Gender Split in Self-Publishing: Female Domination

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Maggie Brown reports in her article The Fifty Shades effect: women dominate self-publishing on the Guardian that “middle-aged and well-educated women […] dominate the growing e-publishing market”. However, the article does not really give any satisfactory explanation to the finding, but rather goes on discussing self-publishing and how it causes change in the publishing industry. My personal postulation comes from Alison Baverstock’s comment that lots of self-publishers have been very collaborative and share information with each other; sociology and linguistics studies have revealed that prototypically, women are considered stronger at building interpersonal relationships and attending emotional connection, while men are considered more keen on establishing hierarchy and seeking power. Although these claims can be quite overgeneralised and may not apply to every aspect of human behaviour, they might still offers a perspective into examining why women, presumably to be stronger at collaborating, outperform men in self-publishing.

My favourite quote in this article comes from Michael Tamblyn’s “how people engage with books has been an undiscovered country”. If publishers cannot get timely feedback about (the change of) readers’ interests through marketing research, most publishing endeavours are likely to end in vain.

Image Credit: Ohio University

9 thoughts on “Gender Split in Self-Publishing: Female Domination”

  1. Although I am happy that women dominate in the self-publishing field I am wondering if part of the reason is because traditional publishers tend to favor men. Research shows that women get published and reviewed less than men.

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  2. Thought provoking post and good points made in the comments so far. I agree the gender issue is relevant in all the ways suggested here. It’s also true that within the population of readers women significantly outnumber men.

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  3. When I taught fiction writing for a Minnesota writers organization, our classes were almost always made up of at least 60% women–as was the organization’s membership. (I’m working from memory, so don’t trust me too much on the numbers; they may well have been higher.) But in addition to that, I wonder if the influx of women into self-publishing doesn’t also reflect the biases of the publishing industry: It’s harder for women writers to break in and it’s harder for women’s writing and issues to get taken seriously.

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    1. Sad but true, Mr. Hawley, I agree with you on that gender bias may still play a big part in it, but in addition to reflecting the gender imbalance in publishing, does it also mean that self-publishing gives women a chance to move up in the industry?
      On a side note, I’m not quite sure about the overall landscape of the writing profession, but I do wonder if it is true that more women are engaged in fiction writing?

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    1. Hi Ms. Green,
      That’s a great point! My initial interpretation was based on the assumption that the number of female writers and male writers in self-publishing is roughly the same, but that is probably not the case. And if we dig into it, different genres would have a preference for self-publishing or traditional publishing, for example fiction writers these days might go for self-publishing while non-fiction writers may stick to traditional publishing because some do rely on peer review and the publisher to build up their academic reputation, and would there be a different pattern of gender split across these different genres? Unfortunately I don’t have enough statistics to do a more thorough analysis, but if I come across any information about this topic, I will definitely write another post! 🙂

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