Sunday, October 29, 2006

Publishing: Men vs. Women

I find this incredibly misogynistic, and I have to say that I've never personally witnessed such bias in the publishing industry. What do others think?

45 comments:

katiesandwich said...

I have no idea what misognistic means (am I "misognistic" for not knowing this?), but yeah, in a way, I can see this guy's point. And I'm a woman (as if the username "katiesandwich" didn't give it away), so take that as you will. Granted, I haven't seen this guy's writing, so who's to say he's not getting rejected cause he sucks. But publishing seems, to me, to be getting spammed with chick lit, women's fiction, yada yada yada. There's nothing wrong with chick lit, I suppose. Not crazy about it myself, but whatever. But it's EVERYWHERE! That being said, I've heard of plenty of good books that target male audiences being published recently. I hope he keeps querying and doesn't give up.

kiwi said...

Katiesandwich, misogyny is essentially the hatred of women.

I have shit-loads to say about this article, but just too busy right now. Back later.

Ben S. D. said...

Well, I think he has a point strictly in terms of the numbers. When you have 60-70% females buying books, you're likely going to get an industry that sports 60-70% female-oriented books. And that may be too mathematical and not entirely accurate, but it's a logical conclusion.

However, at the same time, it seems like he's implying that men have a tougher time selling books simply because the publishers and agents don't like to publish male writers. This further implies that men can't write books that women want to read, and vice versa, which I also don't think is true. Yes, "chick-lit" is huge now (at least, I think it still is) and that's something that won't appeal to any male I know, but truly GOOD writing is universal. I refuse to believe otherwise.

And for the record, I had an 8th-grade English teacher who loved Louis L'Amour, and we were forced to read several of his novels. The teacher was male, and the books were...umm...not all that impressive. If he's basing his, "see, men can write, too!" argument on L'Amour, I'm afraid I can't identify with that. In the end, I think both genders write and read trash every once in a while: country-western stuff like L'Amour isn't that great, but then again, Danielle Steele isn't any better. ;)

Sam said...

I can't say I agree - But maybe he is talking only about the romance industry? In that case, a pseudonym might work.
My favorite writer right now is James W. Hall, & my all time favorite is Ray Bradbury, & I don't hear them whining about women authors taking all the publishing slots...

December Quinn said...

Sour grapes. Not all books by women are for women, and not all books by men are "man stuff" women don't want to read, and to imply that not only do women have a much better chance at selling their books to publishers simply because they're women, but that this is a mistake because readers aren't buying those books the way they might buy books by men is ridiculous. And that was a really long sentence but I'm just a girl and I can't help it.

No, I don't think he's trying to be a misogynist, but he does come off as someone a little bitter. I'd love to know what type of book he wrote. Just because he had an agent doesn't mean it was a good one (the agent, I mean--he could have had someone who didn't know what they were doing and made up all that editorial feedback).

Linda said...

In science fiction and fantasy, men are heavily represented. Some argue that men dominate because young males, a major SF demograhic, tend to favor male writers. As a writer in those genres, I don't let it bother me. As for the male POV, there's plenty of that, mostly in thrillers and spy novels. I tend to favor books written from the male POV and have a hard time believing agents and publishers don't give a book a fair reading for that reason.

For what it's worth, the man in my life buys twice as many books in a year as I do, and he's not complaining about lack of supply or that there's a shortage of books for male readers. He reads mostly thrillers.

Harry Connolly said...

Granted, I haven't seen this guy's writing, so who's to say he's not getting rejected cause he sucks.

Click on the link to his website and read the first paragraph describing his book FATA! The Act of the Avengeance.

He's not being rejected because the "ladies" won't give him a chance.. He's being rejected because he sucks.

The Home Office said...

His post’s tone sounds like the conspiracy theories of too many writers who probably just don't write very well. It's always easier to blame the ubiquitous “they” for discriminating against your books than it is to entertain the possibility that you’re a crappy writer. I’m a male writer with an agent, hoping to sell my first novel. I also write reviews for a web site. Too often the buzz phrase “writing from the man’s perspective” means cardboard characters and cartoonish action, as though “real men” don’t care about such things. Sex scenes that were titillating when Mickey Spillane wrote them sixty years ago are borderline misogynistic now.

His post may not be misogynistic, though it certainly walks like it and quacks like it. I thinks he’s just a frustrated writer, who may, or may not, be any good. He’s certainly not going to get any better by spending his time writing screeds blaming everyone else for his lack of success.

The Home Office said...

Sorry for double-sipping, but I just followed Harry Connolly's advice and read an excerpt from the book in question. Please remove "frustrated writer" from my description and replace it with "sorry writer."

I see his "book" is available for download. It's a shame to think Al Gore spent all that time inventing the internet just to provide access to writing that bad.

JC Madden said...

I think he needs to back away from the drugs.

Louis L'Amour also wrote very SHORT novels, and those would have a hard time flying in today's marketplace as well.

(Though, honestly, if he were as good a writer as Clancy, Coonts or L'amour he wouldn't resort to whining on his blog, would he?)

Because it's never OUR fault that we're not published, it's always someone else's. *g*

Anonymous said...

Well, I saw it and had to respond to it... probably the longest blog post I've ever done....

The first point I have to say is that he's not a good writer. I read his first chapter. The other points I thoroughly discussed on my blog...

BuffySquirrel said...

I read Chapter One of FATA!. I'll tell you what I think when I stop laughing.

Seriously, his novel hasn't been rejected because it's about a man or by a man or for men.

Anonymous said...

Wah, wah, wah.

He can't write from a woman's POV because he's a man? I'll be sure to tell Charles Frazier and Arthur Golden. While I'm at it, I'll let Sue Monk Kidd know she couldn't possibly capture the voice of African-American women;Kidd is white.

And sex scenes? Just the other day I was talking to an editor about our respective slush piles (hers is for a house, mine for a lit mag) and she said she has the same opinion about the majority of sex scenes written by unpublished men: They're all written the same way without any sense of deftness. Makes one wonder what they're like in bed.

Male, female, hermaphrodite, all that matters is the writing.

katiesandwich said...

Okay, I'd like to clarify what I said in my earlier comment. I'm not defending this guy's idea that he's being discriminated against because he's a man. As we all know, good writing is what gets an author published. The point I was making is that, much as there are plenty of good books for male readers, there does seem to be an overabundance of "girl stuff" out there. And if that's what's selling right now, then yeah, someone who's not writing what's selling will have a hard time getting in the door. Not because he's a man; because he's writing something that won't make money. I did find his attitude a little haughty, and I certainly don't think women in publishing are gender discriminating. Forgive my lack of clarity! It was after 1:30 in the morning when I posted that comment. I'm feeling much more awake now.

word ver: galkdrio. Doesn't that sound cool?

Henna said...

I wouldn't say his writing was laughable. I would say it is dated, and, yes, it is easy to tell it is written by a man. Why? Because of the little details about the bbow tie and the car. A woman, nine times out ten, will just say 'car', something to get her from a to b.

Interestly some friends held a poll not so long ago. There was a slush bomb sent to Fantasy mag of womenw riters because they 'seemed' to accept more males than females. On out own poll we submitted the first couple of paras of a story and then asked the readers which was written by which. Very few people got the gender right.

Within my own genre I can think of three guys who have just been taken on by agents and are now published. Okay, this is Sf/F, but good writing grabs by whatever gender.

Most of my novels are written with a male protag and from his pov. I had three sons, even the blessed animals are all male. I'm not saying I got it right, but, there are several good male writers who write romance who write under pseudonyms, and to blame the 'industry' for not getting publication does seem like sour grapes.

I'm not published yet. I don't blame the system, I blame the fact my writing hasn't reached the skill level and dexterity it needs to make me a successful author. So I don't sit on my laurels writing the same old same old. I experiment and hopefully improve with each novel I write.

Henna said...

Oops, apologies for the typos, especially 'interestly' I really should do the preview thingy. Blame the fact the clocks went back here. Something, anyway. :)

Jenny Rappaport said...

Wow, I woke up this morning to lots of great comments! I agree that he's coming off as a tad less misogynistic this morning, but I still don't like his presumptions.

BuffySquirrel said...

Sorry, but I did find the writing laughable, in that it really did make me laugh. I could see where the person who complained about "male fantasy" was coming from, too. Ego trip, anyone?

I'm notoriously hard to please, but sheesh.

Whether or not there's gender discrimination in publishing, I wouldn't care to say. But that global rejection of FATA! is not evidence of it, I am convinced.

Anonymous said...

"Good writing trumps all." I don't think publishers or the public care about a writer's gender - and if they did, anyone can write under a psuedonym.

I have to agree with Katiesandwich about the overabundance of chick-lit/vampire slayers/romance. When I started agent searching, I was really surprised about the number of vampire slayer books out there...Didn't Buffy the TV show cover that?

Bridget Jones Diary (IMHO) is great, original, chick lit...But personally, I haven't found that originality again in other chick lit books I've started - then yada yada - skipped to the end.

Mark said...

Well how nice to see the Al Gore Internet myth repeated in an ad hominem. I don't know about the guy's writing but some of what he says is true. Women were at one time almost banned from the public arena and this has been reversed. The question is should the prior lopsided ratio be repeated on the other side? Try to get a reporting job and you'll see what I mean. You'll discover a 23-year-old female recent college graduate is more qualified than a middle-age male with the same degree, internshps, clips and so on. That's not only unfair it's rigged.

Books are sold in categories so it doesn't add up that a male oriented book would fail because of that alone.

JA Konrath failed for years until he wrote a female protagonist and disquised his gender. It worked so I consider this exhibit A that something is going on along these lines.

Kat said...

There's an abundance of "girl stuff" out there because there's an abundance of women reading fiction. There's an abundance of women reading fiction because there is still a strong cultural bias towards reading for pleasure as effeminate. Even the men I know who read a lot (and I know plenty who do) often feel it necessary to stress how improving or literary a book is. It can't just be *fun*.

Needless to say, this is bloody stupidity and yet another sign that our educational system needs to be taken out back and flogged. But it's not bias, and it's not something that's going to be fixed by putting out more "manly" literature, because the problem is not the books: it's the reading.

And we certainly don't need self-indulgent claptrap like this guy seems to be writing. I mean, please. If I want to read a shabbily plotted story with a ridiculously idealized, sexually overactive protaganist and a clearly borrowed stage set, I'll go read fanfic. It's more honest about what it is, and it's FREE.

Further ranting moved to my own blog, lest I break y'all's scrollbars. *grin*

Henna said...

I agree with what kat said, that it isn't so much the writers but the readers who dictate the market. Although, to some extent publishers do decide on what they 'think' we would like to read. All the men in my family like to read factual books. The one time I persuaded the dh to read sci fi he blamed me for having to wear glasses afterwards. The middle son reads lots, but he's a soldier and a lot of soldiers read in their down times. The youngest son has read quite a few Harry Potters but he refused to read any where he'd seen the movie first. I have found a series written by Erin Hunter about cats, since he loves cats, which he now hungers for. But, it was very difficult to persuade him to read fiction at all.

As for not laughing at an another person's writing, buffy. No, I won't laugh no matter how deplorable something might be. It takes effort and passion to write even deplorable stuff. The problem isn't with the writing but who wields the pen.

Linda said...

I don't think there's any bias either; rather it's recognizing a market that didn't exist in a major way. I grew up during the 1970's and 1980's, and the best books written for girls that I could find were Nancy Drew or nurse romance novels. I like action novels, and it was rare to even find a girl character in those, and when I did, the character was wallpaper. In the 1990's, I started seeing books come out that were beginning to focus on women, and slowly, each of the genres have been paying attention to the other half of their audience.

But what I have found--and this is because I'm writing a thriller for women--is that a lot of guys really have a hard time dealing with books for women even existing. Why, I don't know. Male members of my critique group have attacked me for even writing such a thing. It isn't that the story is bad--they like the story; the area they focus on every single time is that it's for women. It's such a flash point that it's even generated very real anger from the men.

I've also heard of a science fiction author who included a romance as a subplot in her novel. She recounted how other writers predicted doom because of this romantic subplot, sternly advised her to leave it--and she was unable to get any reviews for the book. But the book sold very well. A woman thriller writer has said that simply because her name is on the book, men won't buy it.

BuffySquirrel said...

Umm, I hope I never reach the stage of being unable to laugh. Then I'd have to start crying.

Jordan Summers said...

I don't think that there is a conspiracy against male writers. I'm looking at my bookshelves right now, staring at Stuart Woods, John Twelve Hawks, Dick Francis, Tony Hillerman, Jack Higgins, James Rollins, Matt Reilly, Barry Eisler, Greg Rucka, Thomas H. Cook, Harry Harrison, Thomas Greanias, Stephen King and Steve Niles to name a few.

Now maybe this author is trying to write romance. If that's the case, he may need to change his name. Otherwise, I don't see a shortage of male authors that write about 'manly' things. *g*

I'm not sure I even understand the jump from women's fiction and chick-lit as being the reason why this guy can't get published. I'm probably confused. It wouldn't be the first time. *ggg* That said, I do think he's smart to write about such a hot-button subject. It's certainly brought him a lot of attention. :)

The bottom line is that it's hard as hell to get published...period. It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman. You can be the best writer on the planet and still NEVER sell. It's the nature of the beast.

Anonymous said...

I read some of his other blog posts, including a few about his books. Let me simply say that I could see pretty quickly why he's being rejected, and it has nothing to do with gender. I can understand his frustrations, but I think if he put his ego aside for awhile and genuinely worked on his writing, he'd do better (professionally and karmically).

j h woodyatt said...

He's got a very bad case of anti-feminist backlash going on down there… and that's about as far as I'm willing to go and still sign my real name to it.

Bernita said...

Like Anon, I could see why he was being rejected quite quickly on reading his excerpt.
Had the urge to edit.

Kimber An said...

It cuts both ways. How many science fiction novels are on the market right now especially written for girls? Why? Because girls don't like science or science fiction, you know! Thankfully, that trend is changing again, I think. Most of my critters have been female, young and old. The funniest thing I've ran into writing science fiction, being a woman, and having strong women characters is that the only people who didn't like it were old men. The men under forty liked it. The men under 25 loved it! So, maybe it's a generational thing?

As for writing from the opposite sex's point-of-view, it really helps to be able to relate to the opposite sex in Real Life. I grew up with brothers and have been happily married for a long time. I like men and understand and accept and, yes, appreciate that they are different from women. I have no problem with writing from a male point-of-view. And if I get it wrong, my husband lets me know.

Anne said...

I couldn't make it through his sample chapter.

RyanBruner said...

I think there may be some truth buried in his blog entry, but in general, he is a frustrated writer trying to figure out why he is rejected. Clearly he doesn't believe it is because he isn't good enough. Perhaps "misunderstood"...by all the women.

Thing is, I just recently mentioned to someone how I feel women write better sex scenes than men. I'm a guy. But when I read sex scenes from men, they are overly mechanical, and lose any real feeling. (There are exceptions, but I speak in general terms.)

Thing is...where the truth comes...is that, yes, more readers (particularly of fiction) are women. Also, as my search for an agent indicates, there appear to be more female agents than male agents. So, perhaps publishing is bent towards the female view a tad. So what? It has also been shown that, generally speaking, women tend to be more verbally inclined than men. So what?

I don't think the women in the industry are going, "Oh, wow...here's a good book. Too bad it was written by a man. REJECT!"

If the book is good, it will sell (maybe).

Catherine Avril Morris said...

That article just cracked my shit up. I don't think being a male writer or not writing for a female audience is his problem. Poor guy; he's clearly got Issues. (He's bitterly afraid that women control the publishing industry? And, to pick out one of the smallest facets of his overall problem, he said he writes neither for men nor for women, "just...stories." I firmly believe you should know whom you're writing for.)

Kimber An said...

Men who relate well with women and respect them are good at what they do, on paper or wherever, and are appreciated for it. Men who don't, aren't.

Ryan Field said...

I've never had a problem.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think this man exhibits a hatred toward women? I think we should all be careful with word choice, especially words that indicate hatred of gender, race, religion, etc... Let's save those words for those who truly deserve it. The words lose their power if thrown around frivolously.

Mark said...

These days almost any disagreement translates to hatred. It's hyperbolic and generally uncalled for. That said, this guy's writing doesn't seem like it's on the right track, and when it's available for sale online is no longer a candidate for publication.

mdn said...

As mentioned above, publishing a book is very, very difficult. The odds are stacked against you, and you really have very little control over the process (other than writing the best book you can, of course). Once you have an agent, in fact, it's pretty much out of your hands. The advice you see on web sites and blogs such as this one is often along the lines of "forget about it" and "move on to the next project."

This guy has come up with a bit of a conspiracy theory, and I think it's wrong, but I also think he's just trying to make sense of a frustrating process over which he has very little control. I have half a dozen agent/editor bloggers bookmarked in my own attempt to understand the process.

I have read that the publishing industry, from agents to editors to book buyers, is disproportionately a) young and b) female. But it's also an industry. I really believe that those agents, editors, and buyers want to represent/acquire/buy the best books available, and the ones that are liable to sell the most copies. I believe that because they are professionals. Since it's not the sort of industry you get into for easy money or short hours, I also believe that they are passionate about books.

From the writers perspective, rejection is tough. It's normal to look for reasons, excuses, whatever. When I was querying, I remember browsing through the new literary fiction at the Borders on Park Avenue. Every single title on the featured table was by a female author. (I'm a guy. Did my prose give me away?) Rational or not, I remember having a sort of "oh crap" moment. I didn't see a vast conspiracy. I was just sort of reading tea leaves, looking for clues.

A few months later, I got an offer of representation. I had a number of other fulls out, and so I had to decide whether to accept this offer on the spot or wait to hear from some of the other agents. I think I made the decision to accept in under a minute, but some of the things I considered during those ticking seconds were that this agent was enthusiastic, had an excellent reputation, and, I'll admit, that she's young and female. I don't think that my chromosomes put me at a real disadvantage, but I know for sure that hers don't.

Jodi Meadows said...

If all it took was being young and female--

Maybe my fame is hiding in the couch cushions. Excuse me while I check.

mdn said...

Huh, that's strange, Jodi. It must be there somewhere, unless, perhaps, you forgot to live in New York? I am kidding about that, but it's another example of this whole process. Do female writers have an advantage? Do New York agents? Is age an obstacle? What if I live in Canada? I've seen heated speculation on all of these topics. People want to know where they stand, what their chances are, and such. Ultimately, as a writer, it probably doesn't do much good to tally up the odds, since they're pretty long for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Mark said: "Try to get a reporting job and you'll see what I mean. You'll discover a 23-year-old female recent college graduate is more qualified than a middle-age male with the same degree, internshps, clips and so on. That's not only unfair it's rigged."

I wonder how much of that is gender discrimination, and how much of it is them being cheap. A recent 23 yr old grad is going to cost a lot less to hire, and is more likely to be willing to do the grunt work than someone with 15 years experience.

Speaking from another industry where recent grads find it easier to get work, the issue is that the experienced people want more money and more responsibility and more authority. If given the entry level job, they're likely to be short-timers as they seek out something else. Also, in general they're less willing to pull all-nighters because they have family responsibilities.

Julia said...

One of the reasons publishing is heavily staffed by young female employees is that the pay is horribly low for the entry level jobs and depressingly low for the mid-level jobs. Who takes on the bulk of low-paying work in this country? Why, that would be women.

Anonymous said...

Take at look at the NY Times or USA Today Best Seller Lists. How many of the books are written by men? At least half if not more.

His comments have no basis. People buy what the like.

Yeah, there are more "women's" books being published. 55% of all paperbacks sold are romance books. Don't you think the publishers take notice of stats like that?

sour grapes...

Mark said...

" wonder how much of that is gender discrimination, and how much of it is them being cheap."

This is moot since both would work for the same money. Experience in life and other trades has no bearing on starting a new one. They prefer the young girl every time. It is what it is.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julia,
the bulk of low-paying work in my part of the country isn't done by women, it's done by hispanic males.

BikeProf said...

I think I'm with Jenny--it does sort of reek of misogyny, or sour grapes. When you visit the guy's site, look at a couple of things to give a full picture. He has a long, very puffed-up profile where he repeatedly calls himself an author (but no one will publish his books?). And then click over to the excerpt of the first chapter of his book. It is quite clear why he is not getting published, and it ain't because he's a man.