It’s My Fault For Reading It But Then the Writer is Not Blameless Either

The literature articles of should come with a warning which states “Best read after jamming an ice pick into your frontal lobe, the better to blunt the pain of screaming entitlement,” and I know that, so really, I’m the asshole here for not having such a tool handy, to employ immediately after linking through to the site. I just want that out there. This is my fault.

That said, honestly, this has got to be just about the most incoherent piece of enviously fumbly writer spew I’ve read in a long time, and I’m having a really hard time winkling out what it’s actually trying to say. As best as I can tell it’s saying “Jennifer Weiner thinks she’s got it rough, but her problems aren’t really problems and it’s really men writers who have it rough because women actually read, but then again men writers get perks because they’re men, so, in sum, I’m doing fine even though I don’t sell a lot a books and also Jennifer Weiner should just shut up her best selling woman pie hole.”

I admit I’m condensing and paraphrasing. But that’s what I got out of it. In a sense it’s a tour de force, since it first asserts inequity against men, then acknowledges male privilege, and ends with mansplaining to a woman how she should feel. It’s like a triple axel directly into a pile of pig manure. It’s impressive in its way, but you have to question the wisdom of skating on shit to begin with.

In all seriousness: What was the point of this article, other than to allow this fellow to vent at Jennifer Weiner because she sells more than he does? How does Ms. Weiner’s success invalidate her point that the data suggests male writers are disproportionately featured in the nation’s premier literary review, whose influence resonates well beyond its own pages? It does not, and the article’s “Your facts may be technically correct but you’re the literary 1% so therefore what you have to say is invalid, and now having disposed of your irrelevant concerns, let me, as a man, tell you what the real scandal is, which involves us poor men” thing is so widely missing the point, and cluelessly dismissive of the point, that it’s a little breathtaking.

Do men writing mid-list literary fiction have a harder time of it than women? Got me; I write science fiction, where I have to tell you the men are doing just fine. But this fellow may be correct in his assertion; it may even be a topic on which an interesting article could be written, which then jumpstarts a conversation about the current state of the lit fic genre. I submit to you, however, this is not that article, nor does that article need to be surrounded with a bunch of fuming envy pointed in the direction of Jennifer Weiner, whose own point regarding the New York Times and its literature coverage is almost entirely unrelated to that other topic.

So, again: Am I missing something here? I don’t think I am. I will say this article confirms my long-standing opinion that the seven most damaging words in the English language for the reputation of any novelist might very well be “I just wrote an article for Salon.” Writer, beware.

94 Comments on “It’s My Fault For Reading It But Then the Writer is Not Blameless Either”

  1. Yes, you are missing the gales of laughter from the other folks who wasted their time trying to figure out what it all meant. Thanks for your condensation, it is perffect

  2. What I got out of that: women buy “chick lit”, woe is anyone who writes anything else. Hm.

  3. The thesis seems simple:

    Jennifer Weiner’s complaints are invalid because any complaint about gender equality in the top 1% is an “uptown problem”. Or, as the internet meme goes, a “first-world problem”. Basically, the point is that you don’t get to complain about sexism or discrimination if you’re in a category of millionaire’s.

    Meanwhile, back down in the middle-class, men actually struggle. And, since they are middle-class, that struggle is valid.

    Of course, having said it is “simple” that doesn’t mean that it’s “valid”. A middle-class writer is still “uptown” compared to a struggling blue-collar man or woman who just got laid off. So, by the same logic, we actually don’t care about gender discrimination among middle-class writers either, do we?

    Then again: even the poorest Americans have it good compared to, say, residents of Haiti. So obviously we don’t care about any gender discrimination anywhere in America, do we? As long as you’re in a category that is better off than some other category, you can’t complain about any forms of discrimination in that category, ergo no one in America is allowed to have a problem with gender discrimination (or, we assume, racial or other forms). Reductio, meet absurdum.

  4. Watch, now, for the second part of the one-two punch of douchebaggery: insipid victimhood.

    It goes like this:

    1. Write something that is obnoxious along some gender, ethic, religious, etc. line.
    2. Watch for criticism.
    3. Wail that them minorities/wimmens/gays make dialogue impossible and are big mean bullies who chill speech.
    4. Gain rabid followers who share stories about the time some woman/gay/minority had the gall to treat them like a dick, just because they were being a dick.
    5. Join the ranks of the dawning realization that the middle-to-upper-middle-class young-to-middle-aged straight white guy is the central tragic figure of the modern era.


  5. Oh, good grief. As George Eliot could tell you, there’s a very simple way for an author to change perceived gender.

  6. If the men are outnumbered by the women, as Wayne notes, doesn’t that make it even stranger that only 41 percent of the reviews in the NYT were of novels written by women? It seems to that that to refute her point, he’d have to be pointing out that there were more men writing books. If he’s arguing that there are more women writing books, how does that make the pro-male-author slant of the NYT *more* fair? Unless he’s arguing that they’re engaging in affirmative action?

  7. What is “literary fiction”? Are publishers and distributors more or less likely to categorize certain books as “literary” depending on the gender of the author?

  8. Right. Because men, and only men, struggle and toil down in the midlist trenches. Women, by virtue of their superior readership are immediately vaulted to the top of the publishing/literary hierarchy.

    In fact, all I have to do to is produce a sworn affidavit that I possess a Magical Vulva of Opportunity and I too will be a #1 New York Times Best Selling Author.

    Or, yanno, not so much.

  9. I started reading that when Neil Gaiman tweeted about it, then I remembered that I don’t read Salon opinon pieces because it makes me want to stab my eyes out. I skimmed through the comments (also a mistake) and it appears to be largely a circle-jerk of “yeah bro! men totally are in the minority here!” followed by devolving into how much ebooks cost (seriously, WTF?) and how Creatives are bring “enriched” off the “rest of us” (I repeat, SERIOUSLY WTF Y’ALL?).

    Here’s my tl;dr version: Sounds like sour grapes.

  10. I had just read the article and was puzzling through it myself, trying to figure out what in the world the author was trying to say. My takeaway: “don’t take away the disproportionate literary cred given to men; it’s all we have!”

  11. I guess I don’t really get the outrage. This is a column by a guy complaining about gender bias in response to a column by a girl complaining about gender bias. She has a single data point to back up her side, he has a somewhat-less-convincing single data point (less convincing by virtue of its being out of date – I’m talking about the perusal of Oprah’s list) to back up his. Neither has made their case, which is fine with me because neither seems to be making a case worth making in the first place. I rate his a yawn and a page turn rather than a rant.

  12. @Ken-


    I think the actual lesson to take away from this is that you can’t ever use the “someone else has it worse” explanation to delegitimize someone’s complaint. That’s Teddy’s point, right: Jennifer shouldn’t complain about bias ’cause she’s in the top 1% (of authors). The problem is that once you start to apply that as a general principle, everything unravels.

    The flip-side is that if you’re going to assert that sexism matters even if the injured party is, like Jennifer, rich enough to get along just fine notwithstanding that actually doesn’t invalidate an accusation of sexism. And this applies to young/middle-aged, middle/upper class men as well: to the extent that they have a legitimate claim of discrimination, I don’t think you can just dismiss it by saying “well, you guys are in the 1%”.

    What Teddy did was wrong because he was basically trying to disenfranchise people because they could be worse-off. I think you have to either accept that notion and up basically saying no one in America has a legitimate grievance of any kind ’cause we’re not living in the Third World, or–if you’re going to reject it–you have to be open to the *possibility* that perhaps on occasion straight, white, Protestant Christian males may actually face discrimination in some cases even if they are the 1% overall.

  13. Didn’t seem hard to understand to me. The dude is complaining that people should stop complaining. Women should stop complaining about the top 1% because women have it easier in the lower 99%, due to gender differences in how readers read.

  14. “She has a single data point to back up her side”

    Did you read what she wrote? She has *many* data points. She crunched a significant amount of data for this project, and he did absolutely none. You can’t judge what data she offered by what data he quoted; he ignored the vast majority of the numbers she presented.

  15. Leonard:

    Until he points out all the ways men have it easier in that same stratum. At which point we’re back to “what is your actual point?”

  16. John-

    >>Until he points out all the ways men have it easier in that same stratum. At which point we’re back to “what is your actual point?”<<

    Not necessarily. He gives an argument for why–in the middle–women have a lot of advantages as authors. Then he also concedes that men have a lot of advances in general.

    Then he starts talking about "on balance" and takes no position on whether–weighing the gender advantages of women from book clubs and so forth vs. overall male privilege–a mid-line male author has a *net* advantage or disadvantage. And taking no position sort of *is* his point, since it's neither "women have had it harder" nor "men have it harder" but "quit yer bitchin'" which, you know, doesn't necessitate taking a clear stand on the issue of who comes out ahead in the net calculation.

    Personal aside: who's to say we even *can* sort of offset male privilege vs. the female-skew of the market? It's not like we're really dealing with positive and negative integers here, and we can just add 'em together and see if the grand total is greater or less than zero. There's all kinds of possible interaction between individual talents and personality with the various social pros and cons that could very well render a final determination of who has it better or worse not only irrevelant to his point, but also impossible to make.

    (And now I sound like I'm defending the article much more than I really want to, since I actually disagree with his main premise.)

  17. To its credit, Salon does still have Glenn Greenwald, who seems to be one of the few people willing to criticize Dems when they do the same things he criticizes Repubs for. I sometimes wonder what dirt Salon has on him, that he hasn’t left for greener (and less bullshit-ridden) pastures.

    (Oh, and Mary Elizabeth Williams is sometimes good, even though the comments that respond to her writings are often rife with tiresome mansplainers and manwhiners.)

  18. I stopped reading about six paragraphs down because there were no pictures. Okay, I was bored to tears with his whiny drivel. I went back to finish after reading your post, but there still were no pictures. Really…

  19. So is there a new extension to Godwin’s Law about writerly discussions devolving to rants about the price of e-books? How did Hitler think e-books should be priced? What about Heinlein?

  20. Addendum:

    Teddy wrote:

    >>For the most part, however, male authors are somewhat like male porn stars: getting work, but outearned and outnumbered by their female counterparts, who are in far greater demand from the audience (for very different reasons).<<

    I still took that as taking no position on the "on balance" issue since he seems to be reiterating the earlier points about female dominance in the middle of the market in particular without integrating his stuff about male-privilege. Or maybe he really thinks that the demographics of the middle of the fiction market outweigh male-privilege? It's not clear, and I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and presume he came to no conclusion rather than he just asserted "men have it harder" without any attempt to actually back that up.

    But that might be naive on my part. :-\

  21. Even with the ice pick, I couldn’t finish it.

    If I was Salon, I wouldn’t be trying to publish sophisticated articles by erudite, intelligent authors. I’d be trying to publish articles that get the most hits to the website, which increases ad revenue.

    You and Neil Gaiman probably just paid for their champagne and caviar for like two months. Hahaha!

  22. I thought the article could be summarized as “Oh, woe! She makes more money than I do, so I’ll console myself with the fact that being a male mid-list literature author allows me to slog away in academia teaching teenaged rubes for a paycheck rather that making my living off nothing more than my wit and creativity. Hopefully this article about how I suck at on-line, word-of-mouth networking due to the lack of a vagina will count toward my ‘publish or perish’ quota if I obfuscate things enough. The fact that it’s in Salon should count for extra credit.”

    I had some professors like Teddy back in college. I also worked on the English department’s literary magazine as staff. Because I 1) was an undergrad and 2) am a female, I was the proverbial fly on the wall. What I saw was part of the reason I ran screaming for the “genre ghettos.”

  23. P.S. If I was going to make a real point, it would have been what Elizabeth Reid said. (And she probably said it more concisely than I would have, with less parentheses.)

  24. Well, I’m just disappointed I can’t say, “Salon? What were you thinking?!” because you already confessed your madness. Way to ruin a great point-and-laugh, John. :(

  25. Slightly off-topic, but the phrase It’s like a triple axel directly into a pile of pig manure. It’s impressive in its way, but you have to question the wisdom of skating on shit to begin with. is nuclear-grade snark.

    Please, sir, keep up the good work!

  26. Heh.
    I wonder if he’s ever read any Jennifer Weiner.
    I found her work surprisingly deep….but then again the airport bookstore has stuck her work in with
    the relatively-lightweight chick lit. I wouldn’t call her chick lit. She’s got more going on in her plots.
    Looking at it objectively, I think writing her books would be *hard* – at least harder than the
    commentator is willing to acknowledge. He sounds like he’s whining because he’s getting the reviews
    but not the bucks.

  27. And John, I *love* “It’s like a triple axel directly into a pile of pig manure.”

  28. Everyone here seems to believe that getting a New York Times review is based on merit. Just like an awards show, is not your ‘winning’ a review based on who you know (as in, how well your publisher is marketing you) and politics versus how well-written a particular book is? Does the lack of a 50/50 split mean NYT has gender bias or there’s an unequal ratio of qualified books to review?

    Ms. Weiner’s argument is the NYT should do more reviews of her (commercial fiction/”chick lit”/romance) genre of books because that’s what the majority of readers read (not taking into account the tastes of actual NYT subscribers). The Washington Post used to be more fairly balanced but they killed their book review section.

    Mr. Wayne missed the meaning of the Weiner/Picoult/Franzen debate: it’s Franzen FEUD not fReude so his allusion to schadenfreude is an illusion and foreshadowing of the lack of a point to his argument.

    Doesn’t seem like anyone in the debate is having a hard time deciding which vintage wine to drink with lunch today so the whole thing is like the timeless complaining about who got skipped over for an Academy Award (again!) this year.

  29. I think another basic problem with the article is that when you talk in collective nouns, you ASSUME a hell of a lot and that ends up with the author making an ASS of U and ME both. “In today’s book world, men are disadvantaged”? Really?

    Just between us, after a quick Google of reviews for Steven King’s latest (one of which I wrote) I’m pretty damn sure most writers (male, female, trans whatever) would love to be “disadvantaged” like Steve. And I can confidently predict that whatever J.K. Rowling won’t be getting column inches but column miles.

    There are many many nit to picks with Weiner’s argument, but turning it into a episode of The Biggest Victim: Penis v. Vagina Special isn’t useful,

  30. I read the whole thing, but I stopped following about midway through. I got seriously distracted when he tried to make the argument that women have an advantage because of book clubs, by telling us that for a five year period that ended over ten years ago, Oprah’s book club featured more women authors than men, and that everyone should please ignore the fact that since 2006, she has exclusively featured men. Because on the whole, that still gives an advantage to the women. Wha—?

    I kept reading, but my brain was too busy trying to unbend itself from the pretzel-shape it had assumed while following that bit of logic to take in any more of it.

    Luckily, I had grabbed some anticipatory nacho-chips before I started reading, and they were excellent. So I still consider it time well spent.

  31. I think the man was overheard bitching about Weiners article and someone asked him to write it up and when he did so he realized that he was verbally being a douche so he backpedaled his written opinion to be as ambiguous as he could.

  32. There is a well-known and regarded skiffy genre reviewer who’s looked askance at every single thing I’ve had in Analog and IGMS to date, despite the fact that one of those pieces was a readers’ choice award winner. My lesson for myself: reviewers have tastes, like all readers, and if a reviewer detects that you’re not to his or her taste, while he or she may be obligated to read you due to your presence in the field, (s)he may be unlikely to ever speak favorably of your work, no matter what other readers might think of it. Thus, pay no heed to the reviews. It’s not their fault they don’t like your work, and it’s not your fault for not paying attention.

    To the bigger question of XYs versus XXs in the literary world, I think it more than a little strange that any published author would want to have this argument at all. The calculus of how and where and when and why a certain book or story by a certain author goes big — or not — is so fantastically complex and often different in every case, it’s a bit like cutting open a chicken and trying to read the entrails. There’s no science to it, hence no argument which might read as being logically derived. You are guessing. Perhaps educatedly so, but still guessing.

    Yes, publishers and media outlets can push authors or push books, but this again is guesswork. Strongly-pushed product may underwhelm, while product receiving little or no push at all may rise and shine. Even the bestseller lists are not a bulletproof metric because the bestseller lists are still chauvanists, in terms of e-publishing. Ergo, they hates it, they does, nasty little self-pubbies! Gollum! Gollum! Are women “winning” this game while men are “losing” it? I don’t think anyone can honestly claim to know — and if they do, I think they’re just hanging out their bad feelings for the world to see.

    Literary wonks may debate still further, but here again it’s taste. And for anyone “winning” at this game — male or female — I say, damn, you go, how it happened nobody knows, so enjoy it.

    For everyone else not necessarily winning…. no sour grapes, please. Be glad you’re in print anywhere at all, or that anyone is aware of you. That’s more than can be said for most writers, especially self-pubbers who bypass New York only to see crickets chirping while they stare eagerly at their Kindle sales reports screen, endlessly refreshing like a hundred-thousand Kip Drordy clones.

  33. Good Grief! Nothing appears to hold his attention or opinion for more than a couple of sentences. I think he needs a blankey and a nap.

  34. I don’t just want John to write an article for Salon, I want to read a Salon style article written by John.

  35. My lesson for myself: reviewers have tastes, like all readers, and if a reviewer detects that you’re not to his or her taste

    Quite, and contra Weiner, I don’t think the NYTimes is a gender-biased media phallus that “hates chick lit” because it’s written and consumed by PWVs (people with vaginas). It seems to me that they don’t take genre fiction seriously full stop – unless, of course, you’re a “real” writer like Margaret Atwood or Philip Roth who needs to be covered, even when they’re slumming in the literary ghetto.

    And, seriously, if I’m a publicist at TOR why the hell am I going to send a review copy of ‘Redshirts’ to an outlet when I’m damn near certain it’s just going to end up as a retirement home for dust bunnies in the corner of an office?

  36. I might need a new frontal lobe, I’ll have to wait until the painkillers wear off.

    Brad (3:05), it is Analog -by reputation quite old-fashioned- people more into more modern forms of stories in SF are almost bound to question everything that gets a reader’s choice :).

  37. It’s like a triple axel directly into a pile of pig manure. It’s impressive in its way, but you have to question the wisdom of skating on shit to begin with.

    ::wordless appreciation of the snark::

  38. Bearpaw, at the risk of derailing the thread (May the Mallet Smite Me where I Stand), I’ll submit that Greenwald is exactly where he deserves to be.

    To keep things on point, aside from the massive mansplaining entitlement, that article as steaming stream of dubious, just-so assertions, with nary the suggestion that he could perhaps back them up.

  39. Ouch,my frontal lobe. The damned ice pick is useless after you have read the article. The author should go into politics. He said nothing that could be pinned down but had lot of sound bites.

  40. Weiner’s point is that stories for women and by women are undervalued in our society, which she backs up with information about You’ll notice the Times, askance as it does look at genre books, does occasionally do columns including mystery and SF/F books. They do no columns on romance because it’s understood (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) that *those* stories can’t possibly contain anything approaching value.

    It’s part of a larger struggle that stories for women are undervalued. Not that they don’t sell. But that stories told to or written by 50 percent of the population are somehow lesser and have no merit.

    It was fun reading the Salon article realizing the point had gone completely over the author’s head. But more fun to come here and read this post. :)

  41. “The publishing industry has noticed this trend in reading habits, and knows that word of mouth can spread much more easily through a dozen gregarious club members than through a solitary, likely introverted reader. And so the mainstream publishing paradigm has shifted from books the highbrow critics are buzzing about to books that these clubs will embrace. True, Franzen and a few other male authors make the cut, and sometimes challenging works by writers of either gender sneak in, especially among younger and more cosmopolitan groups. But by and large, book-club members are interested in feel-good fare like Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help.” The archetypal book-club novel is written by a woman, its characters are female-centric, and it contains a love story, sensitive coming-of-age tale, or mother-daughter narrative, perhaps set against a historical backdrop.”

    THIS is the bit that made me so angry I wanted to punch infants. Then again, maybe I’ll just punch the author in the face. You know, whichever.

    1) One of the problems is the idea he expresses – that the publishing industry and, indeed, readers of both genders support – that writing about things that are important to women or in a traditionally “female sphere” are inherently less important. Write about politics, war, dysfunction insofar as it affects a young male character’s Coming of Age, and suddenly it’s Important. Write about love, family, children, or, you know, feelings (God forbid), and you get labeled “feel-good.” And, you know, feel-good is bad. Right? Because it’s not as serious as Real Writing about stuff that’s Important, like crime, or war, or drug abuse, or punching other dudes in the face. Right? *sigh* So, he’s basically saying that the entire publishing industry is dumbed down, and women are in charge of it, and it won’t be set right again until we start recognizing that it’s men who write about what’s really important and reward them accordingly.

    Francine Prose wrote a great article in Harper’s (June 1998) called “Scent of a Woman’s Ink: Are Women Writers Really Inferior?” that does a great job talking about the fact that we, as readers, are taught to respect Male Writing more, by virtue of its maleness, making anything a woman writes that might be of interest to her inherently less-than.

    God forbid men be asked to read something outside their comfort zones. God forbid a man read something like “The Help,” and not be ashamed of it, because it’s a “Woman’s book.” What if, instead, men broadened their horizons? You know, the way I do when I read books like “Master and Commander.” Men are hardly ever asked to meet US half way. It’s often we that have to do the moving with regard to our tastes, but if we “drag” our boyfriends to a “chick flick” it’s a fate worse than death for them. As the Prose article discusses, men might actually BENEFIT from doing the reverse for a change.

    2) HAS HE ACTUALLY READ “THE HELP?” Does this ass-clown know that it’s a book that delves into the heart of racism from the point of view of women? “The Help” refers to the titular domestics being interviewed in the story, but it could just as easily refer to the white women who are exercising the limited power they have in their own sphere. The group of women in the book are a microcosm of what was going on in the country at the time, which is what makes the book so important. It’s not a “feel-good” book in the way he means. There is a lot of harshness, and sadness, and dealing with the difficult issues of race and class. And I have a feeling that if the book were written by a man, and were about a young, male reporter (played by Ryan Gosling in the film) and a male domestic (played by Donald Glover) going up against a society where the racism is such that Donald Glover’s boss (played by George Clooney) requires separate bathrooms for the black people who work for him, the book would have been received a lot differently by Mr. Wayne.

  42. Craig Ranapia:

    “And, seriously, if I’m a publicist at TOR why the hell am I going to send a review copy of ‘Redshirts’ to an outlet when I’m damn near certain it’s just going to end up as a retirement home for dust bunnies in the corner of an office?”

    This is where I note that in fact the New York Times Book Review devoted an entire page to me, back in ’06. So it’s not entirely impossible.

  43. (apologies for skipping over other comments, in case I’m repeating their themes)

    John: “So, again: Am I missing something here? I don’t think I am. I will say this article confirms my long-standing opinion that the seven most damaging words in the English language for the reputation of any novelist might very well be “I just wrote an article for Salon.” Writer, beware.”

    It’s Salon. Just like Slate (for which Kinsley will serve loong time in purgatory) – they prize snarky contrarianism over truth.

  44. It’s shit like this, literary fiction writers, it’s shit like this. The cattiness, the posturing, the endless culture of victimhood.

    Even when the SF/F community is at its worst, it’s still better than this.

  45. Brad (3:05), it is Analog -by reputation quite old-fashioned- people more into more modern forms of stories in SF are almost bound to question everything that gets a reader’s choice :).

    I agree, Analog is “old fashioned” in that it hews closer to the “nuts and bolts” style of scientifiction (hat tip, Gernsback) than some of its peers. Having said this, most of the mail I got for my 2010 readers choice award novelette did not laud it for its technical aspects, thought readers did seem to like it on its emotional and end-satisfaction merit.

    Which is, I think, just about all I can really hope for as an author. I will never be a Grand Master in this genre. It took me almost 20 years just to break in — which speaks both to the difficulty of the mountain, and the insufficiencies of the mountain-climber. But I do cherish my tidy little pile of “fan” mail. That, and the growing amount of cash I’ve managed to bring in from my fiction each year. Things seem to be proceeding nicely in that department, given that I am still “part time” at this.

    Which gets me back to wondering why anyone, having secured a “slice” of the publishing pie — especially if it’s a substantial one — can complain about life, or the business, or the reviews, not being fair. It’s my observation that publishing as a whole is fantastically unfair, because it’s an intellectual entertainment business which functions on a star system like all the other entertainment businesses, and if you haven’t become a star yet, well there’s no sense mitching and boaning about it. Just keep writing and keep trying to put the work out there, and whatever happens, happens. Be glad if you can snag a bit of fame, or a bit of fortune. Or more.

    Complaints about, “I never got my due,” or, “They make it harder for the rest of us,” may or may not be true in the final wash. I find this kind of activity personally destructive and futile, not to mention the fact that these gripes give the complainer a petty image — which I am not sure any author needs, nor wants.

  46. I made it about halfway through the article, then skimmed the rest to see what stats he had to back up his points. Surely if women have the privilege of being recommended by and passed around by more women, the bestseller list would consist of mostly women? Then I skimmed again for ANY evidence that male authors were suffering for, um, being men. All I got was a lot of entitled whining with no acknowledgment that women read stuff by dudes.

    Those who had the time and temerity to read the whole thing, does he ever bring data in to back up his point?

  47. Yeah, it was kind of like not being able to look away from an accident. The article takes up the theme that’s actually been going around now for the last few years that book publishing is full of women (eek!) who favor that majority group of women readers (eek!) and that therefore the male author is actually on the downward spiral and even actively disliked in publishing. Such arguments are always backed up by some quote by an unknown editor or random example. When you look at the actual numbers, as Weiner and her fellow female authors did on this subject, it paints a decidedly different picture. While there are a lot of women in publishing — it being a low-paying, pink collar business — men still make up most of the top positions at companies and in the corporate office. On average, male authors get larger advances than female ones, more publicity support from publishers and more reviews and accolades (including in genre fiction.) The most successful area of fiction remains thriller/suspense, a type of fiction that has a large male audience, is viewed as a male-geared (and thus important) and in which men do exceedingly well. Women are trained from toddlerhood to read that which is written by men and since they buy 70% of the books, proportionately they make up the majority audience for male authors in all areas of fiction. The idea that women reject male authors is complete bunk.

    Weiner’s main point was never simply that she was being wronged, but about the future for female writers. That main point is that women’s writing is still being undervalued compared to male writing on average, that there is a stereotypical bias in how much of women’s writing is viewed, and that media favors the male artist over the female, such as in the NYTimes, (which reviews every kind of fiction, including genre titles — which are often literary as genre and literary are not opposites.) Weiner doesn’t have to be worried about getting reviewed by the NYTBR — most if not all of her titles have been. And mid-list authors, male and female, get entirely too little coverage by a media that is less and less interested in fiction. But the view that anything a woman writes is automatically women’s fiction, of no interest to male readers, and a threat to male authors, is the same sort of crap that’s been peddled since, say, Aphra Behn dared to make a living as a writer by writing Oroonoko. It’s getting old. It is old. And the notion that men are barely visible in contemporary fiction is ridiculous. So yeah, ice pick. On the bright side, Jennifer Weiner can now eat him for lunch.

  48. This is where I note that in fact the New York Times Book Review devoted an entire page to me, back in ’06. So it’s not entirely impossible.

    John: I stand corrected with point taken. :) It’s also rather truthy of me to imply the Times totally ignores genre fiction, which isn’t true. Lack of breadth, depth and consistency (IMO & YMMV, of course) is not the same thing as a lock out.

    But this is also the New York Times Book Review that didn’t get around to reviewing The Graveyard Book until after it won the Newbery. I obviously don’t know how that happened, but I suspect if Gaiman was a quote unquote “mainstream” author of similar repute he would be treated somewhat differently. How that happens is more interesting – and useful – a discussion that a half-arsed battle of the sexes.

  49. It will be interesting to see how this debate evolves in the next few years. I’ve been reading Weiner’s rants about the sexist NY Times for years. Because the internet is so open and tends to result in people with like interests grouping together and yakking (talking, not the other yakking, mostly) at each other, I think we will see an upsurge in men and women making their own opportunities in publishing. I’m hoping this will result in a more egalitarian publishing world.

    As an academic, I would like to note that novel audiences have always skewed towards women because middle class women (the leisure class) have always had more time to read. There have always been woman writers and popular woman writers, but critics have historically pooh-poohed them or chastised them for overreaching. Now that the gatekeeper model for controlling media is disappearing, more readers are rediscovering classic women writers who were overlooked in the past, and the women writers of today are doing well for themselves. However, there is a good chance that, as long as there are biases against women and their capability to create “real art,” many of the women writing today will fade out of collective memory in a generation or two.

  50. “it’s understood (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) that *those* stories can’t possibly contain anything approaching value.”

    Yeah, I’ve heard that about science fiction, too. Maybe if they took some time to actually READ any…oh, never mind.

  51. I’m SO glad that I read this before checking out any of the links elsewhere that point to this. I’m fresh out of icepicks, and you’ve saved me the trouble of having to go out and get one.

    I gotta say, I’m having a hard time scrounging up any sympathy for this guy based on your analysis. But perhaps my sympathy is inhibited by my magical vulva of opportunity (thank you to Angelle H. Gullet for the best line of the day!)

  52. MasterThief: “Even when the SF/F community is at its worst, it’s still better than this.”

    You mean the SFF community where we routinely hear complaints that women’s involvement in SFF is neutering SFF and making male authors squishy, that women writers only or mostly do romance and that this is overtaking and ruining SFF and YA SFF, that there are too many women editors in SFF and this is ruining SFF, where women are still under-represented in anthologies and some magazines, particularly best of anthologies, and in best lists and media polls and some awards, where Apex allowed a guest blog that asserted that women didn’t really write worthy SFF fiction and benefited from an affirmative action policy (and to give Apex credit they asserted that they didn’t agree with the guest blog and allowed counter editorials,) where female horror writers keep getting ignored by horror media, where women are still said to write less SF because it’s about science and that’s not a female thing, where women authors are said to not know how to write battle scenes, violence or about politics like men can, where there is a movement called Mistressworks to try and let SFF readers know female writers are alive, etc. — that SFF community? Yeah, no, we don’t get a pass. Given that it’s a field that gets seen as “male” because of its frequent use of violence and suspense, SFF has done pretty well on the female front — after decades of female writers scratching and clawing and giving themselves ambiguous male-sounding pseudonyms to get there — but we still have the issue that very often, female writers’ work is not considered as important as the male writers and is not as visible. And we still have our voices in the community that believe that’s how it should be.

  53. It seems that the “point” of the article is irrelevant; it’s the meta-point for Teddy: “If I write an article in Salon that gets lots of attention, even if some of that attention is negative, it will increase my name-recognition and hopefully sales.”

    I’d never heard of him before myself, so he certainly accomplished half of what he was aiming for.

  54. Kat Goodwin:

    Ah, yes – every time I’ve repressed the memory of one “Eww, the man-hating bitches and their emasculated PC queer eunuchs are getting their estrogen and PMS-y emotions all over our manly genre” another one pops up.

    You also left out this: When an uppity woman dares to suggest (for example) that Robert A. Heinelin’s depictions of women are *cough* somewhat problematic, you can always rely on some chap to drive buy and explain how you really need to stop being so “hysterical” and “politically correct”.

    Wouldn’t be awesome if arseholes weren’t so evenly distributed across the media landscape?

  55. Craig Ranapia @ 5:07

    I hate to keep piling facts that counter your points, but The Graveyard Book suffers from the perception that it is YA, not that Gaiman is a “genre” writer.

    Gaiman was originally published by Avon Books under their short-lived Spike imprint, which was the “edgy” imprint, not the SF/F imprint. When Avon was bought by Harper, that imprint was axed and Gaiman was then published under Harper’s mainstream imprint. He was explicitly not published under any of their SF/F imprints. Neither is Neal Stephenson, nor Terry Pratchett.

    It is no coincidence that those three gentlemen became huge bestsellers with Harper. I don’t know if their editor (I’m 85% certain they all have the same editor; my memory may be faulty) classified them as mainstream deliberately, but I am certain that imprint affects sales.

    My bona fides: I worked at Avon (and then Harper) for fourteen years, from the mid 90s to late 00s. All this I witnessed with my own eyes.

    I am supporting your basic thesis that “genre doesn’t get respected like mainstream does.” I’m just pointing out that Gaiman is not an example of an undervalued genre writer, but rather the exact opposite–a mainstream writer (who happens to write genre), who has huge cache within his own publishing house precisely because he is viewed as mainstream.

  56. –E:

    Don’t apologize. If I’m reaching a flawed conclusion off a bad premise, a perfectly civil and well-informed course correction is no bad thing. My ego is just going to have to deal with it. Again. :)

    Still think it wasn’t the NYTBR’s finest hour that The Graveyard Book wasn’t reviewed until after it won the Newbery – but there are also entirely plausible reasons for that that have nothing to do with genre snobbery. Hell, I know plenty of people who’d argue that you don’t get much respect when you’re pigeon-holed as “children’s/YA” either. But that’s a whole other argument. :)

  57. Craig, I suspect the heirarchy goes like this:

    Nobel laureates
    Booker prize winners
    Pulitzer prize winners
    Mainstream literary writers
    Dead White Guys
    South American writers of Magic Realism
    Realistic War Fiction
    Mainstream male writers who are writing chick lit but it isn’t called that; e.g., Nicholas Sparks, Robert James Waller, Arthur Golden
    Bestselling male writers who “transcend” their genre, but are actually writing genre (where “genre” = crim fic, spec fic, or horror)
    Bestselling female crime fic writers
    Midlist male crime fic writers
    Bestselling male SF/F writers
    Midlist male SF/F writers
    Bestselling female SF/F writers (they may be a slot higher, depending on who’s writing the review)
    Midlist female writers of any genre except romance
    Bestselling romance writers
    Horror writers (except those who transcend the genre)
    Romance writers
    Erotica writers
    YA writers

  58. Waaah! She’s more popular than me, even though I’m obviously smarter and more deserving!

    Oh, and women won’t date nice men, either.

  59. Kat, at the next con, I will be the one passing out the blunt instruments to Connie Willis, CJ Cherryh, Lynn Abbey, et. al. Once I run out, I’m firing up the popcorn machine.

  60. The ice pick was not enough. The reason Teddy has such a hard time is not because he is a man, but because he can’t write well and his points don’t hold water let alone make a coherent argument.

    Looking at the NYtimes bestseller list for the past year Men outnumbered Women. Looking at the studies of reviews in major publications, likewise. Men head most publishing houses. Yeah, women read more, on average, but we are talking writers not readers and I haven’t seen anything to support a view that women don’t read male authors.

    In Scifi- In the past ten years men outnumber women in both Hugo an Nebula nominations for best Novel. 2011 being the only year where their were more women than men.
    In Mystery- men outnumber women in nominations for the Edgar award.
    The National Book award goes at 50% over the last decade.

    However only one of the top ten currently over at was by a woman, and that was Jo Walton who has a large presence there. I am not trying to take anything away from Jo who is a great author and one of the main reasons I read that site. Also many of the authors on that list “informed” people of its availability and possible good choices- though I am not going to talk about kittens.

    Looks like it is really hard to make an argument that men are being discriminated against here.
    I should probably let it go but the ice pick to my brain, required reasonable thought to cleanse it out.

    Looking at the last 20 Big Ideas here John has gone with ten women and ten men with lots of good things to read (seemed interesting to look). It did make me wonder whether this was an attempt to weed out possible bias or just good luck?

  61. “I write science fiction, where I have to tell you the men are doing just fine.”

    Yes, men are doing *fine* in SF. Recently James Nicoll wrote a series of blog posts comparing the male/female ratios of authors who have won SF awards or were published in “Best of” SF anthologies. The results are rather depressing.

  62. @alicethewriter:
    His “data” is as follows:
    -It’s harder for mans writers because the ladies do the reading! (His assumption that women read Books By Vaginas [BBV] preferentially must be inferred, but that’s my guess)
    -Oprah (hey, she’s a lady, so that’s representative of all ladies) liked BBV more than five years ago when I think her opinion on books was “in its heyday”
    -Some opinion about what the “archetypal book club novel” is, masquerading as fact
    -Midlist dude novels don’t get reviewed in Real People Media, and they won’t get reviewed in that tripe ladies read either, and EVERYONE KNOWS it’s that tripe that drives book sales
    -My editor friend says that when “we” look to buy novels “we” don’t like debut man novels (I was not aware that editors at publishers do the deciding of what is worth publishing at a publisher but I admit I know zero about how publishing works)
    -Some books by some ladies sold better and got more support than some more or less differenter books by some dudes (zero methodology provided about how “somewhat comparable” deconstructs)
    -ladies like Midlist BBV and so does B&N because I said so

    Then it sort of falls apart into a mush of “but being a dude is pretty awesome amirite and I think my life is pretty good so Lady Weiner Vagina shouldn’t complain.”

  63. Scalzi: It’s like a triple axel directly into a pile of pig manure.

    Ah, that explains the dozen or so pigs outside my door complaining of how Scalzi is putting them down.

    John, I would direct them to register their complaints directly with you, but I’m slightly afeared you would turn them into bacon.

  64. Adam Lipkin: “It seems that the “point” of the article is irrelevant; it’s the meta-point for Teddy: “If I write an article in Salon that gets lots of attention, even if some of that attention is negative.”

    Well it may get him attention. But again, given that 70% of the book buyers are women, it was perhaps not the best strategy to call us silly kiniggets and threaten to taunt us a second time. If we want to reverse the decline of male fiction readership, we have to not only encourage them to try material written by women, but encourage them that there might be something for them in books altogether. Saying that men are being squeezed out of fiction and contemporary fiction when it’s not true doesn’t really help male authors out either. I felt eternally sorry for male fantasy authors doing contemporary fantasy and male SFF authors working in YA for having people continually claim that they don’t really exist, like the yeti. (Or porn stars apparently — why is that now the new favorite metaphor?)

    E — It’s way more complicated than that. It has to do with the perception that there’s a genre thing over here and a “mainstream” thing over there that includes a separate literary thing (hardcover) and that they’re all different because of their publishers.

    Neil Gaiman started off in comics, and you can’t get more “genre” than that. He also was involved in radio, film and t.v. in Britain (and now Hollywood,) and you can’t get much more commercial than that. He’s heavily involved in the SFF category market, going to cons (he hired a photographer to take pictures of costumed fans at WorldCon for a project,) and all his books YA and adult are marketed to genre audiences and sold in the category SFF section of the bookstores, sometimes with big displays. He is published by Headline in the UK which is a division of Hatchette that does SFF, YA, suspense, etc., and Bloomsbury for his YA material. Harper in the U.S. coordinates both his YA and adult titles by putting them in their general fiction imprint as a famous bestseller whose main audience base came from comics, not print, and coordinates with their SFF imprint over it. And other things he does across other mediums gets coordinated one way or another. It doesn’t really matter; it’s whatever works for them logistically.

    So to some folk, like Craig, they know Gaiman mainly as a “genre” writer who they suspect is disrespected by the mainstream. But to many folks who aren’t SFF fans, Gaiman is a “mainstream” author, and to some of those he’s “commercial” as a bestseller and comics/screenwriter guy and to others of them he is a “literary” author who may use fantasy and horror, but isn’t “one of them.” Except of course he is because there’s no difference because “genre” books are not separate. It’s a false perception. (And this does relate to women being stuck in a “different” camp that doesn’t really exist as separate either.)

    Sir Terry Pratchett was a journalist who published with small press Colin Smythe that did lots of different things and paperback with NEL and then Corgi which did SFF. Smythe transferred Pratchett when he got too big for them to Gollancz, the big SFF publisher in Britain. Harper in the U.S. again decided to center the big seller in adult and YA in their general imprint, but they coordinate and sell through Eos as well and Harper Children’s. Pratchett is beloved at cons and beloved as part of British culture, etc.

    Neal Stephenson started out as a computer scientist publishing a couple of thrillers in general fiction. Then he published Snow Crash as a mass market paperback with SFF line Bantam Spectra in the U.S.. He also did Diamond Age with them, getting himself a hardcover, and co-authored two thrillers with his uncle. Then he wrote Cryptonomicon, a SF technothriller and switched publishers to Avon but was still sold both in category and general fiction sections, still goes to cons, etc. So again, some folk perceive Stephenson as a “genre” SF writer, others as a “mainstream,” “commercial” suspense writer, others perceive Stephenson as a “mainstream,” “literary” author. And he is indeed an award-winning, bestselling writer of suspense and SF whom many people consider of high literary quality, studied in universities, etc. He’s all these things because it’s not a choice of one or the other.

    Likewise, women don’t just write “lady” books that all the ladies support in their squishy women’s magazines (which happen actually to review fiction written by guys,) and guys are not incapable of writing romps. Bestsellers, mega ones even, come from all the publisher imprints, including SFF ones that outsell, well, Gaiman and Stephenson. (Hardly anyone outsells Pratchett.) The biggest selling authors happen to be women — J.K. Rowling and Agatha Christie. Many of the other biggest sellers happen to be men — Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, J.R.R. Tolkien, etc. Sales have little to do with it. The main issue is a bias, quite clearly often partially unconscious, toward viewing male works as more important and worthy of attention, whether in contemporary fiction or SFF. It’s way better than it was, but it’s not there yet, so it still needs to come up and big bestsellers with clout like Weiner and Margaret Atwood inevitably are the best ones to do it. It’s worth noting also that when Weiner and friends first raised the issue, Jonathan Franzen more or less agreed with them, and that Franzen was an Oprah Book Club selection.

  65. Kat Goodwin:

    What you said more eloquently than I could. Funny thing is that my partner had a category for Terry Pratchett – ‘fraking hilarious”. Pratchett is the only writer he’ll buy in hardcover, paying full list on publication day, regardless of the colophon on the spine or if they’re labelled as “mainstream commercial”, “fantasy”, “humour” or “for young readers” (as I’ve seen with Nation & the Tiffany Aching books).

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of the big success stories in indie publishing in the UK recently has been Persephone Books – It’s a really interesting list of books (mostly) written by British women “between the wars” and often great commercial and critical successes in the day but fallen out of fashion & print. Another great reminder that, as Kingsley Amis said in another context “importance isn’t important, good writing is.” And no, Mr. Wayne, none of the women on this list require any gender-based special pleading.

  66. I’m partially convinced that men might be at a disadvantage in one particular market: teenage urban fantasy (okay, and maybe romance too). But overall? The market still favors the best writer, no matter what their gender may be.

  67. Thanks for the Persephone reference, Craig – not come across them before. So at least one useful thing has come out of the Salon article!

  68. What bothers me the most about the article (apart from what Teresa already pointed out) is how he dismisses Weiner as being jealous, whiny, and entitled. Although he admits that the data shows that her point is valid, she can’t be allowed to make the point because she’s too successful to be disenfranchised.

    And women just don’t know when they have it good because they’re too busy complaining all the time.

  69. All you’re missing is human nature. Remember, there will always be a portion of “have nots” (in this case, lacking both common sense and success, apparently) that will blame anyone and everyone they can for their failures or the lack of whatever it is they feel entitled to. Their mantra is: “It’s not my fault I’m not a success.” Then they will rant about every other thing and person in view as the cause of their problems instead of making the best of and working out from the base they currently have. There’s a difference between having a disagreement with someone over their views of a particular situation and actively blaming someone else for how they handle the situation. Life isn’t fair, and no one is going to hand you your dreams on a silver platter.

  70. Stunning development: after reading Scalzi’s article and browsing through the comments, Teddy Wayne decides to about-face and start writing chick-lit under a female nom-de-plume. Shortly thereafter, he gains a whole new public, 30% of whom are men pretending to buy the books for their wife/girlfriend/mom. Then he writes another oh-so-insightful Salon article to deplore that woman fiction is not appreciated as literature.

  71. Kat Goodwin:

    I’m not denying that it’s very complicated. I’m only reporting how I saw it handled within the walls of 10 E 53rd Street. I certainly wasn’t privy to everything, but it was obvious to anyone with a brain that Neil/Neal/P’Terry were not handled in the same way as the Eos-imprint SF/F writers, and that this began after Harper acquired the Hearst Book Group. Harper found a way to vault them out of the genre and into the mainstream.

    (As an aside, I’ll note that Kim Harrison, NYT Bestselling author, was also not initially published in the Eos imprint despite writing UF. She started as a paperback original. I am absolutely certain that the choice to start her in the mainstream imprint was a deliberate strategy, because I’m the person who suggested it to her editor.)

    I don’t know where the problem comes in–is it internal at the publisher, or external at the book-buyers for B&N, etc.? And obviously this pattern was for one publisher, during one specific period of time, so the data is at best and indication of something, not proof.

    My main feeling about this situation is that Harper leveraged the Cherry Picking Theory of Quality. If a book is a genre book, but becomes a bestseller, it is, ergo, no longer a genre book. Or, more bluntly phrased, “That can’t be [genre] because it’s good.”

    I hate that phenomenon and rage against it–the whole notion of genre should be no more than a guideline for readers to help them focus in an area that resembles what they feel like reading. But I can’t deny that it exists.

  72. Well, that’s a shame. I liked his novel Kapitoil quite a lot. I would, in fact, describe it as “feel-good fare.”

  73. Thank you for reading and commenting on this so I don’t have to! Salon’s pieces should have warning labels attached to them. Maybe ‘pointlessly contrarian’, ‘this was radical back in 2000’, or ‘libertarian masturbation piece’. There are some good articles that pop-up on the site, but really, I don’t read one unless I can find a link to it on a blog that lets me know that it’s not an idea garbage nightmare.

  74. E. — What I’m trying to point out is that both Gaiman and Pratchett were multiple medium mega mainstream bestsellers from early on — back in the 1980’s. Harper in the U.S. putting them out in one imprint instead of Eos in the late 1990’s did not suddenly move them into the mainstream from a niche and make them big hits or more acclaimed. They were already huge and respected. And given that Harper did extensive publicity through Eos and the books were sold in the SFF sections of the bookstores, no one was paying any attention to the publisher name on the spine of the books. As you know, working at Avon, there really isn’t any division between the genre markets and the general fiction markets except that you’re trying to find slots for everyone. I do remember Anasai Boys and Thump coming out around the same time and being amused to find the word fantasy mostly banished from the cover copy of each, so I’m sure there were staff at Harper who felt they couldn’t get certain readers unless they downplayed that they were actual fantasy novels in some quarters. But they were deluded and it had no significant effect on the marketplace. Genre is not somewhere else from mainstream; it is mainstream.

    As for Harrison, you sent her to Harper Torch, which is a paperback genre imprint of Harper’s doing suspense, romance and westerns, she was also publicized through Eos and sold pretty much exclusively in the SFF section of the bookstores. She was then turned over to Harper Voyager, another SFF imprint, to coordinate her titles internationally. With the title of Dead Witch Walking, she was not going to be mistaken for contemporary fiction, or straight romance or suspense. So it isn’t really cherry picking if you never actually leave the orchard. :) But individual perception often ignores facts, as you found.

    I’m sure this guy would say that he’s just talking about those books designated literary by their publishers to which he feels he belongs, and his argument is that area has been taken over by women and new guys can’t get a break in it. Which is again statistically dead wrong. His other argument is that women don’t read boy books, further shutting men out, which is again statistically dead wrong. As you know from publishing, publishers will put out some books as the “girl” books, but the bigger titles are considered to be the “boy” books, ones that they believe men will read because women will read them too, so you have double opportunity. Women doing “hard-boiled” suspense are thus more valued than women writing “soft-boiled” — that is after women convinced publishers that hard-boiled suspense from women could sell — even though soft-boiled can sell in the millions and a lot of it is written by men. And the argument for that is, whatever is more manly and thus more likely for men to want is more important. We can always get the women.

    That Weiner and friends make oodles of money, some have film adaptations or win awards means that when they talk about women writers (and non-white writers,) not being logically represented in the marketplace, the media will actually listen to them and talk about it. It’s not that the NYTBR is evil, but that they are unthinkingly perpetuating a stereotype that serves no useful purpose. And because the market is symbiotic, not dog eat dog, shining a light on different writers brings more people in, not shuts them out. J.K. Rowling turned the YA section, children’s smallest division, into its powerhouse, and yes, male contemporary fantasy YA authors are doing just dandy in the expansion, including Pratchett and Gaiman.

    I think the editor of Black Gate, John O’Neill, had the most eloquent realization about it: And what he’s talking about is exactly what Weiner is attempting to do, and that attempt expands the opportunities for male writers as well, not limits them.

  75. So only 41% of books reviewed were written by women? Anyone know what the percentage of authors are women? I did a quick search and can only find a ton of articles from women commenting on how they are underrepresented in this poll or that list or this review. This may or may not be the case but what is the actual percentage of authors that are women? is it 40%? 50%? 60%? Without an idea of how many authors are women how can someone declare that they are being underrepresented?

  76. Kat–I’m not certain if we’re having an argument or a discussion (I’m trying to keep to the latter), but I suspect we’re not quite addressing the same topics, but rather two closely related ones.

    With regard to the relative fame of Gaiman and Pratchett before Harper’s takeover, I can only note that it was not, to my (limited) knowledge, a big factor. Harper wasn’t trying to sell their books to the authors’ existing fanbases–those people were assumed to be easy customers. Harper was consciously and knowingly trying to expand their sales to general readers, the sort of people who never heard of SF conventions, much less attended one.

    The imprint on the spine may or may not make a difference in where the book is shelved–generally booksellers are smart enough to put SF in the SF section regardless of imprint. And readers aren’t checking spines, of course not. But from the stand point of saying to the big buyers at the large chain stores, “This is a book we’re supporting heavily and think has a wide audience” the mainstream imprint sends a radically different message than the genre imprint.

    As you know, working at Avon, there really isn’t any division between the genre markets and the general fiction markets except that you’re trying to find slots for everyone.

    –>This is not at all how I remember it, back in the day at 1350. There was a very big difference between a romance novel in the superleader/leader/A/B slots and a romance novel in the midlist slots. If a midlister (Stephanie Laurens springs to mind, here) performed better than anticipated, they boosted her up the list so she would have a higher profile among the book-buyers, and thereby accelerate the momentum. There were a set number of Romance (4), Mystery (2 or 3), and SF/F (2 or 3) midlist books, but those lead books could be anything–as long as the author was on an upward trajectory that the PTBs believed could be goosed by a higher profile.

    In the current climate of ebook ascendancy and declining mass market print sales, I have no idea how they’re approaching similar situations.


    John said: So only 41% of books reviewed were written by women? Anyone know what the percentage of authors are women?

    –>Suppose that only 41% of all published authors are women. Do you think that’s because there are 50% more men than women ((60-40) / 40) aspiring to be authors?

    The USA has near universal literacy. Women outnumber men in college. It’s already been accepted as a premise that women read more than men, and virtually all writers come from the ranks of readers.

    If only 41% of all published authors are women, then there’s an even bigger problem than just who gets reviewed.

  77. I’m kind of annoyed he implies dudes can’t have book clubs. If not for mine, I’d have missed out on some cool books!

  78. @Mely – Thank you. I was starting to fear for my sanity, and lacked the requisite ice pick.

    As others have pointed out upthread, Weiner’s piece was supported by plenty of evidence and statistics and hard data. His point was that he feels oppressed because he’s not automatically in the top echelons? Sounds like so many others I’ve given up on talking to because they’re too steeped in their privilege. Having unfair advantages doesn’t benefit everyone in the clubhouse, and that it’s worse for those of us not let in.

  79. E. — LOL, we’re having a discussion. (Arguments are what husbands and kids are for.) My point was, again, that Gaiman and Pratchett were already big mainstream bestsellers with a wide audience of lots and lots of general fiction readers who were not SFF fans and the main booksellers in the U.S. were well aware of this. Harper putting them out in the HarperCollins imprint only in the U.S. did not break them out into anything. Technically, as bestsellers, they aren’t in any genre but instead in the bestseller category, with extensive publicity, front of the store displays, multiple selling areas, etc., whether they are officially coming from one of the SFF imprints or no. The books are all cross-marketed, SFF imprint titles to general audiences and SFF works in general imprints to SFF fan audiences, like Paulo Coelho, who was published by HarperSanFrancisco. In a big, mostly mass market arm like Avon, there are general fiction lines, which might be anything, and designated genre lines (midlist romance, mystery) with C slots and then the top slots for the whole lists, which as you noted, can be anything because they are the bestsellers in the bestsellers group. So whether you are A, B, or C matters for what the publisher is doing, but it doesn’t really matter which imprint in one big corporation you’re at the A, B or C slot in. The audience for what we’ve come to call genres overlaps largely with the general fiction audience — they get additional shelf space and publicity venues, but they aren’t separate kingdoms.

    What the article writer seemed to be saying is that it doesn’t matter what your gender is if you are in the A slot in general fiction, like Weiner, you’d get media and publicity attention. But if you were in the midlist, like him, you wouldn’t, but that midlist women also have other venues, like women’s magazines he seems to think or has been told are sexist and reading club selections, that midlist men can’t get into easily, leading publishers to buy new male authors less frequently and give less support, so hey, why is it a big deal if men have a teensy advantage with the NYTBR and other media publications. But almost any male midlist contemporary fiction writer will tell you that a large part of his audience are women and the numbers of the some 100,000 new titles of fiction published globally do not show a shrinking pool of male writers with only a few getting through like sperm. The perception that romance — an area that has a 10% male reading audience but which is foolishly dominated by female authors on the same type of bias Weiner is talking about with reviews — is taking over is due partly to the fact that numerous books by female authors that aren’t romance are called romance by media (or women’s fiction which to most is the same thing.) Such as Weiner’s books, which aren’t romances.

    What has happened is that the overall market for fiction (though still dwarfed by non-fiction) has greatly increased, with more and more titles out there. At the same time, global media has less and less interest in covering written fiction, no matter who writes it. This means that it’s harder to get attention for books for all authors, even though that expansion is because of new readers who have been brought in due to hit books, film adaptations, increased literacy and the like. To then try to blame that circumstance on the idea that there are more women writers around ignores what’s actually happening and doesn’t help build audiences for men or women.

  80. Kat Goodwin:

    And that sort of bleeds over into the vexed questions of marketing caterories – or “what’s your section of the bookstore”? It can get grimly amusing – I hate to think what Mary Renault and Patricia Highsmith would have to say to the manager of the store that filed them both under “lesbian special interest”. Can’t really see anything particularly “lesbian” about The Talented Mr Ripley expect the author’s sexual orientation.

  81. @warpcordova:
    >>I’m partially convinced that men might be at a disadvantage in one particular market: teenage urban fantasy (okay, and maybe romance too). But overall? The market still favors the best writer, no matter what their gender may be.<<

    The market favors quality only sometimes. Stephenie Meyers being a recent example. Someone I'm aware of has diagrammed some of her sentences, and you'd think they were deconstructing alien DNA before they were done from the looks of the result (her editor needs a reality check). And if the market is kept under-aware of good writers due to their gender, no, it can't favor the best writers regardless of their gender.

    Of course, this to me also says the NYT has to stop being considered the ne plus ultra of anything. But that is my personal bias talking. The NYT has been full of itself entirely too long, IMNSHO.