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Michelle’s commentary on books, digital publishing and intersections between fiction & reality

Men aren’t reading books written by women

August 31, 2021

For the top 10 bestselling female authors (who include Jane Austen and Margaret Atwood, as well as Danielle Steel and Jojo Moyes), only 19% of their readers are men and 81% women.

If that fact doesn’t bother you, I don’t know what will.

Women have long written under pen names to mask their identity and perhaps be taken more seriously, but I was never aware it was that pertinent of a problem.

Mary Ann Sieghart—who ironically authors this piece under the pseudonym MA Sieghart—explores the readership for men and women in this piece for The Guardian. 

She’s the author of a book called The Authority Gap which sought to look at why women are taken less seriously than men. Part of that process was looking at these data points in the literary world.

And if you’re wondering what the audience looks like for male authors, it’s much more even—made up of 55% men and 45% women. 

In other words, women are prepared to read books by men, but many fewer men are prepared to read books by women. And the female author in the top 10 who had the biggest male readership—the thriller writer LJ Ross—uses her initials, so it’s possible the guys thought she was one of them. What does this tell us about how reluctant men are to accord equal authority—intellectual, artistic, cultural—to women and men?

It’s not as if women aren’t as prominent writers as men. Sieghart notes that the average rating men give to books by women is 3.9 out of 5 on Goodreads—and for books by men, it’s 3.8. Women are constantly atop the bestselling charts. So, why aren’t men reading their books?

In my eyes, I thought this was an issue of the past so I was really taken aback when I read this article. One of my favorite authors of all time is Stephen King—admittedly a man—but the rest of the list is composed of women: Caroline Kepnes, Casey McQuiston, Gillian Flynn.  

I don’t pay much attention to who the author of a book is when I’m browsing the shelves at Elliot Bay—but I’m probably a more avid reader than most and like to pick random books rather than reading the same author. As an aspiring writer, it was just very concerning to see the disparity here. 

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