Author Topic: Anti-male bias?  (Read 1776 times)

Offline PhantomII

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Anti-male bias?
« on: April 27, 2021, 05:17:53 PM »
OK, it's time for a bitch session.

First, I'm an old guy. I remember when in non-traditional female genres (mystery, thriller, military, etc.) women authors had a tough time both finding representation and getting published. It was to the point where female authors would use initials rather than their names (i.e. the late 'P. D. James' rather than 'Phyllis D. James').

It seems the tide has turned, in a big way. Now many literary agents are women, and there seems to be an anti-male bias in getting accepted for representation.

Here are some reasons why I believe that to be true. In my genre (thriller, military) Query Tracker lists 402 agents who are open to queries. One would think this genre combination would tend to attract male agents; however, only about one-quarter of them are male.

Here's another reason: I get publisher's newsletters hyping new books. I have noticed for quite some time that most of the new authors presented are women. If you don't believe that, here's an experiment you can do yourself: go into your local library (assuming it's back open - mine just reopened yesterday) and stroll over to the new book section. Ignore the established authors; then count the number of new books written by females, and compare it to those written by males.

I did this just yesterday. 88% of the new books on the shelves were written by female authors.

So, in summary: agents are largely women. Publishing houses are largely run by women. Far fewer new books seem to be appearing by male authors.

So what can we conclude from this? To me, there are only three reasonable explanations why so few new books by male authors are being published.

Reason 1: male authors really suck compared to female ones. Reason two: there are far fewer male authors submitting books for publication than there are female authors, so the numbers roughly mirror the gender of authors' submissions. Reason three: the deck is stacked against male authors.

If it's the latter, then it may be unconscious bias on the part of female agents/publishers. Then again, it may be purposeful. But it's not just me who has noticed this. I've read others complaining of the same thing.

I know that some agents review these topics. So if you're an agent, what's your response? And if you're an author seeking representation, what do you think?

Offline MKWrites_318

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2021, 06:51:57 PM »
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One would think this genre combination would tend to attract male agents; however, only about one-quarter of them are male.

Publishing is peopled by a lot of white women. That's a thing. And it's a problem. However, statistically, it disadvantages BIPOC writers, particularly BIPOC women, rather than white men. Meaning, according to the numbers that I've seen, the racial aspect is more influential than the gender aspect.

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go into your local library (assuming it's back open - mine just reopened yesterday) and stroll over to the new book section. Ignore the established authors; then count the number of new books written by females, and compare it to those written by males.

Your librarian is in charge of what new books are brought into the library, and librarians often select new books based on trade reviews, reader requests, and especially, the reading trends of their own patrons.

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Far fewer new books seem to be appearing by male authors.

There are more books by female authors hitting the shelves. But it's trending toward parity (again, from what I've seen) rather than dominance.

There are actual statistics you can look up, and I encourage you to do so. I could be wrong, but the most recent stats I've seen haven't indicated that there is a bias against men in publishing. Men still make up the majority of the sales, as far as I've seen (outside of a few genres), and as long as that's the case, publishing companies will continue to publish men.

I get that you've read complaints, and I get that what you're seeing at the library is a bummer, and maybe the preponderance of women agents is worrying for you, but unless you're looking at actual, current statistics, I wouldn't get worked up about this. I feel like you'll just frustrate yourself for no reason.

Offline Viddiest

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2021, 07:56:38 PM »
Agree completely with MKWrites. Additionally, I think women make up a huge percentage of readers and therefore have an effect on what sells and therefore what an agent wants and so on.

Offline Odd John

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Re: Anti-male bias? (Um, do you want to be "THAT GUY"?)
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2021, 08:21:14 PM »
Let's say that your presumptions are true, that is, only in the sense that things have "ended up" that way, by the roiling storms of chance. No conniving cabals or tin foil hat conspiracy theories, please. They give me tinnitus.

If you like, you can be that guy. But do you want to be?

If you like, instead, you can be the guy that: Writes an irresistible military thriller that can sway the world's most enthusiastic chic lit aficionado/Agent. I believe you will still be competing against mostly other male writers. Finally, your agent search must simply be more rigorous. There ARE female agents who are interested in your genre. I've seen them.

It's your ballgame if you throw the right pitch.


Aside: This listing, LITERARY AGENTS, I believe is dedicated to the creative elements relevant to MS submissions. Not any political influences that may impact the literary world. It would seem that this thread more properly should be placed in the ANYTHING GOES listing...
« Last Edit: April 27, 2021, 08:54:22 PM by Odd John »
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Offline raktinope

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2021, 10:20:21 PM »
To directly answer you question, I don't believe there is anti-male bias but there is absolutely disproportionately small male representation. According to more established agents, publishing originated as a women's business because there wasn't a lot of money in the industry originally

That said, there are more "name brand" male authors than there are female. It's similar to how cooking is considered feminine but there are more famous male chefs than there are female chefs. I don't believe there is malicious bias, but a chicken and egg problem arises when trying to figure out how the industry got to where it is.

Offline JeanneG

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2021, 01:37:07 PM »
I agree completely with MKWrites. I don't think there is an anti-male bias in publishing at all, but it's also a fact that fewer men read fiction than in the past. This is probably more reflective of our culture and education than bias. Publishing trends toward what sells and who buys. The majority of fiction buyers are female.

The majority of agents are female, but the decision-makers in the publishing industry (acquisition editors, marketing, etc.) are predominately male. Again, it's the market that drives the decisions.

The VIDA count is conducted every year to analyze the parity between men and women getting published. It doesn't examine books, but it does examine the genders of those published in literary magazines, and it shows every year that more men are published in lit mags than women. You can read that here: https://www.vidaweb.org/the-count/2019-vida-count/

Just my thoughts.

JeanneG
Debut novel, BLOOD OF A STONE (Tuscany Press) released in March 2015; winner of IPPY in national category of religious fiction and currently a finalist for IAN Book of the Year. My work-in-progress: THE DOUBLE SUN.
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Offline jonny_555

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2021, 03:25:48 PM »
I can understand where PhantomII is coming from as I have been in that headspace too (it's what led me to this forum!)

I just hope things change so that ALL that matters is the book/story. Where sex, gender, race, mindset, favorite color, age, star sign, country, afflictions, etc. no longer count for or against your work.

« Last Edit: August 02, 2021, 01:07:38 AM by jonny_555 »
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Offline Tabris

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2021, 05:57:51 AM »
Agents are in sales, and they want to make money. Their agenda is making money, particularly enough money to survive in New York City.

They will not, I promise you, pass up a seven-figure deal because the author is male.

Offline rivergirl

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2021, 10:05:00 PM »
Agree with Tabris. This post sorta surprised me. I always thought the male authors had the edge only because there's less of them out there.

Offline FlyingViking

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2021, 02:25:28 AM »
Agents are in sales, and they want to make money. Their agenda is making money, particularly enough money to survive in New York City.

They will not, I promise you, pass up a seven-figure deal because the author is male.

Yeah this.   :agree:

It's easy to forget that this is a job, and agents, like the rest of us, are just hard working cogs in the publishing machine, trying to make ends meet.  They are looking to sign up manuscripts (not authors) they think they can sell.  For the record, in researching agents for my query list I have shared some of the frustrations in encountering frequent #MSWLs demanding strong female/diverse protagonists, or lists of represented/favorite authors clearly not being comprised of straight, cis-gender, old white guys like myself.  But oftentimes these seem aspirational rather than categorical, and I read them more as encouraging submissions from writers who have been historically underrepresented rather than discouraging submissions from those of us who have historically been more fortunate.

I'm still clinging to the hope that if I write a good enough book, one day I will get published.
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Offline mafiaking1936

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2021, 08:46:44 AM »
You're right, and it sucks. Sorry I've nothing more to add.

Offline PhantomII

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2021, 03:56:00 PM »
Thank you all for your comments.

A couple of things: I just received an email from Penguin Random House with a link to 'Beach Reads.' Of the 22 books listed there, 21 of them were by female authors. The 22nd was by John Grisham.  That pretty much proves my point.

A few people made the supposition that agents are business people, and therefore would want to represent books that will sell. You could say the same thing about biased news sources such as the New York Times, which you'd think would want to make money, but instead pushes a singular agenda to the detriment of the paper's financial stability.

I propose that the agent/publisher sorority may be doing the same thing = publishing what they want to publish regardless of the effect on their bottom line. Some may prefer supporting the 'sisterhood' than making more money, as long as they make enough to get by. Keep a few cash cows to support the subsidizing of books published based on their preferences - or biases, you pick.

Some say that more women read fiction than men, hence more new women authors are picked up than men. Check out the NYT best seller list: the top ten are evenly split between male and female authors - however, four of the five male authors are well established, while most of the female authors are new. Again, it tends to support my point. A lot of men read fiction, particularly novels that tend toward action rather than romance or introspection. But you see few new male authors being pushed by publishers, or picked up by agents.

Again, it's hard to argue that far more women than men are agents, and women dominate publishing houses. Again, it's up to them if they want to exhibit bias in how they select authors to represent; it's just hard to swallow that there is no anti-male bias. I just wish fem-biased agents would be up front about it, so we males don't waste our time submitting queries to them.

Offline MKWrites_318

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2021, 07:08:18 PM »
Quote
I just received an email from Penguin Random House with a link to 'Beach Reads.' Of the 22 books listed there, 21 of them were by female authors. The 22nd was by John Grisham.  That pretty much proves my point.

Beach Reads are often women's fiction and romance novels. Those fields are dominated by women anyway. I'm not saying that the list wasn't biased. But it was one list and for Beach Reads, which are often categorized as light and fun, which means they're likely to come from genres written by women. It's not proof of an overall bias in publishing or agenting. Respectfully, this is more of a confirmation bias situation, rather than actual evidence.

Offline Miss Plum

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2021, 07:48:57 PM »
My $.02 in this discussion is to echo that most readers of fiction are women. That may affect your ability to sell what they call "dick lit" (vs "chick lit"). But whatever you do, keep writing!

Offline slcody

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Re: Anti-male bias?
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2021, 09:27:40 PM »
I just received an email from Penguin Random House with a link to 'Beach Reads.' Of the 22 books listed there, 21 of them were by female authors. The 22nd was by John Grisham.

Yes, and...?

Here's a list of the best military books of 2020, with male authors accounting for 9 of the 11 titles. Or here's a list of great sports books, with male authors accounting for 29 of 33. 

Now, do these lists suggest something about the gender makeup of authors and readership of these particular genres? Yes, they do. Have these lists, by themselves, "proven" that women are at a disadvantage in publishing?  Not by a long shot.

A few people made the supposition that agents are business people, and therefore would want to represent books that will sell. You could say the same thing about biased news sources such as the New York Times, which you'd think would want to make money, but instead pushes a singular agenda to the detriment of the paper's financial stability.

I propose that the agent/publisher sorority may be doing the same thing = publishing what they want to publish regardless of the effect on their bottom line. Some may prefer supporting the 'sisterhood' than making more money, as long as they make enough to get by. Keep a few cash cows to support the subsidizing of books published based on their preferences - or biases, you pick.

Do you really think the publishing industry--a multibillion dollar industry dominated by a handful of international media conglomerates--is actually colluding to discriminate against men, even at the expense of their own profits, just for the sake of what you derisively dismiss as the sisterhood? This is a good illustration of the Carl Sagan standard: "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." So far you haven't offered any.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2021, 03:50:23 PM by slcody »