A study of over two million books done by Queens College-CUNY recently found that books written by female authors were generally priced 45% lower than books written by male authors.
The study found that book prices tend to de-escalate as genres became more female (books that are typically considered more ‘female’ tend to either fall into the ‘romance’ category or tend to be female-driven stories primarily involving women. I wish I was making this up.).
Statistically, female authors do tend to dominate the romance field while male authors dominate the science field. So, discounting these genres and just looking at the books by male and female authors in the same genre, the study found that women are still earning about 9% less than men.
And, when discounting big publishing houses and just looking at independent publishers and self-published books, the study found that, although equality is definitely more prevalent, women are still earning 7% less than men. Even when pricing their own works, female authors have been conditioned to believe they should be pricing their books lower than the works of men.
This inequality in the book world isn’t just prevalent when it comes to pricing: this 2015 article on Jezebel shows how one woman needed to use a male-pseudonym in order to get her manuscript noticed by literary agents.
Image via Hooded Utilitarian
This isn’t a new technique, though. Female authors have historically been publishing their works under male names since the beginning of time. The Brontë sisters published their works under Currer Bell, Acton Bell, and Ellis Bell after being told “literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life” by poet Robert Southey. Louisa May Alcott went by A.M. Bernard. Nora Roberts went by J.D. Robbs. Joanne Rowling is J.K. Rowling.
Women having to de-feminize their own names in order to be taken seriously within the literary community sounds like insanity. Still, it really doesn’t come as much of a shock.
I, personally, have never read a book written by a female author and thought, “hmmmm, her work is just too womanly for my taste.” Still, I know that I’m definitely someone who tends to veer away from books considered romantic or chick-lit (why does that term still exist?), steering clear of books with bright pink covers and more feminine fonts and, instead heading straight for the books I, for some reason, consider more serious and respectable.
And, if I want things to change and equality to rise, I’m going to have to look at my own faults and flaws first. So, I’m going to take a vow to recognize my own discriminations and cut them at the roots. I’ll step out of my comfort zone and not be so quick to deem any authors work less serious than another’s.
I hope you will, too.
Feautred Image Via Skinny Dip