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Discrimination Against Male Novelists?

October 26th, 2021

As we’re coming up to Halloween, I’d like to mention a book I bought recently from Tesco for my grandchildren: Funnybones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. I know many of you will already be familiar with the family of skeletons and their pet dog, but it really is a great, non-scary read. Little ones will love the story, pictures and jingles whilst the words are easy enough for five and six year olds to read themselves.  Definitely one to go with the pumpkins and treats!

Over the years we’ve been told that women writers, writers of colour, LGBTQIA+ writers and even ‘working class’ writers are all ‘disadvantaged’ – and there are development schemes set up for them and competitions with restricted entry. But it now turns out that it’s really young male novelists that are disadvantaged – according to the media, that is!

Whereas a few years ago ‘literary’ novel lists seemed to be dominated by the likes of  Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Alan Hollinghurst and David Mitchell the tide seems to have turned with such authors as Bernadine Everisto, Sally Rooney, Oyinka Braithwaite and Elizabeth Strout taking the plaudits (and sales).

According to Nielsen, female authors wrote 57% of hardback fiction bestsellers last year compared to only 39% in 2000. One reason for this could be that although the big five publishing houses are run by men, the majority of commissioning editors are young(ish) women – and they certainly have a great deal of power when it comes to what is chosen for publication.

But, on the other hand, if you look at who reads fiction, there is a much higher percentage of women  and statistics show that, on the whole, women have a preference for reading books written by women and men prefer reading books written by men. So, as more equality of opportunity has been achieved, this result is not surprising.

To be honest, I think this is all a bit of a storm in a teacup – you’ll probably find that the thriller genre is still dominated by a few fantastically successful male writers and the crime genre has seen women come up on the inside to just about overtake their male counterparts in the past few years. But what I feel it does show is that it’s time to stop ‘tinkering’ and giving specific groups preferential treatment. Just let the reading public (male or female) vote with their time and money to decide which authors should be getting to the top of the best-seller lists. And, dare I say it, have ‘normal’ readers judging prestigious competitions rather than elitist groups that have their own agenda and probably don’t have a clue what the average reader enjoys.

Moving on, if you are an aspiring writer of YA fiction you may be interested in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators:YA-hoo! A Weekend of Young Adult (Online). Malorie Blackman and Jasper Fforde will be headlining the two, jam-packed days, plus there will be craft workshops on Character and World-building, agents discussing how to get your work into the wild, debut novelists discussing the view from the other side, a First Pages panel where a lucky few can get real-time feedback on their work and a dynamic discussion around how, when and why to include sex in your writing.

The event will be held online on 13th and 14th November from 9.45am to 3.45pm each day. The cost is £35 for SCBWI members and £60 for non-members. Sounds really interesting and great value for money!

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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