Q: I've been noticing that at least in the "writers forum" world, male writers are seriously outnumbered by women who write. I'm also seeing a relative scarcity of male agents. Now, I realize that there is no "old girl's club" per se, but has anyone studied the unbalance in new debut fiction published between men and women authors? Can a female agent be expected to warm up to the work of a male writer as easily as the work of another woman? Is this a silly question? I know there are sucessful male writers who write what would be considered "women's fiction", but I'm beginning to wonder how gender plays in the market, both reader/consumers and publishers.
Though this question was originally asked on my Absolute Write Ask-the-Agent thread, that thread is actually closed. I thought I'd answer it here since I've gotten similarly worded questions a number of times recently, both on forums and in person at conferences.*
Thing is, 80% or more** of the people buying literature are women. This goes for all kinds of mainstream fiction, male protagonist & female protagonist, debut as well as backlist. In the realm of mysteries and narrative nonfiction, possibly the numbers are slightly more even, but I am willing to bet that even there the majority of readers are still women. [ETA: And as is pointed out in the comments, horror, SF/F & hardboiled crime probably skews more male] .***
In children's publishing (The Bunny Division) certainly most editors, agents and buyers are women. Not all, but most.****
Writerly gender is probably split pretty evenly in Literary Fiction land. My expertise is children's books, though, and I'd still say that in children's, lady writers are the majority. I would also suggest based on purely anecdotal evidence that male writers and illustrators are better paid, and disproportionally more lauded and more award-winning... but I could certainly be wrong. I haven't crunched real numbers on that one.*****
But I am sorry that I could not resist teasing you a bit, and I didn't even really give you an answer. The plain truth is, there IS an Old Girl's Club.******
* Tact-level varies, but the question is always posed by a man - which doesn't mean anything, per se, just noting the "unbalance".
** This statistic provided by the Out Of Thin Air But Probably Right Dept.
*** Still, a few brave male authors are able to somehow muddle through, and "Man type" books still get published. How, I am not sure -- I guess a few women gatekeepers are able to cast off their femininity and warm up to them.
**** Probably because most men don't want to hang around reading children's books all day. They have real stuff to do, don't they? Putting out fires with their big barrel chests, etc.
***** And the two very biggest names in children's books are women, so that would skew the statistics a bit.
****** But of course, I can't tell you any more about it, and you aren't invited. Sorry! :-)