5 Tips for Creating Your 2012-2013 Book Club Lists

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If your book clubs are anything like mine, we’re entering planning season. I belong to two book clubs — not that I’m a good member of either, I travel too much — both of these groups operate during the academic year and take the summers off. So, it’s in the summer months that we get together and choose the coming year’s selections. We bring our lists and our ideas and discuss, share and eventually, vote. The books that don’t make it are shared later in an email for us to use as a suggested reading list later. In both groups, we usually end up with more fiction than non-fiction, one classic book (sometimes from the young adult category) and occasionally, a short story collection. Both of my groups skew heavily into literary fiction and tend to avoid most genre fiction, with historical being an exception. These lists reflect closely what I like to read.

But, as an emerging author, I have some concerns about my book club lists that I’d like to call to the attention of other book club groups, especially women’s book clubs. Please, please, as you create your lists, do think about how you can support women authors as you create those lists. If you’ve missed the VIDA count the last two years and what it says about the publishing industry and female authors, please, do read here.

So, here are some tips and/or things to think about as you compile your 2012-2013 group list, with a special eye toward supporting female authors: Continue reading

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Did You Know?

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Percentage of Female Authors Published Less than Half of Percentage of Published Men

Women make up 80 percent of all fiction readers, yet the number of published women novelists compared to men still remains well-below 50 percent. According to the wonderful women’s arts magazine VIDA, the problem starts with the literary magazines themselves. In 2010, the most recent year studied, The New Yorker published work by 163 women and 449 men. They reviewed 36 novels by men. And women? Just 9 novels. The numbers in Three-Penny Review, another one of the top literary magazines in the country, whose Editor, Wendy Lesser, is ironically a woman, aren’t any better. Stories and creative nonfiction by men: 61. By women: 25.

And according The New Republic writer Ruth Franklin, of the 13 main publishing  houses still in existence in the US, the numbers continue to show a preference for male writers. Only the boutique Penguin imprint Riverhead—came close to parity, with 55 percent of its books by men and 45 percent by women. Random House came in second, with 37 percent by women. It was downhill from there with Norton, Little Brown, and Harper Collins all scoring around 30 percent—and the rest 25 percent and below, including Knopf (23 percent) and FSG (21 percent).

The numbers were even worse for the indie presses, a huge surprise considering that these publishers pride themselves on issuing quality, original, literary work that the mainstream houses won’t. Graywolf, with 25 percent female authors, was the highest-scoring independent. Brooklyn publisher Melville House came in at 20 percent.  Verso was second-to-last at 11 percent and Dalkey Archive Press, came in last: in 2010!!! a mere 10 percent of its authors were female.

For those of us who publish or aspire to publish, it’s time to rev up our engines; support the work of women writers, buy their books, offer to review works by women in your local newspaper, blog or magazines, and most of all share the news when you read a great novel by a woman writer.

And don’t forget to review our list of published MHC alums on our Blog Roll.

And share your own thoughts here….