Women Are The Most Successful Self-Publishers
Since the birth of literature there has been gender disparity in the number of male and female writers, due largely to the fact that the majority of women have for centuries been denied an education. Wealthy, well-educated women were even excluded from the literary canon because it was not socially acceptable for ‘respectable’ women to publish. Even in the twentieth century, which saw greater gender equality and more opportunities for women writers, men have dominated the literary scene.
Today, despite the higher proportion of female writers and female readers, it seems that male writers feature more consistently in top reviews. Male writers, despite the larger female audience, are given more 'weight' than their female counterparts, whilst women writers are demoted to the realms of chick-lit.
A report in the Guardian showed that male authors account for 80% of titles in the Telegraph’s 100 Novels Everyone Should Read, 85% of the Guardian’s 100 Greatest Novels of all Time, and 70% of the Telegraph’s The Best Books of 2014. Male writers are therefore more likely to experience respect from their peers and find their writing reviewed favourably, whilst female writers are more likely to encounter prejudice or a lack of interest from reviewers.
In addition to their high commendations by reviews, male writers account for over 60% of the top 100 bestsellers on Amazon, according to FicShelf, which analysed data comparing male and female writers.
FicShelf looked at 227 bestselling self-published titles, which included a mix of fiction and non-fiction. ‘When it looked at novels, the results were even more skewed: of 134 fiction titles, 109, or 81%, were by women, 11 were by men, and 14 were unknown.’ BookWorks, an organisation of self-publishers, claim that women have a greater chance of success through DIY publishing: ‘odds are that the self-publishing community will be much kinder to you and your book than the traditional world of book publishing would, and you’ll be able to reach more readers than you might otherwise.’
Florence Wilkinson from FicShelf also reported that their research showed a surprising number of the 200+ authors analysed were under the age of 30, and she attributed this to 'fandom', which seems to attract mainly female writers. E L James is a very famous example of a writer who has made millions from self-publishing her fan-fiction; her trilogy 50 Shades of Grey attempted to reinterpret the love story of Bella and Edward in the Twilight Saga.
Despite James' success, there is a certain amount of scorn directed at her DIY fan-fiction, which is apparently excluded from the literary canon of more substantial works of literature produced by men. The publishing industry sometimes assumes that people self-publish because they have to, because they have failed through traditional methods. James, at least, does know her audience and appealed to an online audience of fans who seek out fan-fiction. Self-publishing is a very different form of publishing and is not just a last resort, but it responds to a growing desire for fan-fiction. It even seems to offer more opportunities for success for women writers than print publishing.