Monitoring Project

2012

Among four national newspapers monitored, gains were made, particularly in the New York Times (rising from 34% to 41%). However, the overall number of reviews appearing in these newspapers dropped by just over 10%, a pattern that means in most cases fewer women writers are getting notice even though they gained in the share of reviews. An exception is the Washington Post, which has both increased the number of mysteries reviewed and the percentage of women authors covered.

Among local newspapers, a dozen monitored publications gave 39% of their mystery review space to women writers. This percentage is down slightly from 42% last year, but is higher than in the four previous years.

The news was mixed in pre-publication review sources. All four magazines—Booklist, Kirkus, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly—increased the number of mysteries reviewed, but women’s share dropped slightly to 45% overall. Booklist once again lagged with 41% of mystery reviews devoted to books by women authors, and Library Journal had the highest percentage, 55%.

Crime fiction magazines were a bit less generous to women authors. Deadly Pleasures gave 37% of its reviews to mysteries by women, Mystery Scene had fewer reviews but a higher percentage (41%), with RT Reviews as usual giving the lion’s share of reviews to books by women authors (75%, up from last year’s 69%).

For the second year, we expanded our coverage of born-digital review media, monitoring a selection of book blogs and three online review publications—Book Bitch, I Love a Mystery Newsletter, and Reviewing the Evidence. All three review publications are edited volunteer operations which together published over 1,000 reviews. The percentage of reviews of books by women is similar to that found in traditional review media. In 2012, reviews of mysteries by women ranged from a low of 27% to a high of 46%. We also aggregated the contents of a half-dozen book blogs maintained by individual readers, with occasional guest reviews. Altogether, these blogs published around 700 reviews in 2012. Added together, the reader blogs reviewed more books by women than men (54%). Combining all born-digital review sources monitored, reviews of mysteries by women writers occupies 45% of the total.

This is slightly lower than our estimate of women’s share of published mysteries, for which we once again used submissions for Edgars awards as a rough estimate. (Though this leaves out the growing self-published market, there is no other dataset readily available for analysis.) The total number of submissions to the Best Novel, Best First Novel, Best Paperback Original, and Mary Higgins Clark awards was up slightly from last year, rising to 950 once duplicates were eliminated, but women’s share fell in all but the Mary Higgins Clark category and in total fell from 54% of all submissions in 2011 to 48% (with duplicate submissions subtracted). Once again women had a smaller share of submissions for Best Novel (38%) and Best First (35%), but a majority in the Paperback Original category (66%).

In the final analysis, women writers have made significant progress toward equity in their share of review space over the years, though no significant progress was made since last year. Coverage of women writers’ mysteries still lags in traditional newspapers, where fewer mysteries are reviewed, but is stronger in traditional pre-publication review sources and in born-digital book review blogs and websites, which publish three to four times as many reviews as the newspapers monitored.

 

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