From its inception, Sisters in Crime has sought equality for women who write crime fiction and the percentage of mysteries reviewed in the media by women authors is one indicator of how women writers are faring. When Sara Paretsky, Margaret Maron, Nancy Pickard, and others gathered at Sandra Scoppottone’s loft in New York to organize for change in the spring of 1987, the tiny number of women mystery writers getting reviews in the influential New York Times Book Review was a subject of discussion. At the 25th anniversary breakfast held at Bouchercon in St. Louis in September 2011, Paretsky recalled their finding that men were seven times more likely to be reviewed than women. She joked that male writers might have been twice as good as women writers, but surely not seven times better. The group drafted a letter and, though it was never acknowledged, the percentage of women writers reviewed in the New York Times rose.
Since then volunteer members of Sisters in Crime have tracked reviews in a variety of outlets, including local and national newspapers, magazines, prepublication book review sources, and magazines devoted to the mystery. Starting in 2012, the project will include born-digital mystery review sites and a selection of reader-reviewer blogs to gain a sense of the gender breakdown for online review coverage.
Which books are chosen for review is only one metric for measuring equality, but it reflects the “buzz” around particular books and the amount of support publishers give their authors as they distribute review copies. Volunteers and suggestions for the project are always welcome. Contact Barbara Fister [email@example.com], Monitoring Project coordinator.