Men Garnered 63% of Mystery Reviews in 2008
By Nadia Gordon (Julianne Balmain)
Each year, Sisters in Crime volunteers monitor nearly 50 newspapers and magazines across the country for their coverage of the mystery genre by gender. As the number of book reviewers shrinks, the amount of book coverage diminishes, and competition for editorial space grows fiercer from coast to coast, it’s important that we continue to monitor who makes the cut. The numbers for 2008 have been finalized, and they’ve yielded some interesting statistics.
Overall, 63% of reviews were of mysteries written by men and 37% covered those written by women. Based on the submission list for best novel for the 2009 MWA Edgar Award, approximately 59% of new hardcover mysteries published in 2008 were written by men.
Of 47 publications tracked, only six reviewed more books by women than by men. Two of those six, Mystery News and the Omaha World-Herald, reviewed just slightly more women, with totals of 51%. The Seattle Times & Post Intelligencer (still under their joint operating agreement in 2008) covered 53% women. The most enthusiastic contributor of reviews of mysteries by women was Romantic Times, which devoted 82% of its review coverage to books written by women. Next came the Contra Costa Times (San Francisco Bay Area) with 73% coverage of women and the Baltimore Sun with 61% of mystery reviews covering women’s books.
The Missoulian and the Indianapolis Star each reviewed eleven mysteries in 2008. In both cases, 91% of the books were written by men.
Three important publications—the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle—all covered 74% or more books by men. In the case of the LA Times and the Chronicle, the data suggest part of the heavy skew toward books by men may be due to end-of-the-year roundup coverage. That is, the number of reviews overall jumps up at the end of the year, with the majority of those reviews covering men. (This was also the case for the Contra Costa Times, whose numbers skewed toward women in the fourth quarter.)
In coming weeks I will be following up with the reviews editors at these publications to let them know about our monitoring project, and the results for last year. Our goal is to raise awareness in order to encourage gender parity in the world of professional mystery writing.
If you would like to suggest a news outlet you would like to monitor as part of this program, please write to me at email@example.com. We urgently need a new USA Today monitor, and also need volunteers to help with our pilot program monitoring featured titles at Barnes & Noble and Costco. Write to me if you’d like to help.
*I’ve included three publications for which one quarter of data was still missing at press time, marked with asterisks.
Percentage Report for 2008 (male=63%; female=37%)
|Publication||Percentage Male||Percentage Female|
|Contra Costa Times||27||73|
|Daily Press, Newport VA||69||31|
|Dallas Morning News||57||43|
|Detroit Free Press||69||31|
|Kansas City Star||66||34|
Los Angeles Times
|Mystery Readers Journal||67||33|
|New Orleans Times-Picayune||55||45|
|New York Times Book Review||61||39|
|Powell's Daily Reviews||75||25|
|San Antonio Express-News*||87||13|
|San Francisco Chronicle||74||26|
|San Jose Mecury News||69||31|
|Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer||47||53|
|St. Louis Post-Dispatch||69||31|
|Star Ledger, Essex NJ||69||31|
|Star Tribune, Minn MN||65||35|
|Toronto Globe & Mail||63||37|
|Wall St. Journal||87||13|