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2018 Sisters in Crime Monitoring Project Report

Since 1986, Sisters in Crime volunteers have monitored published reviews of crime fiction to determine the percentage of reviews accorded women authors. After two years of stagnation or statistical decreases, 2018 reflected a significant increase in published reviews of works by women writers in all categories except genre related. 

Monitored publications are aggregated by type, but the specific publications have changed during the thirty-two years of monitoring. A major review of the monitoring project was undertaken in 2017, with several modifications being implemented in 2018 to reflect the changing publishing world. 

Digital reviews, which were monitored between 2012 and 2017, were dropped because the review choices of the online blogs and digital tours inherently leaned toward specific genres. It was determined that the skewed results of the limited data pool impacted the validity of continuing to monitor digital reviews. Another trend that will need to be watched in the future is the decreasing number of original reviews being published and the increasing use of syndicated reviews resulting in greater weight being given to certain books.

Last year, concern was expressed when the national and local newspaper categories respectively reflected three and eleven per cent decreases in reviews of female authored works. This year, with 45% of each category’s reviews being devoted to women writers, both areas returned or surpassed 2016 tallies. Because The New York Times, The Toronto Globe & Mail, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal have prestige and wide readership, their aggregate 3% drop from 2016’s 41% to 38% was significant, as is their combined, with the addition of USA Today, rise to 45%. This number still does not represent parity. 

The Wall Street Journal, which almost reached parity in 2015, but then returned to its traditional approach of according a quarter of its reviews to books by women (26%) in 2016 must be singled out for recognition. After its 2016 low point, it rose five percent (31%) in 2017 and in 2018 accorded 42% of its reviews to works produced by female writers. 

Of the pre-publication review sources, only Booklist continued to favor male writers over women authors (53% to 47%). The other monitored publications, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Bookletters, all devoted a majority of their reviews to women.

The most significant lack of parity existed in the analysis of genre related publications. Except for Mystery Scene, which continued its long-time tradition of parity or better in terms of reviewing books by women, the other mystery genre publications favored male works sixty plus percent (62%-66%) to thirty plus percent (34%-38%). Many of the genre reviews bundled works together under topic headings or in manners that excluded books written by females. 

One genre related publication, Romantic/Romance Times, which traditionally was reported separately because its large numbers slanting in only one direction impacted the validity of genre numbers, ceased operating in 2018, so it is not included in this report. 
SinC added two new monitoring categories in 2017: Young Adult and Children’s. The results of the first year of monitoring demonstrated a preponderance of reviews accorded to women authors in both categories. This preponderance continued in 2018. Although it only produced a plus or minus statistical difference/overlap of one to two percentage points, it is noted that certain works received reviews in both the Young Adult and Children’s categories.

In 2018, attempts were made to analyze the impact of author diversity and the role of male and female reviewers on the final reviews published. Both undertakings failed to yield enough data to make accountable determinations or draw supportable trend conclusions.  

In conclusion, more publications and categories were analyzed in each category in 2018. Except in genre publications, more books by women authors were reviewed; however, some books appeared multiple times because the reviews were syndicated. Despite a good effort, there was insufficient data to draw conclusions respecting diversity or reviewers. Where monitoring could be documented and declared accountable, the 2018 data supports a finding of improvement in the number of reviews obtained by female authors, but a continued lack of parity.

----Respectfully Submitted by Debra H. Goldstein – Monitoring Chairperson



Type of Publication Reviews of Books By Women, 2007 Reviews of Books by Women, 2015 Reviews of Books by Women, 2016  Reviews of Books by Women, 2017  Reviews of Books by Women, 2018 
National Newspapers 31% 42% 41% 38% 43%
Local Newspapers 37% 46% 47% 36% 45%
Pre-publication Sources 45% 45% 46% 50% 54%
Genre-focused Magazines 40% 50% 49% 44% 42%
Born Digital Review Sources n/a 52% 52% 54% n/a
YM/Juvenile n/a n/a n/a 70% 71%* some dup
Children's n/a n/a n/a 59% 68%* some dup

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