Self-publishing lets women break book industry’s glass ceiling, survey finds
While men still dominate the traditional books world, among DIY writers women are publishing and selling more
Alison Flood Friday 6 March 2015 13.37 GMT
If a woman writing fiction needs “money and a room of her own”, as Virginia Woolf suggested, writers at the beginning of the 21st century should perhaps insist the room comes with an internet connection, after a new study has found that the proportion of self-published bestsellers written by women is almost twice as large as in traditional publishing.
The DIY sector of the books market is currently booming, both in terms of numbers of books created, and numbers bought. In 2013, Nielsen Book found that 18m self-published books were purchased by UK readers, up 79% on 2012, while according to Bowker, there were over 458,000 titles self-published in the US in 2013, up 17% on 2012 and 437% on 2008.
Now, a report from online publishing platform FicShelf has found that the authors doing best in the medium tend to be women. Looking at the most popular titles across the top self-publishing platforms Blurb, Wattpad, CreateSpace and Smashwords, FicShelf found that 67% of top-ranking titles were written by women. This compares with the top 100 traditionally-published titles on Amazon, of which FicShelf discovered that 61% are written by men.
The study did not include self-published titles on the Kindle, because Amazon does not separate them out from traditionally-published books in its bestseller lists. But FicShelf is confident the survey’s results are representative of the market as a whole, adding that the platforms considered are “growing at an impressive rate”, with Wattpad boasting 35m members.
“More and more female writers are seeing success in self-publishing,” said Monique Duarte, chief executive of FicShelf, which released the results to mark International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March. “It’s a level playing field.”
FicShelf also found, it said, that “men are more likely to receive recognition for their work … with preconceived notions of a ‘literary canon’ and curated lists of top titles still dominated by male writers”. 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”, it found.
Self-published author Alison Morton said: “There’s definitely a gender disparity among traditionally-published authors. More women buy, write and read books in numerical terms, but more ‘weight’ and status is given by publishers to books by male authors. With self-publishing, it’s the effort by the individual that counts, irrespective of gender.”
In total, FicShelf looked at 227 bestselling self-published titles, a mix of fiction and non-fiction. When it focused on 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.
“The scale of the discrepancy shows that women writers aren’t being treated equally in traditional publishing,” said the author Roz Morris. “We’re usually pigeonholed into obviously feminine genres such as chick-lit and romance, but not generally allowed to be complex artistes, to write the unusual books that break new ground. These figures show a huge vote of confidence for the writer in charge of their artistic destiny – and indicate that the literary world should take more notice of what women writers are publishing.”
Morris has recently worked with six other female authors to self-publish the ebook anthology Outside the Box: Women Writing Women, a collection of seven novels featuring “strong female characters” which the writers are making available for a limited period, until May.
“While mainstream publishing plays safe with predictable stories and heroines who repeat the same familiar tropes, where are today’s most ground-breaking authors? The answer is that they are self-publishing,” say the writers, who include Orna Ross, an author who has previously been traditionally-published but who went on to found the Alliance of Independent Authors, Joni Rodgers, author of the bestselling cancer memoir Bald in the Land of Big Hair, the award-winning Jane Davis, Carol Cooper, Kathleen Jones and Jessica Bell.
“For me, these writers are the real superstars of self-publishing. They’re storytellers dedicated to their craft, who have proved their worth with awards, fellowships and, of course, commercial success,” said Morris.
Dan Holloway, columnist for the Guardian books pages and publisher, said that the anthology authors were “at the forefront of a strong cohort of ground-breaking, boundary-pushing women writing and self-publishing literary fiction”.
“The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Make It Happen’, and our study proves that self-publishing is making it happen for female writers across the globe,” said FicShelf’s Duarte. “In self-publishing, there is no glass ceiling to smash through – it’s about the individual rather than the usual old boy’s club mentality. It’s not about who you know, but what you can do – and what you can write.”
Delirious about this inclusion in The Bookseller
(Three altogether, in a list of 18 finalists)Alison Morton
p/b 9781781322185/e-book 2940149637508Carina Mitela is the heir within a leading family, but has chosen the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband’s lost daughter, a youthful indiscretion turns into a nightmare which threatens to attack the core of the imperial family itself.I thoroughly enjoyed this classy thriller, the third in Morton’s epic series set in Roma Nova, a breakaway Roman colony established in AD395, which has survived to the present day. The series came about because the author—a self-confessed “Ancient Roman nut”—wondered what a modern Roman society run by women would look like.Full article here: http://www.thebookseller.com/insight/independent-author-preview
Expat romantic novelists inspired by real life
Thinking of writing a book about your life overseas? These published authors have some advice …
Do you ever toy with the idea of drawing on your expat experience to write a romantic novel? If so, there’s one storyline that must tempt you: British girl meets Man From Elsewhere, and moves to his country, leading, after some hiccups, to their very own happy ever after.
Romantic novelist Angela Britnell (left) has lived this plot. She is originally from Cornwall, but she met her own tall, dark, handsome stranger when she was working for Nato in Denmark. He is American and the couple now live in Nashville – the setting for Angela’s novel What Happens in Nashville (angelabritnellromance.com).
She said: “A British girl abroad meeting a foreign man is a great story, so why not use it? Most of my books feature mixed couples drawing on my own experiences in marrying my American husband. There’s an inherent sense of romance about stories set in distant countries, with foreign characters.”
Janet Woods has a different backstory. She met her husband at school in the UK when they were three years old. They were born a day apart, lived in the same street, attended the same schools, married when they were 19 and migrated to Australia in the 1960s as “ten pound Poms”.
Janet agrees that placing a heroine far from home has advantages, and most of her novels, including her Dorset trilogy, feature split UK/Australian settings (janet-woods.com). She said: “It’s good to get family and friends out of the way for a while. Having no relatives to fall back on when there is trouble makes for a resourceful heroine.”
Liz Fenwick (lizfenwick.com) is an American who moved to England, married a Brit, lived with him along the way in Calgary, Moscow, Jakarta and Houston, and finally moved to Dubai, where she writes novels about Cornwall. She is wary of using expat settings. Her novel A Cornish Affair begins on Cape Cod but apart from that is set in a crumbling Cornish clifftop mansion.
Liz (left) said: “I worry publishers and agents think they can’t sell expat fiction, unless you, the author, already have a following. I think the realities of expat life are far away from the UK reader’s experience. So unless it’s a book that naturally fits in an expat setting like a thriller then possibly it’s less appealing to publishers than UK-based books.
“I could see opening a novel in Dubai and then moving the story back to Cornwall but not setting one entirely here.”
On top of that, leaping from unpublished to published novelist generally requires networking, which can be hard for expats. Alison Morton is originally from Tunbridge Wells, but now lives in south-west France, from where she has self-published three romances (alison-morton.com). She said: “If I need to be at a business meeting at short notice in the UK, it can be a scramble finding a flight or train.”
The problems are multiplied the further you live from London, but Alison pointed out distance is becoming less of an obstacle with the Internet and digital communication: “My agent took me on after a FaceTime conversation,” she explained.
Indeed, technology is revolutionising the publishing industry. If you can’t find a conventional publisher for your expat novel, you might consider self-publishing. Angela thinks the broadening of the publishing business is a positive thing for everyone, including expat authors. However, she warns: “Self-publishing can be a minefield and it isn’t something to undertake without a lot of research; it takes much hard work to produce a quality product.”
You can lose a lot of money if you pursue self-publication, especially if you want to produce physical rather than electronic copies of your books. Nonetheless there are advantages to physical copies, as many readers still prefer them.
Alison said: “For paperbacks, I‘ve found it easier to have them edited, formatted and published in the UK, my prime market. But these days a paperback can be printed on demand in the UK and be dispatched anywhere in the world, which is great for expats.”
If you are inspired to write an expat romance, The UK-based Romantic Novelists’ Association is ready with support and advice, and is happy to welcome expat members (romanticnovelistsassociation.org).
Rosie Milne, who is originally from London, lives in Singapore where she runs Asian Books Blog (asianbooksblog.com).
Don’t turn your back on feminism
3 July 2014
Feminism has become a dirty word but it really shouldn’t be, after all it is just about equal rights for all, men and women alike.
Author Alison Morton is known for writing Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…
In the MENSA SEMantics magazine (page 4) August 2014
From Inceptio(n) to Successio(n)
Since leaving these shores for France a few years ago, talented one time West Kent LocSec Alison Morton has embarked upon a career as a writer of alternate history novels. In March last year, Olive and I were honoured to be invited to the launch of the first of the novels in this series, Inceptio and we thoroughly enjoyed reading and immersing ourselves in this unusual thriller. Alison is very modest about the success of this absorbing tale but we understand that a reprint was necessitated to meet demand.
Never one to allow grass to grow under her feet, Alison then set to and produced the second in the series, Perfiditas which continues to be set in the fictional country of Roma Nova but, being unable to keep up with Alison’s prodigious output, I confess that I still have to get around to reading this follow-up tale, but Olive has beaten me to it and she thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Astonishingly, we recently received yet another invitation from Alison to launch her very latest in the series, entitled Successio, in Tunbridge Wells library on a sunny June evening. Instead of introducing her book with readings of selected passages,
Alison chose instead to subject herself to a grilling from writer friend Denise, who concentrated mainly upon the dramatis personae. This was followed by questions from the audience prior to signing of the books that many of us purchased. Although remaining fairly tight-lipped upon the subject, Alison let it slip that book number 4 is already under way with yet more to come in the future!
Tunbridge Wells author Alison Morton will be signing copies of her new book at Tunbridge Wells Library
When asked about the inspiration for her stories, Alison said: “In ancient Rome there is no way women would have had a say in politics or any other societal issues. “It was a very male orientated society and it made me wonder what a world would be like if women ran it. My train of thought went from there. “Alternate history can be serious and academic or completely bonkers. You have to know history well to alternate it.” Alison, originally from Farmcombe Close, Tunbridge Wells currently lives in the beautiful Vallee du Thouet in France with her husband. However, she is in the UK until the middle of June holding talks across the South-East. She will be speaking and signing books at Tunbridge Wells Library on Tuesday June 10th at 7pm. http://www.kentonline.co.uk/tunbridge-wells/news/local-author-will-be-signing-18090/
In Writing Magazine (May 2014, page WN17), a lovely piece about PERFIDITAS, including a photo of me with Simon Scarrow!
You can read the complete article here.
Female First very kindly interviewed me again, this time about PERFIDITAS. On 28 December I was in the books section in great company. Read more here…
Just before the launch of PERFIDITAS on 6 November at Waterstones Tunbridge Wells, I went back into the Radio Kent studies to talk to Pat Marsh again. Very relaxed and friendly, it was like popping round for a friendly chat.
And here’s our interview/chat…
On the radio!
On 13 August, Pat Marsh, from BBC Radio Kent invited me on to his afternoon radio show and let me burble on about INCEPTIO. Radio Kent is said to have around 200,000 listeners, a figure I didn’t pin down until afterwards. I think I might have been a little more nervous if I’d known.
And you can listen to the interview here!
A fab report in ROYAL magazine of the INCEPTIO launch at Waterstones Tunbridge Wells.
What a superb write-up. And yes, we had fun! Deepest thanks to Sarah Bond who wrote it, Gaynor Edwards who masterminded the PR for the evening and the Kent & Sussex Courier ROYAL team for the beautiful production. And to Steve Morton, of course, who took some of the photos.
(Click on picture to enlarge)
It’s a lively and very popular lifestyle blog brimming with information for the contemporary young woman.
I was thrilled to have a 3-page spread about alternate history in the UK’s premier writers’ monthly “Writing Magazine” (July 2013 issue).
On 1 May 2013, Gaynor Edwards from Ozone Creative, a sparkly new agency, emailed me the link to SO Magazine’s Social Register in the May edition (middle of right-hand column):
The West Kent weekly newspaper, The Kent and Sussex Courier gave me a few column inches (and set the whole book in America instead of Roma Nova – love the Courier!)
Local Tunbridge Wells lifestyle magazine SO Magazine included me in their Culture Vulture section in April
Before the UK launch, local Tunbridge Wells magazine StayingInGoingOut, known as StayGo, ran a half page on INCEPTIO in their March edition. Fabulous!
Le Courrier de l’Ouest which covers the French departments of Deux-Sévres 79 (where I live) and Maine-et-Loire 49 (Angers/Saumur) did a feature about INCEPTIO and the French launch on 1 March.
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