A poll from the popular “social media” for avid readers, Goodreads, revealed that most readers tend to stick to authors of their own sex. They found that 90% of the most read books by men were written by men. Same goes for women. Only five titles of the 50 most read books by women were written by men.
It seems like the gap is in the lack of diverse reading, but it doesn’t stop there. The gap also happens in the publishing itself.
An annual analysis by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts shows that although the number of male and female authors publication is equal, reviewers from top publications are dominantly male and tend to review books written by male authors.
It has been a long protest by women authors that they feel the publishing industry is not taking them seriously. They complain that publishers usually give a “feminine” or “flowery” book covers instead of gender-neutral ones, or even a cover that actually represents the story inside.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but it is the first thing we see when we look for books.
It may not be fair to compare which gender writes the better literature, but the Goodreads survey also shows this:
The survey found that in the first year of publication, female authors will get only 20% male audience while male authors get 50% female readers. It looks like women are more open to read books written by both genders, but on average women rated 4 out of 5 stars for books written by women and only 3.8 stars for male authors.
But the reverse does not happen to male readers. They also rate higher (3.9 stars) for female authors and less (3.8 stars) for books by men.
In other words, once readers get past the covers, they tend to rate books by women highly than those by men.
However, VIDA statistics focus on literary fiction and non-fiction, whereas Goodreads top rated books include crime, young adult and titles that are less likely to be reviewed by the publications VIDA was based its research on. So in terms of genre, there might be a bias.
Whatever should be the case, as readers we need to diversify our reading. Be it to beat literary discrimination or to simply understand the other gender better. We only know how to deal with something when we learn what we are dealing with.