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Mar 9, 2012

The data that shows female writers don't get a fair run

Bookseller+Publisher collects data on book mentions in Australia's print media around the country each week, so Matthia Dempsey decided to count all the book reviews done of female-authored books in the last years. The results may surprise you ...

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Last year, the US-based group VIDA — created to promote women in the literary arts — released these bright red and blue pie charts showing how many women and men were reviewed in, or wrote for, various high-profile literary publications during 2010. The response was much soul searching the literary world over. In Australia the release of the figures was quickly followed by an all-male shortlist (of three) for the 2011 Miles Franklin award. The combination of these facts led to plenty of discussion and ultimately, the establishment of the Stella Prize for women’s writing.

Come 2012 and VIDA has released “the count” for 2011 — and the pies haven’t changed all that much. Honourable mentions go to the Boston Review and Granta, dishonourable mention to the New York Review of Books (seven female authors reviewed, 293 male authors reviewed). But what about Australia?

So far, there has been some anecdotal discussion of how our local publications measure up in the equality stakes, but little in the way of figures. Bookseller+Publisher collects data on book mentions in Australia’s print media around the country each week, so we thought we’d perform our own count.

A note on the data, before we get to the pies: for our count we have looked at books reviewed in several national publications and at least one major paper in each state during 2011. Each week we also collect mentions of books in feature articles or profiles, but since these can be incidental we’re concentrating on reviews where the book mentioned is the main game. As with any process where a human is taking hard copy print data and transferring it to a database, there is the chance of the occasional error. We would dearly love some of these percentages to be proved wrong; however, we think it’s unlikely that the trends for these publications could be greatly altered by one or two typos on our part.

Finally, it is worth noting who has been championing (or at least equally recognising) books by women: The Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Territorian, the Sunday TasmanianGood Reading, the West Australian and The Sunday Age. (It seems women writers are more palatable on a Sunday.) You can see who deserves a dishonourable mention for yourself below …

National:

New South Wales:

Victoria:

Queensland:

Australian Capital Territory:

South Australia:

Tasmania:

Western Australia:

*The article was first published at Bookseller+Publisher

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