Friday, June 08, 2007

Oprah, Her Book Club, and Women Authors

I’m way behind the times, but did you read at M.J. Rose’s blog that most of Oprah’s Book Club picks have been written by MEN? 12 out of the last 14, she says, and the last 8 in the last two years have been ALL written by men.

Okay, nothing wrong with men. I’d say a HUGE portion of my favorite writers are men, particularly since there are limited women writing spy fiction.


I feel a little let down by Oprah. She’s a huge role model, a huge force in the publishing industry, and woman of huge influence. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for her.

And now I feel a little ... disappointed. A small part of me wonders why. Is it that men are better writers? (Of course not!) But if they aren’t, then why would the poster woman for female-roaring find so few female authors that moved her? Or is this a problem in the publishing industry at large, and the filtering-down effects are that’s what her choices were? Or maybe it’s a coincidence?

David Montgomery recently asked Do statistics matter?, when discussing the recent Sisters in Crime analysis of the gender gap in reviews. They work out to roughly average (56.23% male and 43.77% female), which strikes me as probably fair.

The statistics are good to be aware of, in case one has an unaware gender bias. It does exist. Remember my post asking Men Write Better Than Women? However, I don’t believe gender should be the first criteria for reviewing or for book clubs.

But Oprah? 12 out of 14 books?

10 bonus scribbles:

Anissa 6/09/2007 01:08:00 AM  

I couldn't agree more. Like you, I can't help wondering what's driven her choices. As an author, to be chosen by Oprah is the golden ticket. Yet she can't find worthy women? I have nothing against men, male authors or anyone. But you're right, it seems a bit skewed.

Jennifer McK 6/09/2007 08:48:00 AM  

Well, in the beginning, most of her author picks were women. Perhaps she is over compensating for an earlier preference. I don't know.
I have a tough time with her picks anyway. Some are awesome, but some aren't (for me).
I do wonder what the process is for her choice. Because let's face it, if you're an Oprah Bookclub choice, you're on your way.
It would be nice to know if it's random, market driven or just Oprah's preference.

Karen Olson 6/10/2007 10:47:00 AM  

I've had a hard time with Oprah's picks from the beginning. But I do think she should give equal time to men and women authors.

Stewart Sternberg 6/10/2007 05:28:00 PM  

Eighty percent of readers are women.

I don't know Spy. I think the gender issue is a strange one. I am going to be preparing to market a novel this summer. It's about a haunting in a domestic violence shelter. The heroes are all women and they solve their issues without men. I have given consideration to using my wife's name to try and market the novel. Is that horrible?

Scotsman 6/11/2007 04:53:00 AM  

It's probably just coincidence, certainly I'd like to think so. When I pick up a book in a store I don't initially look to see who wrote it, I read the back cover and the reviews on the inside sleave. for me gender never comes into it, its subject matter or genre that will get my attention and its possibly the same thing with Oprah.
Now on another matter entirely, it might well be good for the authors who have their books paraded on the Oprah list but I don't see why so many viewers then go on to read her choice. She might well be an influential woman but her choice doesn't necessarily mean that what was good or bad for her will be the same for her viewers. Its good that people are reading but everyone is an individual and should be able to make their own choices, there are after all a lot of great authors out there, male and female that Oprah will by sheer volume of numbers will miss out on. That's a bigger issue for another topic maybe.

spyscribbler 6/11/2007 10:47:00 AM  

Anissa, I agree with you. It's skewed, and it's weird that it's skewed, coming from her.

Jennifer, that would be nice to know. I remember her pick of the novel with the Walmart Baby (what was that called?). Back then, I read and enjoyed almost all her picks. What happened?

Karen, I haven't kept up in the last few years. I just was surprised at the statistics. Did she pick Lolita, once?

spyscribbler 6/11/2007 10:53:00 AM  

Stewart, if you write from a male point of view, with great sensitivity towards women, you will be REALLY successful. Think of Nicholas Sparks. I also know some male pseudonyms in the erotic world, too (not porn, but erotic romance, where women are around 95% of the readers), and I think women particularly appreciate a male author who shows them respect and understanding.

Think of Nicholas Sparks. He's often labeled as women's fiction.

If you are writing from a woman's POV, then it presents a more difficult problem, because you have to overcome reader bias. Mark Terry wrote just about the best female-written-by-a-man I've ever read. It felt true. So many other male authors don't do their female that true.

And I'll admit a natural skepticism when I pick up a male author who's written from female POV. It can be overcome, but ... it's still there.

(Not that it's a fair bias, though!)

spyscribbler 6/11/2007 11:12:00 AM  

Scotsman, that is a big topic! There are a lot of choices out there, so I like to hear suggestions. But, as you said, I don't blindly follow them. They're just part of the consideration list.

Sparky Duck 6/13/2007 11:32:00 AM  

Did I hear that she was recommending Middlesex this summer? Or was that a rerun. Because, sheesh, I would have to blow the dust off my Middlesex copy to reread it, it aint even close to new.

spyscribbler 6/13/2007 01:57:00 PM  

I wonder. I thought I saw a re-release of that, but maybe it's because she's choosing it? I've never read it. Should I?