The Space Shrinketh

Sisters in Crime, a writers organization interested in parity for female writers, has for many years run a monitoring project in which it tallied the space devoted to reviews in major publications—and whether the books selected were written by men or women.

The group’s figures for last year—not yet complete—show a serious decline in the total number of reviews as well as a serious tilt toward male authors.

It made me look at my own numbers. When I started reviewing, one of my stated goals was to review more books by women; another was to focus on local authors.
It turns out that in 2010 I reviewed 51 books, 33 by female authors, 17 by male, and one by a mother-son combo.

But what makes the tally confusing is that sometimes my reviews are used by other papers in the company, and not necessarily whole columns. Perhaps they just have room for one or two books, or perhaps an editor thinks the subject matter would be of interest to readers. I know this has happened when I see the publicity material for a later book that quotes me and attributes it to one of the other papers in the chain.

What’s not unclear is the shrinking news hole. Some publications have dropped reviews; others have allocated them less space. In my own case, I have the unlovely choice of writing shorter pieces or covering fewer books.

That’s as big a problem as achieving gender parity, and I have no idea how to solve it.

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