How can we bridge the gender gap for female writers? #CauseAChatter

Sometimes we refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room even when it craves for and deserves attention. My perception of the gender gap in the publishing industry qualified as one of them. I’m someone who can forget civilisation and consume multiple books in a day. Bar a precious few, I don’t have favourites and like to explore new authors and writing styles. Does the author’s gender play a part in my selection? Truth be told, now, yes.

However, when the reading bug hit me in college it didn’t occur to me then that I mostly read male authors. Mind you, it wasn’t a conscious choice. Availability, recommendations and price were the major influencing factors in picking up a book. There was no dearth of female writers although their percentage might’ve been lesser. Was I naïve or didn’t care about the obvious? Did others face the same issue as well? Has the gender gap always been so evident? Let’s discuss it focusing on Indian female writers.

How can we bridge the gender gap for female writers__avibrantpalette

Women have always been excellent storytellers (remember Nani’s and Dadi’s stories?). Be it social issues, politics, poems or love stories, women have always penned their hearts out. Where Amrita Pritam wrote a heartbreaking Punjabi poem Ajj aakhaan Waris Shah nu about the partition, Mahadevi Varma’s Hindi works have earned her the position of one of the four main pillars of Chhayawadi era in literature. Many regional female writers like Mahasweta Devi, Mamoni Raisom Goswami, etc have an amazing body of work. How many of us know and have read them? Sadly, not many.

The silver lining though is that of late there has been a steady surge of female writers on the writing circuit. Self-publishing and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) options help in testing waters before approaching publishing houses. Genres like horror, thrillers, crime that once were a male bastion are now being successfully dabbled into by women. A lot is left to be desired on pay gap and visibility but this is indeed a good start.

Readers aren’t swayed by the writer’s gender, they’ve grown up (or they were always mature?)! Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee, Sudha Murty have a loyal fan following while Preeti Shenoy hits the bestsellers list every year. Is this enough though? What can deserving female writers and we do to give them a boost? Can we help bridge the gender gap?

  • Write, don’t appease! – First rule of writing, be honest to you and your pen (or keyboard, whatever). Women often have a sixth sense that tells them what works. Don’t be scared to dive into unknown waters or adopt a different writing style. Own your work by proudly putting your name on it. Also, remember that you’re your first audience and if you like your work, people will follow. Unless you’re commissioned to write something in particular, the stage is yours. Let your imagination take over!
  • Marketing and Social Media‘Jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai’, no kidding! Aggressive marketing has helped turned the fortunes of many books and writers and is here to stay. Hire a team, if possible, and let them handle the job. Festivals, interviews, etc are great ways to put you and your baby out there. Social media helps you connect with readers and get instant feedback. Be gentle, receptive and take criticism with a chill pill. People can be unnecessarily harsh to women sometimes.
  • Collaborate with bloggers/influencers – Book bloggers and reviewers have dedicated followers and that can work favourably for your book. This is a mutually beneficial relationship. Writers get publicity while bloggers/influencers get exclusive copies and commercials (depends) in exchange for an honest review. With social media their reach multiplies. Win-win situation for everyone, isn’t it?
  • Request for reviews – People read and heed reviews. Even a couple of lines can sway a reader’s perception towards a book. Amazon or Goodreads are platforms where books and book discussions are aplenty. It doesn’t hurt to request people to add a review there. Feel free to explore and invest your time in other platforms or book clubs too. As readers, we can do the needful without asking, isn’t it? Interestingly, gender gap has no effect here. What a relief!

The gender gap between male and female writers is slowly fading but there’s still a long way to go. Small steps and measures like these will probably transform into success and bigger opportunities. I’m waiting for the day when a female writer will have multiple books turned into movies a.k.a Chetan Bhagat. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see women write books for a living and rule the bestsellers list? What do you think?

22 thoughts on “How can we bridge the gender gap for female writers? #CauseAChatter

  1. I also feel that the gap is fading and that day is not far when we’ll see those books made into movies! That is an interesting point- even I did a check now and realised I have been reading many male authors for the same reasons.

  2. Varsha, when I interviewed Richa on my podcast, she mentioned one thing that once we accept our gender and then move towards our goal then things are better handled. We should be confident about what they are doing. It is hard for the society to accept women taking the front seat but that okay. Lets do what we have to do. In terms of writing, I agree now female writers are taking up the stage but still the gap needs to be filled. As bloggers, we have the power to support female writers and talk about them.

  3. The gap is definitely fading away and I absolutely want a female writer’s book adapted into a movie! We females shpuld be supporting fellow female bloggers and the scenario can change even faster!

  4. After reading ur blog , even I realised I have read more male writers than females. but as rightly said by you the lines r fading now n we have fantastic female author’s work to chose from.

  5. personally I believe it is all about your passion and quality of work..it has nothing to do with gender. I loved all the tips you have shared. I need to learn social media more wisely. agree, jo dikhta hai, wo hi bikta hai.

  6. I am seeing a positive change buddy and thats highly motivating, I am so glad you picked up this topic. For me I have never faced this bias in the writing industry, have beeb lucky this way

  7. I loved reading this. I love my books and have been a voracious reader since childhood. While earlier it didnt matter whom I was reading, now women authors have become my choise. I’ve read varied female authors work frm all over the globe and simply love their work. Chitra Bannerjie Divakaruni, Sudha Murthy and Preeti Shenoy are hands down, finest Indian female authors and in international names I enjoy reading Elif Shafak, Ayse Kulin and many more

  8. You are right about the gender gap and we need more of women’s voices coming up. I have a string of favorite writers from my childhood – starting with enid blyton. Jk rowling is off course big, but it is telling that even now, she had to make her name sound like a man’s. Other favorites are shashi deshpande and ashapoorna devi.

  9. The gender gap is fading away up to certain extent without any doubt. Still, yes, it will never fully disappear from society unless the woman doesn’t decide to put herself forth. Hoping it becomes true very soon.

  10. The gender gap is fading away up to any extent without any doubt. Still, yes, it will never fully disappear unless from society unless the woman doesn’t decide to put herself forth.

  11. Such an honest post Varsha. In fact till you highlighted even I never paid attention to the choice of writers I had and surprisingly they are all male writers. In have ready many of these wonderful female writers mentioned by you like sudha murty, amritta pritam, chitra ji but most of the book collection include the male authors. I totally agree with the points you have mentioned to help the female writers make their place

  12. I know that i do my part to not look at the gender of the creator, but definitely, this is something which needs more progress, the world over, but especially in this country.
    I liked your suggestions, and agree that they are steps in the right direction.

  13. I think the gap is fading away but it will take time for it to happen completely. Luckily, i have been in publishing industry and I have seen more of female writers being preferred.

  14. No doubt gender gap is fading away with time as I believe everyone should be supported for hard work women or men good topic to read thank you for sharing.

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