Agents

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Steve C

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I read an article yesterday on how women dominated the world of publishing in the USA so did a little research on agents. I selected a few pages from querytracker.com and checked the names of agents in both the UK and USA. It produced a quite amazing figure. Over 80% of agents are women!. Given that women are more likely to like women's writing I wonder if us blokes have much chance of finding an agent. It seems this is one area of life where women are not discriminated against and good luck to them but it may be just one more reason to consider the self-publishing route. Either that or write Romance under a pseudonym.
 
Yes, the publishing industry is overwelmingly female and white and this has been the case for a good few decades.

But your supposition that women are therefore not discriminated against in the industry, or that men have fewer opportunities doesn't seem to be born out by the figures.

Mind the Gender Gap: Inequality in the Publishing Industry - Ooligan Press
Books by women priced 45% lower, study finds

Men in the industry still, on average, get paid higher and if you look at lists of bestselling authors, the gender bias is close to 50/50, with the number of men often slightly higher.

The Gender Balance of The New York Times Best Seller List

Also, there are suggestions that agents in general are more likely to take an interest in a book if it's been written by a male author. Catherine Nichols did an experiment in which she submitted the same manuscript to agents under her own name and under a male pseudonym and got significantly more responses when she pretended to be male. This was about five years ago, but I doubt if much has changed since.
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/06/catherine-nichols-female-author-male-pseudonym
Sexism in publishing: 'My novel wasn’t the problem, it was me, Catherine'

You make a serious point about people generally reading more authors of the same gender as themselves, but we're talking about readers rather than agents. And it seems female readers are generally more willing to read books written by a man than vice versa. I think your main problem here is that surveys show women in general are more inclined to read books than men. And they are also more likely to read fiction.

There certainly seems to be a gender bias in certain genres: romance, for example, as you say. And the non-fiction sector is massively dominated by male authors. https://helloflo.com/lacy/ Maybe it's time to resurrect your memoir idea, Steve?!
 
I think agents only look at the sales potential of the MS (as well as the author's longevity and professionalism), not the gender. Agents want to make money, and the MS is either a money maker for them or not. I can't imagine an agent receiving an MS and discarding it on the basis it was written by a guy. They're not going to pass on something that could pay their mortgage. This gender thing might simply be because more women write, hence more will be published. But I don't know.
 
I think agents only look at the sales potential of the MS (as well as the author's longevity and professionalism), not the gender. Agents want to make money, and the MS is either a money maker for them or not. I can't imagine an agent receiving an MS and discarding it on the basis it was written by a guy. They're not going to pass on something that could pay their mortgage. This gender thing might simply be because more women write, hence more will be published. But I don't know.
Of course, you are right but agents will need to identify with the work first in order to see its potential. In researching agents to query I have noticed that female agents rarely have male authors in their lists. Seems a similar 80/20 split. It is natural and normal for it to be like that. Not sure, but I suspect men tend to leave university and look for money jobs whereas women tend to follow their instincts more and are prepared to take low paid jobs or internships to get experience doing something they like. Who knows?
 
Female agents ought not discriminate against male writers of romance. And maybe they don't. I tend to find the agents most likely to be interested in my thing, which is not romance, are male, based on their stated wish lists. It's under consideration again with a male agent who saw it before and suggested the story didn't start in the right place, but said he really, really liked the voice.

What may work against me as a female writer, is exactly that. The voice. I have written this novel first person from the POV of a male police officer.
I originally wrote the whole thing third person, but turning it first person was so freeing. This agent says it is a brave thing to do. Which could translate as 'mistake.' Risky.

My bad? Gender appropriation? It could backfire, though I could easily turn it third person again.

Michelle Paver does it. @AgentPete's client. Writes first person male. Humanity first. I know men, why can't I write male, and vice versa. I am so sick of identity politics I could puke. It's toxic, turning evil actually.

The muse should be all that counts. And for the agent, the market. It works or it doesn't, it's the agent's cup of tea and they know how to flog it, or it isn't and they don't. I'd just focus on the individual agent Steve, what they say, how they say it, see if you detect a possible fit on that basis. If they're not prejudiced, you shouldn't need a pseudonym. If they are, well, you'd need to reveal your identity at some point should they take it.

For the writer, we can only worry about the writing. That's plenty to be worrying about, and if we can get that right, and it's damn hard, sooner or later, it should find the light of day.
 
Female agents ought not discriminate against male writers of romance. And maybe they don't. I tend to find the agents most likely to be interested in my thing, which is not romance, are male, based on their stated wish lists. It's under consideration again with a male agent who saw it before and suggested the story didn't start in the right place, but said he really, really liked the voice.

What may work against me as a female writer, is exactly that. The voice. I have written this novel first person from the POV of a male police officer.
I originally wrote the whole thing third person, but turning it first person was so freeing. This agent says it is a brave thing to do. Which could translate as 'mistake.' Risky.

My bad? Gender appropriation? It could backfire, though I could easily turn it third person again.

Michelle Paver does it. @AgentPete's client. Writes first person male. Humanity first. I know men, why can't I write male, and vice versa. I am so sick of identity politics I could puke. It's toxic, turning evil actually.

The muse should be all that counts. And for the agent, the market. It works or it doesn't, it's the agent's cup of tea and they know how to flog it, or it isn't and they don't. I'd just focus on the individual agent Steve, what they say, how they say it, see if you detect a possible fit on that basis. If they're not prejudiced, you shouldn't need a pseudonym. If they are, well, you'd need to reveal your identity at some point should they take it.

For the writer, we can only worry about the writing. That's plenty to be worrying about, and if we can get that right, and it's damn hard, sooner or later, it should find the light of day.

As usual Katie, you get to the heart of the issue. I don't for one minute think female agents discriminate against male writers but male stuff is probably not for them in many cases. Males and females are different and thank God for that, so like different things. I wrote a scene with two women sitting down talking about abortion and a beta reader pointed out that just because I'd based my characters on two women I'd known and talked a lot with didn't mean I had any idea how they talked when I wasn't there. You taking on the POV of a male police officer is indeed brave. Good for you and Good Luck :) JK Rowling used a male pseudonym when she wrote her crime fiction I think. As I understand it her first attempt sold little until it was revealed she was the true author then it sky rocketed.
 
Thank you, Steve. I remember reading that scene. It was writing in development but showed promise and I had no issue with its gender credibility. Men who know the human heart, and know women can write a scene like that. Of course they can. The writing itself is the first, the last and only thing. A writer who puts issue ahead of story is not a true servant of the Muse.

I read male and female authors. I possibly tend to go least for whodunnits and romance. Re-reading James Baldwin, Go Tell It On The Mountain, how he was frisked on the street by white policemen, and he was only a child but they left him lying on his back on the pavement. So yes, he has a message all right, but still, he is an artist before he is a polemicist. Definitely driven by the Muse.

Interesting, re Galbraith- didn't know that re the sales. I think I'd have been a bit disappointed about that in JK's shoes. Writers won't necessarily welcome getting typecast, I suppose, but fame is a tyrant and will exact its price.
 
I can't remember where the stats was, but I remember reading in a few writing resources that more males seek further agents/publishers after rejection than females which may be one reason why the % publication rate for male authors is higher outwith the women's fiction/romance genres which are predominantly female authors (or males with female pseodonyms?).
 
Female agents ought not discriminate against male writers of romance. And maybe they don't. I tend to find the agents most likely to be interested in my thing, which is not romance, are male, based on their stated wish lists. It's under consideration again with a male agent who saw it before and suggested the story didn't start in the right place, but said he really, really liked the voice.

What may work against me as a female writer, is exactly that. The voice. I have written this novel first person from the POV of a male police officer.
I originally wrote the whole thing third person, but turning it first person was so freeing. This agent says it is a brave thing to do. Which could translate as 'mistake.' Risky.

My bad? Gender appropriation? It could backfire, though I could easily turn it third person again.

Michelle Paver does it. @AgentPete's client. Writes first person male. Humanity first. I know men, why can't I write male, and vice versa. I am so sick of identity politics I could puke. It's toxic, turning evil actually.

The muse should be all that counts. And for the agent, the market. It works or it doesn't, it's the agent's cup of tea and they know how to flog it, or it isn't and they don't. I'd just focus on the individual agent Steve, what they say, how they say it, see if you detect a possible fit on that basis. If they're not prejudiced, you shouldn't need a pseudonym. If they are, well, you'd need to reveal your identity at some point should they take it.

For the writer, we can only worry about the writing. That's plenty to be worrying about, and if we can get that right, and it's damn hard, sooner or later, it should find the light of day.
If it's any consolation, K-E my two books for my deal are both written male first person, and no one has complained so far.
 
The voice is believable or it isn't. And that was such brilliant news, your 2 book deal, Leonora :)

Leonora subbed on Pop-Ups, folk who weren't here back then, and later went on to sign a 2 book deal...historical fiction! Guess who will be buying when it comes out. And I want a signed copy, Leonora.
 
The voice is believable or it isn't. And that was such brilliant news, your 2 book deal, Leonora :)

Leonora subbed on Pop-Ups, folk who weren't here back then, and later went on to sign a 2 book deal...historical fiction! Guess who will be buying when it comes out. And I want a signed copy, Leonora.
It's been a bit weird as traditional publishing works to such long schedules (husband says it's a bit like shipbuilding!) But as of next week I think it finally starts the long haul to production, starting with edits. It'll be another 13 months, K-E but I'll start practising my signature!
 
my signature
As long as it's not your legal signature -- the author signing their name to a book should consider how they're going to make that signing different to their normal signature.
Sorry, but I've seen discussions about this, and it's worth considering early in the piece.
 
I agree with your points about authentic voice, @Katie-Ellen Hazeldine.

I've read novels by male authors writing from the POV of female characters and found them entirely believable. Likewise, female authors writing from the POV of a male character...LOTS of examples of that. I'm not a chap, so can't comment on the authenticity of those, but my husband reads much of the same material as me and in our (numerous) discussions of what we've read, he's never complained about the characterisation from a gender point of view (just checked with him, and he couldn't think of an example from his own reading of a female author writing from a male POV that didn't gel as authentically masculine).

One of my own characters is a nine-year-old mixed race boy and a few chapters are written from his POV. I am not male, a child or mixed race, but can I still create this character and make him feel authentic? I guess my success (or otherwise) at doing so isn't for me to judge. But this particular character tends to rate as the favourite by the children who read the book - male and female - so I guess that says something...

The Mslexia magazine had an interesting article about the "Own Voices" movement a few issues back. It certainly made me think.
 
Harper Inspire rejected a MS from me a couple of years back, a very kind message saying they were impressed, sufficiently that they discussed the MS at a board meeting, but were worried that I had channelled a mixed race voice, written first person, and were therefore going to have to pass on it.

This was not an issue driven story. The MC happened to have a (deceased) maternal grandad from Trinidad who had come here after the war, having served in the RAF. And he was curious about this grandad, who had married a white girl from Wales, and thought about him sometimes.

For all they knew, maybe I have a mixed race background. But they didn't ask. They assumed. Or I would have brandished those credentials, wouldn't I? :)

Ben Aaronovitch has written a series, Rivers of London. The MC's mother happens to be Afro-Caribbean, and the character is written first person.

Interesting one, isn't it?
 
As long as it's not your legal signature -- the author signing their name to a book should consider how they're going to make that signing different to their normal signature.
Sorry, but I've seen discussions about this, and it's worth considering early in the piece.
Yes, I read this recently. Good catch.
 
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