The wonderful rise of women writers was the subject of a recent talk given by Better Reading’s Cheryl Akle at the Brisbane Square Library. It’s been the big story in publishing circles this year and a hot point of discussion by both book-lovers and book sellers.
Akle’s interviews with a wide range of authors, along with over 30 years spent working in the book industry, inform her exploration of this trend at a moment in time when gender equality has become another raging topic of conversation.
A major theme of the talk was readers – yes, we are looking at you – and the impact that you have had on this exciting development. For those who missed it, here’s a recap:
The rise and rise of female writers, and the readers who support them:
The bestseller lists were once traditionally dominated by overseas fiction, much of it penned by high profile male authors. The review pages of the Australian newspapers, too, were once the domain of literary heavyweights – the majority of them, men.
But lately we’ve noticed an exciting phenomenon that we’re hoping is no passing fad. Women writers, many of them Australian and many of them debut authors, are enjoying huge book sales.
We’re seeing more female writers dominating the bestseller top ten list, more successful female debuts, and more diverse female content and characters.
“We’ve seen a new trend emerging in the Australian Fiction BookScan bestseller lists – Australian women are making their presence felt at the top of the charts,” says Julie Winters of Nielsen Book Australia.
Why are we seeing this trend now?
Literature is a reflection of the times – and now is a time of social upheaval, of changing tides, of women taking a stand against institutional inequality and sexism, of women making their voices heard.
“So many current conversations are about inequality, gender politics, feminism and the #MeToo movement. It’s inevitable that this is reflected in what we’re reading,” says Catherine Milne, publisher at HarperCollins.
Significantly, readers have played an important role in the growth of this exciting new trend.
The impact of readers:
By increasingly choosing to read, borrow, buy, and support the works of female authors, readers have created a new market trend that favours debut, female writers, many of them Australian.
“Readers everywhere certainly seem to be seeking out and eagerly embracing stories of strong women, women with agency, women navigating dangerous worlds, women finding their own way,” adds Milne.
Readers hold a lot of power in the book industry – after all, a book is only as successful as its readership deems it to be. It’s no surprise then that new book trends come about when readers experience a shift in reading taste.
Avid readers are judging books more on the merit of their story and writing, as opposed to the writer’s reputation or national profile. Whilst writers are boldly branching out and trying new things, readers are taking risks as well by experimenting with new genres and forms that they previously would never have read. In particular, readers are looking for new voices, especially new women’s voices – and this is why we are seeing such debut success.
“This phenomenon is due to the amazing readers who are supporting and demanding stories that are unapologetically about women…. They deserve a round of applause!” – Lauren Chater, author of The Lace Weaver.