Do Women Dominate #SelfPublishing ?

A to Z Stories of Life and Death
My self-publishing experiment

On Daily (w)rite, the majority of bloggers who comment are women.

In any creative writing workshop, women outnumber men by ten to one.

I recently read an article in the Guardian, that says women dominate Self-Publishing:

Alison Baverstock, an associate professor in publishing at Kingston University, Surrey, said her research showed a clear gender split, with 65% of self-publishers being women and 35% men. Nearly two-thirds of all self-publishers are aged 41 to 60, with a further 27% aged over 61. Half are in full-time employment, 32% have a degree and 44% a higher degree.

Baverstock said there was a widespread misunderstanding about who decides to self-publish a book, and how the genre was changing the publishing industry.

The article goes on to talk about how self-publishing is quite a robust alternative to traditional publishing:

“…there were popular subjects that traditional publishers had ignored, including “respectable soft porn” and “gentle memoirs of everyday disasters, such as losing a child”. Most publishers, she said, were being outpaced by a heady mix of democratisation and digital distribution, because they came from a “very limited gene pool … all agree on what they like … they know each other, and are not necessarily in touch with popular taste. Self-publishing is going on in schools, across institutions, spreading knowledge [of how to publish].”

While I agree with self-publishing having had a much huger impact in the last few years, I’m not so sure of women authors outstripping the contribution of men in this area. I’ve tried self-publishing a book of flash fiction, mostly as an experiment in learning how it’s done. Being less interested in publication and even lesser in making money out of it (both are unarguably good things, just not things I’m terribly interested in so far), I’ve mostly gone the traditional route. I’m trying to learn how to write, and despite the small published portfolio of short fiction I have gathered, I think I have a very very, long way to go.

I’m interested, however, in how the publishing world is shaping up: as a reader, I want to stay in touch with who’s publishing the books I read, and why. So here are a few questions, if you have a minute:

What has been your experience? Have you read more indie books by women than men? If you self-publish, would you drop a comment here, so we can have some real, first-hand accounts? Why do you self-publish? Have you tried the traditional route?

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !


Add Yours
  1. bahelberg1

    I’m a bit of a closeted self-publisher — several finished novelettes and novels in the closet — but I find blogs at WordPress open my self-publishing world more to an immediate readership. And finding other authors, photographers, and poets, here, in this community is a real reward!

  2. notreallyanenglishteacher

    I am a self-publishing woman. That doesn’t prove anything, but I am. I did read a statistic when I was younger that men were much more likely than women to purchase books of any kind and music of any kind, and recently, I read an article that that trend had flipped, with women being far more likely to purchase books and music. Not sure why the change, nor where I read the article.

  3. writingsprint

    What has been your experience? I’m reading one self-published novel and have read several books by small presses, which I also consider a kind of self-publishing.

    Have you read more indie books by women than men? Now that you mention it, yes. I wonder why! My fiction workshops in college and my writers group have been about 50/50 women and men.

    Why do you self-publish? Have you tried the traditional route? I tried the traditional route when I was in my 20s (25 years ago) and was thoroughly turned off by it. Getting published is like getting a job. Throwing your paper in and hoping for the best won’t get you anywhere. You need to either know someone who can pull you out of the crowd, or have already proven that you can do it. What better way to prove that you can write a novel that people love than by doing just that?

    The way I look at it, every person who reads my book — even if I’m giving away freebies — is one more than read it yesterday, and that’s a lot more than some people ever have.

  4. pigeonweather

    I’d guess it breaks down by genre pretty much the same as trad pub does, sf and horror more men, romance more women, mystery and general fiction more even, just a guess though. In time there won’t be much difference between self and non-self publishing I imagine. To me it’s all about putting it out there. Stories want to be written and then they want to be read. They’re so demanding!

  5. asarpota

    Quite frankly, have never kept a track of the authors or publishers I read. I go for a book many a time on a whim, and at that point of time, never really look.. I guess, my library would be a mix of both, the only one section where the women outnumber the men is the cooking section. Possible that men are more prominent, despite women authors being more, probably the question would be, how many women are promoting themselves… I could be wrong, but then, could be right 🙂

  6. Yearful of Sundays

    I think the self-publishing market in India is fairly new and not that evolved yet. I’ve heard of only a few writers so far who self-published their books and they were all men. But then, I’m not really updated with the literary or publishing circles, so I could be really off there.

  7. cindamackinnon

    My observation is that men have a slight advantage in being accepted by agents and publishers (does this hail back to the days when women had to take a male nom de plume to get their foot in the door?) However Andrew makes a good point, that women produce most of the romance, young adult and kid’s books.
    I self published A Place in the World – I think it straddles general fiction and literary genres – after a year of rejections. Now it that it won several awards I was approached by an agent, but I don’t think I want to go that route. My editor thinks I’m crazy, but why should I split the profits after I’ve done all the hard work without any help? And truth to tell, I’m not in the least eager for a second round of speaking engagements and self-promoting – I’d like to just concentrate on my writing.
    PS In spite of the awards I don’t think I’ve yet broken even!

    • Damyanti

      Cinda congratulations on the awards! And if you’d like to share your publishing experience with this blog’s readers (I know I’ve interviewed you before)– please feel welcome to do a guest post any time you like. Something like a very short guide for those who want to step into self-publishing would be awesome 🙂

      • cindamackinnon

        I’ve been thinking about writing such a post for my own blog. But a guest post is a possibility. I’ll think about it (when I’m less busy with work!). Thanks for the invitation.

  8. hilarycustancegreen

    Hello, I had one novel published by a tiny independent, several years ago. Since then I created Threadgold Press and have self-published two novels (including the one just launched but officially out this December 5th). I personally know five women and two men who have self-published. I find it hard work and I would rather be a writer than a publisher, but I can’t hang around for years waiting for agents and publishers to respond. I have tried that route and had several bites, but never got taken on. I’m female, over 61 and have a higher degree and I write mainstream contemporary fiction. There is nothing more gratifying to a writer than a happy reader, if I didn’t self-publish I would never have that satisfaction.

  9. Nadine Tomlinson

    I started reading Indie books recently. They were mostly by women, with one male co-author. Moving beyond reading traditionally-published books has sparked my interest in the works of talented Indie-published writers.

    My goal is to become a hybrid author, because I want to experience both sides of the publishing world.

  10. Sean McCann

    I see no reason to question Alison Baverstock’s research-based assertions, though I suspect she was looking at it solely from a UK perspective?

    Assuming she is correct, I would ask what does it matter? If self-publishing is the great liberator, with almost no barriers to getting your stuff out there, then I would draw no more interesting a conclusion from Alison’s research than women publish twice as much stuff as men do, because (nowadays thanks to the likes of KDP) they just can. That’s it.

    It makes a refreshing change from the rather irritating arguments about whether traditional publishing is unfair to women, an example of which I read on someone else’s (rather fundamentalist feminist) blog. Having approached traditional publishers and literary agents in the recent past, I would confidently assert that at least 50% of people working in UK publishing (at decision-making or influential level) and at least 50% of UK literary agents are women. Quite how male authors get their books ‘unfairly’ published then is beyond my comprehension.

    Fortunately self-publishing appears, at least so far, to be free from that sort of tedious confrontational stuff, and I have seen nothing but encouragement both ways across the gender divide (in fact, what gender divide?). Long may it continue. We’re all authors. Doesn’t matter if we’ve got upstairs dangly bits or downstairs ones. We publish our work and it sinks or swims, because it’s been well-written, well-marketed, well-designed, or it hasn’t been.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to writing my ‘100 crap female self-publishers of 2014’…

    • Damyanti

      Well said. I do find the self-pub community remarkably friendly and mutually supportive so far. I think the way for the future lies in marketing collaborations between authors.

  11. cjparsons

    I went the self published route and the main key, I think, is marketing. If you don’t know how to market, you won’t get very far in the self-publishing route. However, I tried the traditional route for 20 plus years (I pre-date the computer age) without any luck (and I have my degree in journalism/English). Narrow niche market, woman writer, too religious/too secular: take your pick. Self-publishing gets my novels out there and if I pick up one or two new readers a year, I’m happy. I write what I like to read,and occasionally I find some fellow readers. Self-publishing is not for everybody, but I like it.

  12. ccyager

    Hi, Damyanti!

    I self-published my novel “Perceval’s Secret” last spring. The production part was nerve-wracking but I also learned a lot to use in the future. Post-publication has also been educational, especially since I do not have 1) a lot of money for marketing/promo and it’s all gone now, and 2) I’m a relative unknown and despite having 2 blogs and a readership there, I’ve not been able to connect them to the novel despite promoting the book on both blogs. As for women out-numbering men in self-publishing, I have no idea. Right now, to be frank, I don’t care. If someone has written a really good story, the writing is good, he or she has taken the time and spent the money for a professional editing, that’s all that interests me! (smile)


    • Damyanti

      Cinda, like I said to Hilary and my other friend Cinda, feel free to write about your books on my blog– I find that those who have done guest posts on my blogs tend to have more views and downloads on their books. 🙂

  13. Jinzo_2400

    Good topic….I am wary of investing in self-published works because I don’t always trust the quality of the writer,be it male or female. I do admire the drive and work it must take to actually publish but as a consumer,I want two things,a good story in a fresh genre and the option of buying a real paper book.

  14. macjam47

    Since I read a lot of romance novels, I would say that at least in that genre most of the self-publishers are women. In sci-fi and paranormal, I think it’s probably even.

  15. Arlee Bird

    Regarding more women attending writing workshops as well other interactive writing events and there seeming to be more female writer/bloggers, I think in these circumstances women tend to have a more social nature and a desire for support and feedback from others. A lot of men like the idea of being a lone ranger, self-sufficient and less inclined to show vulnerability. The social activity of men seems to be primarily geared toward interactions that might help them have greater career mobility or rowdy bonding activities often related to sports.

    I don’t know how this relates to self-publishing, but I’m sure there are some logical connections.

    Wrote By Rote

    • Damyanti

      I think you have something there, Lee, though, like you, I’m not sure how it relates to publishing, trad or otherwise. I’m glad this post has generated a fair bit of conversation, and I’m learning a lot from others’ experiences.

  16. ARRivera

    Self publishing was not something I ever considered until recently. I am currently published through an independent publisher, but they’ve recently informed me that they’ll be shut down completely by the end of this year. So I just re-published/self-published my first novel with a new cover.
    In all honesty, having been deemed ‘good enough’ by a publishing company was a point of pride with me. I’m on the fence as to whether or not I should forge ahead and self pub the rest of my books, or if I should seek out traditional publication. Seeing as my work doesn’t fit into any one genre,

    • ARRivera

      (oops. Accidentally hit send)…
      As I was saying, since my work doesn’t usually conform to traditional publishers definition of romance, suspense, YA, etc., I am leaning towards self publication.

    • Damyanti

      I think it depends on individual circumstances. Personally, for me, I have no problems waiting a few years to have my book published, and have no problems if I never publish a book. If I try to self-publish, my marketing will lack motivation– I did try a self-publishing experiment, and some very kind blog friends supported me– but the very thought of another one gives me the shivers. I’d much rather be working on my WIP or my stories.

      If I publish traditionally, I know that the publishing house may not have enough of a marketing budget for me, and my own marketing efforts might still lack motivation because of my intertia.

      So, I’ve been writing stories, sending them out, mechanically, and have gathered publishing credits. I’ll try the trad publishing route– and will take things from there. I’m not opposed to self-publishing later, just that it is not something I’m interested in right now.

      I guess each of us, as authors, must study the current publishing scenario, weigh our options and goals, and go for one or the other route, or both. These are exciting times we live in 🙂

  17. Will

    Great article and a worthy topic. I only scanned the comments and don’t know if it’s been mentioned, but you probably should try to touch on the question of PEN-NAMES in here! I know that some men use a female pen-name for romance books, etc. On balance I have substantially more females than males in my acquaintance of the indie-pub industry, probably about in line with the article you quoted.

    • Damyanti

      Pen Names. Absolutely– that confuses matters a lot– because a lot of women write as men, and men as women–depending on the genre.

  18. Nadine C. Keels

    As both a traditionally and self-published author, the work has been pretty much the same for both for me, only I have much more control over my self-published titles as well as wider readership for them. Higher royalties with my self-published titles too, even though readership is what’s most important to me. At this point, the only reason I’d go the traditional route again would be if it looked like a real opportunity to reach more readers than I can on my own. (Even though self-publishing isn’t really “on my own,” since collaborating with other people, especially for marketing, is a great help.)

    I’m still fairly new to reading indie titles, but I think my lean toward reading more indie books by women than men is due to the kind of books I read, at least where fiction is concerned. Girly books, if you will. I also read more traditionally published books by women than men, so I’m always thrilled when I find and enjoy new (or new-to-me) male authors.

    • Damyanti

      Thank you for your unique perspective. I think the publishing world is changing at a very fast pace, and that we, as authors, need to be aware of what’s happening around us, more than ever. My blog is my poor attempt at raising my pitifully low knowledge of the publishing world as it is today.

  19. Peter Nena

    I’ve actually thought that there are more women indie-publishers than men. A scan through Amazon and across the blogosphere proves self-publishing is dominated by women. Indeed, I have never read a YA novel by a male author. Yet I have read many.

    • Damyanti

      Peter, ireespective of who published them, I think women dominate romance and YA, where as men do more of thriller, scifi and crime. Just my two cents though. And we never know who’s writing with a pseudonym of a different gender.

  20. Laxmi

    Hi Damyanti – I don’t think it’s about being a man or a woman; more about a mindset which drives people to go Indie. If you are creative, entrepreneurial and believe your product is good enough to withstand intense reader scrutiny then you chose this route. If your writing is multi-genre, so it can’t be classified easily; if you are ready to put your money where your words are; and ultimately you are ready to treat yourself as an authorpreneur then you go Indie. Filmmakers have been doing it for decades. So it feels natural for authors to play in this space too.

    • Damyanti

      Laxmi– you make a lot of sense. I don’t think I’m ready to be an authorpreneur just yet. Some day, maybe. I always remain open to possibilities.

  21. ChristineR

    Interesting question. When I finish writing and editing my first novel, I fully intend to self-publish. But I know part of me will want to test the traditional route first, though.

  22. dawngena

    I like go to the self-publishing conferences. While there, I noticed at the large conferences the women usually outnumber the men at least 10 to 1. I got into conversations with some of the gentlemen and a few told the same story. For them self-publishing seemed to be a last resort. They tried the traditional publisher and were not accepted for one reason or another so they struck out on their own. I think a lot of women start off with self publishing for the control over their work and the money. Then is their book is popular enough they might search for a traditional publisher.

  23. amberwolves

    Personally, I chose the self-publishing route for several reasons. I did try the traditional way for half a year, but soon realized I’m far too impatient for it. I just couldn’t justify wasting my time on all those query letters when they always came back with the inevitable rejections. In general (if you have enough money), self-publishing is a good way to go. You keep the rights to your work and you get to have a lot more freedom with the layout and cover design. That was important to me because I really wanted to do my own cover. Also, the editors don’t slash up all your hard work and make you want to rip your hair out.

    That being said, I haven’t completely finished with the process yet, so I guess I can’t conclusively say it’s better than the traditional way (especially since I’ve never done it the traditional way, only heard what others have said). So far though, it’s been a lot of fun and I would do it again. Probably will!

  24. Topaz

    It’s an interesting thing to think about – and so is probably the more pressing question, which is, if there’s such a pronounced gender divide, then why? I’m thinking perhaps men prefer to go the traditional route rather than sticking to self-publishing – perhaps they’re not willing to take such a big risk, or they’re under the impression that self-publishing is “inferior” (not true, of course, but it’s a thought). Perhaps I’ll ask around – this isn’t something I’ve considered a lot, but I’m interested in seeing men’s motivation to self-publish/trad publish/not publish at all.

  25. Jacqui Murray

    Maybe women self-pub more because men are more likely to be traditionally published. Off the top of my head, I have a longer list of men who are famous authors than women.

  26. Audrey Driscoll

    I’ve read equal numbers of male and female indie authors, but I agree about the age range. It seems that when the “baby boomers” hit a certain age, many of them got the urge to write. Given their tendency to change things throughout their lives, it’s no surprise that self-publishing blossomed once everyone got fed up with rejections by the poor, overwhelmed trad publishers. It’s still not clear how things will play out, but in the meantime, those who have something to say can get it out there, and the number and variety of written works has increased exponentially. Messy, perhaps, but exciting for both writers and readers.I followed this route to publishing my four novels and have no regrets. If I had stayed with the submit-and-wait option, I would still be waiting.

    • Damyanti

      Audrey– how has the experience of self-publishing been for you? Are you satisfied with the books you’ve produced, the readers you have gathered, and the money you’ve made? Is there anything else you can think of which should be a criterion before choosing either route?

  27. shail

    //Being less interested in publication and even lesser in making money out of it (both are unarguably good things, just not things I’m terribly interested in so far//
    Speaks for me too. I went for self-publishing my collection of verse. I will choose the same option for my short story collection. Much easier, no hassles and am definitely not looking for anything more than some expression of creativity appreciated by a few. And for all that, I love this thing called self-publication. 🙂

    • Damyanti

      Thanks for answering, Shail, and congratulations! Did you get your collection edited, or do you think you’ll hire an editor for your short stories?

      • shail

        I did my own editing for the verse, had a friend give it a once over. I haven’t decided about the short-stories. I should have mentioned that it is still a project in the making. 🙂

  28. ashokbhatia

    Perhaps it is the male ego and a heightened sense of fear of failure which makes it difficult for members of the so-called sterner sex to hop on to the self-publishing bandwagon?!

    • Damyanti

      Yes, both these genre do have a good share of authors from both genders. Do you have more respect for the trad published than the indies?

      • David J Delaney

        18 months ago I would never have bought an indie book but now it’s the majority of what I buy. A good story is a good story once it’s edited and polished professionally

  29. Ian Andrew

    I can’t comment on the man v woman divide. I am male and my book is out independently through Amazon. I self published through them for a few simple reasons. I wanted to see my book available … Now! I knew about Agatha Christie and her 500 rejection letters and never for one moment thought I was close to being as good as her, so there was an extremely high probability I would spend the next 5 years going cap in hand to publishers and agents. Why, given the technology available, should others decide on whether my creation saw the light of day or not? So I went with KDP and Createspace. It has been relatively easy to achieve and I would recommend it to all. I do not claim to be the next H G Wells or Robert Harris, but I am sure many great writers missed being discovered in the past due to the closed shop of established authors.

      • Ian Andrew

        Hi, I used multiple friends to proof read and self edited over a long period. I think I could have benefitted from a professional, detached editor but simply could not afford it. Initial feedback has been varied. Some love it, some think it could be tighter. Guess that is proof that it was almost all there or thereabouts. Cover design definitely needed a professional. I gave the opportunity to a graduate student of graphic design and was delighted with his efforts. Again, cost dictated that approach.

  30. eejaygee

    Certainly food for thought here. I tend to agree with Andrew about the predominance f women in certain genres and men in others. My contacts since I began my writing journey are fairly evenly divided.

    • Damyanti

      Yes, women do write and read more romance than men. I’m not sure about the gender divide in the number of authors I know (of), but I know that I do have more women blog-friends, if that means anything at all.

  31. MishaBurnett

    I’m my personal experience I have encountered many more female authors than males. Also, the authors from whom I have heard a refusal to consider self-publishing have been nearly exclusively men.

  32. Marc Kuhn

    I am male self-published author…hear me meow. I have self-published five books in five years. One children’s book won first place in an international competition, got a gold sticker on the front cover and sold “0” books in the following year; an adult romance mystery, in the just-released results of Writer’s Digest Self-Pub Awards, got the highest scores (5) in all categories but one (the judge did not like the middle-aged lady’s bare butt on the cover so she gave it a 4) but same judge gave me an incredibly great review. I have publicized the review everywhere this past week and not one book sold as a result. I gave up on trying to get an agent or a publisher five years ago. I am too late in life to fret over their routine rejection notes so I just keep writing and publishing myself. I sell hardly anything, but I enjoy writing and I am proud of my work. I treat myself to ice cream…Roar! Does gender really matter?

  33. evelyneholingue

    I prefer saying independently published to self-published because ‘self’ implies that one person took care of every aspect of the book. The quality is not great in that case. I have independently published two books, hiring an editor (for both) and a cover designer for the second one. I am pleased with the product I got. The marketing and promotion work is daunting but not much different for an author pursuing a traditional route. To answer your first question, I have read more books ndependently published by women but the reason is because I buy their books since I support them through their blogs. It doesn’t mean that more women pursue this route.

    • Damyanti

      Evelyn, has it been worth it for you, going the indie route? How does your experience compare with any friends you might have, who are traditionally pubbed?

  34. R. J. Nello

    I self-publish because I wanted to try my hand at writing historical fiction/ romance that’s also vaguely autobiographical (which has shocked everyone I know who knows what I’ve written). I went that route because they are my “paintings.” I’m not in this for “money”. I simply want to craft and tell my stories my way, and to “immortalize” them in some little corner of our universe.

    I’ve been urged to try the traditional route, but I like having start to finish “control.” As you also know, my uncle is also a HarperCollins published author. Amusingly, he also thinks I should write – but does not know I already have under my pen name. That’s even funnier in that my tales include a fictionalized version of himself, which he’d spot in about 30 seconds upon seeing the character. One of my motivations has been a personal belief I’ve long held that if he can write, I should give it a go too.

    I can’t comment too broadly on other writers. My own advice to anyone else is: you self-publish for love of what you write. If you make money eventually, all the better. But don’t write expecting to make money. 🙂

  35. hawaygeordie

    I certainly notice that there are more women writing and self-publishing and maybe it’s because this route is relatively pain free of editors, publishers and fees. That’s why I self publish. If it was going to cost me perhaps thousands of dollars to get my book out there by conventional means, I would probably never finish a novel or have it published.
    I have read many Indie books by women and I can’t say that I notice until after I have read the book to see who the author is. If I get to the end of a book, I have invariably enjoyed it!

  36. Andrew

    It’s not just self-publishing. There are more women authors than men. Sure, men dominate certain fields (sci-fi, literaray, non-fiction), but the largest genre (by readership) is romance, and romance is virtually all women. Women also dominate YA and children’s books.
    I think the more accurate question is not whether more women are self-publishing but what the difference is in genders in publishing in general.