Are People Tired of Books About Women?
- Friday 21st February 2020
In recent years there has been a significant rise in empowering and uplifting non-fiction, and fiction, written for, about and by women. Spurred by the #MeToo movement and current events, this wave has seen an increase in titles across adult’s and children’s literature that aim to raise the profile of narratives about underrepresented women, from The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont to Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo’s Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.
But is the market for these titles decreasing?
When we enquired whether bookshops would like to restock copies of Lily Dyu’s children’s non-fiction narrative Fantastic Female Adventurers and our collective poetry anthology Waymaking, feedback from retailers has reflected negatively on the rising popularity of female-centric books, their comments implying that the market’s saturation of books about women is a genre in itself – a passing trend – rather than a permanent adjustment towards a more diverse market.
We understand it’s not possible for retailers to stock every book, we just hope that there isn’t a waning interest in titles about inspirational women because these books shouldn’t be considered a separate category but worthy of fitting into existing shelf space.
Waymaking and Fantastic Female Adventurers both do well in the trade, ranking among our top ten titles each month, which tells us that the appetite from consumers is very much there. Statistics have indicated a general rise in the sale of non-fiction above fiction, not only in the UK book market but also in the US. An article from The Bookseller in 2019 suggested that during 2018, non-fiction and reference titles were particularly popular, with sales increasing by 1% after an already consistent rise throughout the previous years.
Perhaps retailers focus on the bigger titles published by the larger houses as a way of coping with the influx of books about inspirational women. However when titles have proven that they are capable of success – Fantastic Female Adventurers has an Amazon rank of #10 in Biographies of Travellers and Explorers for Young Adults – it seems odd that books like these might not be judged on their own merit but rather as part of a saturated genre. It could be argued that in the case of Waymaking, poetry anthologies are a niche category and therefore less likely to do well, however statistics also indicate that poetry sales are on the rise; Nielsen BookScan indicated that they grew by just over 12% in 2018.
Moreover, in 2018 the children’s and YA non-fiction market grew by 8% in volume and 10% in value, implying that non-fiction titles are in high demand. A Publisher’s Weekly article from 2019 observes that in this growing market, popular topics ‘include books about girl power’, supporting the appearance that the market for these titles, which have performed well in the trade, is in fact strong. This is also demonstrated by the success of the Fantastically Great Women series, which was noted by BookBrunch to have sold 136,000 copies in 2018 – an increase of 36% on 2017.
There are so many fantastic examples of inspirational women and we believe we need to continue publishing books like these to represent the whole outdoor community and keep inspiring boys, girls and adults so that they can also achieve the amazing things that they read about their role models doing – male and female. Keep a look out for Suzanna Cruickshank's Swimming Wild in the Lake District – published this April – and Fantastic Female Runners by Claire Maxted – published in 2021.