In 2013 Australian women writers received a large increase in online reviews. The number of reviews entered in the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge increased by nearly twenty percent compared to 2012.
In its second year the Challenge demonstrates that the groundswell of enthusiasm for books written by Australian women is increasing. This is a trend that traditional literary publications need to adjust to. Readers expect to see as many reviews of books by women as they do of men. All genders are equally capable of quality writing. All genders write about a wide variety of interesting topics.
In 2013 over 1,800 reviews were written about books written by Australian women writers. Nearly forty percent of the books reviewed were published in 2013. The most popular books were:
|1||Burial Rites||Hannah Kent||Picador||21|
|3||Dark Horse||Honey Brown||Penguin||12|
|4||The Railwayman’s Wife||Ashley Hay||Allen & Unwin||11|
|4||The Girl in the Hard Hat||Loretta Hill||Random House||11|
|5||Web of Deceit||Katherine Howell||Pan Macmillan||10|
|5||The Wild Girl||Kate Forsyth||Random House||10|
|5||The Husband’s Secret||Liane Moriarty||Pan Macmillan||10|
|5||Half Moon Bay||Helene Young||Penguin||10|
Most reviewed books for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge in 2013.
Over seven hundred authors had their work reviewed by Challenge participants.
Yes, there are over seven hundred Australian women authors. The number would be even greater as we recognise that despite the volume of books that were reviewed, there were still some authors who published in 2013 but missed out on reviews in the Challenge.
The most popular authors were:
|Author Name||No. Reviews|
Most Popular Authors, Australian Women Writers’ Challenge, 2013.
A feature of the Challenge is the fact that anyone can participate. There are no educational or work experience requirements. Reviewers don’t have to live in Australia. No-one ‘vets’ the reviews before they are linked. This may be a reviewer’s first experience of writing for the public.
The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is a grass-roots positive action by people from all walks of life. The one thing in common is all reviewers believe that the books they read which are written by Australian women are worthy of a review. The time and effort the reviewers put into writing the reviews is an unspoken comment on their views about the writing of women authors.
Over two hundred reviewers wrote at least one review for the Challenge in 2013. Some of the Challenge reviewers were prolific:
Top 10 Challenge Reviewers 2013
|3||Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out||100|
|4||Lauren @ The Australian Bookshelf||72|
|6||Sally From Oz||40|
|8||Shannon (Giraffe Days)||34||8||Jess @ The Never Ending Bookshelf||34|
|8||Mel @ Adventures of a Subversive Reader||34|
There is still considerable work to be done to change the attitudes of major, traditional book reviewing publications. Both the international and Australian statistics for 2012 still showed too many of these publications prioritise reviewing the writing of men over the writing of women.
Our statistics reveal that only seventeen men wrote a review for the Challenge in 2013. Women’s writing is for everyone just as men’s writing is for everyone. The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is keen for more men to participate.
Renewed impetus for the campaign to change attitudes has emerged from the United Kingdom since the New Year. Writer and illustrator, Joanna Walsh, has started a Twitter hashtag, #readwomen2014. It has quickly become a vibrant conversation with many people committing to reading more books written by women. American literary magazine, The Critical Flame, has committed to a whole year of reviewing the work of women writers and writers of colour.
The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is part of the growing world-wide movement to raise awareness of excellent writing by women. It helps readers to challenge the subconscious stereotypes that govern our choice of books to read. We are excited to be entering our third year and hope that we can help you do something about this issue.
Participation in the Challenge is better than whingeing. It is better than waiting for old, traditional publications to move into the twenty-first century. The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge gives everyone the opportunity to take positive action to change our world.
Commit yourself. Sign up today and write your first review!
|At a Glance: The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge in 2013||2013||2012|
|Number of Reviews||1822||1526|
Those stats deserve applause! *clapping* *cheering*
Yes we think so too Louise! It is a great community effort. We’re glad you have signed up again this year. Looking forward to reading your reviews!
This was so interesting to read, thanks for putting this together.
p.s. I was pretty pleased at reading and reviewing 35 books for this challenge last year, especially as I originally signed up to do 6! Am glad to see I’m in good company there. 🙂
Thankyou Shannon for your comment and for diplomatically alerting us to the fact that there may have been an error in our list of top reviewers. I have checked our records and found that you had another review that had been entered under a variation of the name you usually sign in on. This happened for a few of our reviewers, generally where people entered links under their first name for some reviews but for others entered the reviews under their first name plus their surname. I picked up many of these discrepancies but missed out on the one affecting you.
I’ve now fixed the list. What a wonderful year of reviewing you have had!
Thank-you so much to everyone involved in this challenge, it has been such a great initiative, especially for debut writers like me! I will be blogging soon about the AWW I read in 2013 (sorry, I’ve been overseas for 3 months so am a bit behind!) and signing up for 2014 too.
Congratulations on receiving so many reviews of your book Dawn! We look forward to reading your reviews this year. Thankyou for the support!
A massive thanks to those reviewers and readers who accepted this awesome challenge 🙂
Great post Yvonne and as someone who doesn’t get excited about stats, I’m very excited! Here’s to another great year 🙂
Great post Yvonne … and excellent commentary besides. How wonderful that other initiatives are happening elsewhere on the gender and diversity front. Do you think we had some impact on that happening? It would be great to know whether publishers and booksellers are seeing changes in purchasing habits, and whether more reviewing of women happening in the “professional” media?
I think that the Australian Women’s Writing Challenge is part of the mix in the global movement campaigning for women’s voices to not only be heard but to be listened to. This is not only happening in the literary world but myriad other campaigns such as the one to have women participating in peace talks. This article highlights this issue particularly at the current Syrian peace talks as well as mentioning the efforts through the UN to redress this. We have definitely had an impact elsewhere in the world both with attracting participants who do not live in Australia and helping to inspire other initiatives. The Global Women of Color challenge and the South Asian Women Writers Challenge were both inspired by the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge.
When I took a last look at my overview, Histories and Life Stories in 2013 before posting it this morning I thought about the questions that you have just posed. The number of reviews only represents one facet of impact. Other measures are more difficult to quantify. While writing my overview of Histories and Life Writing in 2013 I noticed that the publisher, UQP, had posted excerpts from every review of Kitty’s War that was submitted to the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge in 2013 (click on the ‘reviews’ tab on the right side of the page). While the Challenge was not mentioned it demonstrates that this publisher regards these reviews as of high enough merit to include in their promotion of the book on their website.
To answer your questions more work needs to be done on not only collating best seller lists for 2013 and comparing them to prior years. We also keenly await the 2013 figures analysing the reviews in Australian mainstream media. The 2012 statistics came out quite late last year – in September. I hope they can be released earlier this year, say March, to coincide with the result of the North American and European statistics by VIDA.
I would like to see us to dig deeper behind these annual review statistics. I suspect that they are skewed according to genre. Military histories would gain more reviews in the traditional media than romances for instance. I wonder if women writers of literary fiction would suffer more from selection bias than women writers of histories, biographies and memoirs? This article from The Guardian also mentions the limitations of the 2012 Australian figures. In defence of the Stella Prize and Bookseller+Publisher who collated the 2012 Australian statistics I suspect that the work behind them is done by a bevy of dedicated volunteers. Collating statistics takes a lot of time!
Thankyou for your kind comments about this post 🙂
Now that’s a fulsome response. Thanks Yvonne. I’ll go check those links. I had realised those other two challenges were inspired by us … From little things big things grow.
And yes, compiling stats is tricky, and drawing useful conclusions from them even trickier. My area is so tricky that I feel uncertain about about drawing many conclusions. Some books categorised as classics are marginal to me … But then I suppose they could be genre classics. Is a book published in the 1980s a classic. And so on. I feel very much on shaky foundations!