by D. Pat Thomas
At ThrillerFest last week in New York City, a high-powered panel explored the question “Is There Equal Opportunity Among Women Thriller Writers?” Editor in Chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Neil Nyren served as Panel Master, with Dan Conaway from Writers House and authors Lisa Gardner, Brenda Novak, Karen Rose, Erica Spindler and Kate White as panelists.
Gardner began the session with controversial statistics: half of the thrillers on the
market are written by women. However, in 1985 only 15% of them were reviewed by
the New York Times. By 1989 that figure rose to 25% and it now stands at 34%. A
survey assessing readers’ perceived quality in writing showed higher scores for
authors with initials over those with female names for the same material. While
the Prestigious ThrillerMaster award has been awarded fairly evenly, other ITW
awards have gone disproportionately to men. Gardner maintained ITW cannot start
counting gender, but White countered, “At some point you do have to look and
see if there’s unfairness there” and drew the categories into question.
”I like my tough guys really tough,” one reader told Gardner, stating he did not read female writers. Three of the other female writers recalled similar emails. “I don’t think there are a lot of female readers who don’t read men, but I do think there are men who don’t read women, and the reason is men suck,“ quipped Conaway; “Guys like to read Lee Child and say so.” The panel seemed to agree that ebooks could well signal a change,
since no one can tell what is being read. In the meantime, Gardner said she has
been instructed not to wear pink and not to smile in her pictures; black leather conveys a better image.
Conaway said he would rather sell a big hard cover deal to Nyren if the author is a woman, and explained there are more women readers. According to an audience member, more editors are asking for female writers, and more of those editors are women as well.
D. Pat Thomas is a new thriller writer who craves action, as can be seen from her website.