Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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2016 Stella Count revealed; judges for 2018 prize announced

The 2016 Stella Count has found that four out of 12 publications surveyed reviewed more books by women than men—up from one publication in 2015’s survey—with book reviews in Australian publications nearing gender parity for the first time in five years.

In another first, all 12 publications surveyed in this year’s count either increased or maintained the percentage of women authors they reviewed compared to the previous year.

The annual Stella Count compiles statistics showing how many books by women and men were reviewed in Australian publications and the gender of the reviewers. For the first time, the 2016 Stella Count also surveyed books coverage beyond reviews, broadcast reviews on radio and TV, and bylines in leading magazines and journals.

Overall, 48% of reviews were of books by women writers—up from 41% in 2014 and 2015, and up from 40% in the inaugural count in 2012. The greater parity was assisted by significant improvements in publications that previously heavily favoured reviews of books by men, including the Weekend Australian (from 30% in 2012 to 42% in 2016), Australian Financial Review (from 20% to 45%) and the Monthly (from 33% to 54%).

Several publications also made significant year-on-year improvements in the percentage of women authors reviewed: the Australian Financial Review (up 28 percentage points), the Monthly (up 19), the Mercury (up 15), the Courier-Mail and the Sydney Review of Books (both up 11), and the Advertiser (up 10).

The four publications to publish more reviews of books by women than men were: the Monthly, the Mercury, the Advertiser and Books+Publishing. Another three were either at or near parity: the Age/Sydney Morning Herald, the West Australian and the Courier-Mail.

The Australian Book Review (60% men) had the largest gender disparity of the publications that favoured male authors, ahead of the Weekend Australian (58% men) and the Saturday Paper (56% men).

In their analysis, academics Melinda Harvey from Monash University and Julieanne Lamond from the Australian National University said questions of scale and reach ‘do need to be taken into consideration’, despite ‘significant improvements towards gender parity’. ‘The three publications that published the highest volume of reviews in 2016 (i.e. more than half of all 2889 books reviewed in the Count) were the Age/SMH (699), the Weekend Australian (584) and Australian Book Review (346), and they all reviewed more books by men than by women. Two of these three publications, arguably, have the furthest reach and largest circulations and readerships: the Weekend Australian is a national publication, and the Age and Sydney Morning Herald are published in Australia’s two largest metropolitan markets, with their review sections syndicated across Fairfax’s rural, regional and local papers,’ said Harvey and Lamond.

Harvey and Lamond also said that ‘gains in the reviewing of books by women have been made mainly in relation to small- and medium-length reviews’. ‘While we saw real improvement in the reviewing of women’s books in the 2016 Stella Count, there remains a significant disparity when it comes to the size of reviews.’

When it came to the reviewers, the survey once again found that authors and reviewers are often matched by gender, with the author gender matching the reviewer gender in 66% of all books reviewed in 2016.

A breakdown of the statistics and its analysis can be found here.

The Stella Prize has also announced its 2018 judging panel. The panel will be chaired by Avid Reader co-owner Fiona Stager, who is joined by author Julie Koh, literary critic and author James Ley, publisher and writer Louise Swinn, and author and editor Ellen van Neerven. The longlist will be announced in February, the shortlist in March and the winner in April.



Category: Local news