Women, Reviews, and Self-Publishing

I thought of writing a long post on the conversation about the visibility of women writers in SFF, but decided it all boils down to this: I am sick unto death of seeing articles and opinion pieces about the need to acknowledge women writers, from publications and groups that refuse to review and include and support women who self-publish.

The most common reason given for rejecting self-published works from reviews, sight unseen, is that there are just too many of them to review. By the same token, there are far too many traditionally published novels to review as well, so there is that. I get it. Making decisions takes time, and it can be difficult to choose which reviews will best please the readership.  Thus it’s easier to set aside a single publication method as not-reviewable.

That reasoning suffers from two downsides. First, the policy cuts out the work of many women whose writing didn’t gain approval from a relatively small audience of editors, but instead found a great audience among readers. It cuts out women who decided they didn’t want to seek such traditional approval, and chose instead to control and direct their own work. It turns away from women who have found success outside the system that the diversity-in-the-genre articles are ostensibly trying to impact.

Self-publishing is empowerment; cutting its existence from the landscape of writers’ options, while pushing for greater visibility of women writers, is rather counterproductive if inclusion is the actual goal.

Second, the policy ensures the publication will be missing out on the broadening conversation readers are having with a number of self-published writers. It won’t affect those readers much, since they’re obviously getting their information from a variety of sources. But there are readers who are entrenched in traditional publications and reviews, and will not venture far from the familiar. Those readers will be missing out on the greater conversation as well.

Again, making decisions takes time and can be difficult.

I knew when I self-published the sort of attitudes I’d be facing from traditionally-oriented reviewers, publications, bloggers, and even other writers.  To act surprised that I’ve found the environment to be pretty close to what I expected would be disingenuous.  I’m simply pointing out a contradiction that troubles me.

The review policies on self-published works will eventually change, likely when it becomes apparent that readers are having conversations the publications aren’t. And when it does change, we’ll be starting the conversation on the visibility of women all over again.

Until then, though, I’ll just keep watching the policies that state a support for women writers, as long as they’re not self-published women, because those self-published women should stay in their own playground.

Well. I guess that became a blog post after all.

UPDATE: This entry was crossposted to my LiveJournal, where writer and reviewer Marissa Lingen added comments about her review policy.  She is currently willing to consider self-published works.  PLEASE read those comments and follow the guidelines if you’d like to submit your work for review.  It would also be helpful to read a collection of posts at her blog so you’ll be clear on what sort of work she does and doesn’t review.

4 thoughts on “Women, Reviews, and Self-Publishing”

  1. Sandra Giles persuaded me to read a vampire book (because she wrote it and I wanted to read some of her stuff). It was very good. I’ve bought the others.

    I so agree with this post. I get that they’re filtering stuff out but there are so many really good self published books. Not everyone can write two books a year, not everyone can write one. Most publishers require that. There are lots of indie authors who are self published because they’re not commercially viable to a publisher. I’m one of them. I can’t really say if my books are good but I like them and the reviews suggest they’re well received.

    I just hope one day we do well enough for to able to Say nyaaaah yaaaah at them all. 🙂 says she maturely.



    1. I do think it’ll change in time. Already the conversation in the staunch-trade-publishing circles of SFF is vastly different than it was two or three years ago, moving from “never self-publish!” to “It’s acceptable to self-pub IF you’ve been trade-published.”

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