Women Edit, Men Write: The great gender divide of the publishing industry today

It is a commonly known fact that women are the curators of the man’s work, ingrained deeply into the United States from stereotypes crafted in the early 1900’s and onward. Though the nuclear home ideal is as dead as dead can be with the Millennial generation, in numerous publishing and literary careers women dominate the field.

Women as librarians.

Women as the editors.

Women as literary agents.

I’ve worked as both a librarian and an editor, and I can tell you, finding a man in either one is a rarity. In my three years as a tech services assistant in my college library, I knew two men who worked there, in a staff of thirty people. I was at an Editorial Freelancers Association meeting recently for the Diversity Initiative group; no men.

Even among indie authors, I see far more women and NB folk who wear both hats to pay the bills. They offer competitive but doable rates, and are generally approachable folks. The men I know in writing? Rates so high that you’ll never be able to afford them, and that’s why they are that way. So they don’t have to be bothered.

So why is that? Why is that the men folk rarely work in publishing beyond writing the book, or being a literary agent, or running the whole publishing house?

I honestly don’t know for certain. I’m no expert. But if I had to take a stab at it, I would say that it probably has something to do with the fact that women have always been in the caretaker position. Editing, librarianship, even being a literary agent–all jobs which fall under that category. You are not the one creating the art, rather you are the one looking after it. You’re the one who’s making sure the contract is sound, the manuscript is error-free, and that the books are cataloged correctly to insure access.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s the job you want. Except when I get paid a lot less than a man does, just like every other woman and non-binary person working in every industry. Then we have problems.

Despite the rise in numbers of female and non-binary authors working today, these statistics are still largely skewed by genre. Men still dominate some of the biggest genres around, including horror, SFF, and action adventure. Women who write within these genres are often either pushed to write romance, or shoved into that category entirely due to marketing. During my short time managing an indie bookstore, I became frustrated with the female authors having their works shelved in Paranormal Romance, while the male authors got to go to SFF. In the end, I created an urban fantasy section. Sure enough, sales picked up, because the books were finally where they should be.

I’ve worked throughout the many stages of publishing and the life-span of the written word, from library, to book store, to now freelance editing and indie author. I would love to say things are getting better, but only to a point. I’m a born-female, androgynous identifying person, writing and publishing LGBT Action Adventure. I don’t know anyone like me, not in my genre. Sarah Gailey probably comes closest, but she’s more SFF than my espionage leanings.

That’s it. A single author.

I knew well and good that I would be playing a man’s game the moment I decided that I wanted to get into writing espionage. Yet in the last three years, I’ve not seen any traction in the action adventure genre at all. It worries me, and it frustrates me. It forces me to title my books under initial, rather than my full name, because there is still major push-back for a non-male author to write a book with male leading characters.

But it also drives me. I write in this genre because I love it, always have. I was reared on Ian Fleming and campy action movies. My feel good films are the Shadow, the Phantom, and From Russia With Love. I am not going to stop playing in action adventure just because I’m one of a handful of LGBT and non-male folk here.

Women get to be caretakers, but they also get to be whatever the hell they want. Same goes for trans and non-binary folks. You have a choice. Break up the boys’ clubs. Kick the door down if you have to. You deserve it. You are worthy. Anyone who tells you otherwise, clearly doesn’t know what you’re capable of.

NESWC Presenter – M.D. Cooper

New England Speculative Writers Conference Presentation

Creating a Flagship Universe

April 13, 2019 | Portland Maine

What is a flagship series and why is it important? Does your book contain a world waiting to be expanded into a series? A flagship series helps to define an author and bring readers back release after release. New York Times Best Selling Author M.D. Cooper explains how his Aeon 14 universe has hooked readers, and shaped his career. He will talk about how to deelop a series, leaving strands open to continue weaving into the next series, and what the benefits are to you, your readers and your bottom line.

Reaching your Market Through Advertising

Discovery is the number one problem for authors once they’ve published. The reality of investing money to make money can be terrifying and feel like a lost cause. With so many ad platforms available to authors, where do you begin? How do you build traction and how do you make the most of your advertising dollars? New York Times Best Selling Author M.D. Cooper literally wrote the book on Facebook ads and will share tips and tricks on how to spend your money wisely for maximum exposure and return.

Michael Cooper is the creator of Aeon 14, a vast science fiction universe containing over seventy-five books written by seven different authors. These books describe a future history for humanity, one where we must learn to live with the other species in the galaxy: the AIs we created. In the far future, we’ll face many challenges, and today’s solution will always be tomorrow’s problem. But in Aeon 14, humanity and AIs strive to improve their lot and the universe at large. There is war, and strife, and pain, but there is also beauty, love, and a drive to explore and see what lies beyond the horizon.

With over half a million books sold or borrowed, Aeon 14 is a significant presence on the science fiction landscape, one that creator Michael Cooper will continue to expand, bringing more authors and characters into the fold and to life as the stories of the valiant heroes that make up Aeon 14 increase in scope and volume.

In addition to creating Aeon 14, Michael also has a passion for marketing and advertising, and teaches classes on how to get your book in front of more readers and get them to buy.

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NESWC Presenter – Paul Kilpatrick

New England Speculative Writers Conference Presentation

Building a Partnership with Beta Readers

April 13, 2019 | Portland Maine

Beta readers can be one of the strongest craft tools in developing stories into great works of fiction. However, cultivating and managing these readers can be time consuming, frustrating, and result in unproductive feedback. Co-Creator of BetaBooks, Paul Kilpatrick will discuss how his platform can help create and manage rich partnerships with your beta readers, while saving you time. He will also lend his expertise and experience working with beta readers to suggest how best to utilize fans to help create a polished final project.

Paul Kilpatrick has enjoyed working in the comic book industry, video games, publishing, music, and film filling various support roles including being an editor, project manager, coordinator, stage manager and assistant director, tons of logistics fun. As the co-founder of BetaBooks Paul has helped thousands of authors beta their book, many of whom are discovering the process for the first time. He enjoys jigsaw puzzles and has recently been watching the tv show Yonderland.

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NESWC Presenter – Christine Munroe

New England Speculative Writers Conference Presentation

Expanding Distribution to International Markets

April 13, 2019 | Portland Maine

In a global digital market, international sales can increase an author’s bottom line. Navigating foreign markets brings with it a list of unique challenges, and reaching global readers can feel overwhelming. Director of Kobo Writing Life, Christine Munroe, joins us in a digital presentation to explain how authors can maximize their opportunities by expanding their reach beyond the United States and what they can do to grow their international sales.

This presentation will be provided digitally to all attendees. 

Christine Munroe is the Director of Kobo Writing Life, Kobo’s fast, free, and easy self-publishing platform that helps authors reach millions of Kobo readers around the world. Christine has worked in book publishing for over a decade, dedicating her career to helping authors make a living from their writing.

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NESWC Presenter – Amanda Kahl

New England Speculative Writers Conference Presentation

Connecting & Growing Artist Partnerships

April 13, 2019 | Portland Maine

Cover art is one of the most important elements when it comes to book selling, but does the partnership end at book covers? Are there other areas where art can enrich your brand and help build a visual presence? For those brave enough to explore comic tie-ins, how does writing a novel differ from a script and what should you consider when selecting your artist? Amanda Kahl, author and artist of the webcomic, Age of Night, will discuss how to establish a connection with your artist and utilize their talents while exploring visual outlets for your brand that goes beyond cover work.

Amanda Kahl is the primary writer and sole artist for the ongoing fantasy webcomic Age of Night. Amanda also works as a freelance illustrator, primarily in the tabletop gaming industry, and has provided illustrations for projects from Gallant Knight Games, Skirmisher Publishing, Fearlight Games, the City of Bangor, and many more. She lives deep in the woods of Maine and works from her home studio between raising children, gardens, and chickens. 

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NESWC Presenter – E.J. Stevens

New England Speculative Writers Conference Presentation

Expanding Your Brand at In-Person Events

April 13, 2019 | Portland Maine

In-person events such as conventions and conferences are excellent opportunities to get you and your books out to the public, but are you making the most of the event? Any author can reserve table space at a convention, but maximizing your potential at a convention doesn’t end with hard sales. Award winning convention guru, E.J. Stevens will reveal not only how to increase your earning potential as a vendor but also how to expand your author business by participating in panels.

E.J. Stevens is the bestselling, award-winning author of the Ivy Granger Psychic Detective urban fantasy series, the Spirit Guide young adult paranormal mystery series, the Hunters’ Guild urban fantasy series, and the Whitechapel Paranormal Society Victorian horror series. She is known for filling pages with quirky characters, bloodsucking vampires, psychotic faeries, and snarky, kick-butt heroines. Her novels are available worldwide in multiple languages.

In addition to fiction, Stevens has written two books in the Super Simple series of step-by-step guides. The series covers the basics of publishing and marketing. 

BTS Red Carpet Award winner for Best Novel, Imadjinn Award winner for Best Short Story, Raven Award winner for Best Urban Fantasy, SYAE finalist for Best Paranormal Series, Best Novella, and Best Horror, winner of the PRG Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Paranormal Fantasy Novel, Best Young Adult Paranormal Series, Best Urban Fantasy Novel, and finalist for Best Young Adult Paranormal Novel and Best Urban Fantasy Series.

When E.J. isn’t at her writing desk, she enjoys dancing along seaside cliffs, singing in graveyards, and sleeping in faerie circles. E.J. currently resides in a magical forest on the coast of Maine where she finds daily inspiration for her writing. Learn more at www.EJStevensAuthor.com.

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NESWC Presenter – Chris Philbrook

New England Speculative Writers Conference Presentation

The Value of Audio To Your Bottom Line

April 13, 2019 | Portland Maine

Audiobooks are the number one expanding market for authors. With your books already published, how can you tap into this medium to increase your bottom line? The opportunity is available for any author, but how do you decide which narrator is best and how do you start selling once your project is complete? USA Today Best Selling Author Chris Philbrook will delve into expanding your catalog with audiobooks and how to build your fanbase in this market.

Chris Philbrook is the creator and author of Adrian’s Undead Diary, The Reemergence, Colony Lost, The Phone, and the fantasy world of Elmoryn. Chris has several years of experience working in game development and editing as well as writing fiction for several major game design companies. He has a business degree as well as a psychology degree.

Chris has authored ten novels in the horror/post-apocalyptic series Adrian’s Undead Diary, as well as four urban fantasy novels in The Reemergence series, and three dark fantasy novels in The Kinless Trilogy. His first science fiction novel; Colony Lost has received stellar reviews.. He has also edited two anthologies, and has had numerous short stories and novellas published in the horror world. He writes young adult science fiction under the name W.J. Orion.

Chris calls the wonderful state of New Hampshire his home. He is an avid reader, writer, role player, miniatures game player, video game player, husband, and father to two little girls.

You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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LGBT Representation: What it Is, What it Isn’t, and Why it Matters.

photo by Christian Sterk

By definition, LGBT representation involves having characters of the LGBTQIA spectrum play a leading role in a story—or all of the roles. LGBT folk tend to travel in packs (I can say this from experience) so it’s pretty easy to write them in. Proper LGBT representation means making your queer character overtly queer, even if your book doesn’t hinge on it. You can center the plot around their LGBT identity or not; that’s entirely up to you and the type of story you want to tell.

Currently, we’re seeing a much greater push for characters whose LGBTQIA identity is evident, without being the basis for the plot. For example, you have a main character who’s a bisexual man, but the story centers around him solving crimes as a PI in a corrupt town where the cops can’t be relied on because they’re crooked as hell. The main character in this case is queer, but the book is not a coming-out story or an issues book (a story that revolves around confronting the numerous problems present in and around the LGBT community). An example of an issues book would be a story where the main overarching conflict centers around the lead character’s struggle with being LGBT.

If you can’t tell a character is gay without the author saying so during an interview, that’s not representation, and they’re not writing a diverse book. Their queerness has to be present within the text, not just a footnote the author keeps in mind.

An obvious example of a series with no LGBT representation is Harry Potter. Dumbledore doesn’t count as queer representation if none of us knew that he was gay until JK revealed in an interview that he was in love with Grindelwald. That would have been a huge addition to the series, but it’s never brought up within the context of the story, so it doesn’t count as queer representation. Leaving it ambiguous—e.g., the character does not have a history of queerness nor is the sexual identity explicitly stated—also does not count. This follows the same vein of leaving someone’s skin color entirely unsaid. The idea that the reader will assume the character looks like them is false: readers will almost always assume a character is straight, cis-gender, and white until proven otherwise, because this is the type of person they are used to reading about. The lack of diversity in publishing throughout history has created this trap, and to ignore it is to play into it.

One of the biggest gaps we are trying to fill presently is the absence of LGBTQIA male characters in genre fiction. This is due to an age-old stereotype which persists today: queer women are more masculine, and therefore can take on roles in SFF and action-adventure, while queer men are more feminine and thus relegated to roles in rom-coms. This is a problem that exists across the market. As an LGBT writer, I often catch flack because my series—which is LGBT paranormal action-adventure—does not feature romance. My gay men are a little busy saving the world to fall in love. And yet I get asked how, without that romance, can my gay men really be gay? If Alan doesn’t show evidence of having relationships with men and women, is he really bisexual? If Yulian doesn’t make out with a guy, is he really gay? At what point can we say that gay men do not have to be falling in love with someone to be considered gay within the context of the story? At what point can we finally say, without question, that queer men don’t exist just to tell rom-com stories?

This is why LGBT representation matters. In putting out book after book after book with cliché queer male characters, publishing makes it harder for those who are queer to be able to divorce sexuality from gender stereotypes. The two are not the same, nor do they necessarily influence one another. Gay men are not necessarily feminine. Gay women are not necessarily butch. Not to mention the fact that there are numerous gender identities between the two, because gender is not binary.  And yet, publishing outside of young adult literature has yet to wrap its head around this fact. As I’m writing this, there is a professional publishing conference going on with a workshop centered around writing novels specifically for a cis-het audience, with exact beats, simply to sell more books. (Picture a skeleton for a book—you already have the structure and you’re just picking out the flooring and fixtures.)

I wish I was making that up, but here we are. It’s 2019, and we still have to explain to industry professionals that a large number of readers will not be straight. That a book can feature LGBT characters without it being an issue, or becoming a book about issues.

LGBT representation matters because queer characters have other stories to tell, and queer men in particular have lives and identities that exist outside of romance. They don’t need to look a certain way or talk a certain way or have a favorite member of the Fab Five. Having an LGBT lead will not subtract from your work of kick-butt genre fiction. It adds. Diversity shows us human beings, and that makes the story real. It lets it resonate and hit home. It makes the impossible, probable. If you want to write a great story, then fill it with whole, fully realized characters, across the spectrum of gender and sexuality.

NESW Conference – What to Expect

The New England Speculative Writers Conference is a hybrid educational and networking event. We’re excited to discuss what’s happening with the event and wanted to answer questions from folks. The video above addresses all the questions, but for those who prefer to skim and read, we’ve written them out below as well.

Who is presenting:

  • NYT Best Seller Author M.D. Cooper / AEON 14 Series
  • USA Today Best Seller Author Chris Philbrook / Adrian’s Undead Diary
  • Award Winning Author E.J. Stevens / Ivy Granger Psychic Detective
  • Director of Kobo Writing Life Christine Munroe
  • BetaBooks Co-Founder Paul Kilpatrick
  • Author and Artist Amanda Kahl Age of Night
  • Author Jeremy Flagg / Children of Nostradamus
  • hosted by C.L. Alden Author of The Empire

Why hold the conference in Portland, Maine?

We considered many factors when looking at where we wanted to host the conference. One of the biggest factors was proximity to other events. Boston hosts a variety of events for authors, but none of them are convenient for authors in the northern reaches of New England. We also wanted to consider the cost of the event while keeping it a small intimate event. Being located in Portland, there are plenty of locations for food, inexpensive room and board, and none of the anxiety-riddled commuting necessary to getting to the “big” city.

Why the Double Tree?

Because of the diversity of the authors we hope to accommodate, we needed to find a location that allowed for that while still fulfilling our needs. The space we’re using is near exits for people needing a break from the event and uses light that won’t promote migraines.  It also has great spacious bathrooms for nursing moms or for folks with mobility issues.

Along with the space, it also has plenty of space for break out conversations. We are strongly urging attendees to avoid using hotel rooms for meetings and keeping professional conduct on the ground floor. Because of this, we needed plenty of nooks and crannies where people can have private conversations and not feel as if it was a screaming match to be heard. Double Tree also provides a group room rate of $109 AND allows you to get the room online (for those of us who hate making phone calls.)

How is this different from other conferences?

We’re not only creating an educational event, but an opportunity to network, collaborate, and build professional relationships with other authors. To help build this sense of community, we’re hosting one presenter at a time. This reduces the anxiety of choosing workshops and allows you to discuss the presentation with your fellow attendees.

After each presenter we’ll host a small Q&A and give people a chance to chat, collaborate and move about the room to network with people of interest. This will give people a chance to talk and feel out the room without committing to lengthy conversations early in the day.

The dinner genre will break the ice for those of us with anxiety about meeting with strangers. Grouped with folks in your genre will give you a chance to discuss things that work for your specific genre (not all businesses follow the same path) and help create connections with people in your genre.

Why limit participants?

There is only so much time and so much ability to work the room. By limiting to 100 participants, it gives you a reasonable number of people to talk with (but not so few you’ll feel isolated.) This number also makes it possible to get one-on-one time with each of the presenters and be able to ask questions specific to your situation.

Harassment Policy

No. Means. No.

We do not condone or tolerate harassment of any kind. To help prevent awkward situations we are asking for the conference to remain on the ground floor. We are also well aware situations may arise that need attention. We will address them swiftly and if necessary, remove participants from the conference.

Payment Plan Option

We know that money is always tight and it’s difficult to decide where to invest your hard-earned dollars. To help soften the blow to your wallet, we are offering to split the $125 registration fee into four equal payments of $31.25. This offer expires December 15th, so make sure to take advantage while you can.

What are the digital presentations?

We ran out of time for workshops during this one-day event. Why stop learning just because the conference is over? Because we want to make sure all registrants are getting more than their money’s worth. The digital presentations will be available to watch at your leisure.

Who are the sponsors!

The following companies are sponsoring the New England Speculative Writers Conference and offering some great gifts for everybody joining us!

Writing Healthy – It’s all about routine

Routine. The most hated and feared word of people everywhere.

Routine? Routine is the essence of boredom, the same thing being done repeatedly day-after-day, a life restricted to steps in a process. Who the heck wants a routine?

One might argue that part of the reason writers write is because of a distaste for routine, they want to rise above the normal human condition, to share the depths of their imagination and revel in the unknown. Routine? Pshaw. That’s for mere mortals, not us author types.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but routine isn’t a four letter word. It’s seven. I checked.

As a writer, you’re likely a victim of routine without even realizing it. Pounding your fingers into the keyboard, generated word after word and page after page, handing things off to betas, passing them along to your editor, cover designer, revisions, it’s all baked into you so much that you don’t even realize that you, too, are part of a routine.

Why should your health be any different?

Yummm CAKE

I would argue that getting (and staying) healthy are just as important as putting down those 1,000 words first thing in the morning. I mean, after all, the longer you live, the more words you can put down going forward, right?

There was a point in my life when I tipped the scales at 325 pounds. I was a big guy and pretty much always had been a big guy. Breakfast was Egg McMuffins at McDonalds, lunch was a Whopper at Burger King (or a cheeseburger at Wendy’s if I really wanted to mix things up), all washed down with copious amounts of soda and french fries. My body was a temple – one of those old Aztec temples that’s crumbling into dust.

So I decided to make a change. In 2002, I told myself that I was going to designate an hour in the morning to exercise and I was going to pretty much blow up my entire diet and start over.

And I did. And have been. For sixteen years. I’ve lost nearly 150 pounds, but more importantly, in my mind, I’ve built a (scary word coming) routine. A routine where I carve out an hour a day in the morning to exercise.

I know, I know – exercise in the morning? That’s unpossible!

You can DO IT

I’m a forty-four year old guy, married, two kids, a full time senior management job, and I’ve written 1.1 million words so far this year (publishing 15 books so far in 2018). Trust me when I say it can be done. It’s all about the routine.

I wake up at five, get ready for work, get the kids lunches ready, type for a few minutes if I can. By seven I’m dropping the older kid off at school, then I come straight home and from 7 – 8 I do whatever exercise I can. Most of the time, I run, getting in around 5 miles if I time it just right. When I can’t (or don’t want to) run, I lift weights, ride a stationary bike, or other forms of cardio and high impact. It’s nothing special, but it’s a routine. And hey, for what it’s worth, nothing sparks my creative mind like running… I can almost always work through a challenging scene or sequence when I’m out on the trail, the wind in my face.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand, not everyone can do this. Some people have trickier morning schedules. But the key is, you need to form a routine and set aside a time every single day to follow it. Some days you’ll miss it, and that’s okay, but focus on the next day, and promise yourself you won’t miss it two days in a row.

Exercise? Nobody gots time fer that!

Some days you can use that one hour to exercise. Some days you can use that one hour to meal prep. Some days you can use that one hour just to get an extra 1,500 words in. The important thing is to carve out that one hour and tell yourself that’s your hour to maintain your health. Then stick with it.

Of course, as the old saying goes, you can’t outrun a bad diet, and I’m going to say it here, too. Health starts in the kitchen. You’ll notice I mentioned meal prep up there, and I did that for a reason. Focusing on real food is going to save you money and save your body, and I’d argue the single most important thing I did for my health was to actually start thinking about what I’m putting in my body. Even if I don’t always stick with it, I am ALWAYS thinking about it, fully aware when I’m making bad choices and ticking off in my head how I’m going to make up for it in the future.

Two for one at McD's!

Oh, by the way… losing 150 pounds, changing my eating habits, basically reinventing my lifestyle is the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. But the key to it is routine.

Get in the habit of avoiding fast food, you’ll be surprised how quickly the cravings go away. Get in the habit of not drinking so much soda, you’ll be surprised at how soon the bubbles hurt your throat on the way down. Get in the habit of burning a few calories at designated times during the day, you’ll be surprised at how damn good you feel afterwards.

Habit. Routine. The words aren’t fun, but they might save your life. And if you miss a few hundred words a day because of it, well, you’ll make those up with the extra years at the end.