On Being A Woman In SFF, Or How To Be Your Own Self-Rescuing Princess

On Being A Woman In SFF, Or How To Be Your Own Self-Rescuing Princess

I’m often asked what it’s like to be a woman in the male dominated field of publishing. The best part about being a female author is that there are so many woman-focused organizations that truly are welcoming to writers at every stage in their careers. I’ve joined local and global organizations dedicated to advancing female authorship, and I believe that networking is the best thing an author can do for herself.

The not so great parts about being a woman in publishing are similar to the hurdles women face in many organizations: glass ceilings, unequal representation in industry awards and publications, and receiving less compensation—either via royalties or one-time payments—than their male counterparts. One way to leap over these hurdles is to become your own self-rescuing princess.

What is a self-rescuing princess, you ask? It’s a woman who stands up for herself. She’s not the damsel in distress waiting for someone to rescue her. This lady hikes up her skirts and does her own rescuing, thank you very much.

Remember that scene in Star Wars: A New Hope when Princess Leia calls out Luke and Han’s abysmal plan to rescue her? She didn’t wait for them to figure things out. Instead she grabbed Luke’s blaster and shot out the grate to the garbage chute. Leia didn’t wait for anyone else to hatch an escape plan, she made her own. That’s a self-rescuing princess.

You don’t have to wear your hair in symmetrical buns to be as bad ass as Leia. Being self-rescuing boils down to three basic concepts: asking questions, standing your ground, and walking away if you have to.

Did you receive contract that contained some confusing language? Ask for clarification, either from the editor, your agent, or your more experienced friends (more experienced with contracts, that is). Google it if you have to. Never, ever sign anything you don’t understand.

Did you ask a publisher (or editor, or agent) a question, and they never responded? Ask again! Many woman won’t follow up for fear of being seen as bossy or difficult. Those same traits in men are called confident and assertive, so go ahead and assert yourself and confidently ask all questions you need to.

Is the organization you’re dealing with refusing to work with you?  First, ask yourself if your request is reasonable; we all need to work together, and no one wants to be known as the writer who demanded the equivalent of a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown candies removed. Assuming you are being reasonable and they aren’t willing to negotiate, don’t be afraid to consider ending your working relationship with them. If you haven’t signed anything and they’re acting shady walking away might be for the best.  No publishing deal is infinitely better than a bad publishing deal, trust me on this.

Be warned: if you have signed a contract things get trickier and you may need to enlist help from outside sources. Don’t take the possibility of violating your contract lightly, since there may be severe repercussions for you. Having said that, don’t allow the other party to violate it either.

Thanks to #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, and all the brave people who have shared their stories, we are going into an unprecedented chapter in history where women’s voices are being heard and respected like never before. What a great time to be a woman.


Jennifer Allis Provost writes books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies too. She grew up in the wilds of Western Massachusetts and had read every book in the local library by age twelve. (It was a small library.) An early love of mythology and folklore led to her epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Parthalan, and her day job as a cubicle monkey helped shape her urban fantasy, Copper Girl. When she’s not writing about things that go bump in the night (and sometimes during the day) she’s working on her MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Her latest releases, the urban fantasy Gallowglass and the sequel, Walker, are available wherever books are sold. Connect with Jennifer online at http://www.authorjenniferallisprovost.com.

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