In honour of International Women’s Day, I thought I would look up some successful female authors, and Forbes has provided a good list of the top ten most successful. I like the way success isn’t just measured by books sold, or even award nominations, but also on the impact they have had on literature and society. I have to confess, I haven’t heard of some of them, but all have impressive achievements under their belts.
After doing a search on “most successful female writers,” I then repeated the same search for male writers. No such list appeared; instead, search results appeared such as “list of best selling fiction authors,” and “seven famous female authors using male pseudonyms,” and “want to be a successful writer? Be a man.”
Some of history’s most notable authors pretended they were men to sell more novels. A famous example comes in the form of the Brontë sisters, who published as the Bell brothers. Charlotte Brontë herself stated, “We had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.” It seems that current female writers may be under the same impression, and I fear I may be one of them. When I was in the process of my novel being published, I had to decide on my publication name. I knew I didn’t want a pseudonym, but also, mainly because the book was sci fi and I thought that it would have more of a male audience, I decided to use my initials, R.S., rather than my full name, so removing any notion of whether I was male or female. I’m not saying this was a bad choice, but looking back, it’s clear how much gender plays a part in decisions like this, and, it seems, the prominence of male writers over female is still apparent today.