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Stats! And more stats!

People keep asking us for a list of the various stats we’re working with – so here are a few!

  • Since the Miles Franklin Award began in 1957, a woman has won 13 times. Four times this woman was Thea Astley, but twice she shared the award. Since 2001 two women have won, from the pool of 10 awards.
  • The Queensland Premier’s Prize has been won by a woman 5 out of 13 times
  • The Age Book of the Year Award 15 out of 37 times
  • The NSW Premier’s Award 11 out of 31 times
  • The Victorian Premier’s Award eight out of 27 times
  • The WA Premier’s Award has been awarded to women more often than men – eight out of 14 times.
  • In the US, Britain and Germany, 80% of fiction readers are women.
  • As Ian McEwan once put it, “when women stop reading, the novel will be dead”. But while men are buying around 20 per cent of the books, they are doing most of the reviewing of them, and the books they are reviewing are usually written by men.
  • Vida figures (taken from 2010) but here they are again: in The New York Times Book Review, 40 per cent of book reviewers were women and 35 per cent of books reviewed were by women writers
  • In The New Yorker, 22 per cent of book reviewers were women and 20 per cent of books reviewed were by women writers
  • In The Atlantic, 19 per cent of book reviewers were women and 23 per cent of books reviewed were by women writers
  • In Harpers, 18 per cent of book reviewers were women and 31 per cent of books reviewed were by women writers
  • In the London Review of Books, 22 per cent of book reviewers were women and 29 per cent of books reviewed were by women writers
  • In The Times Literary Supplement, 27 per cent of book reviewers were women and 24 per cent of books reviewed were by women writers
  • In The New York Review of Books, 16 per cent of book reviewers were women and 16 per cent of books reviewed were by women writers.
  • Influential US trade magazine Publishers Weekly’s list of Top 10 Books of 2009 was all-male. When their attention was drawn to this statistic, Publishers Weekly’s response was uncannily close to that of the Miles Franklin judges: ‘We wanted the list to reflect what we thought were the top 10 books of the year with no other consideration … We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz … It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male.’
  • Australian literary pages fare slightly (but not much) better. At The Age, between January and 22 May 2011, of 344 reviewed books, 204 were authored or edited by men and 140 by women (41 per cent). Two hundred and thirteen of those reviews were written by men and 131 by women (38 per cent).
  • At The Australian 180 of 265 books reviewed were authored or edited by men and only 79 of those reviews were written by women (30 per cent).
  • Over at Australian Book Review, 364 books were reviewed in 2010. Two hundred and six of those books were authored by men and 158 by women (43 per cent). The numbers of reviewers was fairly even.
  • At Australian Literary Review, the stats are more damning. From 1 February to May 2011, 43 books were reviewed: 35 authored or edited by men and only 8 by women (18 per cent). Thirty-six of those reviewers were men and seven were women.
  • Literary journals tend to have more positive figures. Kill Your Darlings publishes more women (around 60 per cent) than men. Voiceworks, a magazine that publishes writers under 25, published 56 men and 77 women in 2010.
  • A look at the number of books published in the last 18 months (via Bookseller and Publisher database) suggest that about an equal number of men and women are published.
  • Oz Council funded books are 52 per cent men, 48 per cent women. (and oz council funded books would be more ‘literary’. This is a huge improvement. The report on these figures mentioned that Spinifex played a large role in improving numbers of books by women that are published.
  • Publishing is a predominantly female industry (62 per cent) yet most senior positions are held by men. According to The Bloom Report in 2007, 68 per cent of men who work in the industry earn more than $100,000 as opposed to 32 per cent of the women.

They are books that rattle our cages and dismantle our cultural scripts – books that brim with ideas and desires. Some are genre-bending and genre-busting; others are genre masterclasses. Some are quietly potent; others are bombastic and irrepressible. But they all demand – command – our full-hearted, full-minded attention..”

And, once again, nearly half of the books on our have longlist come from small/indie publishing houses, testament to the vital role these publishers play in diversifying the Australian literary landscape – our cultural conversation is so profoundly enriched by their risk-taking.

It has been an honour to chair the 2024 Stella Prize, and to read alongside such a compassionate and insightful panel. My deepest thanks to my fellow judges: Eleanor Jackson, Bram Presser, Yves Rees and Cheryl Leavy.

It is my second year in a row reading for Stella. Since August of 2022, I’ve read close to 500 works by Australian women and non-binary writers. The heartbeat of Australian writing is here. These writers deserve a global readership. It is culturally damning that the great majority of them struggle to eke out a sustainable career at home.

Just one reason why the Stella Prize matters.

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