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Are Women Better Children’s Book Authors Than Men?

October 22, 2010

I just came across an article that discussed whether or not women are better writers than men.  I was surprised that this question is batted around at all, let alone that there might actually be people who still think men are inherently better writers than women.  I thought that women had long since proven their abilities in almost every field, not just writing, and I thought that by now this kind of question is not only irrelevant, but pointless. 

However, since the question is out there, I thought I would search for some data on my own that might help illustrate the correct answer.  Since my particular area of expertise is Children’s lit, I’m only going to focus on writers of juvenile and young adult fiction.

 

In the past 30 years, 70% of the authors who won the Newbery Medal for excellence in juvenile fiction have been women.  And when it comes to sales, a list of the bestselling series books for children or young adults shows that 9 out of the top 15 series were written by female authors, with a woman as the number one best-selling author of all time (J.K. Rowling of course, who is not just the bestselling children’s author, but the best-selling author of anything.)  But even without Rowling, women still make up more than half of this list. 

Rank Book series Author First published Approximate sales
1 Harry Potter J.K.Rowling 1997–2007 more than 400 million for the 7 main books alone
2 Goosebumps R. L. Stine 1992–1998 more than 300 million
3 Berenstain Bears Stan and Jan Berenstain 1962 — present 260 million
4 Choose Your Own Adventure various authors 1979 — 1998 250 million
5 Sweet Valley High Francine Pascal and ghostwriters 1983 – present 250 million
6 Noddy Enid Blyton 1949–present 200 million
7 Nancy Drew various authors as Carolyn Keene 1930 — present 200 million
8 The Railway Series
(including Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends)
Rev. W. Awdry, Christopher Awdry 1945–2007 200 million
9 The Baby-sitters Club Ann Martin 1986 — present 172 million
10 Peter Rabbit Beatrix Potter 1902–1930 150 million
11 American Girl various authors 1986 — present 120 million
12 The Chronicles of Narnia C. S. Lewis 1949–1954 120 million
13 Clifford the Big Red Dog Norman Bridwell 1963 — present 110 million
14 Twilight Stephenie Meyer 2005–2010 more than 100 million
15 Mr. Men Roger Hargreaves, Adam Hargreaves 1971 — present 100 million

Table 1. Best-selling series books for children. 

Nevertheless, even though the numbers seem to suggest that women are, in fact, better writers of children’s books than men, I still refuse to make that conclusion outright.  The more I think about the inanity of the question, the more I realize that no one is able to argue definitively for either side because the matter ultimately rests on subjective scores, despite what the numbers say.  I could speculate all day about why the numbers favor the women; maybe with a history of staying at home with their children, women have developed a keener sensitivity to what kids are in to.  Maybe in another thirty years the numbers will flip and the men will have more bestsellers and award winners. 

That women publish more bestsellers and award winners isn’t enough to proclaim them as better writers, and I don’t guess that’s necessarily the label that women writers are looking for.  I imagine that what most female authors would prefer is never to see another article that debates the merits of genders when it comes to purely intellectual or creative pursuits.  To create any kind of art is to have the ability to feel deeply and to express emotion through some type of creative medium.  It would be stupid for anyone to think they could make an argument that would clearly show that one sex was better than the other in such a far-reaching, ongoing media such as literature.  One who would propose such an argument would instantly seem like an arrogant ass, which would only invite others to point out the many flaws of his argument.

My sources for this article were:

“Are Women Better Writers Than Men?” Lydia Dishman. 11.13.09. http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/lydia-dishman/all-your-business/are-women-better-writers-men

“List of Best-Selling Books” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books#List_of_best-selling_single-volume_books

If you want to read more articles about this question, visit:

“5 Reasons Women Technical Writers Are Better Than the Boys” Ivan Walsh. 06.16.10. http://www.ihearttechnicalwriting.com/technical-writing/5-reasons-women-technical-writers-are-better-than-the-boys/4479/

“Are Men Better Writers than Women?” Salon Media. 06.03.98. http://www.salon.com/media/1998/06/03media.html

From → On Writing

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