December 09, 2019, 04:36:22 AM

Author Topic: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations  (Read 16834 times)

Offline DrNefario

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #15 on: November 26, 2016, 12:32:07 PM »
I think there's a related problem that the recommendations all tend to come from the same small pool that keeps recirculating. They all tend to be fairly recent and fairly middle-of-the-genre, with maybe the odd "classic" thrown in.

This is kind of understandable. If a book is recommended here, I dare say quite a few of us will check it out, and probably like it, so it's self-reinforcing. Also if other people are recommending a thing, that will (a) remind you it exists, and (b) give you some confidence that it is actually good. I know there are books I read a long time ago that I don't mention because I'm not sure they still stand up.

Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2016, 02:34:49 PM »
I read whatever I want. Yes, I have more male authors on my shelf than female authors. Okay. One day I'll find a female author that I like as much as Brent Weeks or Brandon Sanderson, but I'm not going to intentionally look for them. For me, that would be like someone reading my book because I'm blind, and not because they're interested in the story. Sure, it might help me get sales, but at the same time, it feels more condescending than anything else, and I wouldn't want that. So I'm not going to feel sorry for female authors and read their books out of sympathy. Whenever the next one catches my eye, I will pick it up.

Offline Peat

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #17 on: November 26, 2016, 05:17:35 PM »
Going back to the time I asked for recommendations, let me share the numbers. These are the recommendations I got, listed by how many separate nominations each got:

5 - Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch

4 - Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, Naomi Novik

3 - Brian McClellan, Peter Brett

2 - Adrian Tchaikovsky, Brian Staveley, R. Scott Bakker, Ben Aaronovitch, Allan Batchelder, Steven Erikson, Django Wexler, Chris Wooding, Michael Fletcher, Jen Williams, Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern, Patrick Rothfuss, Daniel Abraham

1 - Nnedi Okorafor, Kirsty Logan, Kameron Hurley, Sarah Pinborough, Julia Knight, Emma Knight, Robert Redick, Miles Cameron, Michael Sullivan, Den Patrick, Kate Elliot, Robert Jackson Bennett, NK Jemisin, Alex Marshall, Jo Walton, Christopher Buehlman, Michael Livingston, Tad Williams, Jeff Salyards, Stella Gemmell, Laura Resnick, Ilona Andrews, T.O. Munro, J.P. Ashman, Matt Colville, James Cormier, Barbara Webb, Graham Austin-King (last 6 all SP)

I got these off 21 different people; some here, some SFFChronicles, some BestFantasyBooks.

There's 49 total. 16 of them are women - a third.

But only one woman in the top 5, only three in the top 20 and if I removed the nominations of just three of the people I got them off, then 18 different people would have given me a list of 34 names to check out of which only 5 were women.

Its not like the community gave me a list that was made up of a third women. The community gave me a list with not even a fifth made up of women and a few very knowledgeable, very helpful people gave me 15 nominations - almost a third of the list - of which just over half were women.

To isolate it to here - I got recommendations from 6 people (not counting GR Matthews' SP recommendations as I'm too lazy to count them properly). I got 25 different authors recommended. 8 were female. 3 of the female nominations came from Arry (out of 9), another 3 came from magisensei (who gave me an all female short list). Remove them and I got 13 recommendations from 4 people of which 2 were women. One is Jen Williams, who has a very high profile here for obvious reasons (and who I see barely mentioned elsewhere), the other is Naomi Novik.

That's just one small not particularly scientific sample of course. But it is evidence that female authors are being forgotten/ignored by the community.

And, of course, there are other bits of evidence. Like Mark Lawrence's poll, as pointed out by cupiscent.

Or we can look at the poll we did for The Gem Cutter, in which 18 names made it through nomination with only 2 women included. Or some of the book battles - 5 out of 32 in favourite series written by a woman.

Lawrence's blog is particularly interesting though as there's a guy in the industry pointing out that, despite the fact the publishing industry is female dominated, the perception is that women sell less well. Hence the push for androgynous names on the cover. Robin Hobb picked Robin deliberately for a pen name because its androgynous (and her career was not plain sailing as Megan Lindholm). Joanne Rowling writes as JK Rowling - gender neutral - and Robert Galbraith - straight up male pen name. It would be interesting to see a count of  new fantasy authors from the major publishing houses by gender.


People say we read what we like - how do we know what we like? I'm guessing there's very few people here reading multiple reviews of every new book coming out. Virtually no one here knows what manuscripts are getting rejected at the final hurdle as they're seen as good but difficult to market. Our choice of what to like is filtered before we ever get to make it.

And its filtered by an industry that is wary of pushing female authors in certain subgenres because they're seen as harder to sell and by a community that's putting up the numbers I've just pointed to.

Who knows what's out there that we'd like if people just gave it that push to find our attention?

Offline Quill

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #18 on: November 26, 2016, 05:34:05 PM »
I think @Peat hits the nail, really. The issue (in whatever form or shape or size there is an issue) is not necessarily whether we recommend female authors, because I think most of us care only about the story, not the gender of the author. The issue is whether the publishing industry allows us to read female authors that we can subsequently recommend.

Good news is, with indie publishing, that's a major barrier potentially removed. Of course, that leaves new female authors in the same situation as us male indie authors; trying to get attention so readers will recommend us, and so we may not have progressed much further; but at least indie publishing allows women to compete on more equal footing with men (not entirely equal, but more equal than traditional publishing).

As a personal note, I had my name written with initials on my book cover just to poke fun at this ridiculous practice of hiding the author's gender.
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Offline Eclipse

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #19 on: November 26, 2016, 07:51:49 PM »
Biggest surprise to me is Yora post so short just when you think you know someone there surprise you! I love you Yora.
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #20 on: November 26, 2016, 08:26:01 PM »
But what if there simply aren't that many female authors interested in those sub-genres as compared to others?

We may not have information of how many got rejected, but neither do we have about how many submitted. And even if we did, to know if they were good or not to be published, we would have to read every single one ourselves before saying it only got rejected because it was from a female. And then there's that very subjective thing called personal taste.

And even if we all agree some stories were really good or even found success later, we can find various similar tales from male authors too.
Rowling made a test with Robert Galbraith pen name and it tanked. Only when it was "leaked" that he was Rowling that people got interested in the book. And mostly agreed it was average. So male name did nothing for her.

It's like when someone says there aren't many women working on area X without stopping to consider if most women even want to be working on area X.

Seeing fewer female authors on Epic Fantasy, Military Fantasy or Dark Fantasy might simply be because most female authors don't feel much (or any) appeal for those genres, while they clearly do for Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance or YA.
Few submissions means there's less chances of finding something good. And if the publishers wants to publish X amount of books in those genres and there are only Y number of female authors, then that means some male average or crap works might pass through.

Same way for UF, PNR and YA. They are clearly dominated by female authors and the output is high, which means a lot of crap also pass through.
 
If we divide Fantasy by sub-genres, we are obviously gonna find some of them with disparities between the genders and others may be more balanced. Simply a matter of interests and tastes.

If we just group Fantasy in one big group (like in GR), I believe the genre may be pretty balanced. Actually, I think I'm willing to bet money that just because of UF, PNR and YA that women vastly outsells men...

Anyway, the question has been raised, but how to answer it? I'm not seeing any other answer than going for a male-authored book, then a female one, checking author profiles instead of blurbs or some kind of checklist.
It may work for some, but for me I think it would make reading feel like an obligation and that would be un-fun.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2016, 08:28:02 PM by Lanko »
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Offline Nora

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #21 on: November 26, 2016, 09:30:39 PM »
Lol @Peat someone recommended Okorafor to you? Binti? I thought it was one of the worst short story I read in years.

10/10 would not recommend based on how toxic plot was.

That's the thing though. Your stats don't come from a background of people who read 50/50 authored books.

How do I know what I like? Because I skim huge amounts of books. I DNF a ton of stuff, by men and women alike. I only read what catches my eye.
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Offline Peat

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #22 on: November 26, 2016, 11:14:03 PM »
But what if there simply aren't that many female authors interested in those sub-genres as compared to others?

Rough stats again, but -

The Speculative Herald lists 3 books in Epic its search by genre (probably needs updating). Two of them have a female author or a female co-author. They have 123 under Fantasy - its a grab bag, but plenty of the names are familiar as being in the rough genre people look for - and 54 of them have a female author or co-author.

Note - I haven't gone through the list in fine detail but there is a separate category for Urban Fantasy. I don't think there is particular overlap and in any case it only has 14, of which 7 are by female authors. That fantasy list is not being changed by Urban Fantasy. I don't read every SH review but I can't say I see much PR there ever.

Further rough data - we've got a database of 338 female authors on this forum in the google docs spreadsheet - http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/fantasy-book-discussion/women-write-fantasy-(the-giant-'women-in-fantasy'-database)/. 72 of them have a genre tag. The most of them is for Epic with 37. Urban is next with 26. Paranormal turns up 4. Given the biases of this forum and those mostly contributing to the list, I think its more likely than the majority of those names listed without a genre tag are closer to Epic/High/Heroic etc.etc. than Urban/Romance etc.etc.

Going through that thread and picking out a few things the posters were then talking about that are relevant here -

"It's hard to get statistics on the actual number of publications of SF and fantasy by gender. It's even harder to break it down into subgenres, because there is a certain amount of subjectivity and disagreement about these. But approximately 40% of the members of the SFWA are women. Of course, there are plenty professional SF and F writers of both gender who are not in this organization. No idea if the numbers are representative or not.

Since 1970, women have won nearly 40% of the Hugo awards for best novel, and 34% of the Nebulas. In the past twenty years, 40% of the Hugo winners and 50% of the nebula winners have been women.

I don't think women who write SF and F are that few and far between. Strange Horizons magazine participates in something called the count (an analysis of how literary coverage is affected by gender of the author), which suggests that SF and F novels written by women are less likely to be reviewed or discussed on book blogs."

"There are more male writers represented on display tables in bookshops, and in promotional emails (Juliet E. McKenna has done a lot of work on this) so when you're thinking of books to read, well, more books by male writers will tend to pop into your head."

This is rough quick research but I'm simply not seeing a lack of women writing the type of fantasy we talk about most here. I'm willing to believe there's not equal representation in terms of people who want to write this, but not the sort of disparity you'd expect with lists of recommendations where female authors make up 10-20pc.

Lol @Peat someone recommended Okorafor to you? Binti? I thought it was one of the worst short story I read in years.

10/10 would not recommend based on how toxic plot was.

That's the thing though. Your stats don't come from a background of people who read 50/50 authored books.

How do I know what I like? Because I skim huge amounts of books. I DNF a ton of stuff, by men and women alike. I only read what catches my eye.

Not Binti.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'people who read 50/50 authored books'. Nor do I know how you can be certain about the people who gave me the recommendations.

Offline Nora

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #23 on: November 26, 2016, 11:27:55 PM »
I meant that none of us have viable statistics on the authors we read. Aka, the certainty that we read 50% male and 50% female authors.
So if, say 70%, of the people who recommended you books have a rough 60-70% male inclined authors history of reading, the fact that these people recommend of majority of male authors is normal.
Someone who only reads female authors would be loath to recommend you any guys...

That's what I meant. And since we don't even know our own stats...
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #24 on: November 26, 2016, 11:38:53 PM »
Yea, that data is very rough and very small, it's hard to make a conclusion.

Regarding SF and F in general, there isn't a lack of authors, but there might be on certain sub-genres.
Lack in one sub-genre may be balanced by an overflow on another, for both genders. Even if it looks like there isn't a lack of authors present it doesn't mean there is a lot either regarding compared proportions. And that might be to other inclinations.

Hm, I will see what I can dig up later.
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #25 on: November 27, 2016, 01:10:02 AM »
Spent some time doing some searches today. It's harder to find data for this than I thought and I didn't exactly find what I was looking for. Still got some interesting results.

First, a Reddit list of favorite books/series written by female authors. It doesn't say the sub-genres, but probably more complete or better recommended. Since a lot of people directly search for this, here it goes:
Fantasy Reddit Top Female Authored Series Books - Results

I actually managed to find some data from a big publisher (Tor.com). Full article here: Sexism in genre publishing: A publisher's perspective

The interesting part is this:

Quote
I'm just one of a fair few female editors in this particular area. My colleagues (and competitors) are a set of brilliant, intelligent and hard-working women, who have loved genre since they were kids, have fought their way through the ranks, have extensive lists, love their jobs and don't compromise on the quality of fiction they publish. To name but a few there's Bella Pagan who works with me at Tor UK,  Gillian Redfearn at Gollancz, Anne Clarke at Orbit, Jo Fletcher at Jo Fletcher Books, Jane Johnson and Emma Coode at Voyager, Cath Trechman at Titan and Anne Perry over at Hodder.

That means that every genre publisher in the UK has female commissioning editors and 90% of the genre imprints here are actually run by women. So you can imagine there's a slight sense of frustration each time I see yet another article claiming that UK publishers are biased towards male writers. And I do wonder if those writing the pieces are aware who is actually commissioning these authors?

The sad fact is, we can't publish what we're not submitted. Tor UK has an open submission policy - as a matter of curiosity we went through it recently to see what the ratio of male to female writers was and what areas they were writing in. The percentages supplied are from the five hundred submissions that we've been submitted since the end of January. It makes for some interesting reading. The facts are, out of 503 submissions - only 32% have been from female writers.



And Gollancz said pretty much the same thing:

Quote
A slew of responses to Crisp's post revealed that the gender gap extends beyond Tor UK. Gillian Redfearn, Deputy Publishing Director of Gollancz, a second major UK-based publishing house, said in a tweet, "I am looking at the sales for the past year in SF/F. Only 25% of the top 20 titles are by women. In the top 50 and 100 titles, it's 23%."

Then I found this one which shows percentage of male/female reviews, but it's in Australia, but it provides some interesting comparisons (plenty of graphics - but important to say it's about all genres, not just Fantasy): Data That Shows Female Writers Don't Get a Fair Run

The article says "Fair Run", but if there are less submissions by female authors (with even less getting published), then most publications having more reviews of male authors is an expected consequence. Again, it's a curious comparison, but at the same time the data doesn't cover only SF/F, and it's on another country.

Then found this one with extra observations: Literature's Gender Gap

Quote
Franklin, who was chagrined to find that only 33 percent of the books she reviewed last year were by women, concluded that “magazines are reviewing female authors in something close to the proportion of books by women published each year. The question now becomes why more books by women are not getting published.” Since publishing a book tends to burnish the reputation of a reviewer or essayist (just as publishing well-received reviews and essays in journals can lead to a book contract), the two situations are certainly intertwined.

The imbalance in books published is indeed a puzzle; book publishers, like any other business, want to make money, and multiple surveys indicate that women buy and read far more books than men do. (This fact has long been established within the book business, but since some Salon readers have questioned it in the past, please see the National Endowment for the Arts “Reading at Risk” report.) If women were only — or even primarily — interested in books by women, the logic of the marketplace would dictate that publishers should release more titles by female authors.

And here’s where we have to get anecdotal. There’s really no hard data on how many books by male authors are read by women readers and vice versa, nor are we likely to ever see any. But try this: Ask six bookish friends — three men and three women — to list their favorite authors or favorite books, without explaining your motivation. Then see how many male authors the women list and whether the men list any female authors at all.

I wish I could find more publishing houses data like this, or at least from Tor US, since the market there is the biggest. And one article is from Tor.UK, the other from Australia, all three from different years (and A LOT changed in 4-5 years).

I'm pretty damn sure there was a thread in Reddit about data of 2014 or 2015 that showed women outselling men (and that UF wasn't so heavily female favored), but I can't find it and I'm too tired. Anyway, happy hunting for those interested!
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Offline Nora

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #26 on: November 27, 2016, 01:13:22 AM »
Okay, so what about Goodreads, the home of book lists, voted on by fellow readers by the hundreds of thousands? Don't we all go there sometimes to look for a catchy blurb?

Of all places, the Dystopian and post Apocalyptic list ( https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/47.Best_Dystopian_and_Post_Apocalyptic_Fiction ) has 6 women authors out of the first 15.

I tried to count, and found 36 female authors, out of 89 total authors (I counted each repeat author as unique, male or female, that outed a lot of Stephen King).

I reckon that's an impressive number, given the genre. Yet, I would not read some of these women, mostly because the blurb of some of their work doesn't appeal to me at all.
But then again I can't stand Stephen King.
Consider! There is also the matter of productivity. King wrote SO many books (like a tidal plague), he's voted for on every list. If you appeal to the masses and they have a hundred works to pick from, you're bound to unbalance recommendations.

Anyway, I'm sure each list has its own balances.

Now, the Best Paranormal Romances list, which annoys us all every years since it sometimes falls under fantasy : https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/397.Best_Paranormal_Romance_Series

Do you know how many are female authors in the first 100?

100

Not a single male author.

I went on and looked on page two. First male author is number 134. Obviously many women are cited several times, so we can be super generous and say that maybe, there is one male author recommended in a hundred, in a list where 11,763 people voted. AND that guy published under an ambiguous name, Pittacus Lore, and has a gender-free picture on his profile and no author information on his website. I had to google the name to ascertain it's a pseudonym belonging to a guy.

Who is out there taking care of that injustice? Who cares? Who wonders how hard it can be for a guy to be taken seriously if he tries to publish PR? Is it? Or is it assumed that men can't write PR as well? Is it like with nurses, who suffer from sexist discrimination in favour of women (9/10)?

Should we make efforts in recommending more men in the fields that see few of them, or only focus on women?

What about Self Pub? Can anyone (amazon??) get data on the genre of the new SFF author who go self pub each year? Because wouldn't that be the best way to establish a form of stat based on people who "finished a work", "decided it to be ready for public eyes" and also didn't have to go through traditional publishing houses?
What should we do as SFF fans if it turned out that 70% of self published SFF authors on amazon are dudes?

[Thanks Lanko for covering all of that above]

I'm not asking this sarcastically. I'm a 100%, non-laughing serious, because author gender equality is something I think about 0% of the time. I hardly know the name of a writer when I read his/her first book after seeing a catchy blurb. I often have to use goodreads to reference names when I want to recommend a work.
I'm not bothered by the whole topic, at all. So my queries are honest. I'm curious as to what people who are bothered by this think of such eventualities.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2016, 01:19:23 AM by Nora »
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Offline Rostum

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #27 on: November 27, 2016, 01:54:50 AM »
@Lanko I wish I could like your post twice! I was slowly gathering up the same information as this line of thinking annoys me.
If I pay money for a book or invest time in reading it surely I have some entitlement to the best experience possible and do not need to be guilt tripped into second thinking myself as to whether I am in some way not being fair to female authors. Likewise if a publishing house gets only a third of submissions from women authors they are under no obligation to publish a greater percentage of those submissions than those they receive from male authors to balance this up.

@Nora As for PR I would expect at least 90%+ of the readers are female as well. I wonder if any of your hundred are male authors using female pen names? It sells well and seems to be a good way of recycling the same story and selling it several times over as romance books did for years. prolific but not necessarily talented writers can make a very good living out of producing pulp.

Offline Nora

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Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #28 on: November 27, 2016, 02:00:34 AM »
@Rostum, we could click on all the author profiles and see. Most of them have portraits of the author and almost always it'll be a blond lady (jokingly stereotyping, plenty of brunettes as well...)
I'm sure there are men, and quite a few men write regular romance with success. Then again, it's a vote based list, not a sales based list.
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Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline cupiscent

Re: Do we recommend enough female authors when asked for recommendations
« Reply #29 on: November 27, 2016, 10:39:07 AM »
If people recommend few female authors, then fewer female authors have big hits, so publishers get a little warier on female authors because they don't sell fantastically, so fewer female authors are published, so fewer up-and-coming female authors see themselves represented in the genre, so fewer women submit their novels (or they go off to write romance), so fewer are published, so there are fewer to recommend, so...

What I find particularly interesting about this:


...is the almost exact same numbers reversed for SFF and YA. And I wonder if that's because fantasy featuring a female coming-of-age is likely to be sold as YA, whereas a similar male coming-of-age is likely to be straight SFF. For instance, Blake Charlton's Spellwright and Paul Hoffman's The Left Hand of God were both basically YA, but not published as such. Whereas, say, Miriam Forster's City of a Thousand Dolls was published as YA, but has precisely the same crossover audience big fantasy appeal. Never mind the Belgariad, or Magician, or all the other classics. A young man's journey to manhood is traditional fantasy territory. A young woman's is YA. (And I wonder if that, in turn, might be because women of all ages will read YA, but men mostly won't. I don't know, I'm just speculating.)

First, a Reddit list of favorite books/series written by female authors. It doesn't say the sub-genres, but probably more complete or better recommended. Since a lot of people directly search for this, here it goes:
Fantasy Reddit Top Female Authored Series Books - Results

That's a fantastic list. Regarding sub-genres, 50% of the top twenty are epic fantasy, and at first glance I'd say the rest of list is at least the same percentage, and a substantial portion of the rest of it is historical fantasy, urban fantasy mostly of the no-sex-please-we're-british variety (surprised to see Anne Rice on there, I would've called her horror), and other speculative miscellany.

Should we make efforts in recommending more men in the fields that see few of them?

Yes. If you read romance and make romance recommendations, it would be absolutely fantastic to see more attention being paid to male authors in the genre. Maybe if we can get a little gender parity in that genre, the severity and frequency of people talking down to it and its readers will reduce.

But the question here is: do we consider female authors enough when making recommendations in spec fic?

And yes, I care. Then again, I'm biased: I'm a female wannabe author. I hope that if I write a good book, I will have an equal chance of getting word-of-mouth sales traffic, and not just from the forums where I'm a member.

I still honestly don't see what's so onerous about taking a moment, when making recommendations, to consider whether there are also/more ladies whose works might be appropriate for the list. If that leads to you considering or even reading more female-written fantasy, that's a bonus! But seriously, read whatever you like. No one's saying otherwise.

Though if people do want to extend their reading, we could offer recommendations for female authors based on other favourites?