PAYPER PARITY

Chart: Books are cheaper in genres dominated by women

A new study of US book prices shows that book genres with more female authors are also cheaper. For their analysis, researchers from Queens College in New York looked at 2 million individual titles published in North America between 2002 and 2012. They determined the gender of the authors by cross-referencing their first and middle names with census data.

What they found was a clear trend: The average book price of a genre goes down as the genre gets more female. This chart shows the female-ness of book genres, as seen through a percentage of the total authors whose genders could be identified by the researchers. (About a quarter of the total published titles had author genders that were ambiguous and couldn’t be determined by the researchers, and aren’t included in our chart.)

Overall, books that are identified as having a female-named author cost 45% less on average than male-named. Even after the researchers accounted for price disparities between genres, female-authored books were on average still 9% less expensive.

The researchers compared trends in traditional publishing with self-publishing, where authors choose their own genres and set their own prices. They found the same pattern, though the gap was narrower. “With greater freedom, workers in the gig economy may be inclined to greater equality, but will largely replicate existing labor market segmentation and the lower valuation of female-typical work and of female workers,” the researchers wrote.

The correlation is still true for individual genres within fiction, from traditional publishers. Again, here we use percentages of the total names that could be identified as male or female:

Genre Average price Share of women authors
Mystery and detective $25.35 45%
Historical $22.60 40%
Action and adventure $18.82 22%
Fantasy $18.21 42%
Thrillers $18.06 28%
Horror $17.72 24%
Christian $17.70 65%
Science Fiction $17.15 22%
Romance $13.65 86%
Erotica $7.84 75%
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