Share Your Publishing Story: Study on Modern Women Writers
Written by
Mohana Rajakumar
January 2015
Written by
Mohana Rajakumar
January 2015

Virginia Woolf’s nineteenth-century declarative essay, “A Room of One’s Own,”[1] has been the founding tenet of contemporary female authorship. In her assertion that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,”[2] she summarized the myriad challenges facing nineteenth-century female writers. While contemporary Western society has loosened many gender expectations for women, the bias against women’s writing that was prevalent in the eighteenth and nineteenth century persists today. Female writers, like best-selling romance author Nora Roberts, for example, are advised by their publishers to use only initials if writing in male-dominated genres like suspense--even if they have an established following in other forms of fiction.

The act of independent publishing, or becoming an “indie,” as writers call themselves, is a rhetorical one, asserting one’s identity and message.[3] For women in particular, this has become incredibly important in the indie world. This inclusion is significant because publishing activity contributes to the available body of texts, or what many would define as knowledge: as independent publishing has lowered the barriers to entry, those who have messages they want to self-finance are able to do so, and thereby circumvent the concerns of agents and publishers, who are often worried about how prospective titles can satisfy the tastes of a mainstream, non-diverse audience.[4] Independent publishing, therefore, transcends the traditional discourse of commercially sanctioned messages and the largely assumed tastes of a North American, or European Caucasian, audience. Women have come to “theorize their own authorship” (Williams 1), setting their own priorities in the types of books they write rather than bending to market driven decisions, usually made by publishing executives chasing bestseller trends.[5] Independent publishing allows the author and reader to decide whether or not to enter into the act of book publishing or consumption for themselves.

Has self publishing helped women writers find their audience? Is the publishing industry treating women fairly? You can share your perspective as to why or why not via this quick ten-question survey.

This is for a study on modern women writers. Feel free to message me with questions/ideas/suggestions! Writers of all sorts welcome.

[1] Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, University of Adelaide, last modified March 4, 2014,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Judith Kegan Gardiner, “On Female Identity and Writing by Women,”

Critical Inquiry 8, no. 2, (1981): 350,

[4] Liz Bondi, “In Whose Words? On Gender Identities, Knowledge and Writing Practices,”

Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 22, no. 2 (1997): 246,

[5] Williams

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  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    Very informative post, Mohana. Thank you. 

    Also love the line by Cate Warren below ~ "I can hear the hamster in my head running on its wheel a little brisker..."

  • Mohana Rajakumar

    Find your niche Joanne and get them to review your books :).

    I totally agree Cate: The default is always the male palate, even though women do most of the book buying and reading.

    Thanks for the link Sophie.

    Hope everyone took a minute to take the survey itself (and pass along to your writing friends). Need 60 more responses by Friday.

  • Joanne Barney

    It is apparent that some genres do pretty well in the indie book world:  thrillers, mysteries, dystopic scenes, paranormal, romance, soft porn,  and certain kinds of non-fiction, for example.  When I read with envy of a writer, female or male, who makes a good living writing and self-publishing his/her books, the writing is usually in these genres.  Literary fiction, written by either men or women,  doesn't seem to do as well, unless the author is established and has a following. I'm still waiting for my personal genre, Henlit, to join this.  Start  reading (my books), Boomers!

  • Mohana Rajakumar

    Hi Sophie. Thanks for stopping in and sharing your point of view. J.K  Rowling is a very interesting case, because as the chapter goes on to say "She was advised to by her publisher to use her initials, J.K., instead of releasing titles under her name Joanna Rowling, in order to have wider appeal to younger male readers."

    The aim of this chapter is not to take away from the many successes of female writers who haven't had to hide their gender or to "ghettoize" self-publishing but rather to look at the industry on the whole and trends for indies in particular. The subject of the larger book is about women and contemporary authorship, so this is a niche within that broader topic. Hope that helps give more of the context of the project overall.

  • Mohana Rajakumar

    Thanks so much Vivienne. I may quote you!

  • Vivienne Diane Neal

    Have completed your survey. I read the book, "A Room of Her Own," in college, which was many years ago. I have always believed in publishing my own works, because I want to decide what to write and not allow someone else to dictate what type of stories I should tell. I am semiretired, so I don't rely on the royalties from my books. Nevertheless, best wishes to you and your endeavors.