Research by the University of Glasgow has informed the creation of a new annual book prize that will further amplify female voices, whilst celebrating books that inform, challenge, disrupt, and offer solace and connection.
The Women’s Prize Trust has announced its intention to create the annual award. This UK charity, which champions equity for women in the world of books and masterminds the Women’s Prize for Fiction, is currently seeking sponsorship to support a launch later this year.
The impetus to launch the Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction was motivated by research which demonstrates a clear inequality in both consumer visibility (through media coverage and prize announcements) and author remuneration.
Research into authors’ earnings and contracts was undertaken in 2022 by the University of Glasgow’s CREATe (the UK Copyright & Creative Economy Research Centre) who were commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) to conduct this independent research. Its nationwide survey of 50,000 authors about their earnings and professional lives showed that female authors are more likely to receive a lower advance, with median earnings have fallen by 16.6% over the past five years compared to a 13.5% drop experienced by male writers. This gender pay gap has also increased over the same period from 33.3% to 35.7%.
Further research conducted by the Women’s’ Prize for Fiction also found that female non-fiction writers, in comparison to their male counterparts, are:
- Less likely to be reviewed in the UK national media: only 26.5% of non-fiction reviews in national newspapers was allocated to books by female writers
- Less likely to appear in the ‘Best Books of 2022’ newspaper articles: only 33.7% of the non-fiction books selected in 2022 were written by female writers
- Less likely to be shortlisted, or win, non-fiction book prizes: only 35.5% of books awarded a non-fiction prize over the past ten years were written by a female writer, across seven UK non-fiction prizes.
The launch of the Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction aims to combat gender imbalance by:
- Leveraging the power of the Women’s Prize brand, with a platform that currently reaches a global community of 95 million readers
- Attracting media attention and building author profiles, replicating the Women’s Prize for Fiction campaign, which annually secures 2,000 pieces of coverage with an equivalent PR value of £19 million
- Galvanising consumer interest and increasing book sales and rights deals worldwide
- Future-proofing writing careers through advocating for fair remuneration
Kate Mosse, the Women’s Prize for Fiction Founder Director, novelist, non-fiction author and playwright, said: “This is an extremely exciting moment in the history of the Women’s Prize. Since we launched 28 years ago, we have celebrated and amplified the voices of hundreds of amazing novelists, pressing their books into the hands of millions of readers. We are confident that our new non-fiction sister prize will do the same for those extraordinary non-fiction authors, many of whom do not receive the attention they deserve. The result is that readers are short-changed. We are now seeking corporate partners open to joining our family of sponsors. Together, we can champion exceptional women’s narrative non-fiction on a global stage. This is the time to be bold.”
Amy Thomas, Project Investigator for the UofG survey, said: “Our research found that writing is far from an equal opportunity profession. There are substantial inequalities between those who are being adequately rewarded for their writing, and those who are not. This begs the question whether we are stifling our creative culture by disincentivising a broad and diverse group of writers from participating in this market. It is heartening to see the creation of a prize that will ensure female voices and talents are represented and championed, at a time when we need this to happen more than ever.”
‘Authors’ Earnings and Contracts’ forms part of a longitudinal series of surveys, funded by ALCS, first conducted in 2006 (also led by Kretschmer), repeated in 2014 (by Gibson, Johnson & Dimita out of Queen Mary, University of London), and 2018 (also led by Kretschmer). This series of surveys captures robustly the effects of digital changes on the labour market and working conditions of a specific professional sector.