The book industry has been in a state of constant evolution for centuries, and it's safe to say that women have played a significant role in its transformation. From writers to publishers, female voices have been an essential force in shaping the industry as we know it today.
Women are now publishing more books than men, and this shift is transforming the book industry for the better. According to a report from Joel Waldfogel, an economist at the University of Minnesota, women in the UK and the US published 58% of new titles in 2020, up from 36% in 1960. This trend is not only diversifying readership but also driving up revenue. In this article, we highlight seven inspiring women who are shaping the future of the book industry.
1 - Oprah Winfrey:
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Oprah Winfrey is undoubtedly the queen of books with her Oprah's Book Club, which has been around since 1996 when she started spotlighting books on her show. In 2023, her book club has selected over 100 books with Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano being the latest selection. She is a passionate advocate for reading and her Oprah stamp of a book can make or break a book's success. She has helped to bring a diverse range of voices to the forefront of the literary world. Outside of books, Winfrey has also made significant contributions to the television industry, having started the OWN network, which features several book-related programs.
2 - Reese Witherspoon:
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Witherspoon has become a key figure in the book industry, using her platform to bring more attention to women authors and their stories. Her book club picks, under ‘Reese’s Book Club,’ have become instant bestsellers, and her production company has brought many beloved books to life on the screen. In 2021, the actress, producer, and entrepreneur sold her media company, Hello Sunshine (with the help of Lauren Neustadter, Hello Sunshine’s president of film and TV), for $900 million to Candle Media.
Witherspoon's company has produced hit book-to-screen adaptations such as "Where the Crawdads Sing," which brought in $140.2 million dollars at the box office on a $24 million dollar budget. Hello Sunshine has also produced shows such as "The Morning Show," starring Jennifer Aniston and Witherspoon herself, and adaptations of popular books such as “Something from Tiffany's,” “From Scratch,” and the bookish favorite "Daisy Jones and The Six" on Prime Video.
Witherspoon has become a key figure in the book industry, using her platform to bring more attention to female authors and their stories.
3 - Jenna Bush Hager:
Former first daughter and "Today Show" correspondent Jenna Bush Hager has become a literary force with her book club, “Read with Jenna,” which she started in March of 2019. With nearly 50 books selected and the star power of Jenna (and Hoda), these books become instant New York Times bestsellers. Some of these book choices include "The Dutch House" by Ann Patchett, “A Woman is No Man" by Etaf Rum and "The Comeback" by Ella Berman. Jenna's passion for reading and sharing books with her audience has made her a prominent figure in the book industry and has brought attention to new authors and titles, making it easier for readers to discover new books.
4 - Meena Harris:
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Meena Harris is a lawyer, a multiple-time children's book author (her new book "A is for Ambition" is out now!), a producer, and the founder of the Phenomenal Woman Media. She is a rising force in the book industry. This year, Harris has expanded her media empire with a new publishing partnership with Hachette and a new early-stage $6 million venture fund called Phenomenal Ventures (co-started with Helen Min, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Phenomenal Ventures). Through Phenomenal, Harris creates statement fashion to support charity [Editor's note: Their “Phenomenal Woman” gray T-shirt went viral on social media].
Harris has become a prominent voice in the industry, using her platform to promote diverse stories and amplify underrepresented voices. She centers young girls and women as ambitious and worthy of sharing their stories.
5 - Glory Edim:
Glory Edim, founder of the Well-Read Black Girl book club, started the group as a safe space for Black women to discuss one book a month that resonated with them. The club has supported several successful authors, including Brit Bennett, who penned the New York Times bestsellers "The Mothers" and "The Vanishing Half," and Nicole Dennis-Benn, a two-time Lambda Literary Award winner for her novels "Patsy" and "Here Comes the Sun." Edim has also made waves as an author with her books "Well-Read Black Girl" in 2018 and "On Girlhood" in 2021, and she has an upcoming book called "Gather Me" set for 2024.
Edim's mission is to read and focus on Black women and nonbinary writers, creating a space where they can see themselves reflected in the stories they read. Check out her new podcast, Well-Read Black Girl with Glory Edim.
6 - Sanyu Dillon:
Sanyu Dillon is the Chief Marketing Officer at Penguin Random House, where she leads marketing efforts for the world's largest trade book publisher. She is also passionate about driving inclusiveness in publishing and launched All Ways Black, a community and platform that celebrates Black literature hosted by the amazing Cree Myles [Editor's Note: Check out this Thank You For Asking Podcast with Cree]. Dillon believes that reading books is a form of media consumption that can make people feel good and recently launched the campaign "Slow Down, Read a Book," a social-first campaign that uses digital rest stops to prompt cellphone addicts to unhand their devices, shut down Instagram, take a break from doom-scrolling, and read instead."
Through her work, Dillon is creating a more inclusive and diverse publishing space.
7 - Hitha Palepu:
Hitha Palepu is an author and book reviewer who shares her thoughts on the latest reads and industry news through her website, Hitha On The Go. Through words and books, Hitha has become a trusted voice in the industry and a must-follow on social media. She has also contributed to publications like Forbes and CNN, and of course #5SmartReads providing insights and analysis on the book industry. Her work has helped readers discover new books and gain a deeper understanding of the book publishing landscape.
Additionally, Palepu advocates for women's empowerment and diversity in media and business. We had the privilege of having her on the Thank You For Asking Podcast with Amber Burns, which we will share here.
These seven women are just a few examples of the numerous women who have made significant contributions to the book industry. Their impact on the industry and readership is immeasurable, and they continue to inspire the next generation of readers and writers.
Let us know some of your favorite women making an impact in the book space!
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