A few posts back (June 21) I wrote about VIDA’s findings of sexual discrepancies in literary publishing. In the July/August issue of Poets and Writers Magazine, I read about a blog by poet Anna Leahy, “Submission Mission,” in response to the idea that women writers don’t get published as much as their male counterparts because they don’t submit as often. “Submission Mission,” hosted by the social networking site She Writes, presents submission prompts, ideas for where to submit work (http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/where-to-submit), a monthly chat session and an exchange of ideas around the subject of getting your work out there. You can read Leahy’s blog at http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/the-submission-mission-a-1. If you want to post comments and participate in the chats, you have to sign up, but it’s free and easy to become a member of She Writes. And you don’t have to be female. She writes is a great resource for writers, with lots of groups and support. It’s definitely worth checking out: http://www.shewrites.com/page/about-1.
The comments posted at “Submission Mission” are interesting…expanding the discussion beyond the “women don’t submit as often” argument to talk about things like women’s fear of/taking rejection too hard, getting tired of beating one’s head against the publishing wall, economic discrepancies that hinder women, and who the people who are doing the selecting at magazines and publishing houses. Here’s one thoughtful follow-up: http://beyondthemargins.com/2011/02/submitting-work-a-womans-problem/ Be sure and read the comments too.
And Ruth Franklin (a senior editor at The New Republic,) wrote a fascinating piece in response to the VIDA statistics: http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/82930/VIDA-women-writers-magazines-book-reviews
She and two other women at TNR conducted a small sample of books published last year to see if more men than women had books published (they did not include genre books or ones with primarily commercial appeal). Here’s what they found:
“We looked at fall 2010 catalogs from 13 publishing houses, big and small. Discarding the books that were unlikely to get reviewed—self-help, cooking, art—we tallied up how many were by men and how many were by women. Only one of the houses we investigated—the boutique Penguin imprint Riverhead—came close to parity, with 55 percent of its books by men and 45 percent by women. Random House came in second, with 37 percent by women. It was downhill from there, with three publishers scoring around 30 percent—Norton, Little Brown, and Harper—and the rest 25 percent and below, including the elite literary houses Knopf (23 percent) and FSG (21 percent). Harvard University Press, the sole academic press we considered, came in at just 15 percent.
“I speculated that independents—more iconoclastic, publishing more work in translation, and perhaps less focused on the bottom line—would turn out to be more equitable than the big commercial houses. Boy, was I wrong. Granted, these presses publish a smaller number of books in total, so a difference in one or two books has a larger effect on their percentages. Still, their numbers are dismaying. Graywolf, with 25 percent female authors, was our highest-scoring independent. The cutting-edge Brooklyn publisher Melville House came in at 20 percent. The doggedly leftist house Verso was second-to-last at 11 percent. Our lowest scorer? It pains me to say it, because Dalkey Archive Press publishes some great books that are ignored by the mainstream houses. But it would be nice if more than 10 percent of them were by women. (In the 2011 edition of Dalkey’s much-lauded Best European Fiction series, edited by Aleksandar Hemon, 30 percent of the stories are by women. Last year, at least Zadie Smith wrote the preface.)”
You may want to read Franklin’s piece in its entirety.
It’s good there is a lot of discussion flying around, but I wonder if it will change anything…