Women in Publishing

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Update: We are bumping this back to the top of the page because the conversation is so active.

The count is in. VIDA has a breakdown of women publishing in 2010. Across the board women are being published less than men and fewer books by women are being reviewed than books by men.

What’s not addressed is how many women submit to Tin House for example, which published three times as many men as women. If only a quarter of the submissions are from women then that would make sense and the problem would be encouraging women to submit their fiction. If, on the other hand, the same number of women are submitting manuscripts as men, then the problem could be editorial.

In the opening of the article Amy King states, “We know women write. We know women read. It’s time to begin asking why the 2010 numbers don’t reflect those facts with any equity.” But there’s a lot of presumption in that statement, and the statements that follow. Do women write as much as men? And probably more importantly, Do they submit their work to literary journals? Certainly in terms of books reviewed the percentage of literary books published by women to men would be the most important statistic. As much effort as was put into compiling this data one imagines the data on books published could certainly be found, even if it had to be limited to a dozen presses just so we would have an idea.

We love you VIDA, but we want a little more.

Update

I should have chosen my words more carefully. It’s fairly obvious that women write as much as men. I don’t know why I was so glib, so glib, in fact I didn’t remember writing that line. Still, there is important data missing from VIDA’s article. Some of it is difficult to find, like number of women submitting work. Some of it is not that hard, like percentage of books published by women (which I believe is important if we’re going to talk about books reviewed). I’m surprised still that some people have taken my comments to mean we’re not on VIDA’s side. VIDA’s data shows an important problem that needs to be addressed. More data will enrich the conversation and hopefully help point us in a direction of positive change.


Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books, including the memoir The Adderall Diaries and the novel Happy Baby. He is the founding editor of The Rumpus. His feature film debut, About Cherry, was distributed by IFC. His second movie, based on his novel Happy Baby, is forthcoming. More from this author →