I’m all for more representation of women in publishing. Men are more likely to be published and even more likely to be nominated for and win awards, and that’s not cool. But this week a small publisher, And Other Stories, announced its decision to publish only females for a year after a call-to-action and I’m having trouble getting excited about it.
This isn’t the first time such an endeavor has been undertaken. Previously, The Critical Flame announced its decision to devote coverage to women and women of color for one year. The difference is that The Critical Flame covers literature but doesn’t publish it (to my knowledge), so there are no paying clients being excluded. There’s also the Dorothy Project, which promotes women authors. Interestingly, articles about the project (like this one from Huffington Post) say that it is “dedicated to publishing books by women only,” but the Dorothy Project site itself says they are “dedicated to works of fiction or near fiction or about fiction, mostly by women,” which isn’t the same thing, but awesome, nonetheless.
But back to the case at hand. I should preface this post with the fact that I have no problem with a publisher only releasing books by women. What’s stopping me from jumping for joy is that And Other Stories didn’t start out this way – they have previously published men and, admittedly, did so more often than they did women. That’s obviously a problem, but I don’t know that excluding men is the answer. The crux of the issue is that this move raises more questions than answers. I have concerns that, so far, have not been addressed in any of the articles that I have read and I might be more willing to get onboard if they were answered. That said, if you’ve come across one that answers the following questions, please let me know. And who knows? Maybe the publisher will read this and put my mind at ease. Either way, here are the questions lingering in my mind about this whole thing that have me holding back on my support:
1. What about their existing male clients? Male authors who have previously worked with this agency are, presumably, no longer able to publish their work with them (at least for the next year), meaning they essentially have to start over. Where will they go? How much time will they have to spend finding a new publisher when they were, more than likely, perfectly happy with the representation they had?
2. What about promoting existing books by men? This goes along with question 1, but it’s worthy of its own discussion because it raises another batch of issues. The very public decision to undertake this effort means that all eyes will be on the publisher to follow through and promote women, but at what cost and to whom? Will their zealousness to promote only women result in shoddy representation for the men they’ve already published? To take it a step further, let’s say this does happen – will they let men out of contracts or will they have to pay their fees and be excluded? (I’m assuming this is how the payments work because it’s pretty standard. I actually have no idea how they make their money from published works but I’m assuming they don’t do it for free).One publisher will cease publishing men in favor of women for one year. Let's talk about that. #women Click To Tweet
3. Is excluding men in favor of women fixing anything? The only difference I see is that it’s good for the women who get published, but then they are left to wonder whether they were published because their book was that good or because it was that good with reduced competition. I’m not saying men write better books, I just mean that statistically, a reduction in competition boosts the odds of winning. Of course, maybe the books by women are just plain better and wouldn’t have been published because men were favored (which is just bad business) but the question still lingers. Plus, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that excluding men is the answer to promoting women.
Like I said, I am all for increasing representation and publication for the ladies. In fact, I embrace the idea. But from everything I have read so far about this particular case, the missing piece of the puzzle is what is going to happen to the men who have already gained representation, are working with, or have worked with this company in the past. Quite frankly, I’m not comfortable promoting women at the expense of men and that is exactly what this endeavor appears to be doing. There has to be another way. In fact, I have a few ideas, so I’ll go ahead and share them with you:
- Striving for equal representation, rather than exclusionary representation
- Running a short story contest that is open only to women
- Adding in a promotional period where only women authors are highlighted
Now it’s your turn. Weigh in!
What do you think about the publisher’s move to publish only women?