October 3, 2017
Publishers take a stand: “People have to stop thinking there are no consequences to being sexist”
by Taylor Sperry
A while back, we wrote about Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen, the trailblazing independent publishers behind Ireland’s Tramp Press. Davis-Goff and Coen argued that in addition to the disproportionate number of men publishing and being published, reviewing and being reviewed, books written by men also tend to have an outsize influence on all aspiring writers, regardless of gender.
“I read [submission] letter after letter from well-meaning, perfectly nice men and women who list reams of writers they admire, without apparently noticing that the writers they are listing are all of one gender,” Davis-Goff said at the time.
Enough is enough.
For the Guardian, Alison Flood reports this week that Tramp has updated its submissions guidelines to say that it will no longer consider manuscripts from writers who do either of the following: send a cover letter that lists only male influences, or address the two women as “Dear Sirs.”
This is a pretty modest request. If you want to write a book, read widely; if you want that book published, do enough homework to have a basic understanding of the editor you’re querying.
Still, it’s a “big deal” to Davis-Goff and Coen, who have “always kept the ‘slush pile’ open lest [they] let any truly exciting piece of work pass [them] by.” Now it’s a risk they’re willing to take: “It turns out,” they said, “that while overtly sexist authors send us a lot of work (a lot), they have never sent us anything we’ve wanted to publish… More importantly, people have to stop thinking there are no consequences to being sexist. So as of today, sexists need not apply.”
Taylor Sperry is an editor at Melville House.