For an entire year, this publisher is only releasing books written by women
The numbers are still grim. Publishing continues to be ruled by men and so are bylines, with women in the byline-business traditionally relegated to lifestyle topics. That’s not all; literary prizes go to more men than women, and stories about men are more frequently awarded than stories about women. But in recent years, more and more women have been pushing back against the male-dominated status quo, and gains are being made.
Now one female writer, Kamila Shamsie, has written a call-to-action in the Guardian, a way of understanding why it is we publish more men and how to get more female voices heard. She writes, “Why not have a Year of Publishing Women: 2018, the centenary of women over the age of 30 getting the vote in the UK, seems appropriate . . . the basic premise of my “provocation” is that none of the new titles published in that year should be written by men.” One publishing house, And Other Stories, has already taken her up on this challenge. In 2018, And Other Stories will be publishing books only written by women.
And Other Stories editor Sophie Lewis explained to the Independent what the publishing company is hoping to achieve through a year of publishing exclusively women: “It’s not just about helping create a women’s writing boom. Only publishing women in 2018 means we will be able to carry out a thorough investigation of how different books reach us, and how we can encourage more underrepresented voices to be heard.”
In her piece, Shamsie suggests that it’s not one particular person who is at fault for the lack of representation of women in publishing, but rather a cycle that continues pushing women’s writing to the back and celebrating writing by men. She writes, “Like any effective system of power — and patriarchy is, over time and space, the world’s most effective system of power – the means of keeping the power structure intact is complex.
“What would it look like, this changed landscape of publishing in 2018? Actually, the real question is what would happen in 2019? Would we revert to status quo or would a year of a radically transformed publishing landscape change our expectations of what is normal and our preconceptions of what is unchangeable? I suggest we find out.” That’s exactly what And Other Stories seeks to do.
At this point, no other publishers in the UK or in the US have stepped up to take part in the Year of Publishing Women. But we’re all about getting more female voices in publishing, and hope more publishers decide to step up! At the very least, this will be a fully-fascinating case study and we’ll discover a few new lady writers to boot.