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Jodi Angel, author of You Only Get Letters from Jail and Matthew Spektor, author of Amerian Dream Machine reading at Powell's Books Monday, July 22, 7:00pm
On Gender, Numbers, & Submissions
Last week Vida, Women in the Literary Arts, released data showing gender inequalities in a variety of literary publications including the New Yorker, Atlantic, Granta, and Tin House. What many of us have been talking about and sensing was put in stark relief via raw numbers and pie charts. Meghan O’Rourke quickly weighed in at Slate, followed by Ruth Franklin’s sobering piece in the New Republic, which reported that literary book publishing numbers were equally unequal. These numbers were all the buzz at AWP.
At AWP, we spoke with members of Vida and all agreed that taking a magazine’s internal submission statistics into account would help put gender disparity numbers in perspective and provide context.
Let me start with our editorial board (those who vote during editorial meetings): 5 men, 5 women.
On average, we receive between 1,500 and 2,000 unsolicited submissions per month. The last 2,000 unsolicited submissions were nearly equally split between men and women. Factoring gender-neutral names, it is a statistical wash.
Of the last 100 agented submissions we received, 62 were by male authors and 38 were by female authors.
Of the last 50 agents who submitted to Tin House, 32 of those agents were women and 18 were men.
Of the last 100 authors to submit directly to me, 63 of those submissions came from men and 37 came from women. This includes submissions from agents, publishers (for first serial), past contributors, forwarded submissions from contributing editors (12 men, 8 women), and teachers recommending students.
A clarification of one Vida statistic:
There was a pie chart listing “book reviews.” We do not review current books. Tin House features a section called “Lost and Found” where authors champion their favorite underappreciated books and authors. In 2010 the majority of pieces pitched to us, and published, focused on work made between 1909-1963. Of those writing for the Lost & Found section, the 13 male writers and 10 female writers chose to champion 18 underappreciated male writers versus four underappreciated female writers.
Vida’s survey is an overview of 2010. Had they looked at the year 2007, our numbers would have been skewed heavily toward women because one of the four issues was called Fantastic Women and featured 28 female writers. This issue came out of what we saw as a trend among female writers like Kelly Link, Aimee Bender, and Stacy Richter who were (and still are) pushing the surreal form in a different direction than their male counterparts.
Of solicited writers, I see a distinct gender difference. When I solicit male authors, the only ones who do not submit are those contractually bound by other magazines. For female authors it is closer to 50% submit after being asked.
Male authors, in the face of rejection, are much more likely to submit more work, (and sooner) than their female peers. This is true even when the female author is explicitly requested to send more work.
Similarly, men whose work we accept are more likely to follow up publication with more submissions. Of the 28 female writers in Fantastic Women, 3 have voluntarily sent further submissions. In that same time period I have received at least 100 submissions from previously published male authors.
These numbers don’t account for subconscious or unacknowledged gender preferences in editors, but do I hope they put Vida’s findings in greater context.
The bottom line at Tin House is that we are aware of the gender disparity, we are concerned about these numbers, and we are committed to redoubling our efforts to solicit women writers. Personally, I am deeply tuned into the reality of gender inequality: I am married to a short story writer, and my fifteen year-old daughter is a drummer in a feminist punk rock band. Since the start of Tin House twelve years ago, I have been committed to publishing the best work I can find. Agents of female writers, publishers of female writers, and especially female writers, please send us your work. We really want your work.