Does Melville House realize it publishes 83.3% men, 16.7% women?

June 9, 2010 — Leave a comment

I created a link to Melville House Publishing yesterday because of its novella series, and today I clicked around the web site a bit. I could forgive them for being totally unpleasant at AWP (it was almost over, we were all tired, and I was just another loser with another novella), but the bad attitude is of a piece with their submission guidelines, which start with three WE DO NOTS, continue with shouting CAPS, gain momentum with scolding LECTURES, and punctuate the policy with INSULTS:

Note: We are not currently accepting poetry manuscripts.

Note: WE DO NOT ACCEPT ELECTRONIC SUBMISSIONS, QUERIES, OR PROPOSALS. Even if you’re an agent. No, wait, I take that back — ESPECIALLY if you’re an agent. Ha!

Submissions policy:

Melville House will not respond to, nor be able to return, any unsolicited manuscripts that are not accompanied by a self–addressed, stamped envelope. Please be sure to include the appropriate postage. (Note: Not the money for the postage, but the postage itself. Stuck on the right sized envelope. See, the idea is to save us a trip to the P.O. If you send us a check for the postage, you’ve added not only a trip to the P.O., but a trip to the bank. We get grumpy and short of time and — well, it could work out to be bad for you.) Also, SENDING SOMETHING SIGNATURE REQUIRED IS NOT A GOOD IDEA. It is, in fact, what is known in publishing as a bad idea. If we haven’t requested it, we won’t sign for it, and so you will just be paying to mail something back to yourself, not a good economic strategy for most writers. Also, whatever you do, for God’s sake, do not send your only copy of your work.

Idiotic submitters notwithstanding, there’s no need to talk down to us. Most of us can follow rules just fine without being talked down to and patronized and insulted. There are 15 sentences here, and 12 uses of the word or contraction for ‘not.’ That’s an impressive 80% rate for negative sentences!

But the bad attitude wasn’t the only thing that got to me. There was something else emanating from the (sleekly-designed, attractive, well-organized) site. Oh wait, I know: Testosterone.

I scanned their catalogue and did some more calculating:

Of the 16 ‘New’ releases, 14 are by men and 2 are by women. (One of the texts by a woman is actually an interview with Roberto Bolano, so that almost doesn’t count.) [12.5% women]

Of the 35 Classic ‘Art of the Novella’ books, 30 are by men and 5 are by women. [14.3% women]

Of the 13 Contemporary ‘Art of the Novella’ books, 12 are by men and 1 is by a woman (the same woman in the ‘New’ releases list). [8% women]

Of all the 132 books, 110 are by men and 22 are by women. [16.7% women]

WTF?

In the spirit of promoting solutions and not just problems, perhaps Melville House can take a lesson from Geoffrey Gatza at BlazeVOX Books, who noticed a similar issue in his own catalog and has posted this message on his submissions page:

\\\ ATTN!!! \\\

BlazeVOX [books] had recognized a deficiency in our publication catalog. We are now ing the process of developing a book series that promotes the work of women who are courageous, innovative, definition defying writers.

By last November, BlazeVOX had a list of 8 women authors with books scheduled for release.

See this brief mention in Poets and Writers. That’s how to solve a problem.

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