“the gems we’ve found have been hidden in a huge steaming pile of garbage..."
So, I hesitated a little before starting this post. To be honest I’ve served my time on the front line of the gender wars for the best part of 30 years and I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to get distracted by the predictable hassles that raising these issues seems to attract.
Fahrenheit Press has been in business for exactly 8 weeks now and we have two books on the market – A Slow Death by James Craig and The Lobster Boy And The Fat Lady’s Daughter by Charles Kriel. During that 8 weeks we’ve been encouraging submissions from authors and as you can imagine we’ve been buried under the weight of them.
We’ve been encouraging crime fiction submissions from traditionally published authors, self-published authors, debut authors – anyone in fact who has a story to tell and the talent to tell it and by god there are a lot of you.
I’d say we’re getting at least 5 or 6 submissions every day and we now have literally hundreds to go through. I’m not complaining though, we’ve already found a couple of gems, signed the contracts and scheduled the publication dates.
I won’t lie though, the few gems we’ve found have been hidden in a huge steaming pile of garbage. Most of the submissions arriving in our inbox are terrible, really really terrible, embarrassingly so.
The technical revolution in publishing has removed a lot of the traditional barriers to publication and on the whole this has been an incredibly positive development. However, as these barriers have fallen away, one of the negative impacts is that everyone and his brother fancies having a go at writing a book.
Seriously I’d give almost anything to spend half an hour in a room with whichever moron came up with “everyone has a book inside them” – they don’t, they really, really don’t. Trust me, if you think you do, you almost certainly don't.
It’d be funny if it wasn’t so potentially heart breaking. Every single one of the hundreds of people who have submitted to us thinks their manuscript has potential. Every single one of them has spent serious time and emotional energy getting their novels into a condition where they feel they’re good enough to submit to a publisher.
I’d say they roughly break down something like this…
50% Total nonsense, 100% delusional
25% Poor / Mediocre
20% Needs work but potentially something there.
4% Real potential
1% Something special
It’s not so much a tsunami of shit as much as a tsunami of self-delusion and over confidence.
And that brings us to the reason I’m writing this post – I’m not bothered about wading through piles of garbage to find some gold – I think that’s just where we’re at now and as publishers we need to suck it up.
The gold is in there – in fact the next book we’re publishing was submitted to us by an unpublished author who sent it to us on spec.
No, the reason I’m writing this is the massive gender imbalance in the submissions we’re receiving.
I counted them up yesterday and fully 90% of the submissions we’ve received so far have been from men. That can’t be pure chance, there has to be something else going on here.
My first thought was that perhaps Fahrenheit Press are giving off the wrong vibes – maybe women writers think we’re a boys club and that’s why they’re not submitting to us.
The truth is I’m not really buying that. We run (what I think most people agree is) one of the liveliest, most entertaining twitter feeds in publishing and Twitter analytics are telling us that 62% of our followers are female. In addition I’d say the majority of people who we engage with regularly and who really go out of their way to support our books and our authors seem to be women. I’m pretty sure if we were giving off the wrong vibes the people who follow us on twitter would soon cut us down to size – they’re not exactly shrinking violets.
No I think there’s something else going on here and (honestly my heart is sinking as I type this) sadly I think it’s the bloody patriarchy to blame again.
Obviously this is all couched in generalities but I think what’s going on here is that the majority of women writers double-guess themselves before submitting their work in a way that the majority of male writers simply don’t.
And I say that against the backdrop I sketched out earlier where easily 75% of the submissions we get are self-delusional drivel.
There’s been an argument raging in publishing for some years about how it can be that in an industry where the overwhelming majority of employees are female, most speakers at publishing conferences are male. Various reasons have been put forward but most people seem to agree that on the whole;
a) men put themselves forward to speak more
b) men say yes more when asked to speak
c) women are more likely to refuse to speak when asked
I think something similar is going on here. This is quite a broad sweeping statement but I’d say that most male writers are battering out submissions and pressing send with an almost untouchable self-confidence and sense of entitlement while female writers are polishing, perfecting and in many cases waiting for an invitation.
So last night on Twitter I made a direct appeal for more submissions from women crime writers and this morning I’ve already had four – and ALL of them have gone into my ‘maybe’ pile.
I’m going to quote one of the emails that came with one of the submissions…
“Curse those gender differences. My first thought was – oh, no, maybe I should make another round of revisions before I send this. Then I swore at myself and decided to submit ‘like a man’…”
As a lot of you know, Fahrenheit has committed to only ever publishing one or two books a month and because of that we’re able to be very picky about what we bring to market. Fahrenheit Press has a gang mentality. Obviously first and foremost we want to publish books that will sell, but only if they’re written by authors that I want to hang out with. All our authors are really cool people and as a result the content of their books is as diverse and as cool as they are.
A quick glance at the main protagonists of our first 6 novels shows this pretty clearly I think;
Book 1: Male (Gay)
Book 2: Female (Straight)
Book 3: Male (Gay)
Book 4: Male (Straight)
Book 5: Female (Bisexual)
Book 6: Male (Straight)
We didn’t aim for this mix of characters or content, we don’t have an agenda to push – it’s simply what happens when you have a cool diverse group of authors to pull from.
At Fahrenheit Press we’ll NEVER make a publishing decision based on the gender or sexuality of an author or their characters but I simply don’t want to run a publishing house where one gender outnumbers the other 4 to 1.
Now, before the trolling starts. Here’s what I’m NOT saying….
I’m NOT saying women are better writers than men.
I’m NOT saying we only want submissions from women.
I’m NOT saying all male writers are pushy idiots with no talent.
I’m NOT saying all female writers are timid little wall flowers.
What I AM SAYING is that something is wrong when only 1 in 10 of the submissions we’re getting are from women.
I don’t know all the reasons why this is the case, I just know it IS the case.
So, please – if you’re a female crime writer don’t hold back from submitting to Fahrenheit Press - if you’re a male crime writer, as you were, you will anyway.
Okay, let the trolling commence.
Oh and if you haven't already...