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Crunching Numbers: Report Shows Some Major Lit Mags Publish More Men Than Women

Men vs. Women Published in The Atlantic
Image by VIDA

GalleyCat, a publishing industry blog, posted this last week just in time for women’s history month:

VIDA: Women in Literary Arts have released a report entitled “The Count 2011,” revealing that male writers outnumbered female writers in many publications last year.

Picking up on where last year’s report left off, this report tracks the statistics of gender balance among writers published at literary magazines, including The New Yorker (overall: 165 women, 459 men), Poetry (overall: 134 women, 179 men) and The Threepenny Review (overall: 19 women, 37 men).

They also looked at authors reviewed, book reviewers, and interviews at certain publications, including: Harper’s (book reviewers: 13 women, 65 men) and The New York Times (book reviewers: 273 women, 520 men).

Writer’s Relief Demographics
At Writer’s Relief, we take these numbers seriously; all writers should. Regardless of what factors may be causing this imbalance, the imbalance in and of itself is worth attention and concern.

The good news is that the publishing industry—thanks in part to the analysis of groups like VIDA, as well as the outcries of high-profile authors like Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult—is starting to pay closer attention to its own practices.

And we at Writer’s Relief thought we would do the same.

Our clientele (which is selected from among writers in both literary and commercial genres who apply to our Review Board) tends to include more women than men (about 60/40). These numbers change slightly depending on market forces and other trends, but in general, more women than men are submitting their work to our Review Board to be considered for our client list. As a business, we’ve made an effort to support voices that haven’t always been heard.

We also took a look at the last 500 acceptances that our clients received from literary journals and literary agents. We wanted to see if there was any gender bias visible in our clients’ publication acceptance letters and requests for manuscripts from agents.

Submit to Review Board

What we found is good news: Of the last 500 acceptances and requests for manuscripts from literary agents, about forty percent went to men and sixty to women, which is in keeping with our client demographics.

It’s worth noting that we do not regularly target/direct our clients’ work to the handful of highly elite journals and magazines that are evaluated in the VIDA report (The New Yorker, The Atlantic, etc.). Many of those journals and periodicals don’t accept simultaneous submissions, so our clients submit to those lit mags on their own (and not as part of their submissions within our service).

Our targeting has always focused on solid, reputable, mid- to upper-tier literary journals (as well as ethical, reputable literary agents). Our preliminary investigation of our clients’ numbers indicates that many literary journals and agents may be on the right track when it comes to fighting gender imbalances.

Literary Journals That Support Women’s Writing
There are a number of literary journals dedicated to women’s writing, established for various reasons. These include (but aren’t limited to) 13th Moon, iris, Literary Mama, and damselfly. The Medulla Review recently accepted a client’s work for their women’s issue, which is slated to be published today. We are excited to see it.

We look to editors of literary journals to conduct examinations of their own statistics, as we’ve done with our clientele. VIDA calls this raising “our culture’s literary consciousness,” and it’s the first step toward a deeper understanding of ourselves.

See the VIDA report for more.

7 Responses to Crunching Numbers: Report Shows Some Major Lit Mags Publish More Men Than Women

  1. A screenplay I’m writing next year involves reverse sexism, where the women in charge are just as bad as some men have been in the past. It will be highly entertaining.

  2. This surprises me as well. If you go by attendance at writing conferences and a quick count of two magazines I have in hand (not scientific) this difference seems much too great.

  3. Hmm very interesting… Glad to see you guys will be more likely to accept me at least! ;)

  4. So glad that you mentioned Jennifer Weiner. I’m a big fan and she is always advocating for women writers.

  5. I’m actually surprised by those findings. My perception was that more women than men were submitting and publishing, but maybe that was just my way of excusing the number of rejection slips I’ve gotten lol

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