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The publishing company that's only publishing female authors in 2018

From BBC - February 14, 2018

When author Kamila Shamsie challenged the book industry to publish only women in 2018 to help address a gender imbalance in literature, just one publisher took up the challenge - the Sheffield-based company And Other Stories.

It was almost three years ago that Shamsie suggested "a concerted campaign to redress the inequality" in publishing.

Arguing that there was a gender bias in book awards, reviews, top publishing jobs and prestige afforded to authors, she suggested that 2018, the centenary of women over 30 in Britain getting the vote, would make a good Year of Publishing Women.

Women would be prominent in review pages and blogs, shop windows, festival line-ups and prize shortlists, she predicted.

The response? A lively debate about opportunity in literature ensued, but only one person responded to the call to arms.

That was Stefan Tobler, founder of And Other Stories, which publishes a mixture of translated and English language authors. The company made its name with Deborah Levy's 2012 Booker Prize-shortlisted Swimming Home.

"We did look at what Kamila was saying and did think she was right, that the importance given to male writers was still more," Tobler says.

"They do not necessarily sell more books, they do not necessarily have more fans, but as far as prestige goes, there is still a difference there."

The gender imbalance is even more pronounced in translated fiction, where Tobler says 30% of books are by women because fewer women are given support in some countries where those books are sourced.

And Other Stories publishes about 12 books per year from an office in Sheffield Central Library - they relocated there from London in 2017.

Tobler says the Year of Publishing Women means they can get behind female authors they might not otherwise have had room for in their schedule.

"We are not publishing anything that we are not really, really excited by and it will start us off with some authors that we will carry on publishing for many years," he says.

The year's first two books - a collection of rare and unpublished writing by cult 1960s author Ann Quin and a translation of Swiss author Fleur Jaeggy - are already out.

Others by Catalan author Alicia Kopf, American Christine Schutt, Mexico's Cristina Rivera Garza and late Argentine author Norah Lange will follow.

Enthusiasm for the Year of Publishing Women in the rest of the publishing industry was, it's fair to say, mixed.

Some lauded Shamsie's motivation but were less keen on the practical implications and the idea of excluding male authors entirely.

Some had a problem with the message sent by giving women special treatment. Author Lionel Shriver called the idea "rubbish" because the suggestion that women needed special help was "problematic and obviously backfires".

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