Before you read on, try this: go to your bookshelves and write down the contents of one of the rows. Now, look at that list and count how many of those books are written by women. Of those, how many are women of colour? How many are disabled? How many of them are queer or transgender? Do you even know?
This isn’t meant as a criticism; plenty of people won’t have any of the above on their lists.
And independent audits like theVIDA count illustrate unequivocally, that much of the blame lies with national media coverage of literature. In 2012 The London Review of Books reviewed 203 men authors but only 74 women. The Times Literary Supplement gave page space to 924 books by men and to just 314 by women. We’re not being made aware of the range of work women authors are producing, not just within literary fiction but across all genres. Powerful, worthy, intelligent writing by women in crime, non-fiction, horror, graphic novel and many other genres is getting obscured or ignored by male-dominated column inches discussing books written by men.
For Books’ Sake was created in 2010 by Jane Bradley in response to the systematic practices of sexism and imbalance institutionalised within both the media and publishing industries. We exist to broaden readers’ horizons and dedicate ourselves to the celebration, promotion and discussion of women writers: established, emerging and marginalised (women of colour, transwomen and women with disabilities.)
We are foremost a webzine. Every week, our news team chartsachievements and landmarks in women’s writing. Feature writers bring you regular articles about the books we love and weigh in on the industry’s discrepancies. There are interviews with the people who are rewriting the rules for literary women and reviews of books you may not have heard of, but definitely should have. We also do a podcast, which, like the rest of our content, is free.
Our philosophy is about celebration and support but we’re not afraid to wade into hot debate when ugly prejudices rear their head. When Kathryn Heyman called out the London Review of Books on their misrepresentation of the presence and calibre of women writers,we had her back. Similarly, we make it a point to tackle contentious and difficult subject matter in relation to women’s writing, such as mental health,rape and welfare cuts. For Books’ Sake exists to subvert stereotypes and generalisations, and to unmask the oversights.
We don’t just exist in cyberspace, either. In 2012 For Books’s Sake collaborated with Pulp Press to put together Short Stack, an anthology of pulp fiction by women. This was followed by Derby Shorts in 2013 – shorts set in the world of roller derby. We have just launched our latest project in print – Furies – an anthology of poetry to give voice to wronged or radical women, currently open for submissions.
For Books’ Sake’s collaborations have included Womankind Worldwide and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, and we played a part in the first ever World Book Night. You might have seen us on the programme at the Thames Festival or the Queer Zine Festival in London, last December, and you’ll find us at a number of national events throughout the year.
Over the past three years, For Books’ Sake has grown exponentially – from a small site run by a tiny group of volunteers to an established company with a core team of a dozen supported by 30 regular contributors. The team remains entirely voluntary, with all proceeds from merchandise sales and events reinvested into our work. If you like the sound of what we do, donations can be made here. As we continue to grow and improve we hope to register as a charity so that we can put some of our more ambitious plans into action.
Like many feminist efforts, we are questioned regularly on our relevance in modern society. We think our Facebook presence and Twitter following of 13,700 is a good enough answer – evidence of the thousands of people supporting a company that refuses to accept inaccuracies about submission ratios and genre weightings, or to agree that women are lesser writers than men. And, in the future, when we do reach a point when women get the same recognition as men, we’ll still be cheering for our heroes because sharing love for words and women and mind-blowing talent will always be important.
And we appreciate the support we get from these amazing women:
“For Books’ Sake is exactly the kind of online presence which readers and writers need. Thank you for existing.” – Sarah Dunant, internationally bestselling author and founding vice patron of the Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize).
“that rare combination of stylishness and wit with knowledge and insight that can only come from those dedicated souls whose insides are black-and-white-and-read-all-over.” – Cathi Unsworth, author of Weirdo, Bad Penny Blues, The Singer and The Not Knowing
“For Books’ Sake should be a paper magazine, a cultural festival, a TV and radio network, a prize scheme and a full-on touring roadshow with a free big-bonus raffle and tombola.” – Bidisha