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This publishing house has banned manuscripts with cover letters beginning 'Dear Sirs'

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The female-run Irish publishing house Tramp Press has taken a stand against ‘sexism in publishing’ in new changes to its submission guidelines.

The women in charge, Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen, describe themselves as “dreaded women”, and say they experience misogyny “in lots of ways all the time” at Tramp Press. They specifically detail multiple instances of being addressed as ‘Dear Sirs’, and receiving cover letters from authors who solely read male-authored books and list male-authored influences.

The sexist submissions were previously tossed into the ‘slush pile’, “lest we let any truly exciting piece of work pass us by”, Davis-Goff and Coen wrote. It might not come as much of a surprise that nothing singularly exceptional was ever discovered out of these “overtly sexist” submissions, and Tramp Press never published any of them.

The decision to totally ban sexist manuscripts came after Davis-Goff’s quantitative examination of the cover letters Tramp Press received. Out of 100 submissions, 148 influences were referenced. A mere 33 of the 148 listed writers were female, meaning a whopping 115 inspirations were male. Davis-Goff says she “read letter after letter from well-meaning, perfectly nice men and women who list reams of writers they admire, without apparently noticing [they] are all of one gender.”

Perhaps this is due to the overwhelming maleness and whiteness of the literary canon. The prevalence of male authors means that Shakespeare, Hemingway and Wordsworth might be the first authors to spring to mind when you think ‘classic’ literature.

Tramp Press

It’s Tramp Press’s ambition to eradicate some of the prejudice evident in the publishing industry. The Press has been criticised for their decision to toss aside misogynistic entries without a second look, but Davis-Goff points out that “words are so important - writers should know that better than anyone.” She wants them to examine why ‘Dear Sirs’ would be the default letter heading. Their shiny new submission guidelines welcome people who “read women and don’t assume that the only people qualified to read your work are men”.

Tramp Press is an independent publishing company launched in 2014. It has published authors of high esteem, such as Sara Baume - shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize - and Mike McCormack, who was longlisted for the Booker Prize. Their aim is to “find, nurture and publish exceptional literary talent”, and especially want to work with anyone from “a group that has been under-represented in literature”.




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