Publishing: A ‘Pink-Collar Ghetto’?

literary ladies Publishing: A Pink Collar Ghetto?Jason Pinter (“Bestselling Thriller Writer”) thinks that there’s a dearth of books for dudes because women dominate publishing.

In an essay from late April, Pinter describes how (during his days in publishing) he attempted to acquire a book by professional wrestler Chris Jericho. His efforts almost failed for lack of men in the acquisitions meeting, he says–if one colleague’s 15-year-old nephew hadn’t been a wrestling fan, the book wouldn’t have made it through. It was “the fault of a system in which in a room of 15-20 people, not one of them knew what I was talking about,” he writes:

Nobody can deny the fact that most editorial meetings tend to be dominated by women. Saying the ratio is 75/25 is not overstating things.

Today, Salon’s Laura Miller wonders why there would be so few men:

Could it be the low pay, low status and ridiculous hours? (Remember that book editors seldom get to read manuscripts in the office — that’s what weekends are for.) Apart from a handful of celebrated figures, it’s the rare editor who gets paid more than a secondary school teacher in a middle-class district. The profession has come to look a lot like a skilled, pink-collar ghetto, albeit garnished with a thin dusting of reflected glamor.

We spoke with Free Press publisher Martha Levin, who said she’d read the recent article and mostly laughed it off. Yes, there are usually lots of women in editorial meetings, she said, but it was simplistic to describe the industry as a girls-club. It’s the non-editorial groups (marketing, publicity) that are really “overwhelmingly female.” And even that dynamic is changing with the growth of digital programs, which tend to attract more men.

Levin also doubted Pinter’s account of how publishing’s gender balance plays out in acquisitions. Books like Pinter’s wrestler memoir? “Judith Regan was brilliant at buying those books,” Levin said. The question of how editorial representation affects books is “a legitimate rap against publishing” when it comes to race and ethnicity–but not, she thinks, for gender.

Besides, it would be hard to look at the upper echelons of most publishing houses–the publishers, the editors-in-chief; the people with the final say–and see a shortage of male power. For better or worse, of course.