Return to Gender: Persistent Byline Gap Prompts Pitching and Moaning (and Partying!)

Few know better than Jennifer Weiner, the bestselling Good in Bed author. She has publicly fought the literary establishment on Twitter, even as her massive commercial appeal underwrites her publisher’s more artistic ventures.

Ms. Weiner first called attention to the disproportionate amount of attention paid to male authors in 2010, with the hashtag “Franzenfreude,” which she used to describe The Times and other publications’ slobbering over Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.

The keynote speaker at BookExpo America’s Blogger Conference on Monday, Ms. Weiner said her publicist had urged her not to speak out against The Times again, fearing they would take it out on her next novel.

“What else can they do to me?” Ms. Weiner asked. “Can they quote Jonathan Galassi—who is Jonathan Franzen’s editor—making fun of my made-up German? That happened.”

Now Ms. Weiner thinks that The Times may be misrepresenting her book sales. She said that her current paperback, Then Came You, was the eighth-best-selling book on Bookscan, but only ranked 22 on The New York Times Bestsellers List. When her publisher has called to contest her rankings in the past, she said, The Times said it doesn’t disclose its methodology.

In VIDA, there’s a third party that can hold The Times accountable, by one measure, without risking seeming whiny or paranoid.

“What ‘The Count’ is really doing is, whether they like it or not, editors are in a position of having to think about this,” Ms. Belieu said. “The volume just keeps getting louder.”

On June 18, VIDA will make its formal debut in New York literary society—well, Brooklyn literary society, anyway—with a fundraiser thrown by Riverhead Books at Brooklyn Brewery.

“My goal is: Everyone in publishing should be ashamed of themselves if they didn’t go to the VIDA fundraiser,” said Riverhead head of publicity Jynne Martin. (According to a 2011 count produced by The New Republic, Riverhead’s catalog breaks down 45 percent female and 55 percent male, compared with a 30–70 split elsewhere).

The fundraiser will help VIDA fund its first two program goals: creating a network of mentoring workshops and putting together an endowment that will allow it to offer no-questions-asked grants to writers.

“As a writer you’ll often want to apply for these projects and you’ll have to come up with some grand proposal,” Ms. Belieu said. “‘I’m going to go to Italy and study the saints blah blah blah.’ There are very few organizations where you can say ‘I would use the funds for this award to take care of daycare.’”

“It goes back to Virginia Woolf,” Ms. Belieu said, of writing. “You need enough money and you need a room to do it in.”

Return to Gender: Persistent Byline Gap Prompts Pitching and Moaning (and Partying!)