The Master’s Publishing House

[UPDATE: I will not be submitting the anthology to Seal Press, so the question asked in this post has been answered. Read the comments for more details.]

In working on the anthology I’m editing/contributing to, Occupied Bodies: Women of Color Speak on Self-Image, an issue has come up over whether or not I should include a particular independent publisher who has had serious problems with issues involving POC on my list of publishers to solicit for publication. I had heard about certain issues with this publisher before, but I decided to go ahead and submit to them, because I was interested in how they’d respond since they’d expressed negativity towards the marketability of WOC anthologies before.

Recently, I expressed my intention to include this particular publisher on the list to a potential writer, who was wary of the idea. I wondered why, although I did already know about the negativity expressed, I figured there must be something else because she was very put off. So I did some research and found that there had been a particularly offensive incident involving a popular white feminist blogger’s book that was published by them and racist imagery that had been used in the book (without the author’s instruction). In addition, this blog was involved. I wasn’t really surprised, because I’m never surprised anymore when white feminists and white feminist groups who claim to be allies “go rogue” and do something that harms women of color. In any case, I decided that I wouldn’t submit to them if it was going to scare off writers.

Since I made that statement, I’ve been mulling it around in my head, and talking to other WOC bloggers, and now I’m really not sure what to do. I don’t want to reopen old wounds, but am I limiting the ability of this work — which I consider important, because women of color’s voices need to be heard on this topic — to get to publication by limiting who I send it to? Does it matter in the end who publishes it as long as our voices get out there? Should I take the moral high ground and risk losing our chance to disseminate the work into the mainstream? When do you forgive and forget?

I feel like, in these spaces that are dominated by white feminists, we as women of color are expected to overlook a LOT. We’re given apologies that are half-assed and we’re supposed to accept them. We get slighted on a regular basis and we’re supposed to give that a pass because it wasn’t intentional. A large feminist blog with say, 12 white contributors adds one of color and we’re supposed to hail “representation”. When do we stop overlooking things? And when do we continue overlooking because it’s necessary for OUR success?

It’s important to me to get this anthology to print, but I don’t want to support racism that happens again and again. Should I take that high ground when it hurts me more than it hurts them? In taking that high ground, am I really doing them a disservice at all or am I making it easier on them? I’m full of questions and short on answers.

What do you think?

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62 comments for “The Master’s Publishing House

  1. July 17, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    You probably know more about this than me, but one thing I’d consider if submitting to the press in question is how much they’d support your book if they published it. You want your anthology to make it into the mainstream – but would this press do the grunt work of promoting it, or would they let it gather dust while they garnered publicity and reviews for white women’s books?

  2. July 17, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Forgot to add – I can’t wait to read it!

  3. July 17, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Hi Tasha,

    I really enjoy reading your site and your stuff here, too. I also look forward to the upcoming book, sounds like it will be wonderful.

    I am not sure what to tell you about the publisher. I understand what you are going through. I am a somewhat older-than-many woc and these sort of decisions had to be made almost daily lots of years ago. It’s a shame that, in some ways, not a lot has changed in 2010. Anyway, for what it’s worth…

    My first experience with this publisher – in fact, my first knowledge of their existence – came about as a result of conflict between them (or one of their authors, anyway) and non-white women/women of color/other appropriate terms 3 or so years ago, and I’m afraid things have only gone downhill from there. In sometimes spectacular (and unbelievable) ways, both with some of their authors and the employees of the company themselves. I am not surprised that woc with knowledge of this history, and/or who were involved in the various conflicts, are leery of working with them.

    Still, you, of course, want the best for the book and the widest distribution possible to your target market. Looking over the publisher’s site again, though – it’s been years, so I wanted to be fair – I am not sure that that would be the best place for your book anyway, or that the readers/buyers who frequent that publisher would be your best target market. Otherwise, they would have been clamoring and hectoring the company to be more inclusive in the first place. Which, looking over their “author interviews” and the book list and so on, has not come even close to happening. They are white publishers who seek out white women to publish so that the books can be read by white readers (and woc, of course, to support them) and they have a few – a very few, from what I can tell – books by non-white women – at least that are specifically about non-white women – for whatever reason.

    When I started this comment I was ambivalent, but I think I have talked myself into a firm thumbs down on that publisher.

    Have you started building your author platform yet, for this book? Could go a long way toward garnering interest from other publishers.

  4. July 17, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Unfortunately I don’t have any helpful suggestions or insights–it’s certainly a tricky question–just want to say I can’t wait to read the book!

  5. July 17, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Well, they *did* say in that post-fiasco statement that one of the reasons they didn’t publish as many WOC books was because they didn’t get as many WOC submissions. Although that also means that their WOC outreach leaves much to be desired, there’s that.

    That said, their statement on said fiasco did contain some thinly-veiled bs.

    However, (in response to one of the points Julie brought up) said press usually does a good job of promoting their books, and they do have a broader base than a lot of other smaller presses. I’ve considered pitching to them post-aforementioned fiasco. So I dunno…tough call.

  6. July 17, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Since it’s pretty obvious which publisher you’re talking about, I think you should at least submit it. They’ve published a number of great books about feminism and LGBT issues and a couple about WOC. Unless your authors really feel strongly about not doing it, I’d give the publisher an opportunity to do better on the WOC front. They may have learned something from that last debacle.

  7. July 17, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I agree entirely. Silencing happens to WOC ever so often, it’s become a norm now. I’m hoping the publishers will get a message loud and clear about keeping their bigotry aside for once considering this IS a book about a marginalised people.

    By the way, I’m considering putting in an entry :)

  8. July 18, 2010 at 12:36 am

    @Julie Thanks for the advice! I’ll keep that in mind.
    @Melissa Yeah that’s what drew me to them, they have a pretty broad base.
    @Nanette Thank you so much for your input. How do you go about building an author platform? And I do hope you consider submitting!
    @Lauren O I’m just really wary of sleeping with the enemy. And I want my writers to feel safe.
    @jaded16 Oh please do submit! Awesome.

  9. July 18, 2010 at 3:41 am

    You wrote:

    “… published by them and racist imagery that had been used in the book (without the author’s instruction)”

    While there is virtue in working with someone to change their perception or behaviour, if the above is verifiable (or strong enough reason to believe it’s true) and if there is reason to believe that it was deliberate (i.e. not an unfortunate error or oversight), then this would tell me that the publisher cannot be trusted not to compromise the book. If error or oversight, then a condition needs to be made that you should be able to view a proof showing all photos and presentation to help catch any similar errors before they go to print.

  10. July 18, 2010 at 3:48 am

    Tasha, as a fellow writer & editor, if I was in your position, I’d treat a submission as fairly casual. It’s testing the waters. The more imortant decision will most likely come later. Publishers don’t remain static and unchaning (if they did, they probably wouldn’t be able to survive as a business), so you could be pleasantly surprised – or not. As per the immortal wisdom of Stephen Colbert – sometimes, you must go with your gut.

  11. Salix
    July 18, 2010 at 9:45 am

    This doesn’t help you, Tasha, in this situation, but:

    Going forward, it might be good for white feminists who are striving to be allies not to submit to this publisher. On one hand to send the message of, “Hey, this crap is not acceptable,” but also, to say, “If women of color can’t/shouldn’t do it, white women shouldn’t have access, either.”

  12. mh
    July 18, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Urgh I had a post that disappeared–unless there was a prob w it, in which case I apologize and, obviously, delete this one too.

    Salix, that is such a good suggestion, and one I was just thinking about. I’m going to talk to my agent about this publisher, if she isn’t already aware of this.

    Tasha, do you have an agent for the anthology? I don’t want to assume any knowledge or lack of knowledge about publishing and its weird ways, but if you want to chat, I think you can see my email in the moderation panel, or it’s on my website on the Me page. (I am not a Fancy Author, but I have written a few books, some w agent, one without.)

  13. ElleDee
    July 18, 2010 at 10:36 am

    I don’t know exactly how these things work. If you had the opportunity to work with said publisher, could you have a dialogue with them about all this? Or at least with the person/people working on your anthology? Or is it the sort of this where you turn your work over to them and they “make it happen” and you don’t have that much control over what they do?

    I’d like to think you could go in at the beginning and be like, “Look, you handled x, y and z things poorly in the past and I’m concerned that you might not handle this project with enough sensitivity and awareness. These are the concerns I have. How will you address them?” And then see what they say and decide if that’s good enough for you. You can bring it to your writers and see if that’s good enough for them.

    I don’t think you should limit your options this early in the game, when you can step away later. Good luck!

  14. July 18, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Tasha, I am no expert or anything, just been reading about a lot of this stuff over the past few months in preparation for one day, some day, real soon now writing a book of my own. A lot of it is just digital-age common sense, I guess.

    Basically, what a lot of publishers (and, I imagine, agents) are looking for these days are books that, in effect, already have an audience and have already sold (even if they have not yet been written). So, take the two white feminist blogger/authors many of us are most familiar with; it is not (primarily) because they had something new and exciting to say that they were approached (or that their approaches were considered), but that they had a pre-existing audience willing to listen to them say it. And who were, most likely, willing to buy a book to support them and to get even more of what they come to the sites for.

    In other words, some guaranteed sales were already there and the controversy over the first book helped with that a lot, in getting the word out about the book in the first place across quite a few feminist sites (some of whom were not so much promoting the book sales as weighing in on the controversies.) Which “controversy driven sales/marketing” stuff is actually one reason I don’t particularly trust all the “mistakes” this publisher made in using the cover and inner-page imagery they did for the second person’s book, but anyway…

    Building your author platform is basically just a way of building up your presence online and offline, not just in a page-views thing (though of course you want those, lots) but in building an audience that is attracted to your writing and personality and who will be presdisposed to buy your book(s). You already have a good start on that with the variety of places you post and the public speaking and twitter and all that.

    Figuring out how to best leverage all that to make you and this book attractive to many publishers is probably the next step. Because the book will be a multi-author anthology it should be a bit easier (more people invested in the success of the book) except I think you are also in need of more submissions in the first place? I have a coupla ideas of how to cuddle two birds with one hand, if you are interested, but as I am brevity impaired this comment is already way long.

    I realize, by the way, that all this is a tad off topic from your original post, sorry – if you’d like the conversation elsewhere I’ll come along to wherever you set it up. I’m years-tired of the aforementioned (or almost mentioned, lol) people but I’d love to be part of discussions on how best to get our voices out there (through this book and others) in a big way.

  15. Athenia
    July 18, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Hi Tasha, I work in the publishing industry–I’m not sure what publisher you’re talking about–but I would have to say I’d go ahead and submit to them.

    Unless you know that the same people who worked on that other book will be working on your book, I would say go for it. It really can’t hurt at this point.

    Moreover, I would suggest that you submit to a bunch of university presses–they will be more receptive to books about WOC.

  16. July 18, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    i am really disturbed that people are talking about this publisher as if they only ever made one bad decision. if you aren’t aware of the magnitude of their mess ups then it would behoove folks to educate themselves on them before they give advice based on “oh, they did this one bad thing one time”. first off, the author was NOT unaware of or unapproving of those images being used and was very vocally defensive of them. and they were very OVER THE TOP racist. but second, there was a lot of unrelated-to-that-author-and-that-book history both before and after that book’s controversy. literally, everything about this publisher reeks of overt racism and being patronizing of woc-centered work. to the point that they have gone to woc-blogs and literally insulted and tried to bully blog owners and commentors. it’s not just one or two employees. it is the owners and the way they do things, what their company is all about. there are NUMEROUS incidents where they have been outright hostile and hurtful to woc.

    frankly, i see it as a matter of principle. if you believe that you have a good book worthy of being published, you shouldn’t worry about “limiting” who you submit to. you also shouldn’t stress out over submitting to someone who has made it clear over and over again that your book is absolutely “not our kind, dearie”. one incident with them was when they snubbed a woc-author who was putting together an anthology, and when they finally did speak to her told her point blank that they would never be interested in a woc-centered anthology and that the only way her book would have any merit at all was if she included several (and they named some specific ones) white authors. call me a judgmental grudge-holding bitch if you must, but i do not respect ANYONE who would give that publisher the time of day, make the tiniest of excuses for them, or talk about how “people change” in regards to them. it’s really collaboration with the enemy and the willingness of people to overlook it/make light of it really shows their true face as well.

  17. Val
    July 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Know what I would do? I would do as your heart is telling you and avoid them like the plague, submitting your work to other publishers. Always listen to your gut instinct. It would appear the taint of racism is on them, regardless of how they may have changed their mandate or apologized. There is something to be said for inundating them with other material by many woc ;) I mean an avalanche of work focusing on every pertinent issue faced by woc. Whatever you do Tasha, know that each shovel full makes the hill that much smaller, it’s just so damn aggravating that some things don’t change. Much love to you Tasha and I also look forward to your book.

  18. July 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I was considering contributing to this anthology, but for me that publisher, is an absolute deal breaker. As a radical woman of color who has had dear sisters of mine insulted because of the false ally-hood of this imprint and some of it’s authors, I want zero to do with it.

    I made a decision, maybe a year and a half ago, that people who make it part of their careers to step on the backs of my hermanas do not deserve my energy, attention, and certainly not my talents and money. It’s not healthy and does not move our growth and community building as radical women of color.

    I mean, hell the fact that I am here even is only to express that perspective.

    I think the anthology sounds fabulous, Tasha, pero not with that publisher (which no one wants to name here, apparently and I am holding back my fingers cuz I have no fear naming names)

  19. July 18, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Tasha, I can’t wait for the new book! Much luck at finding a publisher, because it already has an audience.

    With that said, I live in Stumblefuck, Illinois. We have a Barnes and Noble here. While I notice that this particular publisher has books on the shelves from white authors, they don’t have any of their books that focus on women of color here. I’ve noticed that at other outlets in other Illinois cities similar to mine (I travel a lot in my job, and no travel stop seems to be complete without trips to bookstores).

    On the other hand, I do notice many books authored by women of color at these mainstream outlets. Just not from that publisher. I don’t think that publisher has the sort of committment you are looking for. This particular publisher seems to assume that people interested in reading works from women of color don’t live here. Based on the quality of material available at these same chains, in these same locations, from WOC authors and editors published by other publishers, I’d have to say it isn’t a problem coming from the chains. And from what I know of the controversy…I’d have to say I agree with Aaminah.

    If you’re looking for both a demographically diverse audience, and looking for accessibility for WOC who live outside a major metropolis—this isn’t a publisher that is going to give you what you want. It’s safe to say that if a mainstream chain bookstore carries your book at a bricks-and-mortar store in Middle America, it’s probably available everywhere. If that’s what you want—your book on as many shelves as possible—go for a publisher with a history of committment to works by and about WOC.

  20. bfp
    July 18, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    unless you can find a big name feminist to write the intro to your work, they aren’t going to publish it. that was told to submitter who was woc from the top.

    i’d write the intro for you, but I am a mere maid cleaning the queen’s toilets. alas.

  21. July 18, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I’m’a just cosign La Mala.

  22. bellareve
    July 18, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    “if you aren’t aware of the magnitude of their mess ups then it would behoove folks to educate themselves on them before they give advice”

    Ok, I’d like to, but if the name of the publisher remains a mystery, I’m not sure how…?

  23. July 18, 2010 at 2:31 pm


    I have to say that I would rather stand with other women of color, since that’s what this anthology is about and who it’s for. So although I want to get it out there, I can’t in good conscience submit to this particular publisher when the people I want to write for it have told me shit like Aaminah mentioned — going to WOC blogs and insulting them? WTF? I just can’t bring myself to sleep with the enemy, I never have and I can’t start now. I will make sure this anthology gets published, even if I have to do it myself, because it needs to get out there. I don’t need this particular publisher bad enough to ignore blatant racism and them treating other WOC like that. Even if they agreed to publish it, it would be like spitting in the face of those who had been refused and I just can’t do that. So I guess my quandary has been resolved, for the last time. I will not submit to this publisher. And I’m sure they wouldn’t care, which is fine with me. I’ll find another publisher who actually gives a shit about WOC.

    Thank y’all who have given me more information about this publisher, especially Nanette, Aaminah, Mamita, Val and La Lubu. I hope you will still consider contributing to it as well.

  24. July 18, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Ok, I’d like to, but if the name of the publisher remains a mystery, I’m not sure how…?

    I’ll just cut the bullshit and say it’s Seal Press.

  25. July 18, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    I work in an independent bookstore and I can’t think of any books by WOC published by that press. I’d look at some of the major independent distributors and see who they carry – Perseus, Hachette (Little Brown), Publishers Group West. I wouldn’t go the University Press route because their books are generally very expensive for bookstores to buy – hell, University of California Press wanted to charge us US$9 to ship 1 title – and that will only be passed on to the customer. I guess that depends on your target readership, academics or the average jill.

    I’m sure you’ve already submitted to the Feminist Press and Seven Stories, but, y’know, in case you haven’t…

  26. July 18, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I also want to say I’m really glad I found out about all this early on so I didn’t just go off and send them representative samples. Not knowing a lot about publishing, the feminist blogosphere, and the specifics on things that have gone down over the years, I’m kind of at a disadvantage and unfortunately I’m constantly becoming disillusioned with things that I once thought were one way and turn out to be the other. Such is life as a woman of color in predominately white spaces.

  27. AdrienneVeg
    July 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    If this publisher accepted your work and published it, is there a chance that sales/readership among your target audience would actually be diminished due to their reputation, despite their broad base? Is the outcry in the community loud enough that people might not pick up your book if it has that publisher’s seal on it? Would you feel dirty at all seeing that name on your book?

    What if this publisher accepted your work and then you told them, “Actually, in light of your past actions and seeming lack of effort to resolve those issues, I’ve chosen not to use you as my publisher and will be going with _____ instead.” I don’t know much about the industry but that seems like it might have more on an impact than not submitting at all.

    If nothing else, submitting and being rejected by them might be a good gauge as to how hard they’re working to change their image and practices (since, judging by your work that I’ve seen, I have a hard time seeing why they’d reject you legitimately).

  28. July 18, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Adrienne, I don’t really want to help them improve their image when they’ve been aggressively racist, and yeah, knowing what I know now I would feel dirty having their name on the book. You probably didn’t see what I just posted, though.

  29. AdrienneVeg
    July 18, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Tasha, I was still typing when you posted your decision not to submit, so sorry if the chronology makes me come off as trying to talk you out of it.

    Also, my pun about the company’s name is totally ruined. I need to type faster.

  30. July 18, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Tasha, THANK YOU. and i’m not saying that just for me. i mean it because this whole thing was so heartbreaking for me. i LOVE the idea for your book and was really geeked about submitting to it. i had spread the call out to a lot of women as well. and then, Seal… i was just like, no. i cannot do it, and i cannot promote it to others. i mean, Seal is *that* bad. but i don’t mean this like “thank you for agreeing with me”. what matters is that you are taking a stand against the injustices Seal perpetrates, that you care more about integrity than about a “good” name. and as others have pointed out, i believe with all my heart that you are going to find that it would have been such a waste/drain on your time, energy and talent if you had submitted to them. this book is meant, destined, to be published. they would not have been willing to give it the love it deserves.

    bellareve – many of the comments were from people who clearly knew who was being referenced, and yet instead of saying “wait, i know about x situation, but are you implying there’s more than that?” and then going to educate themselves, they really just excused/minimized that one incident and their advice sounded like “move on already, give them a chance to do right”.

    although i was very uncomfortable with the lack of naming, particularly because i think it does limit people’s ability to give a nuanced and informed advice or decision, i did not feel that it was my place to do the naming *in this particular space*.

  31. July 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Thank YOU, Aaminah, because you got me to start learning about Seal and what they’re really about. I didn’t want to name them right away until I had made my decision but really, when they’re going to act like that they need to be named.

    I put an update on this post to reflect my decision.

  32. evil_fizz
    July 18, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    going to WOC blogs and insulting them? WTF?

    One of the most spectacularly appalling things about that series of incidents is that insulting is actually a pretty mild word for what went on. It was horrifying.

    But it was also illuminating in that it clearly demonstrated that the people who work there wouldn’t even know how to work with your target audience, to market to them, or to welcome their business. That, to me, would be the decision point: their demonstrated lack of ability to do the best with your book.

    I hope you find someone who’s a good fit. I’m really looking forward to the book!

  33. July 18, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    I’m glad that you’re not submitting to them. One issue I also thought of was how being published by them might give them an opportunity to tokenize you and your contributors. “Oh, look, we solved our racism problem…see, we published a book by WoC!” Urgh.

  34. July 18, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Excellent decision, Tasha! I had no internet access for some of the later stuff but I did read about it later (particularly when they swooped in of nowhere to a woc on her blog) and the more I typed my comment, the more I remembered what went on. And the more I thought… well, what Aaminah said so well!

    Plus, it’s good to hear from people who are familiar with their book line in the stores and comfirm how unrepresentative they are. I’d love to see this published by one of the bigger houses or one of those suggested above, who may be a better fit.

  35. July 18, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    i would also highly recommend looking at South End Press.

  36. Mandolin
    July 18, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I think you’re making the right decision in avoiding this publisher. Just wanted to pitch in a couple thoughts:

    1) The observation that:

    We have a Barnes and Noble here. While I notice that this particular publisher has books on the shelves from white authors, they don’t have any of their books that focus on women of color here.

    is extremely unlikely to have anything to do with Seal Press. Presses (even ones that are racist) want all the books they publish in as many bookstores as possible. The centralized purchasers for the major bookstore chains are likely to be the narrow channel here.

    2) I’m wary of Seven Stories press. They have the rights to Octavia Butler’s stories from Bloodchild and Other Stories and are charging much-higher-than-usual rates for reprinting them. While the stories are worth fortunes, it’s true, most anthology editors don’t have fortunes to spend. Butler’s short work is not as well known as it should be, and I worry that Seven Stories will end up damaging Butler’s legacy by effectively turning down opportunities to keep it in the culture’s living imagination.

  37. July 18, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Thanks for the support, y’all. I will check out the publishers mentioned. I need to get some more submissions for a representative sample, so if you’re thinking about submitting, the earlier the better. But I know everyone is busy, and I haven’t even begun writing my piece, so!

  38. Heather
    July 18, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Wow, I had no idea about Seal. I just spent a good hour reading a bunch of old blog posts from WOC bloggers and am outraged. I’m glad so many people spoke up, and that you really actually care about your audience, unlike so many other writers.

  39. July 18, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Mandolin, ah, I’d no idea that 7S had rights to Butler’s short stories!

    Tasha, let me take a look at our shelves tomorrow and see the range, I know there are other small presses out there that don’t require the customer to pay an arm and a leg that might be of interest for you.

    And if you decide to go the publish on demand route, find one that allows bookstores to return unsold copies (the only one I can think of off the top of my head is Ingram [one of the two major distributors in the country, along with Baker & Taylor – the ones I mentioned earlier, Perseus, Hachette, and PGW carry far more indy and small presses as a matter of course, for better buying discounts for stores], whose imprint is…Lightning Source? And I think Xlibris (aka Amazon’s pod) also has returnable books, but I’m not 100% sure. DO NOT USE PUBLISH AMERICA

  40. Kristen J.
    July 19, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Errr…just a thought but if do publish on demand you might also consider some of the new e-book ports. Since I have the ability, I try not to buy print books any more. In addition you can have a broader reach. Anyway, just a thought.

  41. Athenia
    July 19, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Also, are you going to make this book into an ebook? That might be a very good route with the whole new agency model thing going on.

  42. July 19, 2010 at 10:27 am
  43. July 19, 2010 at 10:32 am

    I’m a devoted reader of Feministe and I also work at the Feminist Press. I know I’m (un)paid to say this, but we have pretty diverse offerings, have always been supportive to our authors as far as I am aware, and I know that I personally would love to see this anthology submitted to our Press. Send it our way!

  44. July 19, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Oh, an ebook! It would be wonderful if, in addition to (or replacing) the bound book, there was a companion ebook. So many of the woc I know are simply brilliant at expressive arts – zines, video shorts, poetry, performing spoken word, singing – all sorts of stuff. The SPEAK! cd from a couple of years ago was just a small taste of the talents.

    I have no idea what all making a mixed-media ebook would entail, or if a CD of the material could be included with the print book (for a higher price, maybe) but it would be really neat to see and hear.

    Also, to build up pre-sales, pre-representative samples buzz, and to encourage submissions, you might consider somewhat daily posting snippets of the submissions you receive on your site. An evocative sentence, a short paragraph that sets the stage but doesn’t deliver the goods, so on. Possibly even encourage people to write short snippets on the topic just for that purpose whether they are doing to submit to the anthology or not, at least this time.

    I think something like that might also serve the purpose of jogging the imagination or memory or whatever of people who may want to submit but perhaps who think they don’t have anything interesting to say.

    Just a couple of ideas. I’ve love to see this anthology (and the next ones!) go big and sell beyond feminist sites and book sections and maybe reach some of the very young woc who struggle daily with body image, color image, gender and sexuality, disabilities, and everything that this anthology will encompass.

  45. July 19, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    It’s interesting that you bring this up now. I was just randomly musing the other day that this particular controversy seemed to have quieted down. But I’m glad to see it brought up again, because I never really felt I understood what was going on, exactly. The way you’re integrating the issue with the subject of your book is making me more interested in the book than I would have been otherwise. (Plus, I just got a Kindle, so I’m all books all the time lately.) Much luck with the submission process!

  46. karak
    July 19, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Do whatever helps you sleep best at night, and say fuckit to everything else. You don’t have to account to anyone but yourself for the choices that you make in life, especially when it comes to your artistic work.

  47. July 19, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I’m ruminated about this for a long time. I’m working editing an anthology for sexual assault survivors and spoke with close writing friends and editors for their thoughts on this as well. Here is what I came up with…

    This is your baby. It is a whole beautiful body of knowledge, sharing, earth, and mist of others’ work, but this is your name, conscience, and decision about when, where, and how it’s published. Perhaps I think WAY too much about what goes into the publication of anthologies, but, for me, I’ve found it’s a long discernment of what you can live with.

    A publication house is exactly that to me: a house. A home. Where you want your work to rest. There may be no perfect answers, but if you feel comfortable with your work being represented by Seal, given their history, than reconcile it and move forward and hope for the best. But if you consistently hear that voice, however slight, that can’t make smooth the rough terrain that Seal has built for women of color, heed to that voice.

    This is a profoundly personal choice and I don’t think you can make a right or wrong decision. It will be the decision that makes you feel like your baby is getting the best home possible.

    Each person’s memory will weigh Seal’s history, wounds, and apologies differently, so how heavy does it weigh in yours?

  48. Dan
    July 19, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    I don’t know any details of this situation or this publisher’s history, but there could be some miscommunication or cognitive dissonance here.

    First of all, language about marketability is pretty standard rejection language in publishing. Publishers tend to avoid squarely criticizing your work in rejection letters, for several reasons. Useful criticism takes time, and people reading slush don’t want to spend time on manuscripts they’ve rejected. Some people take offense to criticism and are happier with a polite expression of regrets. And publishers get submissions from unstable people sometimes, and it’s just dangerous to upset people.

    Blaming the market is sort of a mechanism for passing the buck; the editor suggests someone else may be interested in publishing it, but her particular sales contacts or marketing expertise is a bad fit. It’s the publishing equivalent of “it’s not you, it’s me.” This is form language for a rejection.

    What you read is that they are saying they don’t think there’s a market for books about race issues. But they may have just been trying to politely reject you.

    In any case, I would discourage you from trying to self-pub or POD; when you go out on your own, your book will only get distributed as far as you can sell it from the trunk of your car, and you will have difficulty placing it in bookstores beyond your immediate local area.

    I would especially discourage using any vanity press such as Publish America; almost no bookstores will shelve their titles, their pricing structure makes it difficult to sell your book to readers, they tie up your copyright exclusively for seven years and provide nothing in return, and their business model is constructed around bilking authors.

    I would recommend that you attempt to obtain representation from a qualified literary agent. An agent can help you figure out the best places to submit your work and open the doors to publishers that don’t accept unagented submissions.

    If you are pursuing publication, I’d highly recommend the forums at Good luck.

  49. Kristen J.
    July 19, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    I don’t know any details of this situation or this publisher’s history, but there could be some miscommunication or cognitive dissonance here.

    I don’t know the details of the situation but I still feel confident in dismissing the experience of marginalized groups.


    Go read what happened…then you might realize this debacle had little to do with a marketability rejection letter. Sure that hurt particularly within the feminist movement which has historically marginalized women of color. Instead it was the publisher’s response to criticisms that the publisher had limited/no works by WOC which implied that the reason for this lack was that women of color weren’t working hard enough to bring their voices to the publisher. Followed by extremely dismissive and hostile language towards those who pointed out this bullshit. AND simultaneously releasing a book with very racist imagery.

    So yeah, no…

  50. Dan
    July 19, 2010 at 8:23 pm


    I am not dismissing the experience of marginalized groups. But everybody who pursues publication will experience rejection.

    The mention of negative statements about the marketability of WOC anthologies suggests someone is taking issue with the language of a form rejection letter. That seems like the most likely context in which the publisher would have made such a statement. The discussion of marketability is standard form language designed to dull the blow of rejection by attributing the editor’s decision to reject the author on something other than the quality of the manuscript.

    There are a lot of authors out there from a lot of different kinds of backgrounds feeling persecuted and constructing narratives about how the bean counters at publishing houses lack the courage or vision to publish their masterpieces. This is not a constructive exercise. The proper response to a rejection is to polish the manuscript and the pitch letter, and submit someplace else.

    I am disinclined to read sinister intent into any particular rejection because every publisher gets hundreds of submissions for every slot on their list, and therefore, they reject almost everything sent to them.

  51. July 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Dan, if you go read up on what happened as suggested, you’ll see that it’s not about a form letter. You’re really ignoring a lot of history here. While I think you should probably give people who are saying they’ve experienced racism the benefit of the doubt, you don’t have to: the history’s right there for you to go look at. Your comments are coming across as really dismissive.

  52. July 19, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I feel like I’ve been mansplained to.

  53. evil_fizz
    July 19, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    There are a lot of authors out there from a lot of different kinds of backgrounds feeling persecuted and constructing narratives about how the bean counters at publishing houses lack the courage or vision to publish their masterpieces. This is not a constructive exercise. The proper response to a rejection is to polish the manuscript and the pitch letter, and submit someplace else.

    Yeah…if you had any concept about what happened here, you would understand this was not the case. To highlight one spectacularly egregious episode, employees of the publishing company visited the blog of a writer, belittled valid concerns, patronized an entire community and then rode off on their high horses convinced that it was just another case of aggrieved minorities whose feelings got hurt by the cut-throat editorial process.

    I am disinclined to read sinister intent into any particular rejection because every publisher gets hundreds of submissions for every slot on their list, and therefore, they reject almost everything sent to them.

    Again, do you have any idea at all what you’re talking about? Not that we don’t appreciate some good mansplaining around here, but seriously dude, what the hell?

  54. Kristen J.
    July 19, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Ah, laziness…you couldn’t even be bothered to read the para where I explain that the Seal Press fiasco was caused by their response to criticism and their use of racist cartoons. I mean sure you could read that para but why bother? It might interfere with your narative about how people just need to suck it up.

    PS discussing structural oppression, including the fact that WOC voices may be less “marketable” because of institutionalized racism, is sort of the point of anti-oppression movements like feminism – So your narative that people are just bitching about their rejection isn’t marketable here – perhaps you should polish your posts and submit them elsewhere

  55. July 19, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Dan, did you even read the thread and comments? Because it sure sounds like you didn’t, AT ALL. Please don’t post again unless you’re going to be relevant. What you posted I could’ve got from or some crap like that and I’m not interested in generic advice about dealing with rejection coupled with complete and utter ignorance as to what the topic being discussed is. We’re talking about aggressive racism and intentional exclusion. This isn’t about a form rejection letter. Seriously, get a clue.

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the plagiarism, the white feminist blogger’s feelings toward the original cover of the book and then halfhearted apology for the racist imagery that ended up in the book, the Seal Press PR women’s actions towards BA and the women commenting on her blog, etc., the horrible defensive dismissals handed down by both parties and the lack of resolution and I have to say I am really fucking angry that this is not still an issue and that some people are still linking and talking like nothing happened. I understand it is really old and whatever but I can’t believe people are still using Seal. Anyway, I don’t want to start shit, I guess it’s forgive and forget, and I wasn’t there. But that whole situation is/was fucked up. I understand why everyone was so put off by Seal now, it’s like crystal fucking clear. And there’s really absolutely positively no debate any more, Seal will not even get a whiff of this book. Their loss, really.

    So Dan, you sound like the other white male allies who popped up after the other incident defending the racism shown by all parties. I’m just not being rational, right? There couldn’t possibly be a HUGE inequity in the way WOC’s work is treated and the way white women’s work is treated. There is just a basic inequity that already exists in society and then apparently the white women working for Seal have their own racist issues that create further inequity in how they deal with WOC.

    White people who claim to be anti-racist allies should also not have their books published by Seal, as Salix suggested. Honestly I want to go off about everyone involved but it’s been done. BFP, you are a bigger woman than me because I wouldn’t be able to forgive. I guess assuming that you have, I don’t know.

  56. July 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Also, BFP I would be honored if you WOULD write the intro for me. I’m sorry I didn’t know about the situation before, and I didn’t put two and two together and figure out you were who you were until like 2 seconds ago.

  57. Dan
    July 19, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Tasha, I really wasn’t trying to troll you, and I’m not interested in taking sides in a two year-old flame war. I looked it up and read the comment thread where the editors got in that big fight with the bloggers. Your guesses about which side I’d probably take in that dispute are likely to be accurate.

    I would not, however, categorically defend the publishing industry on race issues. I’m pretty appalled at the whitewashing of minority authors’ book covers.

    It’s not unreasonable to skip submitting to Seal Press in your submission, and I didn’t intend to suggest it was. I hope you can find an excellent, qualified publisher who will pay you well for your work and is capable of placing it in the right stores to find its audience.

    I think you should look into finding a good literary agent who specializes in these markets and can get your book in front of the editors who are likely to offer you the best collaborative experience.

    Good luck. I mean that.

  58. July 20, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Okay Dan, thanks for the luck-wishing.

  59. July 20, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    geez (as i try not to swear liberally)… even dismissing that “flame war”… ignores what LED to that situation, which was (as i wrote much higher up in comments) that a WOC presented – in person, in an appropriate forum – a pitch for an anthology she was working on and was personally belittled & sneared at (with witnesses) before being told very bluntly: “your book has NO MERIT if it is written by woc (fyi, it was specifically addressing issues pertinent to woc) and we would never even consider publishing such a thing AND if you want to be taken seriously, you should solicit x number of submissions from these specific white writers”.

    this isn’t about form letters, general rejection, and our inability to accept rejection. for cripes’ sakes, these are PROFESSIONAL writing women who have been published before and have gone thru their/our share of rejections in our lives. we KNOW that not all rejections are personal. we also KNOW that some rejections most certainly are. especially when Seal TELLS US that it is personal. and, ftr, they did NOT say “we don’t think there’s much market for this idea”. they literally said “WE have no interest in anything that centers woc”.

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