Friday, June 20, 2014

Shebooks: a new publishing model

In late August, two months from now, Bay Path’s inaugural class of MFA candidates will begin their online studies in creative nonfiction with some of the most gifted writers and teachers in the literary world.  They will be writing personal essays, working on memoirs, studying arts and culture reporting, reading great writers from Virginia Woolf to Annie Dillard to Louise Erdrich. To say I’m pleased to be at the helm of this venture is an understatement; I couldn’t be happier if the sun shone in New England for 100 days in a row. 

One of the things that most excites me about our MFA is our emphasis on new publishing opportunities for creative writers.  The publishing landscape is changing daily, opening up avenues for writers to share their work in ways unimaginable a decade ago.  Yes, finding an agent and getting one’s book published by a major press is in some ways harder than ever, particularly for women writers.  But that is no longer the end of the story. 

The brand-new Shebooks, for example, publishes short e-books by and for women.  Its co-founders, Peggy Northrop and Laura Fraser, launched the online publishing venture in response to what they saw as pervasive sexism in the print and digital marketplace.  Northrop has been editor-in-chief at four magazines, including More and Real Simple; Fraser is journalist, author, and New York Times bestseller for her critically praised memoir, An Italian Affair.  

Together, they launched Shebooks to highlight and distribute the work of talented women fiction and nonfiction writers, and their publications so far are outstanding.  Writer Susan Ito, who teaches Contemporary Women’s Writing in our MFA, just published the stunning novella “The Mouse Room” with SheBooks, which is how I heard about the press and its new campaign, the Equal Writes Campaign 

But let’s hear from editorial director Laura Fraser herself:  

Shebooks wants to change inequities in publishing by giving great women writers a platform. We want to raise their visibility not only to our own readers but to other publications.  My partners and I—the third is Rachel Greenfield, who was the EVP of Martha Stewart Publishing–have been excited by the explosion of digital media, which is giving readers new ways to find compelling stories. And we’re pleased to see writers find fresh ways to work and make money outside the usual channels. was the result: a new media format, real money for writers (our writers all share in our profits), and engaging stories that women can’t wait to read, which fit the corners of their busy lives. We’ve been amazed at the quality of writing we’ve been able to publish. Please pledge to join our Equal Writes Campaign! 

That does it for me.  I'm joining. And I would add, if you're interested in Shebooks, make sure to check out their fiction and nonfiction offerings. I've been blown away by the quality.  Create a refreshing reading hour (or two or three) for yourself this weekend.  Grab an iced coffee, go to your favorite spot, open your laptop, and dive in.