Saturday, August 11, 2018

WITMonth Day 11 | Notes on stats posts

Some thoughts:

I'm currently working on a stats post summarizing five years of data, trying to understand whether there have been any meaningful improvements over the years that WITMonth has been running and if not, in what way and why not. In the context of this effort, I would like to draw attention to a few points:

1. Several publishers are what I have referred to in previous years as "repeat offenders". As I analyze the data more carefully, it occurs to me that this title is not sufficient enough, and I am currently in the process of contacting major publishers of literature in translation who I believe have a poor track record when it comes publishing women writers in translation (in numbers, not quality of course). I think it's time to have a serious conversation about why publication rates are remaining largely stagnant, and to see how things can improve in the future.

2. The Three Percent database on which I base some of my analyses is wonderful, but it does not cover all grounds. Remember that this is a database focused on first-time US translations of fiction and poetry, excluding nonfiction, YA, kidlit, and plays. For this reason, my publishing statistics are inherently Anglo-centric. That being said, I am also trying to collect data from prominent non-US publishers of literature in translation as well, in the hopes of having some complementary data. I also typically skim the websites of major publishers myself, in order to make sure that the statistics that I publish are accurate. I'm always grateful to receive any corrections to my assessments, but please bear in mind that I publish nothing without having also double checked that the gist of it is correct.

3. Usually, the Three Percent database actually overestimates the degree to which women writers are translated into English, due to its specific limitations. Among academic publishers in particular there are dozens of retranslated "classics" published every year (almost exclusively by men), as well as nonfiction titles which are also overwhelmingly by men. I don't have the time to create my own translation data in order to properly assess all of the data, but please remember this point when looking at that 30% rate. Based on my anecdotal assessment, the real number is probably closer to 25%.

There's a lot more coming this WITMonth, and a lot more work that will need to be done throughout the year. Hold on tight...

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