Friday, April 25, 2008

A Public Apology

To Our Readers, Our Friends, Our Critics,

We are taking action immediately to remove the offensive images from It's A Jungle Out There. We are currently reprinting, and we will make these changes now. We apologize for any pain or concern these images have caused.

We do not believe it is appropriate for a book about feminism, albeit a book of humor, to have any images or illustrations that are offensive to anyone.

Some have asked the valid question, "What were you thinking?"

Please know that neither the cover, nor the interior images, were meant to make any serious statement. We were hoping for a campy, retro package to complement the author's humor. That is all. We were not thinking.

As an organization, we need to look seriously at the effects of white privilege. We will be looking for anti-racist trainings offered here in the Bay Area. We want to incorporate race analysis into our work.

In the meantime, please know that all involved in the publishing of It's A Jungle Out There, from editorial to production were not trying to send a message to anyone about our feelings regarding race. If taken seriously as a representation of our intentions, these images are also not very feminist. By putting the big blonde in the skimpy bathing suit with the big breasts, the tiny waist, and the weapon on our cover, we are also not asserting that she is any kind of standard that anyone should aspire to. This 1950s Marvel comic is not an accurate reflection of our beauty standards, our beliefs regarding one's right to bear arms, nor our perspectives on race relations, foreign policy, or environmental policy.

We also extend this apology to the author, Amanda Marcotte, who did not select these images for her book. Writing humor is very difficult. While our intention was to complement your words, we see that these images have had the opposite effect, and for that, we are sorry.

Sincerely and humbly,

Krista Lyons-Gould and Brooke Warner

UPDATE: Please note that, upon reflection, we realize that the second to the last paragraph of this post doesn't do a good job of conveying our intended meaning. We do not want to delete it, but we do want to make a note around our intent, since its purpose was to further articulate the "what were they thinking?" question. We apologize that this paragraph undermines our apology. We acknowledge that the images are racist and not okay under any circumstances. We are wholeheartedly sincere in our apology, and the actions we've laid out above will be acted upon immediately.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

industry news

I thought it was worth sharing the news that is up 37% in its first quarter earnings this year, and up a total of 30 percent from a year ago. In today's Publisher's Marketplace, it was reported that this concerns investors, because it raises questions about the company's margins. But, they state: "Publishers only care about what the e-tailer is selling, not how much they are making."

Given the fact that we've been criticized for linking to in previous comments to our posts (a practice I've since changed---I'm now linking to Powell's), I feel compelled to talk about the fact that most of our business is done through Amazon. That's because many of our readers are web-savvy women who get their news online, read various blogs, or blog themselves.

I have mixed feelings about Amazon. They're a Goliath in a country where Goliaths are well-loved. And we rely on them because we have an amazing backlist, and even indie presses don't carry our older books indefinitely. It would be incredibly hard for us, in the position we're in, to make a cause out of people only buying from their local stores---although I'm hugely supportive of that idea. I just also know that it's not always realistic.

I'm curious to know what your feelings about Amazon are---in the face of such huge profits. I wonder if I'm too much of a non-idealist to be worked up about it, or if I have a different perspective on the whole thing as an industry-insider. Like the article says, publishers want to sell books. As an editor I'm guilty of wanting this for Seal as much as for my authors. And more than anything in the world I want more people to be reading books, no matter how they get their hands on them.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

go Hillary!

Yes, this is the actual May cover of The New Republic. Phoebe Connelly over at the The American Prospect writes about this and other "Crazy-Eyed" photos of Hillary that are making the rounds in the media.

And yet, she took Pennsylvania last night. And so she keeps on. I'm in the camp of women who voted for Hillary---I'd love to see her be the next president---but will be perfectly happy (hell, elated!) if Barack ends up being the nominee the general election. I'm tired of the media coverage that says that all of this is bad for Democrats. Shut up, already. Why is it bad for Democrats? Because the two candidates are having their dirty laundry aired? That's going to happen during the general election already. Because it shows that we have two awesome potential candidates while the Republicans have one shitty one?

Really, if I were Hillary, I'd have that wild-eyed look on more occasions than she does, I'm sure. She's out there fighting, and she's winning not only against odds, but against a media culture that's part blind, part ignorant, part misogynist, part sexist. That's not an easy shitstorm to succeed in. So, yeah, fist pump all you want, Hillary, all the way to the finish line.


Monday, April 21, 2008

women and car racing

We're publishing a book next spring called Travel Therapy, by Karen Schaler. It's early to be generating excitement about the book, but it's awesome because the whole book is about vacations women can take to cope or celebrate or indulge or escape based on things like breaking up, celebrating a promotion, giving back to the community, etc.

Today I was reading about Breakup trips, and lo and behold, one of the suggested trips is Racecar Driving in Miami. Apparently racecar driving is all the rage and becoming increasingly popular among women! And they're tearing up the frigging track.

This was all very timely reading, since Danica Patrick became auto racing's first female winner in IndyCar history yesterday.

Just in case you want to stick this in your hat for later, here are a couple of the racing schools that Karen recommends:

*Skip Barber Racing School
*Homestead Miami Racing School


Thursday, April 17, 2008

more spring books rolling in

This week we've received more books in a single week than ever. And that's because our spring list is huge: 22 books. Starting this fall we're cutting back to just 10 a season, the result of the Perseus shakedown. And a huge relief given the staffing.

Jessica Valenti's He's a Stud, She's a Slut and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know is in. It's a beautiful book: informative, smart, and fun.

Aside from bringing awareness to 50 of the more prominent double standards, it arms women with the all-important question: So what to do?

Check it out.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

biggest loser's first woman winner

I haven't been watching "The Biggest Loser." I feel distrustful of it, like there's something inherently wrong there. And yet it's so much better than "The Swan" and other shows that are egregious in their misogynist messages.

But I did catch the finale last night, and I watched Ali Vincent step up on the scale, looking amazing and proud and buff. This is Season 5, and she's the first female to win the show. It seems insane to me that they have the women competing against the men in the first place, just given the difference in muscle mass and how differently men and women burn calories and fat. But I digress.... I'm waiting for Jenn Pozner and crew to do an analysis. Jenn is writing a book for Seal about gender (and race and class) issues in reality TV. And how Reality TV is particularly harmful to women. These shows are becoming so much a part of our daily awareness that it's hard to parse out all the issues. "The Biggest Loser" taps into our national obsession with weight, and the show's competitive set-up, in which the contestants have a weigh-off each week, is where it's way more cut-throat than it is about all the contestants living healthier, better lives. I'm sure a Kum Ba Yah weight-loss show wouldn't get as many viewers. Nevertheless....

So, Ali, good on you. She does look great. And kudos. These people go on the show to shake up their lives, and I just hope that the changes are long-lasting, and that the show is actually inspiring people at home rather than propagating weightism.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

the skinny

So here's the deal. Yesterday I spent some time flipping through Skinny Bitch, a book that's published by a sister imprint of ours, and whose skyrocketing success speaks volumes, I think, about what women want, or maybe what others want for women. This book, after all, is all about how to become a skinny bitch by cutting out sugar, meat, and dairy from your diet.

Skinny Bitch is published by a sister imprint, and so naturally it's a success story. And naturally I'm not going to get into all the ways in which this book is problematic for those of us who are trying to promote female-positive messages. The stratospheric sales rate of this book, to me, is sort of like watching your way prettier more popular sister score a 1600 on her SAT test. It's just unexpected.

Meanwhile, this week we have two books hitting bookstores that touch upon body image in wholly different ways, both of which feature our two beautiful authors on their respective covers. In Sex and Bacon, Sarah Katherine Lewis finds out that her Bacon Quotient is four pounds of bacon in a single sitting. I love this woman. The last few times I've seen her she's insisted on ordering more desserts than are necessary and trying the most outlandish things on the menu. She's a lusty eater, and being around people like that always makes me wonder if they don't just have a thing or two more figured out about the world than the rest of us. The other one, Half-Assed, is a weight-loss memoir, and yes, that's Jennette, showing us the pants that she used to cruise around in. Now the woman is running 15Ks and training for a marathon. But Jennette's book isn't just a rah-rah memoir about a quest to shed pounds. It's really about the lessons learned, and finding out that there's a lot more to happiness and loving yourself than the numbers that flash when you step on the scale.

I love these books and I hope they find a readership. Maybe we can figure out a way to place these books in the hands of famous people who will unwittingly contribute to huge sales. Don't blame me for dreaming big. And we'd love to hear your thoughts!


Monday, April 14, 2008

drum roll please: seal studies is official

It was late 2004 when the Seal staff first started discussing the idea of launching an academic series for women's studies classes (with crossover potential). It was a good idea, definitely, but the books wouldn't be commercial. We knew we couldn't pay the authors much by way of advances. And so we sat on it for a while. But the idea kept resurfacing, and a few of us kept returning to it. And finally, in mid to late 2006, we signed our first authors to do A History of U.S. Feminism and Transgender History.

These two books arrived on my desk this morning, and I feel moved. They're smaller than our average books (though packed with content). Our best hope for them is that they appeal to young college students and that professors assign them as supplemental reading. The idea behind the series is to turn young women onto important topics and to provide easy-to-digest texts for students who will hopefully go on to read more in-depth analyses on the topics we're putting out.

Forthcoming books in the series include:

Feminism and Pop Culture
Women and Violence
Men and Feminism
Girls Studies
Women of Color and Feminism
Motherhood Studies
Hip Hop Feminism

If you have thoughts about issues you might like to see included in the series, we'd love to hear it. We'll be issuing two per season (four a year) through next year, after which point we'll cut back to one per season. Seal Studies is one of those projects that required a lot of people's commitment. Thank you Krista, Denise Silva, Rory Dicker, Susan Stryker, Jennie Goode, Karen Bleske, and Mike Walters, and also future editors (especially Anne Mathews) and authors (particularly Andi Zeisler and Barrie Levy, who have already delivered for fall) for making the next installments possible.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Ode to authors

I'm stating the obvious today. We couldn't do what we do without them. And we're grateful for the beautiful ways they want to affect change through books. We want to use our blog space to celebrate our amazing authors. Each week, I'd like to call out a different author for her amazing achievements and her passionate commitment to her work.

Today I want to speak out in praise of two Seal authors who brought us Invisible Girls: The Truth About Sexual Abuse, Dr. Patti Feuereisen and Caroline Pincus.

Dr. Patti's commitment to helping girls and women heal from sexual abuse is more than inspiring. Her website, has become an important international resource for sexual-abuse survivors. She continues the work of encouraging girls and women of all ages to speak out, to tell their stories, to share, and to begin to heal. She continues her psychology practice in Brooklyn listening and supporting adolescent girls and women every day. Dr. Patti also speaks widely on sexual abuse at high schools and colleges and for professional associations nationwide. Maybe your organization needs her?

Caroline Pincus brought to Invisible Girls her supreme writing skills and her own commitment to the topic. The list of books Caroline has edited and written or co-written is a lengthy and impressive one.

For me, working with these women on the book Invisible Girls has been one of the highlights of my career. I am honored to have this book on our list. The statistics continue to be staggering: One in four girls will experience sexual abuse by the time she is sixteen, and 48 percent of all rapes involve a young woman under the age of eighteen. We have so much work to do. Big thanks go to Ingrid Emerick for acquiring this incredibly important title for Seal.

Until next time.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

a response in the aftermath of listening

Yesterday morning Krista and I decided to take down our blog post from April 3 after reading Bitch magazine's post about our behavior online because we wanted to be done with it. I've gotten several appeals to put it back up and allow the conversation to continue. It's not that we wanted to stop the conversation. From our standpoint it was more that we felt that the entire thing had gotten so far away from us that we were attempting to put an end to it. Krista and I are new to blogging. This is our first run-in with an entire segment of the blogosphere whose spaces and rules of engagement are far different from anything we'd known. I put the post back up to allow it to reexist here. The comments have been deleted, but I'm publishing them in the comment section of that original post. We were not interested in shutting down this conversation. Rather, we don't want to continue to fan the flames or continue to comment. I have heard a lot of good suggestions. I've read earnest pleas, thoughtful commentary, and plenty of hard criticism. I read BlackAmazon's post today, in which she explains why she wrote FUCK SEAL PRESS. As I said before, I took that personally. Too personally. I understand that there's lots of emotional history and ill-feeling and feelings hurt on all sides. I am sorry.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

announcement: dirty girls parties and virtual tour

Rachel Kramer Bussel, writer, blogger, and hostess extraordinaire, is mounting an awesome virtual tour campaign and two launch parties for her recently released anthology Dirty Girls.

There's also two parties, one on each coast.

The first one's tomorrow in NYC!

Thursday, April 10, 7 - 9 pm
Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women Book Release Party at Sutra Lounge.

Editor Rachel Kramer Bussel presents a celebration of naughtiness for the release of her latest anthology Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women. Featuring readings by Tsaurah Litzy, Lillian Ann Slugocki, Sofia Quintero, and Suki Bishop, along with free boob cake from Moist and Tasty and drink specials. All 21+ are welcome.

The next one's in SF on April 28th, so hang tight. We'll post the details when it gets a little closer.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

girl blogomania!

This article, Sorry, Boys, This is Our Domain, is last month's news, but I hadn't heard about it, because who can keep up with the Times every single day?

It's just cool to check out what teens are up to. We all know that teenagers HEART MySpace and lots of other newer social networks that adults over the age of 20 are totally clueless about. But this is all about girl bloggers, who are blogging on their own blogs or on interactive e-zines. A Pew Study found that "among web users ages 12 to 17, significantly more girls than boys blog (35 percent of girls compared with 20 percent of boys)."

The article ties this into broader trends about women getting into jobs that focus on math and computer sciences, which is the subject of a book we just published called Who's Afraid of Marie Curie? by Linley Erin Hall. According to this article, "Women hold about 27 percent of jobs in computer and mathematical occupations," and Hall's findings are both critical and optimistic about the chances girls and women have in these fields.

Regardless, the blog stats are cool. Go girls!


Monday, April 7, 2008

sexual fluidity---a controversial study that just makes sense

I just finished Sexual Fluidity, by Lisa Diamond over the weekend. I'd read about it in Publisher's Weekly and wished we'd acquired it. It's interesting timing, 'cause it was just reviewed in the Feminist Review This is a good thing cause I'm not really into reviewing books myself. Rather, I'm recommending this book to all Seal readers.

This study is fascinating to me because of the way it juxtaposes male sexuality and female sexuality and Diamond's claim that most female sexuality has been dismissed as too varied, and therefore a lot of the studies we have out there are based on males, because they're more reliably either heterosexual or homosexual. Women, on the other hand, according to Diamond's ten-year longitudinal study, tend to fluctuate in their attraction, and are more likely to vary in their sexual identity over the course of their lifetimes. Of course, Diamond's findings are controversial both for the Christian Right (fear that the claim that women's capacity to have emotional attractions that spill into physical intimacy means that all/many women are bisexual) and the GLBTQ community (too many "fake" lesbians are having sexual liaisons and undermining the legitimacy of lifelong lesbians). But no matter how you spin it, Diamond's findings are well thought out, thorough, and female positive. As a lesbian herself, she's not judgmental of the women she tracks. She's curious and openminded and astounded at the degree of nuance she finds among these women. My hope is that Diamond's book is read widely and that it sparks enough interest that it changes the way women's sexuality is studied, reported, and ultimately viewed by all sides.

Friday, April 4, 2008

jenny block on open marriage

Open is coming out very soon and it's sure to cause a stir. Jenny Block's take on open marriage is refreshing, above all because she's not in the least bit apologetic or about to back down.

Check out her post at The Huffington Post. I can tell you this. Even if you don't agree with Jenny, or whether you think she wants to have her cake and eat it too, she'll make you think long and hard about monogamy and polyamory and bisexuality and all of the conventions that limit our perceptions around how things are "supposed to be."


autism activist

Two nights ago I watched the CNN special, "Finding Amanda" about this autistic woman, Amanda Baggs, and it stayed with me all yesterday and into today. In the spirit of WAM!, Amanda is an example of how people are using the media in their activism. And this is also wholly new take on autism. It's not too different from conversations I've heard play out between other groups of people who don't get each other. And here's Amanda saying, "Don't dismiss my experience" by allowing people into her world.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Seal and women of color

I feel compelled to go public here since there has been a lot of important, though discouraging, conversation going on over at Blackamazon, and because of Angry Black Woman's comment to yesterday's post, which is off-topic there, but fits here.

Right now I am the sole acquiring editor at Seal. Krista is the publisher. The two of us are Seal editorial, and that's all we got. I wrote yesterday, in response to Anonymous's comment: "Seal's got nothing on WOC" that we want WOC. I get now that I misunderstood the comment, that I took it literally to mean we've got no books on WOC. Of course, it's not true. We have books, though mostly anthologies. Hijas Americanas, Voices of Resistance, and Shout Out are recent acquisitions that feature work for and about women of color. Seal is known for Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism. Regardless, I want to clarify and try to rectify this whole nasty thing that's happening over there because I didn't intend to offend so many people. I was writing off the cuff in response to the comment FUCK SEAL PRESS, which yes, I took personal offense to. The comments that follow the post are even harsher, and yet, what I really intended to say with my comment was this: Seal wants to publish women of color and issues that matter to women of color.

What I wrote in a later comment was that publishing is NOT AS MUCH ABOUT outreach AS IT IS about getting submissions from people who want to write for us. That doesn't mean I don't do outreach. I do and I have. But again, as the sole acquiring editor, there's only so much I can do. I have to rely on people who want to get published, and who approach me. Right now I am doing outreach in the form of specifically acquiring for the Seal Studies academic series we're launching, and I've been going about looking for women to write books on queer feminism, women of color and feminism, feminism and religion, and on and on and on. All this for books that we think matter, but which probably won't sell very many copies in the grand scope of things.

I'm writing here today because I don't want to be boycotted by people who took offense to my comments yesterday. Seal is actually barely surviving. This press, which has a thirty-year history of publishing books that no other house wanted to publish, means a lot to me and to Krista and to a lot of women. Seal has changed over the years because we've had to. We could not survive publishing only the types of books that Seal used to publish. There's been a constant push to be more commercial, and we've responded to that. When it's try or die, I opt for trying. I've been involved in the new direction the list has taken, and Seal is more mainstream than it's ever been. And for better or worse, this is what's allowed us to stay in existence. This doesn't mean that we don't care, or that we're not open to hearing where we're doing wrong, or where we could do better. And so even though I feel angry about the comments over at Blackamazon, and I admittedly posted somewhat defensively, the intention behind it was, "Hey, let's work together to get published more of what you want to see." It doesn't even mean that can or will happen. I have higher-ups to answer to, it's true. But it doesn't change the fact that Krista and I are not intentionally fostering a "wall of whiteness" here.

So the fact that my writing "We want WOC"---yes, it was crass and quick, but I meant "Seal wants to publish WOC"---resulted in such backlash says to me that yes, people were offended, and I do apologize for that. I want to open up this discussion and do so productively. I do want to cultivate WOC authors. I always have. If I haven't been successful or able it's not for a lack of trying or ignorance to the situation out there. Which is why I appreciate Angry Black Woman writing something that opens up a space to have a productive conversation.

Signing off,


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

We're back!

Well it was more difficult than I anticipated to do live blogging at WAM! Namely because we were intensely interested in each and every panel we went to. Now it's true, I pride myself on multi-tasking, but I have a hard time listening and trying to write at the same time. It's a flaw. The panels were good, the comments were interesting. WAM! 2008 was a success. Thanks to all who made it happen, namely our own author, Jaclyn Friedman, the CNW Program Director.

Other WAM attendees have blogged about how inspiring it was to be surrounded by so many other feminists, and I hate to be a follower. But it's true. Not only did we have several Seal authors to connect with in one place (always a good thing), but there were many WAMmers there who may be future Seal authors. This was a group of intelligent, activist, passionate women who want to change the world. There's not much more inspiring than that.

I blogged ever so briefly about the last panel of the conference--the panel about election coverage of Hillary Clinton, and it was fascinating, if not also depressing. We looked at the media's inability to actually cover the content of her speeches, choosing instead to focus on everything from her blouse (there wasn't actually any cleavage visible), her laugh (called a cackle by the cable media), and her conveyance of emotion (or lack of it, according to some pundits). Meanwhile, when you review the media coverage of McCain, reporters and pundits practically had to refuse to comment on his appearance, which is often the elephant in the room (I looked for one of those unbelievable facial tumor pictures to put here but had trouble finding one--still looking), in order to push through to talk about the real issue: the content of his speeches or what he says during debate. It's amazing when analyzed side by side, and for anyone who believes sexism in this country is a nonissue, (yes, these people are all around us), it's a current and larger-than-life example to review.

The overarching questions at the panel were what do we do about this? And it is clear that the most important thing is to keep bringing it up. Talk about it. Let's not assume this is OK because we're used to it. Let's not assume anyone is tired of hearing about it. Let's not give in. If you have to sit down with a friend and show them YouTube videos back to back to prove your point, do it.

If Hillary is not our nominee, when will we have another woman running for Commander-in-Chief? It could be a long freakin' time. It's OK to tell that to people too. She was well poised for this campaign. And if she couldn't make it happen with her experience, money, connections, intelligence . . . who can?

More to come as my brain thaws after being in the very cold Cambridge. Maybe I'm wimpy when it comes to cold. I'll admit to that, but I sure am glad to be home. Hello Bay Area. You are the best.


go vote!

Another important voting opportunity prior to the election is here!

I posted a few weeks back urging you all to vote for your favorite female bloggers for the Women's Voices Making History contest.

And now two Seal authors, Helen Boyd (She's Not the Man I Married) and Jessica Valenti (Full Frontal Feminism and He's a Stud, She's a Slut) are in the Top 10.

So go vote!

And Helen and Jess, you two are awesome. Congrats and good luck!