When I heard the name Tramp Press, I was drawn to it. The obvious negative connotations of this phrase make it an attention grabber. Take what you will from the word, but a stand-out definition to me is the bold outsider. For the Dublin-based, independent publishing firm run by Lisa Coen and Sarah Davis-Goff since 2014, Tramp Press have received over 6,000 publication submissions from across the globe. Speaking of the naming of the company, Davis-Goff commented that, “we’re referring with the name mostly to Synge, who often uses a tramp-like figure as a proxy for an artist – a figure that is introduced to a somewhat stale community or patriarchy and shakes it up.” That is certainly what the pair have done within the publishing realm – not just in Dublin, but beyond.
While both are thankful to get to do the job they love everyday, the duo addressed the common problem within the writing world: access. Davis-Goff said, “there were no jobs — that was key in our decision making, we really had to make space for ourselves.” After spending respective years in academia, Sarah and Lisa were aware of the lack of careers in their chosen fields, which spurred on the decision to set up a female-run publishing firm.
“‘We’ll only ever publish works that are skin-prickingly, heart-stoppingly brilliant, and we’ll publish them with great care, and attention to detail – and force.’”
At the heart of their company lie old-fashioned editorial values. They work long-term to develop meaningful and personal relationships with the writers. Speaking on behalf of the both of them, Davis-Goff said: “Publishers tend, particularly in times of economic depression, to throw a load of sometimes quite staid work into the marketplace and hope that one or two titles make a dent. We approach things from the opposite direction. We’ll only ever publish works that are skin-prickingly, heart-stoppingly brilliant, and we’ll publish them with great care, and attention to detail — and force.”
When asked about a typical day in publishing, Davis-Goff highlighted the fact that no two days are the same. She said: “The wonderful thing about working as a small publisher rather than for a large one is that you get to see through the whole publication process, from pitch to post-pub work.”
She told Trinity News a little about behind-the-scenes in Tramp Press, detailing what goes on day-to-day: “I tend to try and carve up my week so that on Fridays I’m largely reading. Wednesdays we try to reserve for meetings. Lisa and I talk constantly through-out. So this morning, for example, I did some work on logging up-coming author events in our system, made notes on pitching spring festivals, checked in about getting galleys out to the trade, logged some submissions, and now I get to settle down with some proofing for a few hours.”
The feminist company accept submissions from all, and have observed over the years that women aren’t as quick to send out their writing as men are. Speaking of this statistic, Davis-Goff said: “I think this has largely been framed as an issue with women: however, if we’re going to make sweeping remarks about gender in literature, perhaps it’s rather that men submit too quickly. We’ve certainly picked up more women than men from the slush pile.”
“Sexism in literature and the wider writing sphere has been a prevalent issue from the beginning of time.”
In an article in The Guardian, the pair discussed the sexism that they face, including small things, such as being addressed as “Dear Sirs” on cover letters. Sexism in literature and the wider writing sphere has been a prevalent issue from the beginning of time. Mary Ann Evans spent her career writing under a pseudonym so that her work would be judged on the same level as that of a man. She thought that she would be taken more seriously writing under George Eliot. She wrote at a time where a woman’s name on a book would have been disregarded as another fluffy romance story.
Fast forward to now: the gender of an author does not have the same effect in writing today, but that doesn’t mean that sexism within the industry doesn’t exist. When asked about the importance of the female voice in literature today, Davis-Goff said: “I guess it’s telling about the importance of the female voice in literature that nobody ever needs to ask about the importance of the male voice in literature.” The fact that people see a successful firm and subconsciously, automatically assume that it’s run by men is an issue in itself.
However, things have changed significantly since the days of Evans. Addressing this, Davis-Goff said: “I do think the work done in the last decade has at least made it clear that you’ll not be very popular if you like to shout about how you don’t see why you should read books by women in public, so that’s something.”
“‘The best and smartest of men and women will always be looking for a range of new voices, and will always be on hand to help those coming up, if they can.’”
Tramp press certainly represents a forward-thinking publishing house. Davis-Goff ended by stating: “In the meantime though, the best and smartest of men and women will always be looking for a range of new voices, and will always be on hand to help those coming up, if they can. That hasn’t changed either.”