Book publishers and staff are opposed to the homogeneity of their industry and the payment of color authors. These issues are becoming more pressing as protests against systemic racism continue in the United States.
The handshake over diversity is nothing new in publishing – according to a, its workforce is more than three quarters of that of whites Survey released earlier this year from children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books – but over the weekend, conversations that have been going on for years have become public protests.
Using a hashtag, #PublishingPaidMeThe authors shared their progress. This is the amount they receive for their books before royalties, which are usually based on copies sold, are received. The young adult writer LL McKinney, who is black, started it hashtag on Saturday hoping to highlight the wage inequality between black and non-black writers.
“These are conversations that black writers have had with each other and have been trying to motivate the industry for a long time,” she said. Although she was not surprised by the differences revealed, she was hurt, she said, “how deep it went”.
Jesmyn Ward, a critically acclaimed writer, said on Twitter that she “fought and fought” for her first $ 100,000 advance, even after her book “Salvage the Bones,” for which she spent around $ 20,000 received a National Book Award in 2011 After changing publishers, she was able to negotiate a higher advance for “Sing, Unburied, Sing” – for whom she won a second National Book Award, in 2017 – but she said, “It was still hardly synonymous with the progress of some of my novelists.”
A spokeswoman for Bloomsbury Publishing, who published “Salvage the Bones” and Ms. Ward’s memoir “Men We Reaped”, said the company is not commenting on the advances paid to authors, but rather that it is an honor to have published their books .
The outcry over the # PublishingPaidMe tweets continued throughout the weekend, and a different kind of protest was ongoing on Monday. Five employees of Farrar, Straus and Giroux organized an “action day” on which media and publishing employees spend the day working on books by black authors, telephone banking or donating their daily wages. At least 1,300 employees have registered to participate. Many of them have updated their absence email messages to say, “We are protesting our industry’s role in systemic racism” and listed organizations dedicated to “serving the black community, grieving families and protesters” They encouraged others to support them.
A Google spreadsheet that tracked the authors’ progress also went viral, collecting nearly 1,200 entries by Monday noon. The content was reported itself and could not be checked independently. However, many entries were listed in detail based on the book genre, race, gender and sexual orientation of the author, as well as the payment of the authors. Of the 122 writers who reported earning at least $ 100,000, 78 said they were white, seven were black, and two were Latin American.
Penguin Random House, the largest publisher in the book industry, tried to address the concerns raised.
In an email to employees on Monday, the company said it would exchange statistics on the demographics of its workforce, pledge to increase the number of books published by colored people, prescribe anti-racist training among its employees, and one carry out company – wide reading order from a new bestseller: “How to be an anti-racist” by Ibram X. Kendi.
Michael Pietsch, managing director of the Hachette Book Group, said in an interview that his company would create diversity goals for its employees and authors, and planned to share demographic information it collects with its employees.
He has not contested the protests in his industry; on the contrary.
“The general feeling is a great support,” said Pietsch about his publisher. “They are protesting something legitimate and necessary, and it is right to hold ourselves accountable for not achieving the goals we are publicly working towards.”
For those who contributed to and read the # PublishingPaidMe discussion, the rare disclosure of author salaries – and in some cases how low they were given their success – was a surprise.
“Jesmyn’s tweets just shocked me,” said writer Kiese Laymon, who most recently published the “Heavy” memoir. To make Ms. Ward struggle to make significant progress, Mr. Laymon said: “It just seems like you almost have to beg to be valued. That really put me in the right light. “
John Scalzi, a science fiction writer who has been talking openly about what he does for years, shared his progress for more than a dozen books and showed mostly upward gradual progress until he received The Deal: 3.4 million US dollars for 13 books over 10 years. “I think it’s a very bad idea what makes people a secret,” he said.
“It doesn’t hurt to share information,” he added, saying that as a white man, he feels isolated from retaliation for public exchange. “It never turns out that in the end I earn less – it’s that other people are paid more fairly for what they do.”
His salary was compared to another science fiction writer, N.K. Jemisin, who tweeted that she received $ 25,000 for every book in her Broken Earth trilogy. Ms. Jemisin, who is black, won the Hugo Award, which recognizes outstanding achievements in science fiction and fantasy for every book in the trilogy for three years in a row.
White Lydia Kiesling said she received $ 200,000 for her first literary novel, The Golden State. they wrote on Twitter that she “shared it because I know for sure that color authors who sell more books than I have invested less in advance.”
In an email, she called publishing “a very opaque business,” adding that “opaqueness allows inequality to flourish, I think the numbers make it clear.”
This is not the first time that anger has erupted across the wage gap in the industry. Earlier this year, the publication of American Dirt, a novel about Mexican migrants, raised questions about the seven-figure advance paid to non-Mexican author Jeanine Cummins. The book became a bestseller, but received at least as much attention to spark discussions about how poorly color writers are compensated for their stories compared to white writers.
However, some of the people who have been involved in the past 72 hours have felt that this time was a little different.
“I don’t think diversity initiatives and extravagant lip service will be the only thing that happens afterwards,” said Saraciea Fennell, a book publicist who attended Monday’s action day and is involved in other industry diversification efforts such as Latinx in publishing.
Ms. McKinney, the author who started the # PublishingPaidMe conversation, said she would be “hurt and angry and angry” if efforts went away in two weeks.
“When Juneteenth comes, we’re still doing it, we’re still talking about it, black people and black stories and black voices are still important, I’d be pleasantly surprised,” she said. “Please keep it up.”