Hey readers, got a short post for you here today. It may not have escaped your notice in recent weeks (or maybe it did, and you’ve spent your time better than I) that the book industry, specifically traditional publishing, has been under fire.
Okay, in fairness, that’s nothing new. The traditional publishing industry has been suffering for years. That’s why Simon & Schuster is up for sale. But right now it’s under fire from readers for a reason that, given the current political climate in the United States, you can probably guess at.
Yup, the publishers are under fire for diversity. Or rather, for a lack of it.
Before I go further with this post, I want to make one thing clear: I actually agree with this concept, but for entirely different reasons than most locked in this battle would probably agree with. Most of them are painting, as they put it, a lack of books from certain ethnic groups or a lack of good royalty for those books as a deliberately targeted act of racism.
I’m not so sure. At least, not in the way most of the accusers seem to think. Personally? I think it’s far more likely that it’s the same story repeated a thousand times with the traditional publishers: They’re out of touch, behind the times, and refusing to adapt to the modern era. They’re “risk averse” to anything they don’t understand, and buddy, there’s a lot they don’t understand.
So basically, while many are accusing book publishers of being deliberately racist, I think that’s giving the publishers too much credit. It’s an “achievement” of ignorance as much as anything else. Ignorance and willful refusal to adapt. Not at all helped by many publishers trying to kill as many birds with one stone as possible and push out books that “hit” every margin the publisher hasn’t at once.
Again, I don’t think this is motivated by race. This is just the publishers being completely out of touch. When I got a rejection letter for a Trad pub I sent one of my early book drafts into long ago (before I realized I was going to go Indie), the rejection I got back wasn’t because of my race, nor was it because they hadn’t liked what I’d sent them, because they had.
No, it was rejected because as the personalized letter outlined, the publisher was only selling three types of Sci-Fi story for the next two years, as they believed that was what was “in.” They listed the three conventions they were only interested in selling, and urged me that should I write one of those stories they’d be very interested in taking a look.
I’m not sharing this story to say “Racism doesn’t exist in the book world” because sure it does. There are still people that are skag-licking idiots out there. And yes, there are documented cases in the publishing industry of works that have been rejected, demonized, or even falsely reviewed simply because of the author’s skin color or sex, and likely many more that are undocumented. This practice is stupid, as I’ve said before. At the end of the day, the book is what should be read and regarded, not whether or not the author has a penis.
But what I am saying here is that right now what a lot of people are saying is racially motivated in most of the cases isn’t. It’s just driven by the big publishers being out of touch and wholly convinced that everyone else is wrong and will come around eventually.
HAH! No publishers, you’re either going to get with the times, or you’ll slowly descend into the grave of “businesses that couldn’t adapt.”
But I’m getting a little off-topic here, because I haven’t gotten to the second bit of this post, or the second bit of the controversy. So a lot of folks right now are angry with the big publishers and hammering them on social media for a lack of diversity. They’re demanding that they change.
Wasted effort, folks. The publishers are already dying because they refuse to change, even as authors leave their doors. Instead of demanding that the publishers change, why not put your efforts better forth elsewhere? Like say, maybe buying from the hundreds of books publishers won’t sell that have gone indie from authors of all different ethnicities and backgrounds.
That’s right, you know what community doesn’t gatekeep in any way? Independent Publishing. Amazon, Smashwords, Google Books … none of them care at all what the color of your skin is, what your background is, or what sex you are. All they care is that there’s a bank account to send your deposits to and that you’re not selling porn to minors (and that they can report you for taxes accurately, but that’s kind of a given).
I’m not saying that the publishers aren’t wrong: They are. Just not quite for the reasons the social media mob right now thinks. But guess what?
You don’t need publishers. Publisher won’t take you book but you’re sure it’ll sell? Forget that publisher, and go indie, where all anyone cares about is “BOOK!” and how well-written it is.
In other words, this energy and effort spent lambasting publishers for not publishing enough books by Black authors? Don’t bother. Let the publishers die their slow, painful deaths. Instead, people should take that energy and support indie published authors.
Do you know what I did last night? I hopped on Amazon’s Kindle store and typed “Black Author” into the search bar.
In just one category this returned 140 pages of books by Black authors from around the world, almost all of them Indie (there was one on the first page of results that wasn’t indie but trad).
Worried that you’re not going to be published by a publisher because of race? Then don’t submit to that publisher. Go indie. Indie takes in all, and at the end of the day the only thing that matters is “is this book good enough to sell?”
There are a lot of reasons to go indie, both as a writer and a reader. You get access to a global marketplace, rather than a trad-pubs limited release window. Which means someone in India can write and sell a book to people in the US, but conversely that readers in the US can find and read a book from someone in India.
Ultimately, that’s the point of today’s post: People are lambasting traditional pubs for being out of touch. Well, yeah, what else is new? But they aren’t changing. So that energy is wasted. At best, it’ll get the publishers to make another token gesture that is as empty as it is meaningless in the long run.
Instead, take that demand for books from around the world and invest it into the sectors of the industry that are actually delivering! Go spend your bucks on Indie! Not only does the author get a much larger and more fair royalty (30-70%, compared to trad pub being 1-10%), but those authors can come from anywhere.
You want to read more authors from a specific country or place? Start digging into indie.
And,. uh, that’s pretty much it folks. Back to work for me now.