How people are democratizing the publishing industry #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

There are people out there doing the hard thing in order to democratize the publishing industry. They’re risking their jobs, their income, their industry relationships, their mental health, and even their lives, all to make publishing more accessible, transparent, and accountable. Below are a few examples of people who did the hard thing and effected change in publishing as a result.

  • On March 5, 2020, employees at several Hachette imprints, including Grand Central Publishing and Little, Brown and Company, walked out to protest the acquisition of Woody Allen’s memoir. An auto-reply email from an employee at GCP that day read, “We stand in solidarity with Ronan Farrow, Dylan Farrow, and survivors of sexual assault,” according to Publisher’s Weekly. The result? Hachette dropped the memoir.
  • In 2018, Flatiron Books, a division of MacMillan, acquired a book centering Mexicans called American Dirt. Books written by authors of Mexican heritage are heavily underrepresented in English-language bookstores, but Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt is the book that got a seven-figure advance and an Oprah Book Club deal. On January 13, 2020, the New York Times published an interview with Cummins that pointed to authors of Mexican Heritage who critiqued the flaws in American Dirt, one of whom later received death threats for having done so. Those authors, Myriam Gurba and David Bowles, formed #DignidadLiteraria together with journalist Roberto Lovato. The result? MacMillan and Flatiron’s presidents met face to face with #DignidadLiteraria and made commitments to change their hiring and acquisition practices. The situation is at present still evolving.
Screenshot of a tweet by Myriam Chigona Gurba de Serrano or @lesbrains that reads, “At an #AmericanDirt party, guests dined while BARBED WIRE CENTER PIECES adorned the tables. You know, to evoke border chic.” The second tweet is an image of a barbed wire and flower decoration on a table.
Tweets published with permission from Myriam Gurba
  • On December 23, 2019, the Romance Writers of America censured Courtney Milan for accurately tweeting about the racism present in another romance author’s book. By December 26, after the emergency Christmas Eve board meeting that secured the rescission of the censure, the majority of the RWA board resigned, because they no longer had confidence in RWA’s leadership. You could sit for hours on Twitter, and I did, reading leadership resignations and member resignations and awards judge resignations and awards entry withdrawals and still not have read them all. The leadership of CIMRWA (Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Special Interest Chapter of Romance Writers of America) collected the requisite signatures to call a new election. Non-members signed petitions calling for the same. Sixty agents signed a letter pulling out of RWA events until change happened. Big publishers made a similar commitment. The result? The necessary resignations happened, and new leadership is trying to build a more inclusive organization. Time will tell if it can be done.

The title of this post, How people are democratizing the publishing industry, is superimposed over an image of a finger about to press retweet on TwitterThe changes above were made possible because a few people did the hardest thing, and then more people did the hard thing by standing with those doing the hardest thing and amplifying their message, and then more people heard the message and amplified it themselves, and so on. The next time you see someone in publishing doing the hard thing to democratize our industry, please consider publicly standing with them.

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. So many great blogs to keep hopping through. Click here to join the hop and to see what other writing tips you can glean from this month’s edition.

Can you remember an example of another action that has effected change in publishing? Do you know of one that needs more support in order to effect change? What aspect of publishing do you think needs democratization the most right now? Share in the comments.

45 thoughts on “How people are democratizing the publishing industry #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

  1. It’s the only way things will change. Someone stands up, and another person sees that and stands along side them…holding up whatever part they can. I hope we get there faster though…it feels like it’s been too long already. Oh, and did I cringe at the Oprah part in this? Yes. 😔

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really admire people who walk out of a job because of what is right. That is such a hard personal choice to make. Thanks for spotlighting some of them in the publishing industry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. People are no longer being as silent as they once were about things. Social media helps get the message out. Did you read the Publishing Paid Me hashtag? that was a whole other thing. A light is being shined on all the dark corners but it is still an uphill battle to be fought.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Power to the People … great to hear about the publishing company dropping the Woody Allen Memoir. I’ve been watching lots of Netflix documentaries .. among them Jeffrey Epstein and the R Kelly ones about ongoing abuse. I’m starting to feel more and more disillusioned by “the system” that doesn’t seem to work, or where the wheels turn very slow. So great to hear how a walk out got that book dropped.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Raimey. I had read a little bit on the issues you mentioned, but you’ve summarized things nicely. Change is indeed necessary, but some organizations and publishers might take longer than others to fully embrace a new way of viewing and doing things. Please keep us posted as new updates come along!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Debra. You’re right that some organizations and publishers will take longer than others. I also think that the ones that do change are unlikely to do so to the extent that’s necessary for equality, not without more advocacy, changes to legislation, and other measures.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed, Raimey. Over a decade ago, when I was a member of Sisters in Crime, volunteers from SinC recorded how many major newspapers across the U.S. and Canada reviewed crime fiction written by women. It turned out to be a very low percentage at most of the outlets compared to the number of men whose books were reviewed, even though the ratio of male to female writers was close to 50%. I’ve read similar reports in the U.K. in more recent years, but am not sure what the current status is, given that most of the papers probably don’t devote much–if any–space to reviews these days, but I hope that things improved. To SinC’s credit, they contacted the newspapers where the inequality was blatant. Some began to focus more on women authors, but not all, I think. Inequality is a widespread, long, uphill battle, but worth the fight.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s so difficult to make a stand. It’s much easier to just keep your head down for fear of retribution. Anyone who does make a stand shows true courage. I’m reading Quiet a book about introversion .. and one of the examples was about Rosa Parks, and how she took a stand even though she was the quintessential introvert.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a great reminder of how we can use our voices to create change and the more voices that rally together, the greater the impact. It’s so good to see people standing up for their beliefs and succeeding in positive change.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post! So inspiring to see these people putting their necks on the line to stand up for what’s right. It must be difficult for them, especially with the might some of these publishing houses have. Positive steps are definitely being made but a lot of work still needs to be done, and it’s up to us and everyone else to do it!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think it’s about time organizers of in-person events like book festivals stop boycotting independent authors. How democratic is it when you see participation is by “invitation only.” An author represented by a “traditional publishing house.” is not necessarily more talented or gifted. Admission standards should be open to all based on the quality of published work that is produced.

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