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.
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 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.