GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Daniel José Older, on why diversity in publishing is not enough.

“By blaming an intangible force, the publishing industry absolves itself of any responsibility, when in fact it is very much in the business of manipulating The Market to its ends. “Those conversations happen without acknowledging that there’s a huge disparity in how books are marketed and publicized,” Sarah McCarry tells me. McCarry worked publishing on and off for a decade, most recently at a New York literary agency. “That money and attention overwhelmingly goes to what the industry has already decided is ‘marketable’—heterosexual narratives featuring white characters. A book has very little chance of doing well if there’s no marketing push behind it.”

Lee and Low Publishers convened a panel last year and asked agents what they could do to help shift the troubling lack of diversity in publishing. “I think the change is going to have to come from within those who are affected,” one agent responded, “just like any underrepresented group in any profession. But since the return on the investment for the author is so low, I don’t know how many people of color are going to have the desire to climb the mountain to publication that every new author faces, or have the luxury of dedicating the time it takes to master the craft.”

Another agent, when asked why less than 1% of her submissions were from people of color, captured what seems to be the publishing industry’s general attitude in just 10 words: “This seems like a question for an author to answer.”

This is the language of privilege – the audacity of standing at the top of a mountain you made on the backs of others and then yelling at people for being at the bottom. If it’s not the intangible Market that’s to blame, it’s the writers of color, who maybe don’t have what it takes and don’t submit enough anyway. Read the subtextual coding here – the agent first places the onus of change on the folks with the least institutional power to effect it, then suggests we probably won’t be able to find the time (i.e., lazy) to master the craft.

So we are wary. The publishing industry looks a lot like one of these best-selling teenage dystopias: white and full of people destroying each other to survive.

But let’s go back to this: “It’s not for you to relate to!” Write that in the sky. And it’s true – often, as writers of color, to portray our stories in all their vibrant authenticity, all their difficult truth means we’re not writing for editors and agents, we’re writing past them. We’re writing for us, for each other. And it’s not just a question of characters of color, it’s not a numbers game. It’s about voice, about narrative flow. Because of who we are and what we’ve lived, our stories often contain implicit critiques of white supremacy, critiques that we know stand little chance of surviving the gauntlet of the majority white publishing industry. We see diverse futures, laden with the tangled past of oppression and we re-envision models of empowerment and survival. But only a few of us make it through. There is a filter and the filter is white culture.

Ultimately, editors and agents hold exactly the same amount of responsibility that writers do in making literature more diverse. The difference is, editors and agents have inordinately more power and access in the industry than writers do.

Diversity is not enough.

We’re right to push for diversity, we have to, but it is only step one of a long journey. Lack of racial diversity is a symptom. The underlying illness is institutional racism. It walks hand in hand with sexism, cissexism, homophobia, and classism. To go beyond this same conversation we keep having, again and again, beyond tokens and quick fixes, requires us to look the illness in the face and destroy it. This is work for white people and people of color to do, sometimes together, sometimes apart. It’s work for writers, agents, editors, artists, fans, executives, interns, directors, and publicists. It’s work for reviewers, educators, administrators. It means taking courageous, real-world steps, not just changing mission statements or submissions guidelines.”

[Via]

See also: Black Authors and Self-Publishing. And Self-publishing Offers Hope for Diverse Authors Shut Out by Traditional Publishing.

 

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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Tweets of the Week(s): Garuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama…

https://twitter.com/MarlanaEsquire/status/712250207916990464

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Traditional publication: The new vanity press?

All those traditional publishing complaints about the self-publishing/online writing slushpile rather get thrown into perspective by this development. If Lanzendorfer is correct, hopeful online writers haven’t made one bit of difference to the practices of literary journals. The MFA industry has. Time and again, writers and others involved in the book world have complained about it. And here’s one evidence of it doing actual harm and penalizing poorer writers.

There is a massive problem of felt entitlement around MFA programs, as has been chronicled at length. The problem is clearly not being helped by the fact that there’s an alternative path to writing success that MFA participants are apparently ignoring. Yes, jump into the online writing/self-publishing slush pond. You may be drowning in a pool of talentless peers, and struggling to get your head above the general level, but know what? Looks like exactly the same will apply in MFA programs these days. So much so that literary journals are effectively putting up paywalls to make you stay away. At least the internet doesn’t do that.

But it doesn’t confer an obvious qualification and other snob value brownie points either. An MFA does. Publication in an accredited literary journal, of course, also confers snob value. And this is snob value you pay for. Why wouldn’t you? It carries the Jonathan Franzen Seal of Approval.

Chris Meadows ran a couple of insightful pieces on how The Martian went from self-published surprise hit to Ridley Scott movie script. And the problem of snobbery that still lingers despite such breakout successes. The hidden, prejudiced assumption he cites there is that “self-publishing was vanity publishing.” Well, despite the work of Penguin Random House and Author Solutions, it now looks as though the equation has been turned on its head.

Snob writers from snob backgrounds are now paying snob fees for snob credentials and the snob kudos of proper publication in real literary journals. Not for them the sordid smut of a Fifty Shades-style popular success. They aspire to higher things, with real publication, on paper. After all, that’s what they paid for.

Read the rest on TeleRead.

See also: Why literature is no longer art. 

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

Tweets of the Week: Lovely weather for ducks

Our best tweets:

On Cheating:

My point is that Michael Derrick Hudson could have found a more effective way to promote his poetry, or so it seems to me. His strategy would never have occurred to me: There has to be some honor, even among thieves. But it is a strategy, however misguided, and strategy is what is required to compete in this very small game. My small submission ruses were hardly innovative. The obstacles erected by publications could be disrupted more cleverly and quite without the racial clamminess for which he opted. I encourage all poets and short fictions writers to find them. Code-writing writers should game the electronic submission portals, and figure out a way to automatically shuffle a story to the top of the digital pile. Bribery seems an option (if you’re submitting to me), although since most literary publications pay nothing or next to it, I can’t imagine the point. And if, as Hudson implies, race wins out then win the race race, I guess. Yet I bet it doesn’t, even for him. His 49 rejections—40 white, 9 non—strikes me as far from conclusive evidence. Besides, what I’m counseling is cheating: You don’t have to be an asshole. The submission process is a rigged casino game, though, and all is fair in love and literary magazines.

Read the rest.


[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.