#PublishingPaidMe Highlights Income Disparity for Black Authors

Powerhouse authors L.L. Mckinney and Tochi Onyebuchi… Spearheaded the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag which served to call the publishing industry out on its shit and highlight the disparity between what black authors were receiving and what white authors in similar genres got for their book advances.

I frequent the internets pretty regularly. And now that I have my tribe I find myself getting much more familiar with the world of publishing.

Now you guys know I don’t exactly write with money as my primary objective as discussed here. But this article about the income disparity between Black and White authors slid into my dms and it was a hot mess y’all. Just terrible.

I’ll spare you the new tab since the article is filled with that circle jerk language professionals use when they don’t want to say anything that could possibly get them held for libel or some dumb shit. Essentially the issue breaks down as follows. Last month during the period of protests sweeping the country, the literary jumped into everyone’s emails about standing with the black community. And powerhouse authors L.L. Mckinney and Tochi Onyebuchi were not having it y’all. They spearheaded the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag which served to call the publishing industry out on its shit and highlight the disparity between what Black authors were receiving and what white authors in similar genres got for their book advances.

The article does a poor job of capturing the bloodbath I witnessed first-hand on twitter. There were a shocking number of six figure deals for authors with no discernible reputation or fandom in comparison to the money received by Black authors in the same category with far large platforms and much better book sales. The agent they questioned in the article dances around the issue saying that there isn’t enough data but that’s honestly bullshit. A subscription to publisher’s marketplace, where most book deals are published gives you a pretty nice sample size to work with. Especially with the deal key.

Nor does it bother to address how publishing execs remain complicit in the process by inserting clauses where some signed authors must must zip their lips about what they got paid lest they be sued for breach of contract. (This was the big thing and caused a whole lot of tweets to get taken down, but don’t nobody want to talk about. that though).

Nor does it address the shenanigans of whisper network practices that fuck over not only clients of color but many white clients as well. (I’m not saying more on this one cause I ain’t trying to get sued but it’s out there if you look).

But this hashtag is no different than the sob story of blues musicians who gave their all to record companies only to be used and abused. TLC. Prince. Shit don’t even think about the fucking Cold Crush. And it speaks to a broader issue of creatives being taken advantage of by large companies seeking to turn their ideas in marketable entertainment.

I can’t tell you how many agents I have seen on twitter having to raise funds for simple things like dental treatments. Or authors having several jobs at once while trying to raise a family. Only to be led through a maze of complicated loops to being able to earn money from those ideas. Artists deserve to be paid well.

And Publishing can afford to pay the fuck up.

I looked at how the fucking number one company did last year alone. One of the big five Simon & Schuster reported earnings of $814 million alone. That’s one company. One. People like to act like books don’t make a shit ton of money every year. Um… Hello… some of these companies have been around since the 1920’s meaning these fuckers survived the Great Depression.

Are. You. Kidding. Me?

And guess what they survived the Depression and the last Recession we had because their product speaks to a core need that humans have. To consume stories in all forms.

If I learned anything from studying Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett it’s this, if you have something that everybody needs and everybody is willing to pay for no matter how terrible, that is the very definition of a winning product and an attractive investment.

And fuck off about e-book sales and blah blah blah. Humans are going to human, so books aren’t going anywhere so long as story is the driver behind it.

So to the world of Publishing I say this:

If you have a product that’s a guaranteed investment and a production line more than willing to continuously produce in writers and various parts of the creative team, it only stand to reason that you will continuously be able to generate income. That means y’all can fucking afford to pay authors of all racial creeds and colors no matter what they think the market says. Because the market has been screaming for over 90 years now (Simon and Schuster was founded in 1924 exactly 5 years before the Crash of 1929 for reference), that people are going to continue to buy fucking books.

Pay your fucking book production team. Period.


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Jael R. Bakari

Jael is a weirdo. Armed with an imagination that rivals virtual reality and a M.S. in Psych when Jael isn’t analyzing the actions of celebrities and public figures she is busy creating rich worlds of Color (pun intended) dressed in fantasy and magic that focus on her life’s mission: to show we are all human through the power of stories. Her hobbies include reminiscing about growing up in pre-Hipster Brooklyn, reading all the books and painting with the bulk of her time split between raising an active family of five with her husband Solomon in the Peach State and sprinkling the outcomes of her research, meditations, musings, and general silliness across social media. To learn more about Jael and read the weird thoughts from her head visit her at www.jaelrbakari.com

Jael R. Bakari has 17 posts and counting. See all posts by Jael R. Bakari


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