Monday, January 23, 2006

Publishing Suppression ~ Suffer in Silence?

Whilst this author gives his/her reasoning for remaining anonymous - I'm disappointed. They're SO on point it's inspiring!

Now, you know my take on this calamity. I'm doing what I can to bring awareness to this problem, and to protect yours truly from being victimized. However - one of the more frustrating aspects of this deal is that there aren't any well-known authors doing anything about it. Yes, they grumble privately about racism in publishing, but publicly? Nada. Tight lipped. Gloss over. Business as usual. They dry their tears with the scraps from the sectioned-off AA market because it pays the bills. Yes - scraps - in comparison to the financial typhoons available to those lucky authors whose commercial works are not market-restricted because of their skin color.

I still maintain that most white authors don't realize the advantage they have simply because they're white. Many are too busy yapping about supporting their fellow authors....But how often does that support extend to fellow authors who happen to be of color? I wonder. Maybe many white authors choose not to notice their unjust advantage. I wonder.

This is a huge problem that many in the industry aren't even wholly aware of. Ignorant bliss. It's one of the primary reasons the dream speech still commands action.

I'd love to hear some feedback from folks about all this. Authors, readers, passersby, etc. What do you think?

In other news: Did he have to go there with Zane? Yikes.

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  1. I think the honest truth is that most people aren't aware of the depth of skin privilege that exists in the world. I wish we were more aware and more active, but I don't think we are and I think the more famous and powerful many people get, the less they do.

    My books aren't in a segregated section based on race at my local bookstore. I know that. I certainly have my opinions about having an AA section, it seems ridiculous. But I've read essays from black authors who support the AA section and so, I sort of stand back and wonder. Well meaning but clueless doesn't help either.

  2. Hi Lauren,

    Exactly. It's very ridiculous. How can you eliminate racism/segregation by segregating? Same thing with the black book clubs that only choose books by black authors. They call it support, but isn't it really just plain old racism as well? This is the type of faulty reasoning I weighed in on before. Definitely counter to any form of equity - without regard to skin color.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. Things are slowly changing. More and more African-American authors are emerging and the climate is bound to change and I think it is. African-American Sections in the bookstores are expanding and eventually more and more readers will find them, not just african-americans. All change is about time. All a black author can do is be patient and roll with the punches.

  4. Hi James - A great American once said,

    "This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off, or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice."

    It was true in 1963 and it's still very, very true now. Silence is acceptance. Fear dummies up many authors, convinces them to accept inequitable treatment as their lot in life. To take hit after hit of that "tranquilizing drug of gradualism".

    Thank God Rosa Parks got off it when she did. Or right now today, it'd probably be illegal for black people to even author books. And let's not forget that it wasn't all that long ago that it was illegal for blacks to read and write - much less produce books.

    Patience? Slow change? Roll with the punches? Historically speaking - that's hardly productive or beneficial.

  5. Wow, these are some pretty strong statements. I've never read Zane's books, but I am a strong supporter of her work. I think her websites tend to cater to the erotic audience. Eroticanoire gets so many hits because the site is representative of her writing. Zane is an advocate of sexual freedom and her sales support that fact. As far as segregation of the books, it helps the AA author sell books. I know at Borders, those sections are usually near the front of the store. They've also added a Hispanic section as well as a Gay/Lesbian section. It's probably not fair to the white authors, but then again don't assume that every author who writes a book with AA characters is necessarily African-American themselves. To the store owners, it's all about sales. Those sections draw in people of all colors who love the authors just like the history sections and the biographies. As far as publishers treating AA authors differently than white authors, it all comes down to sales and image. All in all, I think things are getting better.

  6. Hi Josie....You say restricting black authors to black readers helps them sell books. To who? Do they restrict blue eyed authors to only blue eyed readers? Blond authors to blond readers? Jewish authors to Jewish readers?

    Not fair to white authors? Racially speaking, there's nothing that the publishing industry does in the positioning of books by white authors that's unfair. Refer to the New York Times Bestsellers list. You know what they say about the proof of the pudding...

  7. First-time commenter here. I'll have to digest this for a while.

    My initial take is this:

    As a writer who happens to be a white male, I don't realize the advantage I have, and frankly, have never thought about it that way. For one thing, I'm not published, so until I have a finished manuscript in hand and I'm waiting for a contract, I have no advantage. But beyond that, I don't want a publisher to buy what I write just because I'm white. To me, being white is like having hazel eyes and a big nose. It is what it is. There's not a great deal that I can do about it, but at the same time, I don't want to see others disadvantaged because of it.

    The other thing that immediately comes to mind is this:

    I am writing a horror/suspense novel. When I browse through the horror/suspense section of a bookstore while in the mood to try an author I've never heard of before, I don't look for the author's photo just to make sure it has been written by a white person. For that matter, I don't look to make sure it's been written by a man, either, although the author's name can sometimes give that away.

    The thing is, as wrong as it is to sequester black authors into their own section and not allow them to leave that niche, it seems just as wrong to walk into the bookstore with the plan of buying a book based solely on the race of the writer.

    When I'm shopping for a book, I look at the cover, the title, the dust jacket copy and the first few pages. If I'm still intrigued by the story after all of that, the author could be purple and I'd still buy the book. There are some books I've read that have no picture of the author. But if the story is entertaining, I don't have to see what the author looks like or know anything about him or her (except perhaps if there are other books avilable) to make my reading experience whole.

    I can't imagine anyone deciding not to buy a book they'd otherwise be interested in just because of the writer's appearance. It probably happens, but it just seems ridiculous to me.

    I don't understand why people would think it has to be this way.

  8. Oh, my dear, Patrick. Bless you.

    I've long since held that white readers - or for all intent and purposes - the "commercial market" doesn't look to see what race the author is when browsing for books. Times have changed.

    Only black readers do this.

    I think white readers, such as yourself, are more than willing to read a book by an author who happens to be of color - providing the premise intriques them enough to buy it. Just as with any book.

    It's the publishing industry's obsession with target-marketing that black authors get trapped in. But if the content isn't race-specific, and in and of itself self-limiting, it's extremely supressive for the author to be restricted to his own race.

    BTW - Thanks for chiming in! Discussion on this issue is long overdue and lacking...and far too taboo.


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