Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Race in Publishing - Millenia's Take

This is a very delicate, but timely subject.
Publishers seem more interested in going after niche markets than they are with being good stewards of equal and impartial opportunity. They do not afford writers of color the same opportunities and potentials that they afford Caucasian writers. Author Monica Jackson is wondering whether or not it would be beneficial to pass herself off as a white author.

My take?
Of course it would.

Is there any doubt that this is a pro-white industry?

My take?
Of course there's not.

And to anyone who's spitting at their screen in disagreement, let me direct you to the New York Times Best Seller's List. Take a gander at that. Hell, go ahead and bookmark it. Every week, white authors command this list. It's the Mecca of the publishing industry. 71 years and counting, and every single week, white authors dominate it.

I don't think Caucasian authors fully appreciate the advantage they have simply because they're white.

Despite the arguments made about how the Times list is compiled, the fact is, it reports on sales made in bookstores that have large "Fiction & Literature" & "New Release" sections---access to which black authors are denied because publishers have decided that what they write is automatically "African-American" fiction. Not commercial fiction. Not general fiction. Not marketable to 85% of the book-buying public. Not likely to make the New York Times Best Seller List.

Wait. There's More.
Author Tess Gerritsen recently offered her on-point take about the racist system as well. What if they were marketing her exclusively to Asian America? Simply because she looks Asian. What if Jennifer Weiner was marketed exclusively to Jewish people? Simply because she looks Jewish. How would that business practice go over? Where's the equity in it? So then.....Why label and market a black person's work exclusively to black people? Simply because they're black. A person of color can't possibly write commercial fiction. Is that it? According to the publishers---Nope. They can't.

But....Some unpublished white authors wish they could pass for black.
In recent months, I've heard the dissenting argument made that, nowadays, black authors have a better shot at being published than whites. Since niche marketing is in, this may be true. But how beneficial is that when the publisher's intent is to acquire the work, then restrict its marketability to black audiences? Effectively placing a glass ceiling above their heads. Ensuring they'll never be as successful as white authors get to be (simply because they're white) because black authors don't have the same access to the book-buying public. Where's the advantage in that?

Regarding Monica Jackson?
It's a shame that one would have to lie about the color of one's skin in order to have their work speak for itself in the marketplace and be allowed the same rights afforded Caucasian authors. Is this not the United States of America? The land that prides itself on equal opportunity? Liberty and justice for all? If that's true, why are we still being plagued by the institution of a pro-white society?

My advice?
Make a difference. Do what you have to do. Never allow your integrity to be compromised.



  1. Harley GreenbergJanuary 20, 2006 9:54 PM

    A black author passing herself off as white? WHY?? I wish I could tap into the African American market myself! They're soooo supportive. I don't understand why Monica Jackson or any other black author would risk missing out on the support of the African-American by pretending to be white. So again I ask: WHY??

  2. One reason and one reason only, MONEY, honey!

    The AA market is supportive, but look at the size of it compared to the white market. Whites and nonblacks are easily are 85%+ of all readers.

    Black readers read white authored books readily, far more readily than white readers read black authored book–especially in women’s fiction.

    Would you want 85%+ of readers if whatever genre you write not going to read your work because of your race? Would you want to specifically NOT be marketed to 85%+ of your potential readers?

    Would you like your potential for success as far as $$$ to be 15% or less of compared to the 100% potential of a white author–no matter your talent?

    If so, welcome to our world and we welcome you as a AA author. Enjoy the support.

  3. Enough said by Monica. That answer is more than sufficient! Dead on. That's exactly why.

  4. Boy, you all need to read my blog. This type of talk is right up my alley. The fact that someone would ask such a question speaks volumes about the ignorance that reigns supreme, not only among we authors, but within the industry players themselves. My hope is that my blog will helpt to bring about more awareness...and eventually a change for the better.

  5. I'm writing a book right now, but the main characters are almost raceless. I refuse to give them a definite race for the reason that black characters would appeal to black people, and white characters to white people. I am black. Someone would scrutinize the book and say the characters are white, because they don't do any of the sterotypical things that black people do. Can a book like that be successful? I'm terrified of being seen as a sellout when the book is published, and even more terrified of having a publisher tell me to make the characters more obviously black. I just want some advice as to what I should do. Please plese please help me!


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