I knew diverse representation in publishing was bad, but I didn’t understand quite how bad it really was until authors divulged their advances on twitter’s #whatpublishingpaidme thread a couple years back. Even to me, who absolutely expected evidence of racism, homphobia, transphobia and ableism, it was a shock how publishing advances often had nothing to do with prior publishing success and a whole lot more to do with whether or not the author was white, able-bodied, straight and cis, and, often (still), male.
The red carpet rolls out for those folks, and not so much for the rest of us. I do maintain that most agents and publishers give lip service to wanting diverse books and authors, but in actuality they really only want to want them. They used to tell us that our stories were overloaded by the addition of queer characters and they’d suggest the protagonists be straight so as not to distract from the storyline, but now they say there’s just not an audience. What they really mean by that is that they’re not willing to give a good advance to work they’re not personally interested in, nor go to the trouble and expense of finding the book’s enthusiastic market.
I’m sick of it. It’s lasted all my literary career. All of it, over 35 years of it. You don’t know my books because of this discrimination, and that is true for thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of other artists as well.
If you build it, to quote WP Kinsella, they will come.
Here’s The Guardian discussing diversity in publishing lately:
Changing the narrative on disability: is representation in books getting better? by Lucy Webster
and here they are, recently, discussing senstivity readers: