Going into the third week of protests over the police killing of George Floyd, book Twitter went down another road in revealing the racial bias in publishing.
A Blade So Black and A Dream So Dark author L.L. McKinney started the #PublishingPaidMe Twitter hashtag on Saturday to invite White authors to share the advances they received on their books to give Black authors insight on what they received for theirs.
Writer’s Digest shares this definition of an advance versus a royalty:
An advance is a signing bonus that’s negotiated and paid to the author before the book is published. It’s paid against future royalty earnings, which means that for every dollar you receive in an advance, you must earn a dollar from book sales before you start receiving any additional royalty payments.
Though L.L. tweeted she made the hashtag to discover numbers from only White authors, Black authors and other authors of color decided to share their numbers.
One author is Dhonielle Clayton. Her debut fantasy young adult novel The Belles that published in 2018 is seen as inspiration in the multicultural fantasy YA genre. She shared she only received a $45,000 advance for her book though it was in one of the hottest genres at the time amid the publishing industry’s alleged push toward diversity and inclusion with adding more authors of color on their rosters and books featuring characters of color.
In a quote tweet from White YA novelist Laura Sebastian, Zoraida Córdova, who also writes fantasy YA, said she received $7,500 for Labyrinth Lost, which features Latinx characters inspired by her Ecuadorian roots. She added it’s her best-selling book yet. Laura, the author behind the Ash Princess series, tweeted she had received six-figure deals for each book in each of her three trilogies, the next two with debut novels set for 2021.
Laura later tweeted she received backlash for putting up such high numbers and was accused of distributing “sexual favors.” Battling the sexism online, she added she wanted to be an ally and share her reality.
Myriam Gurba, the queer Chicana memoirist behind Mean and the main campaigner to spread awareness on Jeanine Cummins’ White narrative version of the Mexican immigration story in the best-seller American Dirt, said she just earned $3,000 for Mean.
Nigerian-American novelist Nnedi Okorafor who specializes in literature highlighting Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism said she wouldn’t share her numbers but offered the alternative of not taking advances and just receiving royalties. From her tweet, she implies that royalties put more money in her hands in the long run, especially for her award-winning novella trilogy Binti.
The #PublishingPaidMe hashtag is an eye-opening account of how authors who are not White and cisgender may be lowballed for their work, the work readers pay for and check out from libraries, actions that produce a lot of money for publishers.
This conversation may trigger a long-term movement in the publishing industry, where publishers have the opportunity to divide budgets more equally instead of basing sale projections on the myth that diverse stories don’t sell well. Even with the success of books such as Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, that myth still lingers, especially when these Black authors and very few others made news with their advances.
Jesmyn Ward, who won the National Book Award twice, tweeted Monday that her publisher did not want to give her $100,000 for her next book after Salvage the Bones received the award.
Mary Karr, Robinne Lee, and Lilliam Rivera were a few of the authors to respond to Jesmyn’s claims. In a series of tweets, Jesmyn clarifies how her other works fared like Men We Reaped and Sing, Unburied, Sing, which was her first book to earn a $100,000 advance.
L.L. added in multiple tweets that there will be continuation in the discussion where Black authors will be asked to share information.