Monday, September 29, 2014

Is Book Publishing Racist and Sexist?

Book publishing, you would think, is made up of book-loving intellectuals who want to further literacy, the exchange of ideas, and free speech. And one would think such a crowd is liberal minded and would be a diverse and inclusive bunch. Well, it turns out the book publishing industry is about as white as a bag of marshmallows. Could such a racial disparity impact not only what gets published, but also how those books are sold and marketed?

A recent Publishers Weekly study of those working in the industry showed that 89% of employees are white. Hispanics (3%), Asians (3%), African Americans (1%), and other races (1%) do not mirror the demographics of the United States.

So why is this so?
·         Are the recruitment and hiring practices of publishing in need of a fix?
·         Do non-whites not want to be -- or somehow -- not qualify to work in publishing?
·         How is racial imbalance impacting the book marketplace?

Many questions arise from this, few answers. But its clear that the growth in book sales that is needed to sustain the industry will come from the ethnic minority community. The best way to reach them is to have them represented on the inside.

Another issue hurting book publishing is its salary structure. It doesn’t pay a lot. The rewards of working in publishing are rarely financial. But, there is a gap in pay when it comes to gender. On the lower end of the pay scale is editorial and operations -- there is virtually no difference. When you look at people who work in the rights department however, men are paid, on average, 10% more than women. There is a 15%higher salary paid to men vs. women who work in sales and marketing. There over a 25% gap between what male managers get paid vs. women.

So publishing lacks diversity and equality. Yet, the industry doesn’t feel sexist or raciest, perhaps because it’s made up of people who believe they are not these things. But maybe their decisions on what books get the green light or which ones to market more heavily are based on outdated data or second-hand ignorance. Perhaps non-whites would know how to market certain books better, simply because they represent the type of consumer the publisher wants to reach.

Book publishing seems like an industry where racism or sexism should only be reserved as subjects of current events books but it looks like, whether accidentally or willfully, book publishing has shut out the voices of those they need to hear from. Change will have to come from within the industry, and when it does, it may just be a big payoff for all.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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