Story at a glance
- Industries are under renewed scrutiny over their diversity and inclusion practices in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
- Under the hashtag “Publishing Paid Me,” writers shared on Twitter how much they were paid for their work.
- The conversation highlighted the disparities between compensation for black authors and white authors.
After years of hiding behind the taboo of discussing salaries, pay inequality in the publishing industry was laid bare by a hashtag on Twitter.
The social media campaign was started by Tochi Onyebuchi and L.L. McKinney, two black young adult fiction authors, in response to statements by publishing houses in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Publishing houses, y'all BLM statements are cute but I'ma need that SAME energy when we start talking Black writers and book advances. If y'all think the receipts are bad now, it's about to be CVS on this website, and y'all don't want that,” Onyebuchi tweeted on June 5, referencing the long receipts CVS shoppers often receive.
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The next day, McKinney joined in, tweeting, “Do y'all need a hashtag? #PublishingPaidMe. There you go.”
Let's do it. Let's have the conversation. https://t.co/XsHB9muIMk— LL McKinney - This is a Legendborn stan account (@ElleOnWords) June 6, 2020
The hashtag soon went viral, with hundreds of tweets from authors sharing how much they were offered and paid in advances. Advances are what authors are paid before a work is published, which one user pointed out reveals how much their work is valued before any potential success.
OK folks. Getting lots of questions about #PublishingPaidMe, and need to clear up misconceptions. A lot of people are treating advances like the earnings for a book, and... no. Basically advances indicate what the publishing industry *thinks* readers will like in the future.— N. K. Jemisin (@nkjemisin) June 7, 2020
One user shared a Google form to collect the information shared online.
If already tweeted publicly at some point to #publishingpaidme - you might already be on here thanks to @brumiranda who has collected a lot of data and I am merging her sheet into this one!— Fictograph | grace p fong (@fictograph) June 7, 2020
If you're not here or want to contribute information anonymously: https://t.co/nMg48A3wQV
“I think one of the most surprising things is how far [the hashtag] actually went,” McKinney told BuzzFeed News. “Like, I expected maybe a few people, the usual good eggs, to be like, ‘Yeah, I’ll say something.’ I did not expect it to reach the likes of Roxane Gay and people outside the YA sphere, because that’s the circle that I usually travel within on social media.”
The conversation highlighted the disparities in compensation, especially between black and white authors. Some users also used the opportunity to discuss other inequality issues in the publishing industry, including the lack of representation on The New York Times Bestseller List, which can play a significant role in a book's success.
“I hope that [the publishing industry] stops treating Black authors and Black stories like they’re there just to shut us up. It almost feels like at times, like, ‘Here, there are some Black stories coming out this year, now shut up and let us go back to doing what we do’ — because those Black stories don’t get a marketing push, they don’t get the budget that you see these other authors get,” McKinney told Buzzfeed.
Good morning. The bottom line of the #PublishingPaidMe conversation is that many publishers clearly have the funds to pay Black authors more money, so they should pay Black authors more money. The end. pic.twitter.com/DO0zvtr6Zk— Alyssa!!! Cole (@AlyssaColeLit) June 7, 2020
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