When I have consultation calls with straight white cis writers, there will very often be an almost whispered question where the writer sheepishly asks if publishers still want books by people like them. They see so many agents and editors calling for books by diverse authors. Is their book dead on arrival?
The authors I speak to are invariably well-intentioned people and I’m really not trying to shame anyone for vocalizing their fears (much better to deal with it in the open, IMHO). But folks… have you browsed a bookstore in the last five years? What do you see? Unfortunately, the problem is still precisely the opposite.
This is why I try to do everything I can to support We Need Diverse Books, an organization that I hope you’ll consider donating to this holiday season. The historic wrong committed by the publishing industry against writers and readers of color is not at all fixed. That’s what those calls for more submissions from authors from diverse backgrounds are about.
Moreover, the notion that there’s someone else out there who’s taking your spot is extremely, extremely pernicious. You need to grab those inklings by the root and yank them out of your system with all your might before they poison you into a monster.
Publishing is not a zero sum game. As editor Kristen Weber recently reminded her subscribers, there are not a finite number of books published. If publishers decide they really want a book, they can always make room for more.
Your book is going to do its own thing and there is plenty of room for it in the universe. You may or may not get a traditional publisher, but if that doesn’t happen it’s the forces of the market and plain old luck at work, not because there’s a Certain Kind of Author who’s taking a spot that’s rightfully yours.
There are lots of people out there who profit from whispering unjustified fears into your ear. (Well, these days I guess they shout them in your ear).
Shut them out. There’s room for everyone. There’s plenty of room for joy for other writers’ successes. And there’s still lots to be done to level the playing field.
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Art: Carousel by Vilmos Aba-Novák