"Self esteem is at the bottom of the way we let ourselves be treated by those who earn their money from us. 'I often wonder if we writers spend so many years learning to live with rejection, that we accept shoddy treatment as our due, just grateful to have any attention...'"
"'Often, [writers are] absolutely right to be feeling that a publisher could be doing a better job of it, paying closer attention, offering more meaningful consultation. That said, I've had many of those same conversations end with the client BEGGING me not to repeat any of it to the editor. God forbid the squeaky wheel might get replaced instead of oiled.'Wow, right?
That fear is part of why we crawl away convincing ourselves we should be grateful instead of acting on our anger. If we get anything -- one ad in a major newspaper, a four city tour, three weeks of decent coop in the chain -- we consider ourselves blessed. We've heard of too many cases where books are dropped or just die from lack of a publisher interest despite a big advance.
So like abused children, we're thankful for every small favor."
In the article, author Amy Bloom is quoted as saying, "One can be appreciative without being subservient. Objectively this is a business, and publishers are not our parents [or] our friends. We sell them our goods and they pay for them. We all need to concentrate on doing business in a positive and supportive way. In a way that does not cause pain."
This "appreciative without being subservient" theme has often been used in reference to PoC addressing systemic racism, as well. Again, we're looking at power dynamics. All abuses of power share a similar pattern and infrastructure, so re-creating a balance has to happen on both ends of the power spectrum.
One of the most interesting parts of the essay for me was toward the end, when the author reveals how hard it was for her to find authors, agents, and editors who were willing to go on record about the issues:
"I have never written an article and had so few authors and publishing people willing to go on the record or be interviewed. Over 50 agents, editors and authors, all refused.Yet again, we have similarities to racism, sexism, domestic abuse, etc.--all situations where there is abuse of power. PoC are often afraid to speak out for fear of retribution, as are abused women and children, employees who are sexually harassed, rape victims, and so on.
We are in the business of communicating and so this silence is alarming. Widespread hesitancy to speak about [the] issue is almost as interesting as the issue itself."
The article ends with a whole list of things "they" don't tell you. Keeping the process a mystery from the author disempowers the author in the same way that women who have no knowledge of the family/couple's finances disempowers her; in the same way that PoC who have no information about systems, laws, rules, and regulations that directly affect their lives disempowers them.
What I want to know, though, is when did things change? At one point, women weren't really given access to publishing. Women published under male pseudonyms, or used initials to get their work published. Based on everything I've read from writers' accounts and author autobiographies, the relationship between author and publisher seemed far closer and more transparent then, than it is today. Yet, in today's world there are far more women published than ever before--particularly in children's books. And the distance between publisher and author is vast in comparison. So, too, is the distribution of power. Is that a result of the economy? The outdated structures publishing has put in place? Or is it a flaw within the publishing model, itself--a sort of myopia?
In any case, the article is fascinating, and definitely worth the read if you're interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the mysterious world of publishing.
Stay tuned as I explore some of these issues further in upcoming posts.