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Publishing will never be fair Diversity activists won't admit they've won

The time of the white man is over. Credit: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The time of the white man is over. Credit: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


July 28, 2022   5 mins

When I worked in publishing in the early Noughties, “nobody is going to buy a book with a black girl on the cover” was a thing that people still said, out loud, in professional settings. The received wisdom was that books by and about marginalised people wouldn’t sell. At another meeting (a friend in marketing reported), a male sales rep scoffed that he’d never be able to sell a book because the cover model, a young woman with a Kardashian-esque physique, was “too fat” to be relatable.

That the industry had a diversity problem was impossible to argue with: “an analysis” of the gender makeup of the New York Times list shows how heavily it once skewed male — and how, in the last decade, a massive push to diversify publishing has enjoyed no small amount of success.

But God help any writer bold enough to say so.

When James Patterson noted in an interview last month that older white men weren’t getting writing jobs as easily as they used to, outrage ensued. After being savaged for a week online and in the media, Patterson apologised (not that this mollified his critics). This week, Joyce Carol Oates kicked the same hornet’s nest, writing on Twitter that “a friend who is a literary agent told me that he cannot even get editors to read first novels by young white male writers, no matter how good; they are just not interested”. This state of affairs, she added, was “heartbreaking for writers”, particularly those with the self-awareness to be duly aware of “their own privilege”. But the response from within the literary community was not sadness, but fury.

The outpouring of replies were split between people who argued that Oates’s assertion was false and people who argued that it was true but not heartbreaking, and in fact a real and unmitigated good. And then there were the people who argued both of these things simultaneously, sometimes even within the same breath. For whatever reason, this type of self-refuting argument is particularly ubiquitous on Twitter; the fallacy, which some have termed The Law of Salutary Contradiction, is best summed up as: “this isn’t happening, and also it’s good that it’s happening”. One representative reply read: “I am a literary agent. This is not so. And why ever would we invest our hopes in the continued success of white men in an industry which persists in shutting out queer and BIPOC authors?!”

Is it happening? With more than one extremely high-profile person flat-out accusing Oates of lying, it’s worth surveying the statistics. This is only an informal snapshot of the data, but one that still tells a story: of the 100 most recent debut book deals listed on Publisher’s Marketplace, 83 went to women. Of the remaining 17, 12 went to white men — ten of whom appear to be under the age of 40, and thus young by literary standards. It’s not a total shutout, of course, but it’s also not parity. And the same trend can be observed in terms of not just who’s published, but who’s celebrated; for instance, of the 13 books on the Booker longlist, released this week, three are by white men, none of whom are under 45 (one is the oldest ever recipient of a Booker nomination).

Of course, there are additional layers of data here that could surface additional meaning: how big the deal, what genre the book, whether the author had previously published as a poet or essayist or journalist. And of course, those who get book deals have always represented only the tiniest fraction of aspiring novelists: if the uphill battle for young white men is marginally steeper now, it was plenty steep before.

But when Oates’s agent friend reported that, “he cannot even get editors to read first novels by young white male writers”, it’s hardly far-fetched to think he was telling the truth — if not literally, then directionally, in the sense that an exasperated parent might report that they cannot get their toddler to put his shoes on. “I can’t get editors to look at these books” is a cultural observation, not a statistical one. It’s about the vibes, the gossip, the buzz, the discourse, the things that agents hear from editors and authors hear from agents. It’s about an industry veteran’s general sense of which way the wind is blowing. And on that front, when it comes to debut authors getting book deals, it is certainly blowing more favourably in the direction of non-white non-straight non-men.

Frankly, it would be weird if it were otherwise. From the moment that diversity became an industry cause, it enjoyed widespread, vocal support. In 2014, sparked by the revelation that white authors and characters absolutely dominated the YA marketplace, the We Need Diverse Books movement was born — and since then it has only gathered steam. Pitching contests were established for marginalised writers. Literary media pivoted to focus heavily on those writers. Submission guidelines were updated to explicitly ask for work from queer, gender-nonconforming writers of colour. Publishers announced that they were committed to diversifying their lists. Editors announced their intention to buy more books by marginalised writers. Agents publicly bemoaned how sick they were of reading submissions by white guys.

All of these sentiments were expressed vehemently, repeatedly, and in public, and all of them seemed to convey a consensus truth: an individual white man might still do okay in publishing, but categorically? White men were over, the rules had changed, and the anecdotal evidence seemed to support this. Did you hear about the guy whose book was yanked back on the eve of submission when his agent realised that his racial identity didn’t match the race of his protagonist? Or the white poet who couldn’t get published until he adopted a female Chinese pseudonym and won accolades — at least until he was found out?

The truth is, even if the data didn’t bear out the substance of Oates’s tweet, publishing culture matters when it comes to aspiring authors hoping to get a shot. Back when the problem was a lack of diverse books, it was known that the dearth of minority authors was at least in part a problem of preemptive discouragement: many promising writers, expecting the door to be slammed in their face, simply didn’t bother trying to get through at all. And yet, among those who advocated hardest for diverse books, it’s all but verboten to suggest that the movement has gained any meaningful ground, cultural or otherwise.

Why, after all this progress, do publishing’s gatekeepers resist any suggestion that diversification has been a success? It’s a paradox of the moment that a person is supposed to want this sort of change, demand it even, but also fly into a frothing rage at the notion that the desired change might in fact be happening. Maybe it’s that the survival of any progressive movement requires that you continually shift the goalposts, lest your organisation problem-solve its way into obsolescence. Maybe it’s a sense that however much has been accomplished, there’s work yet to be done. Or maybe it’s just the cognitive dissonance that always accompanies initiatives like this: everyone wants to say they’re hiring for diversity, but nobody wants to be seen as a diversity hire.

Or maybe the problem is that even a diverse publishing world will still never be fair — because this game has never been just about identity, or talent, but about timing, and resources, and pure dumb luck. If young white men aren’t the hottest commodity right now, it’s not just because publishers have convinced themselves it’s a moral imperative not to hire them; it’s because the industry follows the zeitgeist, and the zeitgeist of the moment is deeply invested in identity. The debut novels bought in 2022 thus far are not just overwhelmingly written by women, but overwhelmingly focused on race, gender, sexuality, or class.

Is this annoying? Maybe. But is it more annoying than the state of play ten years ago, when publishers were falling all over themselves to find the next sexually-charged teen dystopian-fantasy series about a merman and a werewolf fighting over a girl who doesn’t know she’s beautiful? Well, that’s a matter of taste. And like all literary trends, this one won’t last forever. Eventually, some new, attention-arresting thing will come on the scene, and the identitarian reckoning of 2020 will be yesterday’s news. Whenever that happens, and whatever it is, a handful of lucky writers will get swept up by the cresting wave of the zeitgeist and carried to glorious high ground, while everyone else looks on and makes grumbling noises.


Kat Rosenfield is an UnHerd columnist and co-host of the Feminine Chaos podcast. Her latest novel is You Must Remember This.

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Jim Jam
Jim Jam
1 year ago

Diversity activists won’t admit they’ve won

Well of course not, because the moment leftist activists admit they have attained their goals they become irrelevant. This is why the ratchet keeps turning, and why society at large is having to endure the effects of their increasingly unhinged prescriptions.

And unfortunately, until more people stand up to their transparently shallow, emotional terrorism the madness will continue apace.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim Jam
Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago

Are there no publishers who seek to publish quality, and consider the sex, sexual orientation, pronouns, ethnicity, etc. of the author to be irrelevant; or would that be considered ridiculously naive and idealistic? It seems to me, the need for the use of pseudonyms is even greater than in the time of George Elliot and Jane Austen.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Indeed. I have heard that Ali Smith is, in reality, a 55 year old white, male accountant. Of course, the one way to overcome all this is to be a Scottish man who writes in an extreme form of dialect. This reminds that the most dispiriting book title I ever saw – in a charity shop in Delft – was ‘Scottish Short Stories Since 1979’. I did not purchase it but I did find, in the same shop, Larkin’s wonderful A Girl In Winter, which I had long sought.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

Publishing is not an isolated example. This is true in most spheres.
And it not just a trend. These people know to keep the door firmly shut once they are in charge

Last edited 1 year ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

Yes, but there’s also been a decline in creativity as well. When you don’t let the cream rise, you get sour milk.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

Perhaps the answer is to require all writers to submit and publish under sex neutral and ethnic neutral pseudonyms so that what should be irrelevant factors in judging the literary merit or sales potential of a novel or poem can be excluded from consideration just as University student’s submissions are anonymous to avoid prejudicial factors intruding into judgement.

Sophy T
Sophy T
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I certainly agree that neutral pseudonyms would be a good idea.
However, I don’t think university students’ submissions are anonymous – I thought it was obligatory for the applicant to state whether he/she had been state or privately educated so that the universities can maintain the quotas.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Classical music has run blind auditions for years to remove any influence bias, subconscious or otherwise. When this failed to radically improve the numbers of Musicians of Colour in our great orchestras this process was indeed declared insufficiently anti-racist and moves to introduce quotas demanded.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mike Michaels
Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
1 year ago

One reason why I react so strongly against the progressive nonsense against white straight men in publishing is because of literacy rates. So many boys struggle with English and reading comprehension where they shouldn’t. I’ve seen this dismissed as ‘oh, that’s a girls thing.’ Like, no… reading is a crucial skill. Publishers hardly ever attempt to market to boys and men, even in traditionally masculine genres like fantasy and science fiction. Heck, speculative fiction has been completely gutted to appeal to women.
If you are a man reading this who’d like to publish his novels, I have advice. Consider small or independent publishers (but read any contract carefully). Regional and niche publishers can work, too! Idk about university presses. The most important things are: getting your book reviewed by critics, having your novel submitted to awards, being easy to buy at least online and a straightforward process of selling international / translation rights.
None will have the backing of traditional publishing, unfortunately. But success in creative writing takes a long time, typically. I’d also like to see a Peter Thiel-like figure fund a publishing house or literary agency.
Also, what is the point of the Women’s Prize? A.S Byatt is heroic to me, because she refuses to submit her novels to it. (Btw, Possession is a must read, unlike the overrated recent winner Piranesi)

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

Of course one of the major problems is that the escape to a fantasy world from current boredom is met much more effectively for boys by video games and visual content from the internet. When I was young this was not available and immersion in the world of Geoffrey Household’s “Rogue Male” or Buchan’s yarns or P G Wodehouse’s strange world was the most accessible escape from tedium.

In addition spelling, sentence structure, grammar and the art of prĂ©cis are not really taught in school or if they are there seems to be a reluctance to properly correct the pupil’s errors for fear of crushing their spirit. My sons’ work would come back with a few red amendments but numerous errors left uncorrected. Are girls guided more rigorously by women teachers who have given up the struggle with boys? I don’t know not having a girl to make comparison with.

Good to hear of A S Byatt’s stand. While having a separate game in tennis for women makes sense having a separate prize for women in an endeavour where women may even hold some advantage is absurd.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Sophy T
Sophy T
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I am learning an Asian language at the moment and my teacher who is a native of the country says a high percentage of most of her lessons are taken up with teaching her British students basic grammar – quite a few of them don’t even know what an adverb is, or subject and object.
Removing grammar from the school syllabus isn’t doing students any favours, especially if they want to learn other languages.

Karen Mosley
Karen Mosley
1 year ago
Reply to  Sophy T

Grammar is back in a bit way. But I learned almost all my grammar through learning French and German at school. And that was in the ‘good old days’

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

“Are girls guided more rigorously by women teachers who have given up the struggle with boys?”
Growing up in a third world country, I am stupified by a couple of things.

Firstly, the above, or rather that boys (especially working class white boys) failing is taken for granted and accepted. Nobody would accept that in India or China, but somehow (largely female) teachers are allowed to get away with “can’t teach boys”.

The second thing that mystifies me is the other side, which is girls not doing STEM and “patriarchy” being used as an excuse “someone once told me girls can’t do maths so now I must do garbage studies”
Nobody accepts that in India or Asia. It’s taken for granted girls can and will do as well in tough, maths heavy courses, and the split in physics or maths courses is much more even than “feminist” western European countries.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

But what does it tell us?
Like one programmer sacked by Google wrote in his assay, in countries where girls have most rights (Scandinavia etc) they are not choosing STEM subjects.
They have other preferences.
Why do we insist that men and women should be the same?

R S Foster
R S Foster
1 year ago

…the sort of publishing under discussion here is most unlikely to appeal to teenage boys…give them a Bernard Cornwell, Lee Child or Patrick O’Brien and they might well read it…especially when you draw their attention to the associated films or box-sets. The aim is to get them reading, and not worry too much about what…

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  R S Foster

The aim is to get them reading, and not worry too much about what

I absolutely agree with this sentiment. I once knew a woman who taught what was known as “general studies” in a tech college, i.e. she taught potential plumbers and electricians. She told me that she has a list of books that were recommended, but found that they sparked no interest in the lads that she taught, most didn’t even bother to read them – she gave them Andy McNab’s books and they came alive. She did recognise that these where not great literature, but as you say it got them reading and gradually she brought in better books; James Lee Burke was a particular favourite, as was Bernard Cornwell, and she managed to get them reading Forester’s Hornblower series. As far as she was concerned she had succeeded because most of “her boys” as she called them (and yes they were all boys then) were now reading for pleasure.

R S Foster
R S Foster
1 year ago

…I don’t know, but I have a feeling that this is an issue confined to “serious” “literary” writing, which actually isn’t much read at all, by anyone…I’m pretty confident Bernard Cornwell is a seventy-eight year old white man…and I believe “Sharpe’s Assassin” has now sold twenty million copies world-wide…
…who cares what a bunch of over-educated “wokesters” are reading, publishing or falling out about? In the end they are mostly talking to each other in some shi-shi corner of Shoreditch, over a decaff oat latte…big, serious, world-changing writers want to be actually read by as many people as possible…not by a tiny coterie of self-obsessed trustafarians that the rest of the population consider a joke…and whose sales are in the handful of thousands…

Last edited 1 year ago by R S Foster
M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  R S Foster

Older writers like Cornwell certainly remain popular. But I would say that this push to diversity is also found in a lot of newer genre fiction where younger writers are concerned. Science fiction and fantasy are the most affected.

Mark Duffett
Mark Duffett
1 year ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

Yes, this has been apparent from what Goodreads sends me for some years now.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
1 year ago

Oddly enough, when browsing, I rarely glance at the name of the author unless it is given huge prominence on the cover. Whether s/he is a dead white fe/male or a black gay in a wheelchair is a matter of complete indifference to me. Am I alone in this? (Admittedly, I mostly browse non-fiction.)
PS. I sometimes have the impression that there are too many recently graduated young women in publishing houses and that much of this nonsense (including the use of sensitivity readers) comes from them.

Last edited 1 year ago by Malcolm Knott
Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

I agree. It is the content that interests.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

I’m with you. I don’t know the author or the title nor the introduction or blurb until after I have finished.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

I’ve gone in the opposite direction. Such is my resentment of woke racist publishing, I now refuse to read any book not written by a white man.

JP Martin
JP Martin
1 year ago

“(
) everyone wants to say they’re hiring for diversity, but nobody wants to be seen as a diversity hire.”

No, of course not. Anyone who has attended an elite university in the USA (and this will include many working in publishing) knows that diversity has become the enemy of excellence. But only Amy Wax dares say this out loud and she has suffered for it.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Hmmmm. I stopped reading new novels in the mid-nineties. Now I know why.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

‘Brick Lane’ and ‘Milkman’ are both very good. And ‘Vernon Rod Liddle’ by DBC Pierre.

Last edited 1 year ago by Fraser Bailey
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Might give Pierre a go. Pass on the first two suggestions.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I must confess that I couldn’t get through Milkman. I shall give it another go in about a year’s time. I have found that putting a book aside for a couple of years somehow helps me appreciate it more. Vernon God Little is a good read, the prose is quite muscular and sometimes stuccato, reminding me a little of The Catcher in the Rye in that respect. I haven’t read Brick Lane, I think possible because all the hype put me off, perhaps I should give it a go.

John Solomon
John Solomon
1 year ago

“If young white men aren’t the hottest commodity right now, it’s not just because publishers have convinced themselves it’s a moral imperative not to hire them; it’s because the industry follows the zeitgeist, and the zeitgeist of the moment is deeply invested in identity.”

And there is the crux of the matter. It’s about selling books – everything else is smoke and mirrors.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Well they’re not selling them to me because all this became apparent s some time ago so I decided to more or less boycott the publishing industry. The fact is that the novels written by the approved authors are generally rubbish. The only recent exception I can think of is Milkman by Anna Burns, which I loved.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Indeed. And the canon is big enough that we can keep on reading the classics until the current phase of cultural madness is over, at which point I expect to see a lot of literary detritus in the charity shops and recycling centres.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

I have some doubts. Literary fiction at the moment is awful, navel gazing stuff, devoid of ideas, devoid of narrative structure, devoid of anything resembling a story.
I’m not convinced enough people are buying it to make any real money. Aside from the James Pattersons and Nora Roberts, the bulk of what moves through my local library is romance novels, cook books, and self-help.

Christina Dalcher
Christina Dalcher
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

It’s definitely about selling books—books by Child, Grisham, Patterson, Baldacci, King, Clancy, &cet—all of whom make it possible for publishers to take massive risks on whatever those publishers think makes them look good in the eyes of their junior staffers and the public.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

But if the zeitgeist is ideological, John, then much more than esthetic fashion is involved. For one thing, ideologies are not always ephemeral. Feminism has been a dominant one over the past few decades, for instance, and is unlikely to allow a replacement any time soon–not even from wokism, which has absorbed and incorporated feminist gender theory (adding that to its own very similar race theory)–which is why wokers must now choose between support for feminism and support transgenderism. Moreover, money is not the only factor in this phenomenon. Publishers crave prestige, too, although that is often related to money. And even if it were otherwise, publishers would still fear intimidation by woke ideologues (including feminist and transgender cadres).

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
1 year ago

My experience with a novel suggests that Rosenfield is correct about this. Though I’d published non-fiction books before, a novel that I wrote recently was rejected (or ignored) 78 times by agents, but was accepted quickly and published by a small press in the southern United States to which I sent it directly. In an oblique way, the book (an historical novel) deals with current concerns, though not in a fashionable way, and the characters aren’t of the sort currently in demand by the young, east-coast agents.
The conclusion I draw is that the future of novels, unless they deal approvingly with current fashions, most probably lies with small presses and self-publishing, both made practical by the Internet. Perhaps the large east coast publishing houses have more in common with the fashion industry than they’d like to admit.

Last edited 1 year ago by Erik Hildinger
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Why does the same not apply in African and muslim countries? The greatest weapon against woke is to use these examples, yet no one does? why?

Dr. G McIver
Dr. G McIver
1 year ago

I can’t bear these woke tomes, so I keep taking comfort in the great Russians.
That doesn’t mean j don’t read books by writers “of colour”. I read as much Egyptian fiction as I can get in English, and I love the books by Haitian Edwige Danticat, British Somali Nadifa Mohamed (sublime!) and poet Jackie Kay.
But in general I’m looking for bigger philosophical thoughts than “identity” which is why I turn to Bulgakov, Pushkin and Dostoyevsky.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Dr. G McIver

I do quite like reading African writers, I find I can get some insight into Africa as well a a stonking good read. Oyinkan Braithwaite’s fairly recent novella My Sister the Serial Killer was a good little read, as was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebea, novel now over 60 years old. I read them because they are good writers, not because of their ethnicity, and for their portrayal of cultures unknown to me.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago

Oh well. Plenty of novels by dead white men still to read. More than enough to see me through until I shuffle off and join them. Fiction today seems to be written by and for leftist, middle class women and addresses the topics that concern them. That’s fine, but it’s not for me. Publishing houses seem happy to now ignore a potentially large reader base with disposable incomes, so I’ll go to the charity bookshop and find something I like.

As for this: “Maybe it’s that the survival of any progressive movement requires that you continually shift the goalposts, lest your organisation problem-solve its way into obsolescence“

There’s no ‘maybe’ about it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Alphonse Pfarti
Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
1 year ago

My experience is that all novelists are left wing and depressed. I won’t read anything now post 1970, except for mystery/crime and even that has gone woke.

Amanda Olson-Thompson
Amanda Olson-Thompson
1 year ago

I’m an author, a half Swedish, half Apache female fantasy author. I recently had my publishing contract pulled because the House had made the decision that they wanted to focus on ‘BIPOC and LGBTQ+ writers rather than those of white heteronormative descent.’

So. Yeah. Cool.

I’ve only put multiple decades and the entirety of my life into my storytelling, it’s fine. Clearly I’m not worth publishing again because my skin is melanin-challenged.

John Sullivan
John Sullivan
1 year ago

And yet…

Have you taken your vaccines? Do you challenge the #ClimateHoax? Do you believe the 2020 election was legal?

Perhaps you haven’t, you do, and you don’t. This is not meant as a personal attack, or a failure to empathise with your situation. My point is that Martin Niemoller warned us about how tyranny spreads protected by the naivete and complacency of the masses. Collectively, we’ve learned nothing.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
1 year ago

I will only buy books by white male authors on principle because of this racism and sexism.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

Same here!

Jack Tarr
Jack Tarr
1 year ago

Needed: A replacement for the publishing industry.
Publishers were essential in the past as printing large numbers of books on spec involves a big financial risk. Conversely, printing in small runs results in a high unit cost per book. The costs of marketing and distribution in the Age of Paper were also high. Inevitably, some form of sifting was necessary to reduce the risk of financial disaster, and equally such sifting runs the risk of prejudice, submission to group think, snobbery, ‘networking’ by associates of authors,etc., etc.
Nowadays we have the internet and for those who prefer a real book to an e-book, the underused technology of print-on-demand. Ideally, in the future, the likes of Penguin Random House will have gone the same way as British Leyland and Woolworths, and Waterstones et.al. will have also largely disappeared. Small-to-medium sized businesses will sell second-hand books and order print-on-demand new books in small runs or in response to direct demand from customers. The internet will substitute Informal criticism and input from book clubs and the like, for marketing by smooth professionals.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Tarr

But if traditional publishing is replaced, how will politicians launder money?

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 year ago

George Eliot and a fine collection of other authors spring to mind 🙂

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
1 year ago

Activism succeeds when it attracts money and media coverage. Moving the goal posts is essential to continuing the momentum, or both dry up. See Bindel article re Stonewall elsewhere here for an illustration. The concept of women as a marginalised and oppressed “minority” in need of equity in select fields is alive and well, and has drawn in trans-women as well to benefit from victimhood status.

This concept is now embedded in many western societies, and publishers are no exception in falling in line with the correct zeigeist. Look no further than the the 57%/43% rate of women/men uni graduates – 60/40 in the US – to understand the direction of future employment in top salaried fields.

Facts and stats are clearly no impediment to advancing the women’s equity project.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

“and has drawn in trans-women as well to benefit from victimhood status.”
*and has drawn in trans-“women” as well to benefit from victimhood status.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

In professional symphonic music, there is a decades long tradition of what’s called the “blind audition”. You literally audition behind a screen, so the judges can’t see you until your done playing and they’re scores are recorded. Sometimes not even then.

This is a system that is looking for “the best musician” and accepts no other considerations. The only relevent question is, how well do you play? Sadly, in the wake of Saint Floyd, this tradition is also being rejected today, but publishing would benefit from something similar.

John Solomon
John Solomon
1 year ago

“If young white men aren’t the hottest commodity right now, it’s not just because publishers have convinced themselves it’s a moral imperative not to hire them; it’s because the industry follows the zeitgeist, and the zeitgeist of the moment is deeply invested in identity.”

And that is the nub of the matter. Publishing is not, and never has been, a business concerned with morals – it is about producing books which will sell. Fundamentally publishers have the same commercial ethics as those who run whorehouses.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

It sounds like publishers/activists are creating the zeitgeist. Their behaviour suggests the name of a book (which has probably already been used) – No place for white men. The mental gymnastics involved in blatantly discriminating against a section of society whilst claiming it is all in the pursuit of social justice is fascinating to behold (the phrase ‘the inmates have taken over the asylum springs to mind’) I guess – in biblical terms – it is a case of the sins of the fathers being visited on the children. One plus of capitalism is that the pursuit of profit above all else does not intentionally discriminate against particular groups – at times it actually protects eg. J K Rowling, Dave Chappell and Ricky Gervais.

Last edited 1 year ago by Aphrodite Rises
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  John Solomon

I see this in magazine publishing especially which is only hastening their inevitable decline as well.

Frederick Dixon
Frederick Dixon
1 year ago

The market will win, as always. So long as there remains a market for the sort of stuff enjoyed by straight white men, someone will ensure that that market is supplied. Publishers who won’t supply that market will shrivel to niche publishers, or go out of business.

But that will take time as the current madness works itself out, which is little consolation for those new white authors whose works will never see the light of day because they’re the wrong colour and the wrong sex.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 year ago

Ah, this explains why white males don’t buy novels and don’t even bother dropping by bookstores to look at the new releases. It’s like a cop is standing at a crime scene saying,Nothing to see here, keep on moving.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jerry Carroll
Steve Martin Short
Steve Martin Short
1 year ago

Another angle on the question of demographics is to look at reviewers, authors, and topics as featured in major publications. For example, in a recent feature on 88 books for summer in the New York Times, seven of the eight categories were curated by women; a man curated the Sports category. In the Thriller category, seven of eight authors featured are women, and all the protagonists in the eight books are women. In the Science Fiction and Fantasy category, six of eight books are by women and with female protagonists; another is by a transman with a trans protagonist. Four of eleven authors of featured historical fiction are male, and about four of the protagonists. Possibly not surprisingly, seven of eight Romance authors are female; the male author is gay, writing about gay romance. The Travel and Cooking categories are more balanced in gender of authors.
I don’t what bigger implication this has, but from the perspective of the New York Times at least, it seems that the great majority of books worth mentioning are authored, reviewed, and about women.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
1 year ago

No. The left has not “won” the diversity battle. The exchange recorded at the beginning of this article is not typical. The big break throughs were made in the 1960s with the civil rights movement. It was the best thing that happened, and it was supported by a long history of advocacy by anti-slavers, those who promoted one man, one vopte- a totally revolutionary idea- around the world. It was primarily a Christian victory. Which is why racism is back and championed by “progressives”, ie pĂȘople who promote racism.

John Sullivan
John Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Story

“The exchange recorded at the beginning of this article is not typical”

I’m betting it didn’t even happen, nor anything close to it.

You’re right too that the left has not “won” the diversity battle. But they’ve won the culture war, and that’s all that counts.

Rebecca Bartleet
Rebecca Bartleet
1 year ago

It appears to be the same for young white males who would like to work in publishing.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

Publishing editors who are now rejecting white male writers don’t want to admit that ten years ago they were only publishing white male writers. To admit to change is to admit to having erred.

Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson
1 year ago

I’d like to see context on this. This is certainly the case with the Great Big Publishers, but the last industry stats that I saw confirmed that the vast majority of books sold in the U.S. are from small independent presses. Well, in general, the free market here is still oozing around the establishment. And invisibly, as the free market always does at these junctures.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
1 year ago

It seems to me the editor who said black/fat covers don’t sell was the one who was racist. Maybe he just should have tried and thrown in some good marketing. Instead we have had to endure two decades of bias, racism and dishonesty. I don’t know why the author had to waffle for so long to say something so obvious.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

I have made a solemn promise only to read novels written by white men until the publishing industry starts publishing novels written by white men.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago

Female author Lionel Shriver nailed it when she said: “writers used to be cutting edge; now they’re cookie cutter.”