the industry

Over 1,000 Publishing Workers Strike to Protest Industry Racism

Photo-Illustration: Macmillan, Penguin Books

The publishing industry is standing against systemic racism today by striking, donating money, and serving the black community. Over 1,300 workers have committed to taking the day off and using it to “protest, donate a day’s pay, phone-bank, join in mutual aid efforts, and work only on books by Black creators,” according to a statement shared with Vulture and cosigned by five Macmillan workers — Deborah Ghim, Danny Vazquez, Lydia Zoells, Carrie Hsieh, and Anaka Allen — who organized the movement. Publishing workers called out “the industry’s role in systemic racism through its failure to hire and retain a significant number of Black employees or publish a significant number of Black authors, and through its pursuit of profit through books that incite racism.” Workers are tweeting under the hashtags #PubWorkers4BlackLives and #PubWorkers4Justice, giving details of their actions for the day and calling on the publishing industry to become more equitable.

In the statement, the organizers wrote they started the movement “after processing the statements delivered by the Big Five publishers regarding the current moment in this nation’s racist history.” (The Big Five includes Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Hachette Book Group, along with Macmillan.) The day of action, they wrote, is “in solidarity with the uprisings across the United States in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the many, many others in the long history of Black people murdered by the state … We’ve had enough experience with corporate Diversity & Inclusion initiatives to know that they are largely toothless and built on a top-down model that ultimately benefits only a very select few and often exploits marginalized workers. An effort to build collective power, we realized, was in order.”

“In our refusal to collaborate with corporate publishers to achieve petty goals, we instead choose to activate book publishing workers in a way which they have never been; to build collective power that we intend to use in further actions to benefit our communities from within and without our industry. Together, we protest our industry’s role in systemic racism,” the organizers wrote. They concluded with goals including to “pressure publishers to stop publishing racist books,” “make our industry safer and more welcoming for Black people,” and “build structures outside of the corporate publishing world that support Black workers and creators.” “Now that we have acted together as a group, we must press forward,” they wrote.

The movement comes after many authors shared what they were paid for advances under the hashtag #PublishingPaidMe — started by L.L. McKinney, urban fantasy author of the Nightmare-Verse series — “to highlight the disparity between what’s paid to non-Black authors vs Black authors.” Authors including Roxane Gay and N.K. Jemisin participated, with Gay revealing her $15,000 advance for Bad Feminist and Jemisin listing multiple advances of $25,000, and eventually $40,000, for the books in three of her fantasy series. (Some white writers, by contrast, revealed six-figure debut advances.) Both these movements come after the backlash against American Dirt in late January.

Over 1,000 Publishing Workers Strike Against Industry Racism