As a means of exposing the book-advance imbalance of white and black authors, urban fantasy novelist L.L. McKinney created the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag on June 6, which aims to hold publishing houses accountable for why black authors typically don’t receive the same advances as their white peers. “Come on, white authors. Use the hashtag and share what you got for your books,” McKinney wrote. “Debuts as well. Let’s go.” She added that the movement is meant to highlight “the disparity between what’s paid to non-Black authors vs. Black authors. Not PoC. There’s a reason for that, especially in the context of this moment.” Since the hashtag was first tweeted, hundreds of authors have been encouraged by McKinney’s movement and shared their salaries, who range from big names such as Roxane Gay and Matt Haig to smaller indie scribes. Several authors were also inspired enough to share the complete history of their advances.
As opposed to royalties, an advance is a payment that authors receive when they’re still in the development phase of writing a book. Publishers usually base their advances on how much money they believe the book will earn. “Black authors understand that the advance isn’t paid all at once. We know it needs to be taxed. We know agents need to be paid,” McKinney noted. “That just makes the disparity worse, doesn’t it? And #PublishingPaidMe is part of a conversation with specific context, such as who does or doesn’t.”
She added that, despite black women and girls being the country’s largest reading demographic, black authors are frequently told that no wants “wants” to read their books and they don’t sell well. “#PublishingPaidMe is part of a bigger conversation about the system issues in publishing that Black people face,” McKinney explained. “Issues we’ve been talking about, and screaming about, for years, but we’ve largely gone ignored.”