The After

What's it going to be like for publishing?

Hi friends,

Here in New York, as things reopen, we’re all seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. While many places in the rest of the country are NOT GREAT, BOB (why, Florida, why do you always do this????), here in New York, we’re more than slightly smug about how we all handled this. I mean, of course we’d be smug about it. We’re New Yorkers.


Ahem. Anyway, where I was going with this is that we’re all starting to wonder what’s next and what’s going to change. I mean, we’ve all been thinking this the whole time, especially those who care for school-age children. Is there going to be camp? School? Full day? Half day? At all? I won’t go on, but that is certainly taking up a lot of mental energy for me.

And I haven’t even touched on the effects of the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests and the reckoning publishing specifically, and the world at large, is only just starting to experience regarding racial inequity, outright racism, and representation in books. Personally, I think that is going to have a longer, lasting effect on publishing that coronavirus (AND I SURELY EFFING HOPE SO.)

As we move into Summer and that quickly turns into Fall, the time people feel like the real work happens (P.S. I’m ignoring the election for our purposes here because this would be 10,000 words if I didn’t), it’s going to be clear what changes are afoot and what will take more time, or another revolution, to come about.

Maybe I’m just an optimist, but I really and truly believe the protests and Black Lives Matter movement is going to result in more books published by Black, Indigenious, and POC writers. There are too many people watching and looking for this real change for publishers to slide by on all talk and no action. It won’t be equal across all publishers, obviously, but I really do think it is going to result in more books and more representation.

Are you a white person worried this means your book won’t get published? It might not! It might not because an editor chose a book by a Black person at that particular acquisitions meeting OR it might not because it wasn’t right for the publisher or market or the times OR any number of other reasons you might not get a book deal. (Btw, it’s not necessarily going to be the publisher choosing to fill one last spot. Acquisitions is a rolling process.) You cannot know why your book didn’t get published! If you are worried a Black person is going to “take your spot” then you need to examine your racist thoughts and interrogate why you think you deserve a spot more than anyone else, let alone someone who has been a victim of systemic racism AND WHO just might have a better book than you! Don’t be racist!

As a result of the coronavirus, I think we’re going to see more flexible remote working opportunities with publishers, which might result in a decentralization of publishing which might result in a more diverse workforce. More than just the fact that New York is expensive, some people don’t want to live here! I didn’t! I thought I would pay my dues as a young agent and move to the South as soon as I could. Well, 17 years later I’m still here and that’s fine. But there are brillant people who would love to work in publishing who don’t want to live in New York and more remote opportunites could bring them, and their possibly diverse backgrounds and expereinces to books.

You might have noticed on Twitter lately, some further reckonning in video games, comics, and other book and non-book circles regarding sexual harassers and predators and their victims calling them out. Yeah, there’s been a lot of getting canncelled on Twitter (and Twitch and YouTube, basically read Taylor Lorenz’s whole feed) lately, and publishers are taking note. There are already morality clauses in contracts—which say if the author really, really messes up the publisher can cancel the book (there are clear definitions of this so like you won’t lose your book deal for an errant retweet or something) but I have a feeling these are going to get even stricter and us agents are going to have to work to make sure they cannot be unfairly or arbritarily enforced. But I’ve definitely got my eye on it, and you, as a writer, should continue to NOT sexually harass people, basically period!

So, yeah, I think publishing is going to be different going forward. I sincerely fucking hope so.