On June 6, 2020, Leatrice “Elle” McKinney, (aka L.L. McKinney, author of A Blade So Black) kicked off a Twitter conversation about publishing advances. Using the hashtag #PublishingPaidMe she asked white authors to share the advances they’d been paid for books so Black authors could get a sense of how their own advances compared. Very quickly a huge disparity between the size of payments became obvious.
Author Bethany C. Morrow summed up the issue very succinctly:
“Someone said anti-Blackness is not just about physical violence, and that’s the truth. It also includes devaluing us in our work. It includes making it impossible to just WORK because we also gotta HUSTLE.”
The low advances reflect a lack of confidence in Black authors, a lack of investment in their careers by publishing companies. This plays out in weak marketing for Black authors which too often leads to lower sales. None of this is justified and the unequal treatment is especially stark when debut white authors with no track record are awarded six figure advances based on somebody’s gut feeling.
I talk further about gatekeeping in publishing, representation in the industry, the power of stories and advances in the videos below.