Bias in the writing and publishing world

For millennia, bias, bigotry, racism, and prejudice have been notable bed-fellows in most professions, not least the publishing world.

Most of us know women were not permitted to be authors and had to write under a male pen name if they wished to be published or taken seriously. This wasn’t so long ago.

Even more recently: The notable authoress Patricia Highsmith had to use a pen name when she published The Price of Salt (later known as Carol) which depicted same-sex love. It was felt that her reputation as an author (of The Talented Mr Ripley series, among others) would be tarnished and ruined if she were connected to a book about what was considered depravity.

Years later Highsmith went public as the author of Carol but this speaks to the epochs in time where authors are silenced or shamed for the subjects they write about or just because they are dark-skinned, black-skinned, ‘foreign’ or ‘immigrant’ and this is not acceptable to the masses.

If you don’t know this happened and is still happening then the question would be: Where have you been?

Assuming you are aware of this, let’s consider the publishing world now.

Some authors complain that only certain ‘types’ of authors are published. This can be true although it’s never a stead-fast rule. Like anything else, there are ‘trends’ and these trends dictate what the publishing world or creative world at large, are looking for. Using the word ‘trend’ implies a lesser worth and this is not the case at all. Creativity has always employed trends as certain things go in and out of fashion, all have worth (well maybe not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and mullet hair cuts, but that’s debatable …)

Is it fair if you are trying to promote yourself as an author say, during a trend or shift in thinking/social consciousness, that would rather publish a young woman of color than a white 60-year-old man?

It’s fair because it is taking into account the decades, sometimes centuries, of oppression or erasure or invisibility of certain groups who did not get published or given equal chances.

If you are a white 60-year-old man, who may never have been racist in any way your entire life, or benefited from white ancestry at all, it may seem very unfair. Perhaps it is but it’s also fair. It’s one of those dualities. As much as it may be unfair to the person who is not given the chance, it is fair to the person who is given the chance (who would not have been previously and whose ancestors were not).

When we’re being fair, it’s never simple and it’s never completely fair. Someone tends to suffer when wrongs are righted, but the idea is those wrongs were worse than any negatives that come with righting them. Change isn’t painless.

If you perceive you are someone who isn’t the dish of the day in the publishing world, then you might well be right. The publishing world like the art world and creative world at large, is nepotistic, slightly pretentious, and definitely particular to certain shifts. Sexism, racism, ageism, ableism, they’ve been guilty of it all at some point or another, and may still be.

Even now – the number #1 best-sellers are white males. This is not because white males write the best books. It is because the legacy of oppression of other groups such as women and people of color, let alone LGBTQ+ or immigrants, is centuries in the making. So for every white male who is turned away because a publisher is deliberately looking to rebalance their scales and to some extent employ some affirmative action in their authors, there were thousands of rejected women, LGBTQ+, immigrants, and people of color turned away throughout history.

No, it’s not fair if you are a white older male and you wrote a superb book and you get turned down whilst your female black friend is published by the first place she approaches. But it is fair – if viewed in a balanced way by taking into account the oppressive history of the past. It also doesn’t mean you won’t be published if you are a white older male, chances are you will, it might not be as easy as it once was, but all doors are not closed.

We are often asked if we consider this in our decisions to publish authors. The answer is yes we do but we must continue to do better. By that, it’s not an apology because sometimes it is not easy to locate disenfranchised groups, but it should be an active-life-long process. Since our inception, Indie Blu(e) was founded on publishing those who would traditionally have been ignored by publishers either because of the material or their gender or race or country of origin or LGBTQ+ status or disability status.

Yes, we also publish folk who do not fall into any of those categories, but majoritively our authors fit at least one and often multiple categories of former (and ongoing) oppression in the larger publishing world. By being aware of this, we do not decrease quality, in fact, we believe passionately that our authors are incredibly talented and there is no tokenism or pity in our choosing their work. Even if we did a blind read, we’d choose them, because their words speak for themselves and that’s the way it should be.

However, in this world, with all its prejudices, it’s not always that way and so we are vigilant in our representation of a cross-section of diversity and talent and this includes people of every color and every continent, immigrants whether legal or not, writers with serious mental or physical disabilities, neuro-diverse writers, LGBTQ+ writers, non-binary, and many more. We’re very proud to be the house for these brilliant minds and to continually push to highlight those who might otherwise be erased. This is no longer a trend in publishing, this is the way the future should look.

If you feel you are overlooked or underappreciated by traditional publishers, consider submitting to us. HERE.

Published by TheFeatheredSleep

Editor, Psychotherapist, Publisher.

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