So, Writing Twitter. This week I considered writing a blog post about why publishing is not ok.
Then I did a research deep dive and...well. It's worse than I thought.
CW: unchecked capitalism, politics, N*zism.
This is not a feel-good 🧵.
Important caveat: this isn't about the publishing professionals working hard to produce books that they love for too little pay.
Publishing is no more broken than any other industry, & it's broken for the same reasons.
If you want to know why, follow the money.
First off, what do I mean when I say publishing is broken?
It's not because the industry is failing. In fact, the Big Four publishers, like many other businesses, are reporting record profits despite the economic stresses of the pandemic.
More on that downthread.
McGhee, editor of NYT bestseller THE ATLAS SIX, shared her resignation letter on Twitter. It's worth a read.
She describes the heartbreak of leaving a job she loves bc of barriers to advancement, low pay, & untenable workload for junior employees.
Each of the Big 4 contain multiple imprints. For example: Hachette owns Orbit. Harper Collins owns Harlequin, Harper Voyager, & Avon. Penguin Random House owns Viking, Bantam, Del Rey, & Ballantine. Macmillan owns Tom Doherty Associates (Tor, Nightfire, Forge). Etc.
As publishing consolidates, mergers inevitably spark layoffs to increase "efficiency" i.e. shareholder profit. The remaining staff get more work for the same pay, not just editors, but admin, accounting, legal, etc. This slows production & promotes burnout at every level.
But the CEOs aren't actually at the top. They serve at the pleasure of the shareholders. If they don't maximize profits, they get fired.
Would you like to know who REALLY owns publishing?
This is where I started to feel truly depressed.
Are you SURE you want to know?
Harper Collins is a subsidiary of NewsCorp, a name which may sound familiar if you follow American politics and media.
Newscorp runs Fox News, the NY Post, the Wall Street Journal, and in the UK, the Sun & the Times.
Rupert Murdoch owns Newscorp.
Penguin Random House is owned by German private conglomerate Bertelsmann, controlled by the Mohn family.
To his credit, the late philanthropist Reinhard Mohn assisted the German investigation that revealed his father's Third Reich connections.
Again, I'm not saying that the current owners are fascists. I don't know their affiliations, & Germany has done a lot of soul-searching as a nation to reckon with its past. (America could take a lesson from that.)
But given the industry still publishes N*zi romance... 😬
So what *am* I saying?
Publishing is not ok because too few people are working too many hours making books for too little pay, while most of the money goes to line the pockets of a few mega-rich folk.
Fixing its problems would work against the interest of those few.
I wish I had a more positive note on which to end this lengthy thread.
TBH, I feel nervous about posting it. What if putting this out there hurts MY chances of being published? Never mind that all this info is publicly available. I found it in a few hours of Googling.
But I have people in my mentions wondering why publishing is not ok.
And I feel like I owe y'all the truth.
Publishing is not ok because our society is not ok. It's built on the same rotten ground as everything else. It's owned by the same people as everything else.
So what does that mean for us writers? Should we quit, refuse participation, self-publish?
I wish I had answers.
But I do think we're all in this together. The book makers. The book lovers. Authors, agents, editors.
And change won't start with the people at the top.