When self-publishing first began to take off in a big way a few years ago, the very common favorable argument was that the publishing industry was based on a centuries-old model that failed its authors. The cringe-worthy royalty splits and little to no return for the author were bad enough, but the most profound argument was that authors were tired of executives in conference rooms deciding that their books weren’t “marketable.”
At the same time, readers came forward to voice their displeasure with the decision making process. They learned that there were unread but viable, vibrant stories out there, but that business people sitting at a conference table had shot them down.
The end result was a more widespread embrace of indie publishing, launching a movement that is going strong and only gaining momentum even now, several years after the “flash in the pan” predictions have fizzled.
Now, Penguin Random House and other publishing houses are finally owning up to another often hurled insult–that they move too slowly for the world of books–and actively seeking out authors whose demographics would have once kept their books from ever hitting a shelf. There’s a concerted effort to seek out racial, ethnic, and cultural minorities, LGBTQ authors, even authors who simply have a story to tell that is outside of the mainstream, especially ones that are autobiographical. An article for The Guardian on some of these initiatives highlights steps that the industry is taking to move forward and reach diverse audiences of readers.
But is it a case of too little, too late? Has the snail’s pace of change in the publishing industry meant that authors and readers don’t care about these efforts at inclusion when there are already so many outlets to connect them?
Penguin Random House’s #WriteNow program seeks writers who submit their work and then crawl their way through elimination rounds before ten are chosen to work closely with an editor for a year, hoping to land a publishing deal at the end of the process. Once a deal is secured, the industry can easily take another year to bring that book to market. In the meantime, the authors who were eliminated from the very beginning–and those who were smart enough to avoid the popularity contest in the first place–could be publishing their books’ second and third sequels.