How White Are Your Comp Titles?

January 23, 2019 | 1

The publishing industry is roughly 86% white. Yet comparative titles, or “book comps,” are whiter still, the L.A. Review of Books has found, arguing that this makes it exceptionally difficult for writers of color to place their books with imprints at Big Five publishers. “Comps,” in other words, “perpetuate the status quo.” Here’s how.

is the news and digital editor at Publishers Weekly and a founding editor of The Dot and Line, a web publication of animation journalism. His work has been published by Vulture, Polygon, and The Los Angeles Times, among others.

One comment:

  1. “The dearth of minority employees directly affects the types of books that are published, industry members agreed, and for this issue to be addressed, there needs to be more advocates for books involving people of color throughout the business.”

    Publish books according to how good they are; don’t publish according to the authors’ phenotypes. Problem solved. Yes: find great writers, shepherd their creations to publication, trust the readers to validate talent regardless of the various writers’ skin tone or hair texture or genital configuration. Maybe a few dark-skinned geniuses will finally make it through the racial-quota gate-keeping bottleneck… ?

    “How many books by writers of color are published annually? How many reviews are dedicated to books by writers of color? How many books feature people of color in a substantive manner (a sort of Bechdel test for racial diversity)?”

    How large is the Black target-demographic for literary fiction? How is “writers of color” supposed to be a meaningful or clarifying term, encompassing as it does a “racial” spectrum representing most of the planet’s population? Isn’t defining (and aggregating) a mass of wildly heterogeneous humans, by the crude fact of their non-whiteness, rather… racist? Are we supporting Artists of Color or enforcing a kind of inadvertent White Cultural Purity, the way the one-drop rule defined the broad-church of “blackness” by its not-whiteness? Maybe some Writers of Color would prefer to write about whatever-the-hell-they-please (like most Writers-of-Not-Color have been doing for centuries) instead of recycling comfy tropes assigned to their skin-tones…? Maybe Writers of Color should be allowed to infiltrate the lofty theoretical aeries of anglophone Literary Fiction sixty or so years after Jews (Roth, the great Brodkey, Malamud, Mailer, et al, and the runt of the litter, Saul) made it in…? Roth’s ascent should have been our signal that the country club gates were down: not yet? Race Rules still operative? Got it.

    You know what they say: “The path to race-obsessed Hell is paved with virtue-signalling intentions.”

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