Writers are shaking up the publishing world by revealing advance payment figures

By June 15, 2020Authors, News

Authors on Twitter have been sharing their advance payment figures to highlight the glaring difference between the earnings between black and white writers.

The hashtag #publishingpaidme was started by fantasy author LL McKinney, to call on white authors to share what they had been paid.

Matt Haig, a white British author, said it was “seriously uncomfy”, but offered that his first book payment was £5,000 and his 10th book secured £600,000.

The UK’s former poet laureate Malorie Blackman who wrote the popular YA series Noughts and Crosses, explained that she had “never in my life received anything like the sums being posted by some white authors”.

“My latest contracts contain NDA clauses so I can’t say what I earn but it is NOWHERE near what some white authors are getting for their nth book where n is a single digit. I make a living but I’ve had to learn to cut my cloth to fit my income,” wrote Blackman. “And I’m in a better position than a number of my BIPOC [black, indigenous and people of colour] peers. I’m not having a pity party for one, not even a little bit, but if we give up, nothing changes. Our stories are worth telling and need telling.”

Roxanne Gay revealed she was paid $12,500 for An Untamed State, $15,000 for Bad Feminist, $100,000 for Hunger, $150,000 for Year I Learned Everything with “a significant jump” for her next two nonfiction books

“The discrepancy along racial lines is very real. Keep your day job,” wrote Gay. “I like my publishers quite a lot but this is why all those corporate statements about diversity are nonsense. A little Instagram post doesn’t make up for racial disparities in everything else.”

Another Black American writer, Jesmyn Ward, showed that she actually wrote her second novel, Salvage the Bones, before securing an advance. It sold for aprox. $20,000 when finished, she explained, and later won the National Book Award. Sadly that success was not indicative of fair future payments and she (along with her agent) had to fight hard for a decent payment.

Ward took Sing, Unburied, Sing, to another publisher who paid her $100,000 and the book also won a National Book Award.

“While that new sale was a healthy increase on the old deal, it was still barely equal to some of my writer friends’ debut novel advances.”

LL McKinney said that the differences between how different races are treated in the literary world and that “publishing literally does not value black voices”.

“When books by white authors don’t perform, they’re likely to get another chance and another 100k advance. When books by black authors don’t perform, the ENTIRE demographic gets blamed and punished. Black authors are told our books don’t sell. No one wants them,” she wrote. “We’re here because publishing, like so many of these other industries and companies, only has something to say when shit pops off.”

Malorie Blackman urged all black writers, authors and illustrators to keep writing:

“Your voice, your work, your stories matter. The situation will improve. It has to. Yes, it’s off-putting, and yes, it’s dispiriting but please don’t stop writing. We might not win at this game but to not play is to definitely lose.”

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