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What It’s Like to Be Black in Publishing?

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An author, literary agent, marketer, publicist, editors and booksellers talk about how race affects their careers — and the books you read.


Linda Duggins, Tracy Sherrod, Erroll McDonald, Cherise Fisher, Janifer Wilson, Kori Wilson, Kerri K. Greenidge and Ebony LaDelle.

Clockwise from top left: Linda Duggins, Tracy Sherrod, Erroll McDonald, Cherise Fisher, Janifer Wilson, Kori Wilson, Kerri K. Greenidge and Ebony LaDelle.


“The industry has long been criticized for hiring and retaining so few employees of color — according to a survey of the work force released this year by the children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books, only 5 percent are Black. But the calls to diversify have intensified in recent weeks, as Black professionals have publicly shared long-suppressed frustrations about how racial prejudice has affected their work. In publishing, that has included discussions of hiring practices, workplace microaggressions and publishing companies’ treatment of books by Black writers.” Read the entire article at the New York Times.

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The article is pretty interesting, not because there were any revelations for me, but the Times spoke with a great mix of people.  Professionals that have about 200 years of experience in the world of books. 


Janifer runs the only Black-owned bookstore in Manhattan, Sister's Uptown. In 20 years of selling books, she admitted that she has never profited from the sale of books until this June (AALBC made more money selling books in June of 2020 than we did selling book in all of 2019). 


Tracey Sherrod's Amistad is a sponsor of AALBC.  AALBC is the largest platform dedicated Black books in the history of the web.  It is because of Tracey that AALBC sponsorship from a major publisher.  It is not charity, because we provide great exposure for books, but don't have to explain this to Tracey.


Linda Duggins is an old friend, we first met during the Harlem Book Fair over 20 years ago. She has cohosted the Black Pack Party with me since it's inception. In fact, Cherise and Ebony have attended the several Back pack parties in the past.  This years celebration was cancelled for obvious reasons 😞 


Actually there was one revelation; I was previously unaware of Kerri Greenidge's work, however I was familiar with William Trotter, the subject of her most recent book.


Erroll McDonald is the most senior person, both in position and age, in the group.  Indeed, he is probably the most senior Black person in all of publishing. We have never met.


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  • 2 months later...

@TroyOn the point about selling more books in June of this year versus all of last year, let me ask you this.


I see this as problematic because to me (not just in the publishing industry), this new wave of "black support" came in the wake of all the protests and unrest around the country. Don't get me wrong, the support is a beautiful thing but I don't think it's coming from a place that will allow it to be sustained. Soon, I fear it will die down again and will return to us not supporting the businesses, especially when it comes to books. 


What do you think about that? And how do we make it sustainable? 

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@Walkman93 the surge is sales, for me, already ended. I knew when it started it would be fleeting. The increased business came mostly from white folks.


8 hours ago, Walkman93 said:

And how do we make it sustainable? 


That is easy. More of us have to patronize Black booksellers -- not Amazon and not Bookshop.org


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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Internships?

I know this slightly off topic, but I’m interested in learning more about the publishing industry. Does anyone know of any black owned publishing companies that are looking for interns?

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