Declining Book Sales?

By Jeff Rivera Comment


An Op-Ed Piece by GalleyCat Correspondent, Jeff Rivera

Declining Book Sales? Maybe the problem isn’t the consumer, maybe the problem is the book publishing industry. It goes beyond simply the industry’s crap shoot or “throwing spaghetti against a wall” book releasing methods. Perhaps the book publishing industry has lost touch with not only what the consumer wants, but how they want it delivered and maybe more importantly, who the consumer actually is.

Case in point, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2042 the minority (aka person of color) will actually become the majority. Yet, instead of embracing this as a fact, some publishing houses have responded by releasing a few token Black-American, Latino or Bollywood-style books per year and then sitting back and awaiting their NAACP award. Perhaps the problem results in the fact that the inner-workings of the houses do not reflect the world. Namely, there are not enough people of color working in the book publishing industry.

A recent meeting with two Caucasian well-respected literary agent friends of mine cemented that concern when one announced, “We’re all the same, [people the publishing industry]. We’re all white, we’re all over-educated, Ivy-leaguers, many of whom are trust fund babies.”

And although I did not necessarily agree with that statement, I had to ask, “Why?” After all, I have seen some wonderful people of color working in the industry and others who have come from working-class, community-college educated backgrounds and have gained successful careers.

The other agent added, “because the book publishing industry is a low-paid industry and the only people who can afford to enter into it are people whose parents can afford to bank roll them while they begin an entry-level position.”

What can publishers do to start having their companies reflect what is happening in the country? Perhaps by simply, beginning or amplifying their diversity outreach programs, actively seeking interns, assistants and key positions in the country [outside of New York) from parts of the company that reflect not only Middle-America but communities of people of color around the country.

This Op-Ed piece does not reflect the opinion of GalleyCat nor