Kameron Hurley: “Everybody Already Knows”: How Silence About the Realities of Publishing Hurts Authors

There is a very interesting article by Kameron Hurley on Locusmag.com. Here's an extract:

Families are full of secrets. Publishing is no different.

There are the ho-hum secrets – the affairs, the folks who stole money from now-dead relatives, the folks who aren’t paying their taxes. There are also bigger secrets. These are the secrets that matter, the ones that could help others in the family if they were shared. These are things like mental illness – hiding an uncle’s illness means his niece may suffer for years in silence, thinking she’s the only one with that issue. And there are darker things, like abusive spouses and family members who abuse children. We hush these things up because we fear they’re too personal to share. Too personal right up until keeping that secret means your abusive spouse goes on to abuse someone else, or the children abused by a family member go on to repeat the cycle of abuse.

Secrets are knowledge not widely shared. Knowledge shared is power, and leverage, especially in the publishing industry. Sharing knowledge is how we change things.

The realities of publishing shock and awe many of us, but none so much as the first-time novelist. Stepping into publishing is like the first day you walked into a family gathering as a child and realized that there were a lot of things going on that you didn’t understand – knowledge that the whole family seemed to have and you were just expected to pick up. You’d find yourself used as leverage in some ongoing feud between your now divorced parents, or get shuttered out of the room when voices were raised over an aunt’s abortion.

We keep a lot of secrets in this industry that make it difficult for newcomers to succeed. Some of these secrets seem benign – that book advance that turned out to be lower than your last one, or that book that only sold 300 copies. Others are darker. The editor who makes a habit of sexually harassing authors. The publisher who verbally abuses authors. The agents who don’t return e-mails or phone calls. The publisher whose checks aren’t coming on time, or at all.

Like kids stepping into an extended family reunion, most first-time writers are clueless about how to find this information. When something bad happens, many writers shove it under a rug because they think they’re the problem. They think they’re the only one to ever have poor sales, or bad covers. Maybe they aren’t being paid because their book isn’t good enough, or they’re not good enough, or…. And then we cry into our cornflakes and say we’re just lucky to be published, right?

Follow this link to read the full piece.

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