Five Things: February 25, 2021

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Small Publishers Struggle to Build a Diverse Workforce

When talking about diversifying staff, the “Big 5” and NYC are often used as a proxy for the entire book publishing industry, so it was nice to see an article focus on smaller publishers outside of NY for a change. Unfortunately, it’s a variation of the same old story as the underlying issues are the same: relying on predominantly white agents to source manuscripts; relying on predominantly white media and retailers to reach audiences; relying on predominantly white networks to recruit new staff.

Continuing a related theme, one of the most egregious quotes inadvertently says the quiet part out loud: “Should we seek out and prioritize POC authors or should we judge submissions strictly based on the merit of content?” #cmonson


Diversity Efforts Lead to Salary Hikes

I really hate the idea that low salaries are one of the primary reasons for publishing’s lack of diversity, as if being BIPOC* means being poor; like plenty of middle-class BIPOC haven’t been excluded from, or pushed out of the industry, for deeper systemic reasons.

Raising starting salaries is a nice PR move that won’t impact diversity in any meaningful way without a variety of harder, more meaningful changes—including overdue housecleaning in executive roles. Until then, it just means the usual suspects will get paid a little better while claiming progress.

Jen Baker goes on the record to sum it up: “If we’re still going to have to tiptoe around white privilege, white supremacy, none of this is going to change. Ever. It’s just going to look different. But it’s going to be the same.”

* I really hate the term BIPOC as it lumps a broad variety of people together who have nothing in common beyond not being white. #cmonson


Glassdoor Now Breaks Out Its Ratings by Gender and Race

I’ve always thought of Glassdoor as Yelp for disgruntled employees, where you don’t put too much weight on individual reviews while looking for common threads that give a hint of the real pros and cons. Interestingly, F+W Media’s pre-bankruptcy ratings seemed hyperbolic from the outside, but as its eventual (inevitable?) bankruptcy confirmed, they were arguably understated.

This could become an interesting source of potentially embarrassing data for companies that publicly claim to be “committed” to diversity, but considering demographics like race/ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are all optional, it’s more likely to be gamed by the same companies who proactively encourage staff to submit positive reviews.


Panorama Project Releases Immersive Media & Books 2020 Research Report

The book world too often operates within a bubble that only exists in its myopic imagination, so I’m really proud to have played an influential role in championing and framing the unique collaboration that led to this groundbreaking research from my former colleagues at The Panorama Project.

The Executive Summary alone is more insightful than anything the industry has seen since Pew’s underappreciated efforts 5+ years ago, and its insights on ethnic differences with book engagement will surely spark “a conversation” across the industry.

NOTE: I’ve only read the executive summary so far, haven’t dug into the data and findings yet. I’m hoping to get to it soon as some of the early hot takes I’ve seen are… concerning.


Comics Plus Publisher Spotlight: Tuskegee Heirs’ Greg Burnham & Marcus Williams

I get to do a lot of cool stuff at the day job, but almost all of it is behind the scenes and only of interest to marketing and data geeks. Much like this newsletter, though, I’ve entertained the idea of launching my own podcast for a few years, so getting in front of the mic to interview the creative minds behind the Kickstarter sensation, Tuskegee Heirs: Flames of Destiny, was a lot fun and scratched that itch. (For now!)

Bonus: Because it was conducted as a Zoom meeting, I got to flex my nascent but growing video editing muscles to transform it into something watchable. Check it out, smash that like button, and subscribe!

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