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Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry

11 February 2018

From Medium:

Sometimes, it’s in the form of inappropriate comments.

An author wrote, “An editor who was considering my work commented very thoroughly on my body type as a possible personal advantage of working with me.” For her now, “it makes submissions feel like a minefield.”

For an author/illustrator, it was at a book party with a famous illustrator; “I introduce myself to him,” she writes, “and he makes a crack about my breasts.” After enough incidents like these she’s “completely stopped socializing in this business because each time it becomes another abuse story.”

Sometimes the comments are more pointed, like for the publicist who says her supervisor told her he had a crush on her and if he wasn’t married and twice her age he would ask her out. Or a writer’s conference attendee who says that a faculty member asked her if she was “kinky” at the opening mixer. Or the aspiring illustrator who won a mentorship contest, and at the end of her meeting with the mentor she said she had to go get a drink of water because she was hot. According to her, “he said ‘Yes, you are.’ And squeezed my arm. And raised his eyebrows in a suggestive way.”

These are the sort of events we’re told to brush off — they’re jokes, they’re flattering, no big deal. But when you believe you are a professional and someone informs you they see you as a sex object, it can shatter your sense of self and your sense of safety.

. . . .

And sometimes, the stories reveal serial predators unchecked by an industry that does not want to acknowledge such things could be possible of its men.

We work in children’s books, and we like to think we are different, somehow. We value “kindness.” The ranks of publishers are populated with women. And everyone is so nice, right?

But we aren’t different, and before we can do anything about sexual harassment, we need to face that reality. And the reality is that a culture of “kindness” can silence people who have been harassed, that women can be complicit in a culture of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and that the people who we work alongside, whose books we care about, who we like, can be sexual harassers.

. . . .

“Kidlit is filled with women,” writes another editor, “but a lot of the senior staff are still men…How many women have left the industry because of hostile work environments who could be running things today? We shouldn’t have to suffer to earn respect.”

Link to the rest at Medium

PG says this is one more reason to indie publish. You avoid all the perverts that infest traditional publishing.

He should have started counting the reasons to indie publish a long time ago, then he would have a specific number to quote. Something in the zillions.

Big Publishing

7 Comments to “Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry”

  1. +1, PG. Articles like this one make me glad I *wasn’t* picked up by a publisher.

  2. You can’t really indie publish children’s books successfully, at least not yet.
    Believe me, I’ve tried. Sure, there are outliers like Pete the Cat, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and On the Night You Were Born. But all of those authors allowed their titles to be taken over by Trad Pub once they started to really sell.

    Parents aren’t interested in e-books for kids. I can’t say I blame them. You’ll notice that Author Earnings doesn’t really track children’s books. Hugh Howey made an attempt to sell his children’s book about a cloud through Createspace but wasn’t very successful. Granted, the book was pretty bad.

    Also, there are too many gatekeepers in the form of librarians and journal reviewers who won’t touch self-published books. You can forget about winning any prizes, which are crucial to success. So if you are a children’s book author or illustrator you still have to kow-tow to the establishment.

    • I think the word you’re looking for is *can’t* touch self-published books, at least until they get picked up by Baker and Taylor, GOBI, etc. We are often very limited in the vendors we can work with to make purchases. At my workplace, it all has to go through a preferred vendor.

      I love indie books and have found some great YA ones, but none of them are in my library for this reason.

      • But any book in the Ingram catalog surely makes its way to B&T, yes? And that has to include a lot of indies by now…

        • My library uses GOBI, so I can’t speak to that. GOBI barely even stocks small presses, much less indies.

        • Yes, both IngramSpark and Createspace list B&T as one of their customers. My understanding is that IngramSpark has a better relationship with them, but that is just my impression, not something I have hard evidence for.

          GOBI is a distributor that is focused almost exclusively on academic non-fiction. They are owned by EBSCO, so their main customers are academic and specialized libraries. The academic world is being really slow about embracing indie-publishing, so it isn’t really a priority for GOBI to include POD distributors. Any public library system would be better served with B&T as their primary distributor.

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