From Publishers Weekly:
“This is not a remote position. Candidates are expected to perform work on-site in our office,” is a line that I look for in every job posting before I decide whether or not to apply. I’m disabled; I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and I’m autistic, and working remotely is a reasonable accommodation that I need to do my job.
Up until the Covid-19 pandemic, most book publishing jobs have required employees to work in the office with little room for remote flexibility. Now the same publishers who denied disabled and chronically ill people the ability to work from home are requesting that their staff do just that. Accommodations to work remotely are prioritized when public health issues affect everyone, including nondisabled staff, but are deemed impossible when the request comes from a disabled employee.
While there are definitely functions in publishing that can’t be performed entirely remotely, such as warehouse jobs and production jobs, the pandemic has made it clear many tasks can be completely or at least partially remote if publishers allow them to be. Over half of American workers could work from home at least some of the time, according to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by research firm Global Workplace Analytics.
If there’s a lesson that publishers can learn from this pandemic, it’s that our industry needs more remote-friendly opportunities if we want to address the widespread ableism and inequality in publishing. We need more remote opportunities in book publishing. Of 166 recent job listings for positions at Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster, only two specify that they are open to remote candidates, and one of those two is a contract position, not a full- or part-time job.
Not offering remote-friendly opportunities widens the ongoing diversity gap in publishing. According to Lee & Low’s “2019 Diversity in Publishing Baseline Survey,” 89% of those working in publishing are nondisabled, 76% are white, 97% are cisgender, and 81% are straight. Many publishers are based in New York City, where only one in five subway stations are wheelchair accessible and average rents for a one-bedroom apartment are $3,000 per month, according to the “Zumper National Rent Report.” Glassdoor puts the national average salary for an editorial assistant at $43,761, making it difficult to live on in New York. More than 400,000 disabled employees regularly work from home, so allowing people to work remotely would give publishers a bigger employee pool to create a more inclusive workplace.
Common advice for those pursuing careers in publishing who can’t work in an office or can’t afford to move for a job is to freelance. Copyediting, proofreading, book reviewing, and sensitivity reading are areas where contract work is common. According to Lee & Low’s diversity survey, 19% of book reviewers identify as disabled, while in most other areas of publishing it’s closer to 10%.
Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly
After he calmed down from mentally condemning Big Publishing for its multitudinous faults once again, PG was interested in the 19% of book reviewers disabled statistic.
PG didn’t know that anyone was counting book reviewers, let alone querying them about their disabilities.
After a few strokes on his latest keyboard, PG discovered that Lee & Low Books, headquartered in New York City, is, “the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States. We are your diversity source.”
Lee & Low sponsors The Diversity Baseline Survey. They conducted their first survey in 2015 and a second in 2019. Here’s a bit more about the surveys:
Why We Created the Diversity Baseline Survey
Lee & Low Books released the first Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS 1.0) in 2015. Before the DBS, people suspected publishing had a diversity problem, but without hard numbers, the extent of that problem was anyone’s guess. Our goal was to survey publishing houses and review journals regarding the racial, gender, sexual orientation, and ability makeup of their employees; establish concrete statistics about the diversity of the publishing workforce; and then build on this information by reissuing the survey every four years. Through these long-term efforts, we would be able to track what progress our industry shows over time in improving representation and inclusion.
Why does diversity in publishing matter?
The book industry has the power to shape culture in big and small ways. The people behind the books serve as gatekeepers, who can make a huge difference in determining which stories are amplified and which are shut out. If the people who work in publishing are not a diverse group, how can diverse voices truly be represented in its books?
Here’s a chart from the 2019 survey:
PG (and others) started forecasting the sunset of traditional publishing acting as a gatekeeper some time ago. Since he (and others) began their doomsaying, the publishing sun has continued to drop like a fading orange pie chart in the metaphorical west.
That said, PG entirely agrees that tradpub definitely does not reflect the demographics of the world, the United States or any other place besides a few tiny spots on a map of New York City and its nearby environs.
PG does suggest that indie publishing is a much closer reflection of the demographics of humankind at large.
On Amazon, nobody knows your race, gender, orientation or disability unless you choose to tell them.
The computers don’t care. A self-published book by a genderfluid Navajo asexual paraplegic gets the same amount of space and service as a book written by, edited by and published by a variety of White Cis Woman Straight Non-Disabled persons who also happened to graduate from the right colleges after growing up in the right suburbs.