UP and DOWN, ROUND and ROUND….

Cycles are what life seems to be all about.  If you live long enough, and stay connected to a business or interest (or person!) long enough, you’ll see the ups and downs…and often the round and rounds of styles, procedures, concerns, and policies.  When I started in the children’s publishing business in 1990, I was told by the agent I worked for, that the ‘best of publishing’ had passed. (WHAT?) I have seen many ‘best’ years come and go since then. Also at that time it was suddenly (again?) all about ‘diversity’.  If a story was written by a Nez Perce American Indian then the editor was looking for a Nez Perce Indian as an illustrator! We wanted to find good African American, Asian, and Hispanic artists. Didn’t matter that a white artist was fabulous at painting black children, they didn’t get the job often! That is just as messed up.  It should be about what’s best for the book or project. But more diverse books were published, and that was good for the industry and good for the readers.

That was over 20 years ago!  Yet in PW end of Sept I read again about “overwhelming white” and “lack of diversity” as being a “bit eye-opening!”  Have they been shut all this time?  I’m shocked that this is again a huge thing; big topic at conferences and conventions, and book fairs.  60% of the responding survey publishers thought it was ‘a big issue’.  Why isn’t it less so today after almost 20 years of being ‘an issue?’  New crop of editors and AD’s and writers and illustrators just tuning in?

Another ‘issue’  is the still under payment of WOMEN in publishing! also something I’ve been tracking for over 20 years.  Working for myself as an agent, I’m less effected by that as a woman.  ( I am by the under payment of ARTISTS, but that’s another long story!) According to the same PW piece, women are 74% of the publishing industry, and yet women averaged a salary of $60,750 in 2013 to the men’s average of $85,000. For some jobs the difference is in the tens of thousands.  (female AD’s make more generally it says! )  Talk about an ‘issue’ that shouldn’t still be an issue!  I have a daughter and two daughter-in-laws and each of them works full-time (two have 3 kids and a full-time working husband too!)  Why on earth would they be paid LESS for their labors and hours in any industry?

So we’ve two issues cropping up ‘suddenly’ that really have always been here and are still here.  When will the talking stop and the fixing begin?  I feel like painting up a sign and taking to the streets!  cycles….Up and Down….Round and Round!

Summer Friends (3).jpgBurrisdiverse female friends by Priscilla Burris

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About catugeau

art agent
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2 Responses to UP and DOWN, ROUND and ROUND….

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  2. chris says:

    Christine, the whole Diversity issue ( lack there of) has been very important to me, loved reading your thoughts and thank you for blogging about it.
    I posed this question to 2 Editors and an Art Director at our most recent conference…. is there a big budget pic book (very likely to be a series) coming out soon or in the works, that features a child of colour? Both of the Editors, meaning well, said write it, we would love to see more books with diverse main characters. I suggested that it’s not about the writing of the manuscript, that it’s much simpler then that, it’s just about the Illustrator painting the child brown. Take any manuscript, take the next “Fancy Nancy” (just a random example of a popular title) and draw her as anything but white.
    The AD honestly stated it’s not happening, at least not yet, not with the biggest budget pic books. I appreciated her candour, but it of course it wasn’t what I hoped to hear in this day and age. Unless the manuscript deals with an issue, cultural history, inclusiveness, the main character will be a white child (or an anthropomorphic animal).
    The thinking in marketing seems to still be that the target consumer is white, middle class. It’s more then a shame that the assumption is still a white parent would not buy a pic book for their child, if a brown child was the main character and that a book like that could not become a best seller.
    There’s still so much work to do.

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