Hey, Pubs! is a post series here on The Book Deviant that I’m hoping will call attention to flawed practices in the book publishing industry.
Although this topic may seem obvious, apparently it’s not so for publishers.
This post is going to introduce an example, and then I want to explain why publishers need to start listening to their readers. Because really, a lot could be avoided if they did.
I think I have a pretty good example of this, and it’s one a lot of people who follow my blog will probably already know about. Remember The Continent, by Keira Drake?
For a recap, two years ago (was it really two years?) people were getting ARCs of this novel to read and review just as it’s normally agreed upon between publishers and reviewers. It wasn’t long until someone posted about the fairly obvious and harmful racist stereotypes that Drake used throughout the novel. I won’t get into those, but lets say that they were embedded into the plot so deeply that in no way could those stereotypes be removed without completely changing the plot. There was an uproar, and the publisher, Harlequin Teen, agreed to push back the publication a year or two in order to edit the manuscript.
Well, the publication has come up again, and new, updated ARCs have made their way into blogger’s hands. As it can bee seen in Debbie Reese’s review, comparing both editions, not much was changed, or, at least not enough to change the stereotypes that originally ruined the story to begin with. Drake was also later revealed to have sexually harassed people, so she’s not a good person at all.
The Continent is actually a fairly good example, because it shows what can happen when a publisher actually does listen to the readers (pushing back the release date) and when they don’t (the revised edition just changing a few words around instead of actually changing what was wrong.
So, Harlequin Teen actually surprised quite a few people when they came out and said that they would push back the release date. Never before (at least, since I’ve been around), has this happened before. Not only did they listen to what their readers wanted, and saw what we cared about, but it also allowed an extremely racist novel to, potentially, not be racist. Drake, even, at the time was very willing to put in the time to do those edits, despite the twitter arguments that I vaguely remember.
Two years later, and it has become obvious that they never intended to fix the problems, and they weren’t actually listening. If Harlequin had actually listened, they would have realized that it wasn’t the effort we were looking for–we actually wanted a book that wasn’t racist. Instead of acting on this, they made it look like they were acting, and instead just assumed we would be okay with them bumping the release date.
Well, that wasn’t what we were looking for.
When YA twitter gets vocal about something, we want action–an apology would be nice too, but as long as there is action and change, then I think we would be okay. We want there to be less -ist/-phobic books out there, because those books hurt us. Saying you’ll do something, and then not fulfilling that is like a slap to the face.
When I found that Harlequin didn’t actually do what they promised, I realize that I really didn’t want to support publishers like that. If someone is willing to agree to something and then turn their back on it, then they’re not good. Especially when the discussions include racism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, etc, and the fact that people can be seriously hurt over this stuff. It’s almost as if people think we like being hurt by reading this stuff, or that it’s entertaining for them to see us suffer.
And that’s not right.
Publishers need to listen to their readers, for the reader’s safety, as well as moral obligation and just plain human decency. I wouldn’t be friends with someone who promises to help me with something serious, and then decides to completely screw me over for $5. And I won’t be supporting publishers who act this way. Because it’s dangerous, and just plain awful.