Yesterday, I posted a graph on my Instagram from Publisher’s Weekly, to illustrate a point about what I do and why. The graph correlated with an article titled, Why Is Publishing So White? This is something I have written about extensively and also talked about over the years. But the charts are striking and illustrate the need for more independent publishers across the board. Allow me to bend your ear for moment.
I did not post the chart for kudos, likes or for you to pat me on the back etc. That’s not why I’m here. But I do want to demonstrate that what I do is RARE and needed. I can count on one hand how many 100% independent Chicana/o presses there are. And I do NOT mean ones who are sponsored by outside influences.
There is content created by many people of color these days, but of that, select few get chosen for distribution and or the mass market, and the ones who do are filtered through a White/corporate lens. From there, they get segregated by the markets they are in in such a way that you have to hunt for them as they become virtually invisible. Don’t believe me? Look at that chart again.
Sure, you might get an anthology etc. but it will be published through a university press, or a major one, and then vetted for whatever they deem important. I cannot tell you how many authors (both big and small), approach me, with both wonderment and awe, that I do not have anything vetted by anyone but myself.
That’s one of the things that makes what I do pure. And yeah, I’m tooting my own horn here, but it’s true. The downside to that is I lack the budget, time and resources to get what I publish out in the mainstream and so I am unknown, despite operating close to a decade now.
I marvel at the cries for more “diverse” books by so many people these days, while at the same time ignoring those of us who create them. More on that in a bit.
I do not want to come off as if a White lens is always a negative thing, because it’s not, but when you compare it to the amount of things created without one, you will find that there aren’t many and that’s a problem.
Take Lowriting for example, I stand by what I have always said about that book and that is that no mainstream publisher would dare to create such a book. Why? Again, see that chart.
And for those who would argue that the book market is largely White, so why should the industry cater to select groups, I will say that one), you’re wrong and two) people of all walks of life enjoy these books. If I had the ability to put Lowriting in the auto section of major bookstore chains, or even on a front of store display, I could prove that. But I do not have that ability – only major publishers do.
As I have said ad nauseam over the years, to the press, to classrooms, to C-SPAN, to children, the “Hispanic” book section of any major bookstore carries the same five or six books no matter where you are. But if you pay attention to politics, Hispanics are this “yuge” market with all this buying power and blah, blah, blah. So where are the books..?
This is wrong and why I persist in what I do. It’s a bullshit, hypocritical, double-standard and I fight back against that with everything that I have.
The other day I was fortunate enough to talk to a university class along with my friend, Art Meza, who also happens to be the photographer behind Lowriting. It was a great experience for us and one of the things that stood out for me was hearing from a student how much she identified with Lowriting.
She told us that she saw the book a year ago and was unable to afford it at the time. Seeing the book on the shelf moved her – it was something unexpected, as many of us do not often see ourselves represented on the covers of books. It filled her with a sense of pride. She said she was overjoyed to see that it was required reading for the class.
I cannot tell you how proud that comment makes me. It is for these reasons that I continue to publish, and in the face of extreme adversity, because I know that feeling well. Seeing yourself represented in the mainstream is such a rare occurrence that when it happens, you are taken back. And it is for this reason and for students like that, that I do what I do. Again, not for kudos, the publicity, nor the moolah, but to make a genuine impact on someone.
So far this year, I have been snubbed by two major book festivals in the Southwest. Why? Look at the graphs again. I try not to take it personal but it’s difficult when I know I deserve to be there by now, and the people who I publish do as well. These literary circles are small, so a snub is always bitter.
And as I have told you before, dear reader, were I producing garbage I wouldn’t bother, but I stand behind my books.
When I release a book? It’s an anomaly! It’s not supposed to happen. According to the industry, I should have folded years ago. I’ve said it before, but these books do NOT grow on trees. Okay, books are made from wood pulp so technically they do…but you get my drift. Not many others are doing what I am doing.
Next year marks my 10-year anniversary and I am still virtually unknown, ignored and blacklisted in that little circle I was talking about. Despite the pond being small for “Latino” books, these cats pretend I don’t exist. And yet I still manage to impact people’s lives and squeak my way into the conversation.
I’m not out here taking corporate cash, I don’t answer to board of directors and I don’t take bribes to stay in line or keep my mouth shut. I am a 100-percent independent, Xicano publishing house with a chip on its shoulder and I pride myself on what I do.
You don’t have to like me, and I know more than a few who don’t (waves), but you do have to respect what I’m doing. If for nothing else but for the simple fact of looking at those graphs and realizing how much of an uphill battle this is and how goddamn stubborn I am.
I do not bombard you with ads and I do this with a shoestring budget, a guerrilla warfare handbook and the spirit of the 1970s in my heart, so when I put a book out I expect you, dear reader, to do me a solid, especially if you believe in what I do! That does not mean I expect your patronage, although that is greatly appreciated, but I do expect your voice.
This is how we win – use your voice. Tell a friend, recommend a book, write a review, lend your copy, gift your copy, share a link! If you have a blog, write about us, interview us. If you teach, include us, talk about us, ask us to speak to your kids. If you have connections to the press or festivals, write about us, interview us, invite us!
I shake my head at those folks who either want to fight the beast (see chart) or join them. We’re not gonna win the war that way, and make no mistake, this is a war – a culture war that wages itself on every bookshelf in AmeriKKKa today. Ask yourself why your favorite bookstore is so segregated by race…then get back to me.
So….yes! Use your voice! Help me out here – friends, enemies, and frenemies. That’s how the underground continues. That is how I have survived, thrived, been denied and revived – word of mouth. It matters. YOUR voice matters. Help me make it another 10 years and let’s take it to the front lines together.
I consider myself a literary Jihadist and a publishing infidel and I relish in being able to ruffle the feathers of the establishment with books they look down their noses at.
For there is no sweeter victory than the satisfaction of knowing you impacted someone’s life, for the better, and on your own terms – establishment rules be damned.
As always, thank you for reading!