The #Blacklivesmatter movement in the UK has sparked an intriguing and seemingly overdue examination into the disparity between the advances offered to black authors on the one hand and to white authors on the other. In The Guardian online on 8 June, the article, headlined ‘#Publishingpaidme: authors share advances to expose racial disparities’, reports on a campaign for authors to share what they were paid to write their books, and the results revealed quite a disparity.
Very few South African authors, black or white, receive advances. An advance is a sum of money paid by a publisher to an author, often before the book is completed, in advance of royalties the author will be due to receive from sales of the book, and it is deducted from actual royalty payments after those sales have been made. Obviously, publishers, being risk-averse, only pay an advance when they are pretty sure of being reimbursed by revenue from sales, so the offer of an advance is limited to established authors with a following, or authors with a sensational story to tell that is bound for the best-seller lists. The South African market is so small that very few authors qualify.
But what did the informal UK survey results reveal? According to the black author who initiated the campaign, ‘the discrepancies revealed by hundreds of authors sharing their advances, from big names to smaller voices’ showed that publishing does not ‘value black voices’.
For more details, and for some actual figures, Click Here