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Romance novel publishing has a diversity problem

And the rest of the week’s best writing on books and related topics.

death of the novel
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Welcome to the weekly Vox book link roundup, a curated collection of the best writing on the web about books and related subjects. Here’s the best the internet has to offer for the week of October 1, 2017.

Madeleine Thien: Kazuo Ishiguro gets into your thoughts and moves the furniture around inside your head. He takes things – words like completion, detective, donation – and rotates them into something else, rotating you with them. People pass in and out of his novels, unconsoled by the paths their lives have taken. There are doubles: Ryder and Brodsky, Christopher and Akira, Kathy and her original. Or are the doubles a kind of mistaken identity? We hardly know ourselves. Time and selfhood get mixed in with the half-truths and partial vision, and it’s alarming how supremely natural it all feels.

Just below the understatement of the novel’s surface is a turbulence as immense as it is slow; for The Remains of the Day is in fact a brilliant subversion of the fictional modes from which it seems at first to descend. Death, change, pain and evil invade the innocent Wodehouse-world. (In Wodehouse, even the Oswald Mosley-like Roderick Spode of the Black Shorts movement, as close to an evil character as that author ever created, is rendered comically pathetic by ‘swanking about,’ as Bertie says, ‘in footer bags.’)

Unlike other epidemics of the time, many of consumption’s effects were physically flattering, and fit well into existing beauty standards of the Victorian era. Tiny waists, visible clavicles, rosy cheeks, white skin — all of them would be championed as signs of consumption’s singular ability to confer attractiveness on its female sufferers. But as Day makes clear, these physical traits were the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It’s what those aesthetic qualities signified that seemed to suit the Victorian medical establishment most: the notion of respectability.

  • A new report says that only 7.8 percent of the romance novels published in the US in 2016 were written by people of color, even though women of color are the biggest book-buying demographic in the country.
  • You know how on the TV show Younger, Hilary Duff’s character has her own publishing imprint? LOL.

I wondered whether Younger was giving us a classic, Sex and the City–style, rose-tinted portrayal of the publishing industry, too. After all, SATC impresario Darren Star, who first gave us the glorious dream that writers could have closets full of Fendi and Manolo Blahniks, is also in charge at Younger. Which is more than fine, obviously: It's a TV show! And we love to dream. Nevertheless, I was curious, so I asked some real-life bookish people to fact-check the show's literary world.

At the Sheraton, I asked Sarem when she’d hired ResultSource; she denied working with the company at all. If that were true, I countered, then why had she thanked three employees of ResultSource in the acknowledgements of her book?

She admitted then that she had talked to them, but only to solicit their advice. “I was trying to figure out the book world because it’s very confusing,” she said. I told her I knew for a fact that someone working for ResultSource had placed a bulk order for copies of Handbook. I’d seen the order slip myself. Her face went pale and her eyes went wide and the silence stretched before us.

  • A while back, I wrote about how Amazon changed its policy to allow third-party booksellers to become the default sellers on its books pages, and how that seemed to have created a vast incentive for nontraditional sales channels to open up, preventing sales from reaching publishers and authors. IBPA has followed up on that story with an exhaustive report, and the results are not great:

In June 2017, IBPA launched a campaign encouraging publishers and authors to post images of books purchased from third-party vendors via the main buy button that looked less than "new." We also conducted our own research (meaning we bought books from third-party vendors via the main buy button to assess the condition of the books) with varying results. In some cases, the books were indeed in new condition; in other cases, books had scuffed covers and bent or crunched corners; in a few cases, the books were notably "used," to the extent that one IBPA member received a "new" book from a third-party vendor that contained her own inscription to the original buyer on the title page.

Happy reading!