A commentary on “The Privilege of Rage” by tangerinejones

As a note, this is all new to me; I’m pretty sure I hadn’t heard the term ‘rage baking’ in any context until a few weeks ago.

But despite the fact that I cook a lot and think about cooking a lot, there are lots of food spaces that I haven’t spent time in, and I don’t mean my ignorance to undercut tangerinejones’s frustration and valid points here.

[The rest of this will make more sense if you read her piece first, then come back to my commentary.]

https://medium.com/@tangerinejones/the-privilege-of-rage-e5b2cb53d238

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I do think it’s somewhat surprising that a major publisher coming out with a book wouldn’t have done a better social media search and found her work earlier in the book composition and publicity process.

…but that said, I also wonder whether it’s primarily indicative of the sloppiness, haste, and insularity of much of big press NY publishing.

Keep in mind that ‘big’ publishing is still and increasingly done on surprisingly shoestring budgets — esp. as the forces of neoliberalism, the collapse of the distributors, and the takeover of publishing houses by media conglomerates have all come together to create an ecosystem of frantic churn. (See also, what’s happened to the American economy generally in the last two decades.)

At big houses, many books are tossed out on the public waters every month, with the expectation that the vast majority of them will fail, blood in the water, with a few reliable bestsellers and the occasional unpredictable wild success carrying the company for another month.

It’s a terrible business model in many ways, breaking the hearts of many debut novelists, but it’s what we have at the big houses right now, I think. And I expect there’s very little in the way of ‘due diligence’ being done — far less than there might have been a few decades ago, when margins weren’t nearly so tight (and there was far less competition).

I’ve always done open calls for the anthologies I’ve edited, as a matter of principle, and tried to push those calls to the relevant spaces, but I’m sure I missed some. I knew about the big SF market listings, but are there black-only SF writer spaces I wasn’t aware of, where I should have pushed my anthology call? Probably. Should I have tried harder to do that? Probably. But all of that takes both will to reach out, and the time and ability to do so.

As a scrambling small press editor whose last edited anthology was a massive loss, financially, I have some sympathy for those small press editors who want to reach out more broadly and just can’t find the resources. (Esp. for anthologies, which are one-shots and not something like a magazine where you can put in a little measured extra effort every month for years, until you’ve really built a robust and diverse knowledge of the field.)

Many in big publishing don’t even make that attempt — they don’t want to put in the time to wade through slush (which, to be fair, ends up being masses of time if you successfully push a call out widely. I won’t be able to do it again myself, which means I’ll need unpaid slush readers if I ever edit another anthology, which raises its own class issues about editing work and its value, but let’s put that aside for now. I’m still trying to figure out how to make the economics of that work ethically).

In my experience, editors at big houses also often tend to assume they’ll get better work from people they already know, so they don’t think they’re losing anything by not doing an open call.

*That* assumption is almost always racist / sexist / etc. in its effect, even if not in intent — it leads to those who are already published, already with a mainstream platform, continuing to be published.

You don’t have to be malicious to do harm. Carelessness and ‘this is how it’s always been done in privileged circles’ is sufficient.

*****

And in case all of that seemed like it was meant to let her publishers off the hook, it wasn’t. Harm was done to her, her brand, her work, and I think reparations should be made.

“If Simon & Schuster and the authors want to make this right, I would like to be credited for my work and see sizeable donations made to the Ali Forney Center, The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, and The Campaign against Hunger.”

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