September 21, 2016

Publishers Weekly releases results of annual salary survey

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Last Friday, Publishers Weekly’s Jim Milliot posted the results of the magazine’s annual Industry Salary Survey for 2015. The salary portion of the survey shows modest gains in median salary and median pay raise among publishing professionals. Median salary rose to from $65,000 $66,038, and the median pay raise climbed three tenths of a percent to 2.8%. The largest salary bracket remained $40,000-59,999, accounting for 28% of all respondents.

At a distance, these are respectable numbers. The median increases in pay kept just ahead of inflation, fewer employees than ever reported no annual pay increase, and the share of workers who saw a pay raise of more than 3% shot up to 29%, well over the 20% reported in 2014.

But the data also made two points that were far less heartening: the pay gap between men and women remains disturbingly wide, and the industry appears to have made no progress in redressing its almost complete lack of racial diversity.

According to PW’s numbers, 74% of all positions, 54% of management positions, and a whopping 84% (!!!) of editorial positions are occupied by women, and they appear to be entering the industry at a markedly higher rate than men. Yet women, on average, make $35,000 a year less than men, and only 41% of women claimed an annual salary of $70,000 or more, compared to  72% of male respondents.

Yuck.

The reasons? According to Milliots write-up:

Management, the area that has the highest average salary, was also the area with the largest share of men (men occupy 46% of management jobs). Women were more dominant in other areas, where the average pay is lower. Men were also found to have more experience than women: men reported an average of 20 years’ experience in publishing, while women averaged 12 years on the job.

This seems like kind of a cop-out, to be frank. Women in publishing are making only 64% of what their male colleagues are, according to PW’s average salary data. Meanwhile, according to data released by the Obama administration’s Equal Pay Task Force, women across all industries make 78% as much as men in their fields. Nothing in Milliot’s explanation accounts for (or even asks) why women in publishing are comparatively worse off than in the economy at large, despite the fact that they are disproportionately represented in the field, occupy a majority of management positions, and are dominating editorial departments.

Which brings us to the other unpleasant reality disclosed in the data: despite years of discussion, and a great many blog posts on the problem of racial diversity in the field, essentially no headway has been made against the overwhelming whiteness of the industry.

How bad is it? Pretty bad! 88% of all respondents identified as white/caucasian, 3% as Asian, 4% as Hispanic, 3% as mixed race, and 2% as black. This is more or less unchanged from the 2014, when 89% of respondents identified as white.

Yuck again.

As pointed out by Sarah Seltzer at Flavorwire, these findings provide some much-needed context for the ongoing Lionel Shriver debacle. While Shriver seems dead-set on avoiding any sort of structural or organizational critique of the industry that supports her artistic activities, there really is no denying the fact that the community shaping the literary mode of cultural production in this country does not much resemble the people living here.

In her article, Seltzer says that the PW survey “makes the idea that somehow artistic freedom is under assault by diversity seem more ludicrous than ever.” Which is true. But it also quite pointedly refutes one of the assumption at the core of Shriver’s crusade: that her success comes at no one else’s expense, and that the industry is organized in a way that doesn’t fundamentally exclude non-white voices. This argument is clearly exposed in an interview she gave to Nate Hopper at Time.com. The exchange is worth quoting in full:

[NH]: The thought is: By majority members being able to write about these other cultures, the space for minority members writing about their own experiences in fiction are being [pushed out]—

[LS]: Well that’s just not the nature of publishing. There’s nothing stopping people from telling their own stories. And that’s switching the issue around. First of all: It’s not a zero-sum game. There’s not a law that says, There are only a hundred books a year that are going to be published, and we’re going to publish white people first, and—oops!—we ran out of slots, we’re not going to publish you because you’re from the wrong group. It doesn’t work that way. There are all kinds of publishers.

The issue is not whether people from minority groups should be able to tell their own stories. That’s great. If people are inclined toward writing literature and happen to be coming from a group whose experience seems to be underrepresented in literature, go to town. Hit the word processor.

Thing is—at least according to this data—there aren’t all kinds of publishers. There are mostly just white publishers, most of whom are trying to do the right thing, generally, but who are invariably going to be blinkered by their own experience. If a particular group “seems to be underrepresented in literature,” the reason for it is probably not a lack of word-processor hitting, but a lack of shared experience within the industry responsible for bringing those stories into the public sphere. That is to say, the issue is precisely whether or not people from minority groups should be able to tell their own stories, and whether they’ll be encouraged—or even able—to do so.


Simon Reichley is assistant to the publishers and office manager at Melville House.

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