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William Haskins
10-21-2014, 02:02 AM
I don't think it's any surprise the publishing industry—print and digital—is overwhelmingly white. The statistics are far more upsetting than you might imagine: a recent Publisher's Weekly survey (http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/64083-publishing-s-holding-pattern-2013-salary-survey.html) revealed the makeup of the industry to be 89 percent white, 3 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic, 3 percent mixed race, 1 percent black, and 1 percent other.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents admitted that many publishing houses suffer from a lack of racial diversity.
In a recent roundtable for (http://scratchmag.net/article/54386b7ac873d9175d14a309/publishing_while_black:_a_scratch_roundtable)Scrat ch (http://scratchmag.net/article/54386b7ac873d9175d14a309/publishing_while_black:_a_scratch_roundtable), editor Manjuka Martin assessed the current state of the publishing world, writing, "most of the gatekeepers come from a place of race and class privilege. How does this skewed power dynamic affect the careers of writers of color?" Speaking with essayist Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Spiegel & Grau executive editor Christopher Jackson, poet Harmony Holiday, and author Kiese Laymon (who is a contributing editor for Gawker), the conversation touched on fostering community, staying true to the page despite an editor's advice, and the overall difficulties of publishing while black.
http://review.gawker.com/the-difficulties-of-publishing-while-black-1648538247/+laceydonohue

see also:

Publishing While Black: A Scratch Roundtable
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Harmony Holiday, Christopher Jackson, Kiese Laymon, & Manjula Martin

http://scratchmag.net/article/54386b7ac873d9175d14a309/publishing_while_black:_a_scratch_roundtable

Hapax Legomenon
10-21-2014, 02:19 AM
Has anyone compared the race stats of traditional publishing to self-publishing?

Jamesaritchie
10-21-2014, 06:48 AM
Has anyone considered that you can't publish what no one submits? Not once have I ever known the race of a writer in the slush until after I bought his story. Sometimes long after.

From my experience, there are a lot of black writers being published, many are top bestsellers, and the one percent number, whether accurate or not, has nothing whatsoever to do with the writers being black.

Nothing with talent involved can be done on ratio. Nothing can be done without active participation, and this just hasn't been there over the decades.

Seriously, what percentage of blacks do you want published? What percentage of Asians. What percentage of Hispanics? What percentage of New York Jews?

And I know for a fact that the one percent number is only accurate if you're very, very liberal about what makes a person "white".

BenPanced
10-21-2014, 06:55 AM
Plenty people of all races at RT Booklovers Convention -- authors, fans, industry people, cover studs, the list goes on. Brenda Jackson and Jade Lee, two names off the top of my head, are constantly hitting the best seller charts, and several publishers are making a huge impact with readers in India.

Hapax Legomenon
10-21-2014, 07:07 AM
Again, it would be helpful if we got some self-pub numbers. While not everyone who can't publish traditionally goes on to self-publish, it may give us more information on the actual proportion of POCs to white people who write and want to publish and show if there's some disparity between the actual proportion of white/POC who want to write -- like if there are more socioeconomic factors that are keeping people from writing in the first place.

I don't have any experience in publishing so I can't really comment on the numbers themselves as accurate or inaccurate but based on Aruna's story and what I've heard about the making of the recent movie The Book of Life, I don't doubt that it happens. Publishers are trying to make money, so most of the times they take "safe" (white) subjects and pass over anything they view as "risky."

chompers
10-21-2014, 07:14 AM
This has got to be one of the stupidest things I have ever heard. People really will try to find any excuse for why their MS was rejected. It's not like photos are included with queries. Maya Angelou was black and she did more than okay.

BenPanced
10-21-2014, 07:50 AM
James Baldwin. Black and gay when neither were fashionable. His work crosses more lines than the crosstown express bus.

blacbird
10-21-2014, 08:16 AM
This has got to be one of the stupidest things I have ever heard. People really will try to find any excuse for why their MS was rejected. It's not like photos are included with queries. Maya Angelou was black and she did more than okay.

Uhhh . . . Toni Morrison won a Nobel Prize in Literature.

caw

chompers
10-21-2014, 08:28 AM
Uhhh . . . Toni Morrison won a Nobel Prize in Literature.

caw
Okay, I admit I didn't read the article when I posted earlier, just what had been posted in the OP. But I just read it and it doesn't seem to affect what I said earlier. I don't understand the point you're trying to make. It just reinforces my point that it's good writing, not the color of your skin, that determines how well you do.

blacbird
10-21-2014, 09:01 AM
I don't understand the point you're trying to make. It just reinforces my point that it's good writing, not the color of your skin, that determines how well you do.

The point I was trying to make is exactly the one you're trying to make, so I'm not sure why you are confused. The following U.S. writers have won Nobels in Literature: Pearl Buck, Sinclair Lewis, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Saul Bellow and Toni Morrison (did I miss anybody?).

A pretty small group, and one, the most recent, is a black American. It can easily be argued that several other African-American writers were worthy of Nobels in Literature (especially if you look at the list of writers who have won the award and are utterly forgotten and unread today): Paul Laurence Dunbar, Zora Neale Huston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin and Maya Angelou.

But it's not hard to argue that a lot of other deserving writers never got one: Graham Greene, Kobo Abe, William Styron, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, H.G. Wells, Georges Simenon, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury (the latter three condemned in particular via association with ooooh, icky "genres", even though all far transcended those tarbaby associations).

If I'd had a vote, I'd have voted for Angelou before Morrison.

caw

aruna
10-21-2014, 11:25 AM
Has anyone considered that you can't publish what no one submits? Not once have I ever known the race of a writer in the slush until after I bought his story. Sometimes long after.

".


Maybe. However, black people tend to write about black characters, and that could account for an unrepresentative rejection statistic. Because editors do get to read those queries/mss, and might very well say hmmmm--black characters? Maybe I'll pass on this. In my own experience agents and publishers are extremely wary when it comes to publishing books with non-mainstream characters and settings. I've been told for instance to make sure one of the partners of a couple is white. This is so as not to put off white readers, who are the majority. This is actually an open secret, at least in the UK. I believe the US is better.



From my experience, there are a lot of black writers being published, many are top bestsellers, and the one percent number, whether accurate or not, has nothing whatsoever to do with the writers being black.


I don't know about many. I've seen a few, yes. But as someone who looks out specifically for books with non-mainstream characters and locations, I can say that I have a hard time finding them. I don't actually care about the colour of the writer; that's insginificant to me. But often, the two go together.

aruna
10-21-2014, 12:07 PM
Also, we have to remember that the publishing industry discerns between "literary" books that will win prizes and get lots of reviews (prestige books) and more commercial books, where all that matters is sales.

Well-written "Literary" books with important themes by black authors will always get a good acceptance. This is where you find most of the black authors listed above: Morrison, Baldwin & co. In the UK that would be Zadie Smith and Andrea Levy, Booker Prizewinners who became the darlings of Guardian readers a decade ago.

When it's just about sales, the number-crunchers are more cautious. They think "white readers don't read books about black people" and shut down. Who writes books about black people? mostly black authors. (and again: of course they don't know what colour the author is when they read the ms. That's not the point. It's about black books, not black authors, but the two often go together.)

It's a real phenomenon. It's not just chips on shoulders. I promise!

akaria
10-21-2014, 09:44 PM
I'm with you, aruna. When black people write literary stories of survival and endurance, the awards pour in. When they write sexy romances featuring the ghetto fabulous it's "urban and edgy". When they write about daring space captains or shapeshifting dragons it's a different story. I think black people who don't write to the expected stereotypes have more trouble getting published because the editors/agents aren't quite sure what to do with a MS.

I see it this way. Many POC tend to write stories featuring POC characters. Because of the lack of diversity in, let's say, SFF, people tend to think if the character is a POC then it's going to be an "issue book". How many times have you seen someone say "But WHY is the space captain black? This book isn't about racism."

I also think it's simple as using Google. If an agent/editor is seriously considering two similar MS they look for the author online. If the author is white then that's what MS is picked because that's the one they think they can sell. There is an long enduring falsehood in the publishing business that black people don't read. Or if they do read, it's only books in stereotypical categories.

This is not a case of sour grapes or speshul snowflake syndrome. The only people who don't think about race are those who belong to the majority and don't have to. I mean, I don't think about immigration issues because I'm an American citizen living in the states, but you better believe someone with an expired visa in the US thinks about it more often.

J.S.F.
10-22-2014, 03:03 AM
I think there's a thread in the PoC section of this forum.

However, to give my own two cents here, while the percentage of black authors (and other PoC) is small according to the survey stats provided by the OP, there is still the question of talent, that being: Is your manuscript good enough to be published by a publishing group?

I'm not denying that there is an aspect of racism at work, at least in certain genres. But you do have to consider the talent thing, and last I heard, there are a shitload of white writers--of which I am one--who either haven't been published or who are still struggling to make a name for themselves after having been published. (I fall into the latter category...struggling to find name recognition and ever trying...)

As an aside, growing up, two of my favorite authors were Samuel Delaney and Arthur C. Clarke. It never occurred to me that Delaney was black. (I've also read he's bisexual and my attitude to that is whatever...these days, bigga deala, as my Italian friends would say). It never occurred to me that Clarke was gay. My parents knew about both writers and urged me to read the books and decide for myself. I always thought they were fine writers and still do.

I happen to like N.K. Jemisin...it didn't occur to me that she was black until I saw a picture of her and this was after I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. She's just fucking awesome...color never mattered. And it shouldn't.

However, it obviously does on the surface. Still, though, the bottom line for me if for no one else is whether the story is good enough or not. Yes, PoC tend to write about their own racial/ethnic group--write about what you know and all that--but still, the story will find an audience...and not just those who are PoC. JMO...

DancingMaenid
10-22-2014, 04:34 AM
Has anyone considered that you can't publish what no one submits? Not once have I ever known the race of a writer in the slush until after I bought his story. Sometimes long after.


I buy that this is the case for you. But I wouldn't be surprised if some editors do create a mental picture of the author, either based on the topic of the novel/race of the characters, or the author's name (if your name was Jamal instead of James, a lot of people would probably make different assumptions about your race). And I wouldn't be surprised if some editors have biases that they're not completely aware of, like being more likely to suspect that Jamal writes books geared toward an African American audience.

Roxxsmom
10-22-2014, 05:37 AM
Citing a handful of notable black authors doesn't necessarily refute the idea that it's harder overall for black authors to get published or that black authors as a whole have a hard time being recognized and embraced by the cultural mainstream in the US. Nor does it refute that there are fewer black people working in the publishing industry than you'd expect to see, given the percentage of black people in the population as a whole.

It's important to figure out where the discrepancies that exist come from if we want to understand their reason and do something about them.

No one is saying most writers put their race in their query letters to agents or editors, or that most editors knowingly discriminate against black writers. It's certainly possible that there are far fewer black writers in the pool to begin with, though this itself is something that could stem from problems that occur further up the pipeline.

But what if editors are subconsciously biased against black authors who submit manuscripts because:

--Black people might possibly write differently than white people on average. Not worse, but possibly in a voice or tone that appeals less to white editors who have spent most of their lives around white people and went to mostly white universities, and grew up reading mostly white authors?

--Black people might possibly tend to write about topics white editors find less interesting because they assume, rightly or wrongly, that they're less marketable?

--Black writers might possibly tend to have more black characters in their stories, who might be deemed less relatable to the "mainstream" (aka white) audience?

--Names that sound black might possibly inspire unconscious bias in of themselves? This has been shown to be a factor in job applications (http://www.chicagobooth.edu/capideas/spring03/racialbias.html).

Not saying any of these things are the case, but shouldn't we at least consider them?

RightHoJeeves
10-22-2014, 06:53 AM
As James says, "Has anyone considered that you can't publish what no one submits?"

But I think what the huge percentage of white writers suggests is that potential black authors are never given the opportunity to develop. This would be due to wider societal issues like education.

It's like ask "why are bassoon players overwhelmingly white?" Because philharmonic orchestras are racist? Probably not. It's probably because many black people live in a segment of society where learning the bassoon is not an option.

Disclaimer: I have no idea if bassoon players are mostly white.

aruna
10-22-2014, 07:04 AM
I think there's a thread in the PoC section of this forum.



..

Yes, we have often discussed this. I've been looking for an article written by the (white) British Journalist Danuta Kean who often writes on the topiy. Years ago she wrote an article called Still Not in Full Colour about underrepresentation of Black and Minority Ethnicities (BME) in British publishing (not just authors -- people in the pub houses) after a survey showed there were hardly and. Anywa, here's one of my posts (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3843193&postcount=27) on the topic. The quote from within that post, from Danuta's Article:

Before Christmas HarperCollins UK and TRA released the results of a survey into reading habits among black and minority ethnic (BME) readers. I looked at this survey with interest, because four years ago this year I edited In Full Colour, the first report into the representation of BME employees within publishing. It was a nice way of asking: “Why is book publishing so white?”

The answers made uncomfortable reading. HarperCollins’s findings were a barometer of success for initiatives co-ordinated by the Arts Council’s Decibel project in the wake of In Full Colour. It was a chance to see whether publishers and booksellers had been shocked out of their Guardian-reading complacency by the depressing statistics and in-depth interviews in the report.

The survey did not offer evidence of significant change in the past four years. Though the BME book market is estimated to be worth £120m and rising fast, it found publishers’ continued emphasis on literary fiction when it comes to minority ethnic writers and culturally diverse characters was way off the mark in terms of what readers in those markets want. The implication was that publishers’ efforts to recruit more widely have had little impact on their lists and their commercial prospects in a sizeable potential market.

Interestingly, Danuta recently put out a call on Facebook for BME writers to submit their experiences in publishing, as she and another British journalist are preparing another article on the subject. Obviously, I sent in my own report!

I'm always uncomfortable writing on the subject, nevertheless, as the assumption that always comes up (as it has on this thread) is that our books just aren't good enough, or there aren't enough of them, and that we are engaging in PC whineging. But I seriously don't believe it's just down to quality of manuscripts. There is a bias; but as Roxxmoms explains, the issue goes far deeper than that.

aruna
10-22-2014, 07:06 AM
As James says, "Has anyone considered that you can't publish what no one submits?"

But I think what the huge percentage of white writers suggests is that potential black authors are never given the opportunity to develop. This would be due to wider societal issues like education.

It's like ask "why are bassoon players overwhelmingly white?" Because philharmonic orchestras are racist? Probably not. It's probably because many black people live in a segment of society where learning the bassoon is not an option.

Disclaimer: I have no idea if bassoon players are mostly white.

There's a thread in the PoC forum about Why are Ballet Dancers overwhelming white, and the answer is absolutely clearly laid out: it's for the aesthetics, and it's quite deliberate!

RightHoJeeves
10-22-2014, 07:32 AM
There's a thread in the PoC forum about Why are Ballet Dancers overwhelming white, and the answer is absolutely clearly laid out: it's for the aesthetics, and it's quite deliberate!

Yes I can see how that would be the case with dancers. I wonder if its the same across other performance/non-performance art forms.

Roxxsmom
10-22-2014, 08:27 AM
Not about race, but making auditions for orchestras blind has improved the representation of female musicians. I don't know if anyone has looked at this issue with regards to racial make up of symphony orchestras, however.

http://www.nber.org/papers/w5903

I don't know if writing can ever be as "blind" as orchestra try outs, however, since people from different groups may very well choose to write about different topics, characters or situations that wouldn't appeal as much to agents or editors from a different demographic than themselves.

Blind selection processes still won't address the issue of whether or not there may be biases at other stages of the process by which someone becomes good enough (or confident enough about their goodness) to seriously try out for a spot in an orchestra (or to write and submit a publication-quality manuscript). If fewer black kids and teens are getting the opportunities, encouragement, and mentoring they need early on, the kind of mentoring and encouragement that tells them that they could be good writers (or whatever) if they want to be, then that's going to be a big part of the issue too.

aruna
10-22-2014, 10:52 AM
Not about race, but making auditions for orchestras blind has improved the representation of female musicians. I don't know if anyone has looked at this issue with regards to racial make up of symphony orchestras, however.

http://www.nber.org/papers/w5903




Arts such as classical music and ballet are more neutral than fiction-writing, since writing is invariably part of who you are. True, in genres such as SF or Fantasy the writer's race probably wouldn't show through, but most certainly in Romance or general fiction. Many black writers write to express their own experiences and perspectives and backgrounds, and if these are deemed not commercial enough, then -- tough luck!

In classical music, however, it depends entirely on your talent. My first husband was a cellist, and he auditioned for his orchestral job even before he finished his musical education, at a very young age. He got the job, because he was good. In his orchestra there was a black oboe player. This was in Germany of the 1970's, when black people were few and far between, so she was very conspicuous at concerts. But she was good, so she got the job. Choosing an orchestra member can easily be done blind. Not so choosing a ms for publication.

Filigree
10-22-2014, 05:11 PM
Over the past three years, while researching an unrelated publishing issue, I have noted a number of literary agencies, small presses, and vanity publishers who 1) appear to be operated by and/or cater to POC and 2) at least on cursory examination appear to be either misinformed about publishing realities - or actively predatory toward their target communities. Part of their 'pitch' (implied or explicitly stated) is the idea that they will treat authors better because of that shared cultural understanding.

Many new POC authors drawn in by such promises may not have *any* familiarity with the publishing world. They may already have deep skepticism toward their possible treatment in that world. They are a prime market for affinity fraud and lesser forms of abuse. Sadly, the same cultural affinities often prevent outside criticism from having any kind of meaningful impact.

akaria
10-22-2014, 11:18 PM
However, to give my own two cents here, while the percentage of black authors (and other PoC) is small according to the survey stats provided by the OP, there is still the question of talent, that being: Is your manuscript good enough to be published by a publishing group?

It really bothers me that whenever the possibility of racism in publishing is discussed, someone always brings up the "well maybe they're not good enough" argument. It's condescending as hell and distracts from the conversation. Why can't we, for the sake of discussion, begin with a default of the MS being worthy and go from there?

To be honest, Filigree, it seems like being clueless about publishing and preying on the uninformed is rampant no matter what the owner's background is.

Filigree
10-23-2014, 04:52 AM
I know. It shouldn't be a factor, either way. Great writing is great writing. I'm not jumping on the tired 'maybe they aren't good enough' bandwagon, because I hate seeing that. What I am seeing are some relatively good POC writers going toward possibly substandard agencies and publishers just because the latter have pitched specifically to them. Or some POC writers 'settling' for lower-grade publishers/agencies, for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, we have the Big Five imprints being called on their own lack of diversity, which should mean more awareness and opportunities for the best writers.

I don't call out those lower-grade publishers/agencies out anymore; it's like holding back the tide, and it makes me look like the mean Welsh/Cherokee white girl to those people already doing business there.

RightHoJeeves
10-23-2014, 06:47 AM
It really bothers me that whenever the possibility of racism in publishing is discussed, someone always brings up the "well maybe they're not good enough" argument. It's condescending as hell and distracts from the conversation. Why can't we, for the sake of discussion, begin with a default of the MS being worthy and go from there?

I agree with you on this. It's an attitude that does not help.

I hear a lot of this sort of thing in Australia in relation to the First Peoples. If one was to question why XYZ Company did not have a single Aboriginal staff member (which, of course, many don't), a very common response would be "well they hardly apply for jobs so it's not our fault we don't have any staff". That may be true, but it also speaks to a wider truth that certain parts of society aren't afforded the privilege that even gets them to a point where they can apply for a job.

aruna
10-23-2014, 07:18 AM
Or some POC writers 'settling' for lower-grade publishers/agencies, for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, we have the Big Five imprints being called on their own lack of diversity, which should mean more awareness and opportunities for the best writers.

.

Well, to provide an exciting example: that's what I did: "settled" for "lower-grade", after my former HarperCollins editor ignored my query on my next book a few years ago, and every UK agent rejected it because "they couldn't sell it".

I finally went with a small upstart digital publisher and I am delighted not only with their enthusiasm but the work they are doing in promotion. They will be sending out hardcopy review copies to the mainstream British press.

And: I am turning cartwheels. (Breaking News!) Danuta, who I mentioned a few posts back, has agreed to read it! (Got the email last night!) She's not only one of the biggest names in UK mainstream journalism on literature (she writes for Mslexia and for most of the broadsheets), she is also the one who has been pushing for more diversity in publishing. AND she recently sent out a call for POC stories of difficulties getting published, to which I responded. So, she knows my whole story.

So -- if she likes my book, if she thinks it's good -- fingers crossed!
I have vowed to write a book that shatters the myth that white readers don't read books with PoC characters and "foreign" settings, and I really hope this book will do that.

Roxxsmom
10-24-2014, 04:39 AM
But she was good, so she got the job. Choosing an orchestra member can easily be done blind. Not so choosing a ms for publication.

That was my point, though maybe I didn't make it clear enough. some people insist that there can't possibly be any racism in publishing (or that racism can't possibly be the explanation for why disproportionately fewer books are being published by black authors), because "no one puts their race in their query letter, so how can agents and editors be biased against race?"

There are many ways that this bias can come out in the absence of overt statements about one's racial background, and in the absence of maliciously intended racism as well.

aruna
10-26-2014, 12:21 AM
Another PW article on lack of diversity. (http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/64435-pw-panel-warns-industry-lack-of-diversity-threatens-publishing.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly&utm_campaign=eac7c10115-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-eac7c10115-304558185)

akaria
10-26-2014, 11:35 PM
I'm a big fan of CUNY (City University of New York). CUNY is a network of over two dozen schools. It's got great professors and modern facilities. Tuition is about $6000 a semester for a city resident. A school doesn't need to cost eighty grand a year to produce quality graduates. If publishing could recruit interns or entry level employees from CUNY, it would go a long way in improving their diversity problem.

nighttimer
11-21-2014, 11:59 PM
Okay, I admit I didn't read the article when I posted earlier, just what had been posted in the OP. But I just read it and it doesn't seem to affect what I said earlier. I don't understand the point you're trying to make. It just reinforces my point that it's good writing, not the color of your skin, that determines how well you do.

If only that were so. But it isn't. (http://madamenoire.com/255383/literary-lockout-black-authors-bemoan-lack-of-diversity-deals-in-publishing-industry/)



A recent article in The Grio discussed the hurdles that writers of color face trying to get deals from mainstream publishing’s Big Six: Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House and Simon & Schuster. Best-selling writing duo Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant declared that their writing careers are on hold due to a variety of issues, including the lack of deals.

So we asked a couple of writers their opinion on the situation. “There is the lack of pipeline of people, the absence of a backbench in publishing, because there are not enough new editors from varied backgrounds entering the business. There is a generational problem in publishing; editorial committees green light most projects, but young editors are often outvoted,” notes writer and novelist Pearl Duncan, author of Water Dancing.

She says she has been affected by this directly. “Twice, I had two different young editors at two major book publishers get so excited about a query for my book about African American DNA and ancestry, from the perspective of my ancestors in colonial American and the Caribbean, in medieval Africa and Europe, they responded in 24 hours. But when they took the proposal to the editorial committee, they were overruled by more senior editors. Both were white,” she reveals. Due to the absence of diversity within the publishing firms many editors don’t understand or appreciate books that focus on the African-American experience. In fact, Duncan was once asked to change the angle of her book about her ancestors because American readers think of African-American ancestors as “victims and will not accept [a] portrayal of them as heroes.” The ancestors Duncan had written about where Maroons who rebelled against slavery on ships and on land, as well as a Scottish ancestor who was an abolitionist.


If an author cannot write authentically because of American tastes that cannot go beyond Blacks portrayed as slaves and victims, and has to dumb down their work to get published, what's the point to writing the story at all?

RikWriter
11-22-2014, 02:24 AM
I can't argue against the stats, but I do have to call into question the writer of an article that uses the politically loaded phrase "race and class privilege."

CassandraW
11-23-2014, 09:20 PM
some people insist that there can't possibly be any racism in publishing (or that racism can't possibly be the explanation for why disproportionately fewer books are being published by black authors), because "no one puts their race in their query letter, so how can agents and editors be biased against race?"


You might not put your race/ethnicity in a query letter, but even taking aside the subject matter of your book, a name might give a clue. I have a Spanish last name, and I've often wondered how and if that affects some people's perceptions of my work.

[slight derail]

I was born in the U.S. (as were my parents). I am only 25% Spanish. English is my first and only language. I was an English lit major. I'm qualified to teach high school English. I have an ivy league law degree. And yet, in my professional and personal life, I've had people assume I'm an immigrant and that English is my second language, solely on the basis of my last name. (My real first name is unusual, but not Hispanic, by the way -- though many make hilarious attempts to pronounce it in a "Spanish" way.)

Indeed, the assumption is so common I included an essay in my college and law school applications explaining why I was checking the "Caucasian" rather than the "Hispanic" box. In law school and at more than one job, I was repeated urged to join Hispanic associations and/or pressured to count myself as Hispanic, even after explaining why I didn't feel it was appropriate. Heh. A (now rather famous) law school classmate told me I was betraying Latinas by not doing so. My "but I'm not Latina" had no effect.

And alas, it is not a neutral assumption. Many who make it accessorize it with a matching assumption that I got special consideration for my name, or I wouldn't be where I am. Many of them come out and admit it, always with an assurance that they think it's great because diversity, etc. (Why, yes, I do have a chip on my shoulder about this, thank you.)

An informal survey of friends and acquaintance indicates that this does not happen to people with Italian, Polish, or French last names. However, many acquaintances with Hispanic last names have had the same experience.

[end derail]

An acquaintance advised me to take a pen name -- she said if she saw my name on a book cover, she'd probably assume the book was a translation. I don't intend to do it. I prefer to think she's an outlier. But I've sometimes wondered if (and how many) other people would make the same assumption, and whether it would matter.