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High-Advance 'Woke' Books Underperform, Sparking Industry Debate

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Muhammad Jawad
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High-Advance 'Woke' Books Underperform, Sparking Industry Debate

Recent reports indicate that a wave of high-advance 'woke' books has been crashing against the shores of commercial success. Among the casualties is actor Elliot Page's memoir 'Pageboy,' a $3 million investment that returned a disappointing 68,000 copies sold. The disappointing trend extends to other works such as Carolyn Ferrell's 'Dear Miss Metropolitan,' which sold 3,163 copies despite a $250,000 deal, and Claudia Cravens' 'Lucky Red,' which sold around 3,500 copies following a $500,000 advance.

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Unmet Expectations and Rising Concerns

Other books that took a commercial hit include Jemele Hill's memoir 'Uphill,' with 5,034 copies sold, and Rasheed Newson's 'My Government Means to Kill Me,' which found nearly 4,500 readers despite a $250,000 advance. Critics and industry insiders attribute these commercial flops to inexperienced editors basing acquisitions on political ideology rather than market potential, particularly following the post-George Floyd push for diversity in publishing. This climate has led to a growing trend of hiring more editors of color, with some acknowledging an avoidance of white male authors' works.

Perceived Barriers and Industry Reactions

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Established white authors, including crime novelist James Patterson and writer Joyce Carol Oates, have voiced concerns over perceived barriers for white male authors seeking publication. Some have equated the situation to a form of reverse discrimination, while others acknowledge a trend towards biased selections based on skin color. This situation has sparked a fiery debate over the influence of politics on professional publishing decisions and the challenge of balancing market demands with ideological objectives.

A New Era in Publishing?

If the current trend persists, it could signal a seismic shift in the publishing industry. As new voices rise and old ones struggle to find their place, the landscape of literature may look very different in the years to come. Only time will tell if the industry can strike the delicate balance between commercial success and ideological representation.

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