Last Updated on December 1, 2022 by ThoughtsStained
Hello, loves! I’ve been a bit sporadic here on the blog in the last few months. My apologies for that! But, I did want to take some time to write about something going on in the publishing world. If you follow the industry at all, you’ve most likely heard of #HCPonStrike. The Harper Collins Union represents 250 HC employees; employees who, after negotiating for 11 months, went on strike indefinitely on November 10th.
It’s December 1st, at the time of publishing this post. Just nine days away from a full month of striking.
I’ve shared a lot about it on Twitter, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about it here. Personally, I think that those adjacent to the publishing industry–book bloggers, readers and querying writers and future published authors–should be supporting #HCPonStrike.
Now, let me tell you why.
Just in case you don’t like to stay up to date on publishing industry happenings like I do, I wanted to supply some resources to help educate you on what’s going on, before diving into why I think this is an important movement we should be supporting. Resources include:
- Learn more about the Harper Collins Union and how to support them during this strike
- In particular, I want to highlight the strike fund
- Follow them on Twitter and Instagram
- And don’t forget to share their posts often!
- Also: write an email to HC Execs and tell them to return to the bargaining table!
- Read the following articles to learn more:
- Guest Column: What Authors, Readers, and Everyone Outside Institutional Publishing Should Understand About the HarperCollins Strike by Rachel Kambury and Anna Sproul-Latimer for Glow, Neon Literary Substack
- “Passion Doesn’t Pay the Bills” by Sophie Vershbow for Vulture
- Support the HarperCollins Union. Support the Stories You Want to See by Sara Danver on her newsletter
- More than 150 agents back striking HarperCollins workers by Hillel Italie for AP Press
Fired up yet? Good.
Why We Should Support
Now, I know what you might be thinking: I don’t work in publishing. I’m just an outsider. What does this strike have to do with me? I just want to read books.
Wanting everyone to have a livable wage and rights to basic necessities without hardship OR needing to go on strike for them is something everyone should agree on (☕), I must say. But, even beyond standing in solidarity for that most basic and decent reason, there are more selfish reasons we can look at. Especially for all of us who love books–even if we don’t work directly in publishing.
Arguably the forgotten, ignored and underappreciated backbone of free marketing publishing foundationally takes advantage of (look, more ☕! Really thirsty today, friends, my apologies), book bloggers are the foundation of readership to talk about books collectively. Without book bloggers, BookTok, Bookstagram and other social media influencers in the bookish sphere wouldn’t exist. We’re movers and shakers in the publishing world, selling books without the title (and often without the credit…or compensation).
Despite it not always being reflected by publishers directly OR in our stats, we do have power. What the members of the #HCPonStrike are fighting for are very basic (and honestly, not asking enough, from my outside view) demands. The type of demands that should have been met in the first place: a $50,000 starting salary, better benefits and more effort to diversity and inclusion efforts in a traditionally male, white, cis dominated space.
As the first union in publishing, if they win, it could create ripples that could change the publishing industry to its core–and should, as the model itself is outdated, ableist, racist and white supremist to begin with.
As bloggers who sometimes work with publicists and editors who don’t make enough to live, we should be helping them fight this fight. Our reviews can drive sales, go viral and help support an author’s career. Like I said: we DO have power.
Why not use that power to help those on the ground doing the work bringing our favorite stories to life, to allow them to live better, more financially secure, less burnt out lives?
Querying Writers and Future Authors
This feels like a no brainer to me, but what happens as a result of this strike will absolutely shape how the industry works. Whether that is continuing to run the way it always has (too much gatekeeping, overworking, alienation and underpaying for my taste, thanks); or, moving to a model that is more sustainable, equitable and open for all.
As a writer, my ultimate dream is to be a published author. Traditionally published feels like winning the lottery. But, as this strike as shown me, at what cost? And to who?
With eyes more open, now, can I confidentially say I want to work with a publisher who doesn’t value its employees? Can I risk sending a manuscript that is my heart’s work, finding an editor who loves it and creating a partnership–only to lose members of that trusted team due to unnecessary, but inevitable, turnover that results from the top 1% and their greed, malice and inhumanity?
How can we–as a writer of books, especially–stand on the sidelines as those with the knowledge, the drive, the tools and the desire to bring our stories to life are treated so poorly?
We can’t, friends. We just can’t.
Now, say you’re not a book blogger or a writer. You literally “just” like to read books for fun. Which is valid and great! More people should! But you may be wondering, since you don’t have a relationship or an investment in the publishing industry like querying writers and book bloggers do, why this fight matters to you.
Well, books matter, don’t they? You’re a reader, after all. You’ve stayed up late crying at the perfect ending. Gone into a bookstore with the intention of buying one book but instead leaving with five. Maxed out your library card, more than once.
Reading has been an escape for you, when life is hard. Or a way to help connect when you felt alone. You recognize the pure, varied power of stories.
Perhaps you’ve never paused to think about how much work goes into a book before it’s available on the shelf for you to devour. Supporting your favorite authors is easy, because you want more books from them.
Yet what about the publicist who’s marketing efforts got your favorite book on your radar in the first place, without you even knowing? The editor who saved your favorite character (but more likely killed them) and caught all those typos that would have distracted you? The interns who do so much (often unrecognized work)? The artist who created the cover you have face out on your bookshelf?
Knowing what you know now, having read the articles above, can you imagine what they are being asked to do? How overworked they are? Trying to live in a city with a medium monthly rent of $3,750 and not even making $50,000 before taxes? They’re burnt out and struggling; leaving the industry in droves. And, if publishing continues to abuse its employees like Harper Collins, your favorite books? The ones that spoke to your soul, that made you feel whole, the ones that made life worth living?
They won’t exist.
Because those who would have helped them reach from the stage of submission to your hands? They’re gone. Pushed out by executives too selfish, too greedy, too stuck in their own asses, to care about them as people.
I know this is a very passionate blog post to write, as someone who isn’t even in the publishing industry (despite trying. repeatedly. for years). Yet it’s an industry I care about greatly. It produces the books that I love. It’s the avenue I hope to use to help share the novels I write (despite trying in the trenches. repeatedly. for years). Through social media, it’s the industry that has helped me connect with so many friends, professionals and even some of my favorite authors.
It’s also an industry that has a long tradition of treating its employees like shit.
Though I know no one personally, I am so proud of every single person with the #HCPonStrike; for taking this leap. I’m proud to amplify their posts and donate to their strike fund. I sincerely hope that publishing will change for the better because of it. It’s an industry long dominated by white supremacy and capitalism, in desperate need of reform, reimagination and revitalization.
Thank you, Harper Collins Union, for paving the way to do just that.
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M.A. Crosbie says
Love ALL OF THIS! Preach! All of this is absolutely spot on, thank you for your amazing summary of the whole situation.
Thank you, thank you!! I swear, the longer this strike continues, the more I hate publishing. 😅
Realms of My Mind says
Really great article Nicole, especially appreciate the resources! The entry wage for publishing is just awful, in one of the most expensive cities in the world. And it truly is a barrier to entry; I can tell you right now, I made under 30k when I started in the entertainment industry and the ONLY reason I could afford that salary is because I lived with my parents so I didn’t have rent and could pay my student loans and I had a 1.5-2 hour commute IN EACH DIRECTION. If I hadn’t had that “support,” I probably never would have been able to work in that industry at all. While I’ve toyed with trying to get into publishing in some capacity myself, the idea of starting all over again salary-wise just kills my soul.
Not to mention I have no desire to live in New York.
Ugh, I hate how much this also translates as issues in other fields. Like, your story about the entertainment industry is awful. And you’re exactly right. While I think about publishing and have tried to break in, every time I wonder how on earth I’d ever make it on so little, *in New York*.
Kal @ Reader Voracious says
I truly cannot believe that they are still on strike and the absolute disrespect that HC has shown the striking employees who LITERALLY ARE NOT ASKING FOR THAT MUCH. I stand with the striking workers and have been actively holding any promo or reviews for books published by HarperCollins and their imprints (excluding Inkyard and Harlequin). Ironically, I have received like 3 Harper ARCs in the last month in the mail… and I was on a hiatus!
I was going to try to fit in my own post about the strike but you have done such an amazing job, thank you for putting this together — I will be boosting this post!
RIGHT? Like, it’s practically a month at this point, in the freezing cold and rain and snow. It’s horrendous they think this could ever be okay (and how the union workers aren’t even asking for a true living wage yet).
I would love to read your post about it! I think the more book bloggers write about it and share it, hopefully, the more pressure is put on HC execs. Thanks for boosting and reading! ❤