Woke books by Elliot Page, Jemele Hill, and a 'queer western' flop after publishing houses paid massive advances

Elliot Page was paid $3 million for her book about deciding she was actually a man. That book sold a mere 68,000 copies.

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY
Diversity editors at major publishing houses have just not made the grade. Editors that were hired post-George Floyd, intended to make sure there was more representation, more books about minority experiences, and to increase LGBTQ content on bookstore shelves, have cost publishing houses millions.

Notorious trans actor Elliot Page was paid $3 million for her book about deciding she was actually a man. That book sold a mere 68,000 copies. The book, called 'Pageboy', was a memoir about going from a cute Hollywood actress with a winning smile to a sullen Hollywood actor with sharp features and a double mastectomy. Turns out people just didn't want to read about that. 

An industry metric would indicate that, for an advance like that, the book should have sold almost 450,000. 

The authors of these books were given massive advances by editors who could more accurately be called "ideological fanatics," according to industry insiders, spoken to by the Daily News.

Other books that have fallen flat include Carolyn Ferrell's "Dear Miss Metropolitan" and Claudia Cravens' "Lucky Red." These book totals combined didn't break 7,000 books sold, but were acquired with advances of $250,000 and $500,000 respectively.

Another was Rasheed Newson's "My Government Means to Kill Me," which was bought by woke editor Nadxieli Nieto at Flatiron for $250,000 and sold 4,500 print copies. Jemele Hill's memoir "Uphill" didn't break any sales records either, though it had positive reviews.

"Dear Miss Metropolitan" tells the story of three young black and biracial girls who were kidnapped and put in a basement in Queens, New York, where they were abused by a man for a decade. It was called "stunning and innovative" by The New York Times. No one wanted to read it.

"Lucky Red" is a queer western. Or perhaps it queers the American western. Either way, it didn't sell.

Nieto joined Flatiron as a publisher after Jeanine Cummins' "American Dirt" hit shelves, first to praise, and then to scathing rebuke, even from the critics who had first given it glowing reviews. Cummins is white. She wrote about brown people. That was determined to be racist. The book was cancelled in a very public virtual book burning. Old editors were out and new ones came in.

This comes as authors who do not check the right identity boxes have had trouble getting any attention at all. Literary agents just haven't had time for authors whose own backgrounds do not offer enough minority representation to publishers. 

The Free Press spoke to a senior editor at a big publishing house and asked about discrimination against white authors. While the editor hedged somewhat, the answer was yes, they were basically engaging in discrimination.

"I don’t think it was worded quite as blatantly as that. It was worded more like, ‘Is this the right time to be championing authors of more traditional backgrounds?’ Often, the language was a bit opaque," the editor said.

Pen America has warned about the "pre-cancellation" of books, and that seems to be what's happening. Books that are not by authors or on themes that appeal to what Adam Bellow refers to as the "ideological fanatics" in publishing today just don't get a read.
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