In fulfilling its mission to advocate for romance authors, Romance Writers of America would like to update the membership about an ongoing matter of concern.
During the Spotlight on Pocket at the 2015 RWA Conference, an attendee asked Executive Editor Lauren McKenna, “Are you working at all on diversifying your author list?” When McKenna requested clarification, the attendee observed that it seemed most of Pocket’s authors were white. McKenna then responded:
“Right now, we [Pocket] don’t have an African-American line. Our sister imprint—because we are all Simon & Schuster—we are just two different imprints that we spoke about today within Simon & Schuster.
“Our sister imprint, Atria, has an entire two lines dedicated to African-American titles, and they really do corner that market. We find doing just one in a larger list, it tends to lose its focus and it really doesn't get the attention and time it deserves, so it also requires a different marketing and publicity plan.
“So we leave that, whenever we get something strong like that in, in a multicultural topic or author, we can defer to our sister imprint who really does focus on publicizing those titles, marketing those titles, getting placement in stores.
“So no. I hear you. We also have a Latino line as well, with Atria. So we do do it, just not within Pocket and Gallery.”
- After this issue was discussed at the RWA Board of Directors meeting in November 2015, RWA contacted Pocket via e-mail on November 19, 2015, stating: “We find your response [in the Spotlight] objectionable . . . Primarily, however, we are very disturbed that you indicated that Pocket does not acquire books by multicultural authors.” RWA requested that Pocket provide their current acquisitions policy.
- When no response was received by December 2, 2015, RWA asked again.
- On December 3, 2015, Pocket answered, stating its editor “misspoke.”
- Also in the December 3 letter, Pocket said it had no policy against publishing multicultural authors and fully supported RWA’s commitment to diversity.
- RWA asked Pocket on December 11, 2015, for permission to publish Pocket’s letter of December 3. RWA’s Executive Director also offered to travel to New York to meet with Pocket.
- On December 15, 2015, Pocket asked that RWA not publish its response, referring to the Pocket Spotlight statement as a “simple misunderstanding,” further saying, “McKenna misrepresented Pocket Books.”
- Rather than meet in New York, Pocket committed to meeting with RWA’s Executive Director at the 2016 RWA Conference.
Pocket’s Spotlight statement was insulting and unacceptable. The response was insufficient. RWA continues to press Pocket for a clear statement on its acquisition policies. RWA is committed to ensuring that all industry professionals participating in our programs embrace and comply with our Code of Ethics.