The Next “Tsunami” in Race Books
Some titles have experienced explosive growth. “So You Want To Talk About Race,” first published in 2018, sold around 34,000 copies in the 12 months leading up to Floyd’s death. In the year that followed, he sold more than 10 times that amount.
Editors are wondering who will be the winners and the losers in an increasingly crowded field. However, many publishers, including Chris Jackson, publisher and editor of Random House’s One World, reject the idea that the market will reach some kind of saturation point.
“The story of editing is that when something works, people try to make the derivative version,” Mr. Jackson said. “So absolutely you’re going to get books that are really not that good, that are probably derivative or repetitive or redundant from things that are already out there. It’s inevitable.
But the books on race and racism should not be lumped together, he continued. “What we are talking about is not the category of ‘black books’ or ‘racism’, we are talking about the category of ‘books on the American experience’,” he said. “Because that’s what these books are. They talk about different aspects of it.
Take two books from One World, he says: “Four Hundred Souls,” edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain and published in February, and “The 1619 Project,” which will be released in November. “You might say, ‘Well, you’ve just published a book that’s about 400 years of black history,’ but they’re completely different books,” Mr. Jackson said. One is a festive narrative story, he added, while the other is a series of essays examining contemporary American life. “They are no more competitive with each other than any other book on political economy competes with a history book.”
Books that see the race through a conservative lens are also starting to take off – including titles from authors like Candace Owens and Mark R. Levin – and there are more to come this fall aimed at the same audience. These books have been bolstered by aggressive coverage of critical race theory by outlets like Fox News and the Republican Party’s plan to run on cultural war issues in next year’s midterm elections.
Many publishers have bristled at the idea that the market can only absorb a limited number of books on anti-black racism and the experiences of black Americans. Ms Habib, the literary agent, said that for many years publishing operated on a “scarcity model”, rooted in the idea that there can only be one bestselling book on life. blacks, for example, every season.