Baring the Device: Ethics in Publishing

For this chapter of Baring the Device, The Gravity of the Thing’s editors have compiled a brief list of readings that relate to ethical practices in creative writing and the publishing industry. Each resource below questions processes and paradigms in the literary community, and many of the readings at least stir up conversation and at best include actionable steps towards change. This is by no means an exhaustive list of readings. The conversation and its silences are vast, and writers, editors, and publishers everywhere are continuously constructing and deconstructing various conventions and publishing models. To suggest any readings, please feel free to email us at The following articles are listed from most to least recent.

“Generation Franchise: Why Writers Are Forced to Become Brands (and Why That’s Bad)”

by Jess Row

Literary Hub (June, 2024)

“…it’s worth noting just how advanced we’ve become: that is, how much of contemporary culture consists of various kinds of wall-to-wall fandom within a single brand or IP universe.”

Guernica Doubles Down on Retraction Essay of Israel-Gaza War”

by Erik Wemple

The Washington Post (April, 2024)

Guernica, a 20-year-old digital magazine, occasionally makes waves with its essays, fiction and reporting… The wave that Guernica generated with a March 4th essay on the Israel-Gaza conflict, however, has threatened to crush the magazine itself.”

“Hundreds of Small Presses Just Lost Their Distributor. Now What?”

by Elizabeth A. Harris

The New York Times (April, 2024)

“A nonprofit that distributed books for many of the country’s small presses has closed, and the fallout could affect the publishing industry in ways both big and small.”

“8 New Literary Magazines that Advocate for Diversity and Inclusion”

by Kristina Busch

Electric Literature (March, 2024)

“Now more than ever, literary magazines by and for artists, are prioritizing community and spotlighting the work of LGBTQIA+ writers and writers of color.”

“The ‘Hero’s Journey’ Isn’t as Universal as You Think”

by Tim Brinkhof

Big Think (March, 2024)

“The comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell claimed to have discovered the blueprint of every myth and legend… In recent decades, however, some critics have argued that the monomyth isn’t exactly universal.”

“Where Is the Diversity in Publishing? The 2023 Diversity Baseline Survey Results”

by Lee & Low Books

Lee & Low Blog (February, 2024)

“First executed in 2015 and then in 2019, the Diversity Baseline Survey has become an industry standard, providing a way to track whether publishing’s inclusive hiring practices are working.”

“Ghostwriters Emerge from the Shadows”

by Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter

The New York Times (January, 2024)

“Ghostwriting is a secretive profession. It’s long been maintained that a good ghost writer, like a well-behaved child in an extreme version of the old proverb, should be neither seen nor heard.”

“Publishers Launch Initiative to Highlight Palestinian Authors and History”

by Ella Creamer

The Guardian (November, 2023)

“The campaign by Publishers for Palestine will offer more than 30 free ebooks of poetry, fiction and nonfiction as ‘an act of solidarity.’”

“Palestinian Authors Grapple with a Wave of Censorship”

by Sarah Prager

Prism (November, 2023)

“Books by and about Palestinians have been censored in subtle and overt ways for decades, and since Oct. 7, Palestinian authors have seen their book events canceled and are experiencing other forms of discrimination.”

“Generative AI vs. Copyright”

by Lloyd J. Jassin

Publishers Weekly (September, 2023)

“An attorney examines what artificial intelligence will mean for the publishing industry.”

“AI’s Inroads in Publishing Touch Off Fear, and Creativity”


The New York Times (August, 2023)

“The technology has the potential to affect nearly every aspect of how books are produced—even the act of writing itself.”

“Booklash: Literary Freedom, Online Outrage, and the Language of Harm”

by Ayad Akhtar

PEN America (August, 2023)

“…in just the last few years, a much-needed and long-overdue industry-wide reckoning has transformed the ranks of the industry’s largest employers—and ushered in complex debates about topics like harm, representation, and offense.”

“Disabled Authors Deserve, and Demand, More”

by Alice Wong

Publishers Weekly (July, 2023)

“Disability representation for its own sake isn’t enough and it isn’t the goal; all audiences should expect nuanced, authentic representation rather than inspirational tropes such as those perpetuated by nondisabled publishers and editors…”

“Black Women Are Being Erased in Book Publishing”

by Jennifer Baker

Electric Literature (June, 2023)

“BIPOC writers and publishing professionals continue to face exclusion in the publishing industry. Exclusion begins with erasure. Because if you don’t exist, how can you even attempt to tell your own story?”

“Writers’ Strike: What Happened, How It Ended and Its Impact on Hollywood”

by Los Angeles Times staff

Los Angeles Times (May, 2023; updated September, 2023)

“In early May, the boards of directors of the WGA’s East and West Coast divisions voted to call a strike.”

“Climate Fiction Won’t Save Us”

by Jeff VanderMeer

Esquire (April, 2023)

“As the world burns, readers increasingly look to climate fiction for hope, predictions, and actionable solutions. But can the genre really be a manual for useful change?”

“Reading Between the Lines: Race, Equity, and Book Publishing”

by James Tager and Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf

PEN America (October, 2022)

“In a cultural industry like publishing, where subjective interpretations of what constitutes good or marketable literature are a major determinant of what gets published, the whiteness of the industry’s staff has accompanied a largely white cadre of published authors.”

“The Ethics of Writing About Others”

by Michael N. McGregor

The Writer’s Chronicle (September, 2022)

“You don’t have a right to say just anything about anyone, although there’s wider latitude if a claim in a memoir is clearly opinion rather than a supposed statement of fact.”

“Banned & Challenged Books”

by the American Library Association

ALA (September, 2022)

“Search lists of frequently banned and challenged books.”

“Trial Ends in Government Challenge to Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster Merger”

by Jan Wolfe and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg

The Wall Street Journal (August, 2022)

“Judge weighs Justice Department’s antitrust bid to block Penguin Random House’s proposed acquisition of its rival.”

“Finding a Place for Disability in Publishing”

by John Loeppky

Publishers Weekly (July, 2022)

“The financial and time pressures of being in the industry are compounded by the fact that it can be difficult to come out as disabled in the publishing world.”

“Why Translators Should Publish in Literary Journals”

by Jake Schneider

Sand Literature & Art (July, 2022)

“The extra exposure provided by a magazine publication is great for an emerging translator given that the business of literary translation has such a strong word-of-mouth component to it.”

“Centering Neurodivergent Poets”

by Brian Gresko

Poets & Writers (July, 2022)

“[Chris Martin] has found that, in his experience, many nonspeaking writers have, by necessity and resourcefulness, ‘forged gloriously unique language practices.’”

“As an Indigenous Writer, I Push and Protect My Readers, My People, and Myself”

by Autumn Fourkiller

Catapult (May, 2022)

“Redactions can be both silence and explanation. They function purely on my own terms and for my audience, my community.”

“Changing the Narrative on Disability: Is Representation in Books Getting Better?”

by Lucy Webster

The Guardian (May, 2022)

“As Amazon meets campaigners’ demands for a ‘disability fiction’ section, adult literature still has much work to do.”

“Black Publishing in High Cotton”

by Tracy Sherrod

Publishers Weekly (April, 2022)

“Black publishing has a rich story. We have made invaluable contributions to the industry—monetary, discourse, and otherwise.”

The Publishing World’s Lack of Central American Representation Ends With Me”

by Saraciea Fennell

Pop Sugar (January, 2022)

“We need to talk about the lack of Honduran American and Central American representation in television, film, beauty, mainstream media, and especially publishing.”

“Even in Publishing, Representation Matters”

by Casey Campbell

Harvard Radcliffe Institute (December, 2021)

“After a hashtag reveals startling disparities in publishing pay, fellows team up in a Radcliffe seminar to demystify the industry’s processes.”

“What It Would Take to Disrupt the Publishing Industry”

by Brooke Warner

Publishers Weekly (October, 2021)

“If we we were to truly disrupt the publishing industry, it is the system that we would need to overhaul.”

“The Troubled Golden Age of Trans Literature”

by Eli Cugini

Xtra (September, 2021)

“Despite recent successes, a growing chorus of trans writers are asking tough questions, like where’s the nuance and context in literary criticism, and who’s holding the publishing industry to account?”

“Publishing Needs More Radical Solutions for Writers of Colour”

by Sian Bayley

The Bookseller (August, 2021)

“Publishing needs to move away from the ‘benign language of diversity’ in favour of more ‘radical’ solutions to ensure there is real change for writers and audiences of colour.”

“How to Write a Blind Character, 2021 Edition”

by Jameyanne Fuller

Jameyanne Fuller (August, 2021)

“Remember that both writing and reading are ultimately acts of empathy, and how you portray blind people on the page will impact how people see blind people out in the real world.”

“The Man Behind the Myth: Should We Question the Hero’s Journey?”

by Sarah E. Bond and Joel Christensen

Los Angeles Review of Books (August, 2021)

“Pasts Imperfect is a space for addressing forgotten, manipulated, or misunderstood histories of the ancient world from South America to the Indus Valley and the ancient Mediterranean.”

“‘A Conflicted Cultural Force’: What It’s Like to Be Black in Publishing”

Concepción de León, Alexandra Alter, Elizabeth A. Harris and

The New York Times (June, 2021)

“An author, literary agent, marketer, publicist, editors and booksellers talk about how race affects their careers — and the books you read.”

“Learning to Write My Truth as a Deaf Queer Writer”

by Ross Showalter

Catapult (April, 2021)

“If creative writing programs are representative of the literary industry, I would be in an industry where people like me are rarely given space.”

“How to Write Deaf or Hard of Hearing Characters”

by Melanie Ashford

SFWA (March, 2021)

“Choosing to include characters with disabilities in your speculative fiction is an excellent thing to do, but you’ll need to do your research.”

“‘The Unbearable Whiteness of Publishing’ Revisited” (follow up to the 1995 Village Voice articles by James Ledbetter)

by Shelly Romero and Adriana M. Martínez Figueroa

Publishers Weekly (January, 2021)

“…while the book business’s stance on, and dialogue surrounding, race has improved, there is still work to be done—including much that was laid out in Ledbetter’s piece.”

Craft in the Real World

by Matthew Salesses

Catapult (January, 2021)

“This manifesto and practical guide challenges current models of craft and the writing workshop by showing how they fail marginalized writers, and how cultural expectations inform storytelling (Kirkus Reviews).”

“Why We Need More Diversity in South Asian Representation” 

by Mishma Nixon

We Need Diverse Books (December, 2020)

“South Asia consists of eight countries—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. Where are these stories?”

“Why Is Publishing So White?”

by Richard Jean So and Gus Wezerek

The New York Times (December, 2020)

“Author diversity at major publishing houses has increased in recent years, but white writers still dominate.”

“The Politics of Gatekeeping: On Reconsidering the Ethics of Blind Submissions”

by Joyce Chen

Poets & Writers (October, 2020)

“Blind submissions are supposed to help level a playing field that is inherently imbalanced. But these days the practice feels anachronistic and actually feeds into the sort of gatekeeping that upholds harmful hierarchies of power.”

“Publishing Must Make Room for Disabled Authors”

by Frances Ryan

The Guardian (September, 2020)

“Attention to diversity has yet to pay much heed to us, but we are the biggest minority in the world, so if space is cleared everyone stands to win.”

“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources”

by the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses

CLMP (July, 2020)

“A collection of resources specifically tailored to help editors, arts administrators, educators, librarians, and others take actionable steps toward racial justice.”

“Black Authors Are on All the Bestseller Lists Right Now. But Publishing Doesn’t Pay Them Enough”

by Constance Grady

Vox (June, 2020)

“A social media campaign shows whose stories publishers value — and whose they’re willing to pay for.”

How to Reduce Implicit Bias with Anonymous Review”

by Sabreen Swan

Submittable (June, 2020)

“Implicit bias can seep into any review process and any industry. Unlike discrimination, implicit bias is unconscious and can contradict our conscious beliefs, making it trickier to get a handle on.”

“To Pay or Not to Pay”

by Margery Bayne

The Writing Cooperative (March, 2020)

“What are short story submission fees and when should you pay them?”

“The Role of the Environmental Writer”

by Juliana Roth

The Gravity of the Thing (March, 2020)

“An enduring poem engaged with ecopoetics does more than comment on the natural world; it finds a way to evoke and challenge the senses and intellect of the reader.”

“The Major Built-In Bias of the Publishing World”

by Jennifer Baker

Zora (January, 2020)

“Each report confirms the sizable disparity of women and gender minorities of color as staff, contributors, and creators throughout the publishing industry.”

“Where Is the Diversity in Publishing? The 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey Results”

by Lee & Low Books

Lee & Low Blog (January, 2020)

“The book industry has the power to shape culture in big and small ways. The people behind the books serve as gatekeepers, who can make a huge difference in determining which stories are amplified and which are shut out.”

“Dina Nayeri: The Craft of Writing the Truth about Refugees”

by Jessica Goudeau

Guernica (November, 2019)

“The writer discusses the complexity of migrants’ lives in a world that demands their simplicity.”

“The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey, 2019”

by Jim Milliot

Publishers Weekly (November, 2019)

“More small strides were made in 2018 in addressing issues of pay disparity and diversification of the workforce.”

“Who Gave You the Right to Tell that Story?”

By Lila Shapiro

New York Magazine (October, 2019)

“Ten authors on the most divisive question in fiction, and the times they wrote outside their own identities.”

“Alexander Chee on How to Unlearn Everything”

by Alexander Chee

New York Magazine (October, 2019)

“When it comes to writing the ‘other,’ what questions are we not asking?”

“Ethics in Publishing: Genre Bending and Publishing the Craft”

by August Amoroso

Portland Review (March, 2019)

“The defining and segregating of genre creates a condition that excludes those works that seek to straddle genre lines.”

“Ethics in Publishing: Our Bodies, and Whose Gazes?”
by Ross Showalter
Portland Review (January, 2019)

“Nuanced explorations of being disabled in America, by those who live it, often do not find space in literary journals.”

“Listening: The Ethics of Translation”

by David Ball

AGNI (October, 2018)

“Literary translators need to render the connotations, the tone, the rhythms of the writer while sticking as close as possible to the denotative meaning.”

“The Coming of Age of Transgender Literature”

by Peter Haldeman

The New York Times (October, 2018)

“For some transgender writers, the labeling of books, by genre or otherwise, is as problematic as the typing of people.”

“Important Milestones in LGBTQ Publishing”

by Hachette Books

Hachette Books Group (June, 2018)

“LGBTQ characters and themes are often underrepresented in mainstream publishing due to censorship and arguments that LGBTQ content is ‘niche,’ and therefore not commercially viable.”

“The Give and Take of Literary Magazines”

by Michelle Betters

Ploughshares (March, 2018)

“Literary journals often lay hold of the tangible—submission fees and unpublished work—in exchange for the notional. Exposure, literary standing. Money, in other words, seems to move in only one direction.”

“The Problem with Sensitivity Readers Isn’t What You Think It Is”

by Anna Hecker

Writer’s Digest (January, 2018)

“As major media outlets raise the question of whether sensitivity readers represent censorship, Anna Hecker offers her experience working with one.”

“Publishing Has Failed Autistic & Disabled People—Here’s How to Fix It”

by Alaina Leary

Bustle (January, 2018)

“In order to create real change, the industry needs to take a look at accessibility and inclusion at every step of the hiring process.”

“Paying to Play: On Submission Fees in Poetry Publishing”

by Rachel Mennies

The Millions (January, 2018)

“Is the submission-fee model equitable or sustainable for poets and for presses/journals—and if not, can we make it more equitable for either or both groups?”

“We’re Still Here: Debbie Reese On Native People Telling Their Own Story”
by s.e. smith
Bitch Magazine (November, 2017)

“Reese recognized that while trade reviews and academic journals don’t always make it to the right readers, a widely available platform provides more opportunities for conversation and education.”

“When ‘Good Publishing’ Means ‘White Publishing'”
by Marcos Gonsalez
Electric Literature (November, 2017)

“We do students of color a disservice by imposing the style of an overwhelmingly white canon.”

“When It Comes to Inclusivity in Publishing, Editors Also Play a Role”
by Jennifer Baker
Electric Literature (October, 2017)

“Authors aren’t the only ones responsible for fixing—or scrapping—a troubled book.”

“Writers of Color Discussing Craft: An Invisible Archive”
by Neil Aitken
De-Canon: A Visibility Project (May, 2017)

“This following list is an expansion of a post I started on my own blog to catalog what writing resources are out there that have been written, edited, or presented by other writers of color.”

“Who Pays Writers?”
by Maggie Doherty
Dissent Magazine (January, 2017)

“Radical literary experimentation continues, but it has become the privilege of a few.”

“How Small Presses Are Welcoming More Women into Publishing”
by Aaron Calvin
Pacific Standard (December, 2016)

“Dorothy, YesYes Books, and Graywolf Press have made it their mission to publish more women—and reform an industry that more often celebrates the achievements of men.”

“Crisis of Imagination”
by S. Gopikirishna Warrier
Frontline (September, 2016)

“Although realities of climate change are visiting every country time and again, their representation is always relegated to the genre of science fiction.”

“Writing Angry, Writing Anger”
by Matthew Robinson
Propeller Magazine (September, 2016)

“A veteran shifts anger out of his life and into his fiction.”

“Diversity in Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers—Marketing Matters, Too”
by Jean Ho
NPR (August, 2016)

“Though a few writers of color… seem to be getting more shine, the demographics of those working behind the scenes in publishing remain almost entirely white.”

“How Can Literary Magazines Counter Their Biases?”
by Elisa Gabbert
Electric Literature (August, 2016)

“The unspoken assumption behind blind submissions is that ‘quality is quality’ — that we know ‘good writing’ when we see it.”

“Why Publishing Is So White” (follow up to the 1994 article “Houses With No Doors” by Calvin Reid)
by Rachel Deahl, with reporting from Anisse Gross, Claire Kirch, Diane Patrick, and Judith Rosen
Publishers Weekly (March, 2016)

“A deep dive into hiring practices across the industry shows that publishers care about diversity, but many haven’t taken effective steps to bring about lasting change.”

“Writers Shouldn’t Romanticize Rejection”
by Kavita Das
The Atlantic (November, 2015)

“In the literary world, talent isn’t hiding. It’s being ignored.”

“On Pandering: How to Write Like a Man”
by Claire Vaye Watkins
Tin House (November, 2015)

She can write like a man, they said, by which they meant, She can write.”

“Should Literary Journals Charge Writers Just to Read Their Work?”
by Joy Lanzendorfer
The Atlantic (October, 2015)

“Publications are increasingly charging fees to consider submissions—a practice that’s bad for the writing community at every level.”

“Equity in Publishing: What Should Editors Be Doing?”
by Antonio Aiello
PEN America (October, 2015)

“Very few editors were willing to talk about race, how selections are made, and what kind of responsibility they have to read broadly and to care about and publish great writing that doesn’t always reflect the values associated with whiteness.”

“Homme de Plume: What I learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name”
by Catherine Nichols
Jezebel (August, 2015)

“Within 24 hours George had five responses—three manuscript requests and two warm rejections praising his exciting project. For contrast, under my own name, the same letter and pages sent 50 times had netted me a total of two manuscript requests.”

“From the Editors: The Politics of ‘Blind Submissions’ Policies”
by Apogee’s staff
Apogee Journal (July, 2015)

“Artistic and literary aesthetics are not an algorithm, and ‘literary excellence’ is not an infallible mathematics. In fact, this standard is based on a preponderance of white, cis-male, heteronormative writing that has been and still is central to the literary mainstream.”

“Writing Trans Characters”
by Pamela Alex DiFrancesco
Brevity (May, 2015)

“If a cis writer is to view trans characters beyond these ends, to write them as fleshed out humans with aspirations, who have overcome obstacles, who exist three-dimensionally, a great deal of work needs to be done beyond what currently exists in literature.”

“Is It Time for Literary Magazines to Rethink the Slush?”
by Lincoln Michel
Electric Literature (May, 2015)

“Much of the problem stems from the fact that lit mags all have two major problems: 1) no money and 2) far too much slush.”

“Can Fiction Show Us How Animals Think?”

by Ivan Kreilkamp

The New Yorker (April, 2015)

“If writers hope to illuminate the profoundly foreign interior lives of animals, it may be that the realist novel, with its familiar protocols of character, narration, and dialogue, is simply not the ideal literary form in which to do so.”

“Writing with Color: Description Guide (Skin Color)”
by Mod Colette
Writing with Color (August, 2014)

Part 1 is titled “POC & Food Comparisons” and Part 2 is titled “Words for Skin Tone: How to Describe Skin Color”

“The Craft of Writing Queer”
by Barrie Jean Borich
Brevity Magazine (September, 2012)

“What if all nonfiction writers imagined a queer aesthetic at the center of our discourse?”

“Should Writers Use They Own Language?”
by Vershawn Ashanti Young
Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies (September, 2010)

“See, dont nobody all the time, nor do they in the same way subscribe to or follow standard modes of expression.”

“The Danger of the Single Story”
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
TEDGlobal (July, 2009)

“Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice—and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”

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