Saturday, January 2, 2016

Writing by the Numbers, 2015

Marc Pierre and Brenna Fitzgerald in the Brown Box production of Lab Rats

Time for my annual round up of my writing stats. As a freelance writer, it's easy to lose track of how I'm doing in any given year. This gives me a chance to catch my breath, reflect, and set some goals for the next year.  Plus, as a writer, I find it useful when other people share posts like these--it's hard to know (especially when you're starting out), what one might achieve, even if you're not a  superstar.  Concrete numbers are often very hard to come by for playwrights about productions and income. 

2015 was a busy year, with lots of productions and readings. My family also moved to a new home/new town, and a house that ended up taking a HUGE amount of time for renovation.  So some of my numbers are a lot worse than last year (especially the time I spent actually writing).  But I had a lot of momentum, production-wise coming into the year. So even if I didn't write a lot, I spent a lot of time in rehearsal, and a lot of time editing.  And I had a new novel published!

Here are the stats:    

Number of Productions/Readings:  49  (In 2014, I had 44) 
(These were of 26 different scripts.)
Number of Performances:  151(This includes published plays.  In 2014 my work had 123 performances.)

  • 2 productions and 4 readings were of full-length plays.    Both full-length productions--Constant State of Panic by Clockwise and Lab Rats by Brown Box, were extremely satisfying for me, personally and artistically.
  • My work was read or produced in 6 countries:  US, Canada, Finland, Scotland, the Philippines, England, and these 17 states: MA, VA, NY, IL, CO, RI, WA, MD, IN, FL, AZ, WI, CA, PA LA, GA, NE (These don't include plays done by students in competition--those were used widely, across North America). My play Quack was especially successful and was produced in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (a first for me) by Bite-Size Plays.
Estimated Audience:  11,578 total. (down a bit from 2014)

This includes 9,227 for performed work.
For published plays I estimate low, 40 people/performance. The rest of the total audience comes from books sales, plays published in anthologies, etc. These are based on conservative estimates--the actual number is probably higher.

Books sold:  350+   (I don't have the final numbers for Steering to Freedom for 2015 yet, so this should be go up a little. The book came out this summer, and I'm still trying get it to its core readership.)

Total:   197   (down from 235 last year, but I submitted a lot fewer book queries)
queries for plays:  26
play scripts submitted:  169   (new record. Last year I sent 164)
queries for books: 1
book manuscripts submitted:  1

Hours spent on writing :  1,035 hours
actual writing and research:  262 hours (my initial goal was 600, then adjusted to 300)
reading for work (not fun):  52 hours   (this counted under writing time in past years)
rehearsals and writing meetings:  295 hours  (includes teaching)
marketing and admin:  303 hours
New England New Play Alliance:  123 hours

This year I didn't do any farming. Instead, we moved. And I spent a lot of hours working on the sale of our old house, buying a new one, and then fixing up the new place.  Altogether, I spent about 561 hours on house stuff.
My tracking on this was incomplete, but I estimated that I spent about 421 hours on renovations and 140 hours on moving tasks. I'll bet the actual number was closer to 700-800 hours.

Here's how my time worked in:
2014:  1,426 hours (452 writing/109 reading/342 rehearsing/396 marketing/127 New Play Alliance) + 130 hours farming.
 2013:  996 hours (394 writing/308 rehearsing/294 marketing)  + 902 hours farming
2012:  896 hours.  (386 writing/278 rehearsing and meeting/231 marketing)   + 734 hours farming

2011: 818 hours.  (I didn't break out rehearsals from desk writing time in 2011).

The move and renovations absolutely killed my actual writing time and output this year. I was able to stay involved with rehearsals, admin, and marketing, but finding the mental space and quiet to write or read was really tough from March through December. 2016 should be somewhat better, though I still have a LOT of renovations left to go.  I have to do some serious thinking about what is a realistic goal for my writing time and output--there's only so much time and energy to go around.

1 new full-length play
2 new ten-minute plays

wrote some new one-minute plays
LOTS of revisions--to four full-length plays, a bunch of short plays, and to two novels.

Plays watched:  52   (saw 57 in 2014)
Movies/TV series watched:  51   (64 in 2014)
Plays read: 18     (50 in 2014)
Books read:  12    (22 in 2014)

Despite the move, I saw more plays than I would have expected, but had a LOT less time and energy and quiet time for reading. I need to change that in 2016

Gross Income$8,662   

published plays:  $745
production royalties:  $1,640   
commissions:  $2,000 
teaching: $2,500  (This is skewed by a big project that also had a lot of expenses.)
my novels:  $727 
Prizes: $1,000  (Massachusetts Cultural Council Award!)
misc. (essays, panels, editing, other): $50 

Expensesabout $4,979   ($5,480 in 2014)
I spent on a lot on marketing for Steering to Freedom and on copies of the book (to both give away and sell).

Net Income:  $3,682   ($2,494 in 2014)

Overall, financially, 2015 was pretty comparable to 2014. I've got some potential to get better paying gigs in 2016. 

past years:
2014:  Gross income:  $7,974  Expenses $5,580  net:  $2,494

2013:  Gross income:   $7,767  Expenses:  5,758  net:  $2,029
2012:  Gross Income:  $3,844  Expenses:  $2,808  net:  $1063
2011:  Gross Income:   $2,638   Expenses:  $4,665  net:  $-2027

Those are my writing numbers. Considering all the turmoil in our lives from the move and house, it ended up being a pretty good year. I'm going to try to make 2016 even better. I've already got nine productions scheduled, which feels awfully nice (including 2 full-length productions in Boston in May and June!).

Please let me know if you keep track of numbers like this.  If you post about it anywhere, let me know, and I'll post a link below:

Donna Hoke's year in review 
Adam Szymkowicz's year in review 
Nina Mansfield's 2015 Reflections

Friday, November 6, 2015

Lab Rats opens tonight!

LabRats_squareMy new full-length play, Lab Rats, opens in Boston tonight.  I've had a blast working with the Brown Box Theatre Project.  I couldn't asked for a better team--the director, Kyler Taustin, and I really clicked, and our cast of Brenna Fitzgerald and Marc Pierre are superb.

The show runs for the next two weeks at Atlantic Wharf in downtown Boston (Fri-Sun, 7:30pm, November 6-15, and tickets are free! (But you should reserve ahead.)  And then we go on tour to the Eastern Short of Maryland.

Opening Night day for the premiere of a new full-length play is a little like Christmas Eve. There's such great mystery and anticipation. The audience will be bringing the final gift to the production--their presence and attention. We give them our talents and energy and words. And when the lights finally go up, we unwrap it all and hope for great joy. The anticipation for that moment is wonderful and dreadful. The hours creep by. (I plan to pass the time by painting my house.) For playwrights, we're lucky if we get this moment once a year (sometimes it's a LOT longer between them). I try to do my best to savor it all, even the anxious moments of waiting.

Here's a summary of the play:
Mika and Jake earn a slim living as test subjects in medical experiments. When their waiting room banter deepens into a real relationship, these drifting twenty-somethings must navigate a treacherous maze of emotion, trust, and survival as their carefully monitored and medicated lives bleed into their true selves.Lab Rats, a World Premiere production by Boston playwright Patrick Gabridge, is a sharply comic love story that poignantly examines the raw connection between two damaged humans as they struggle to redefine what it means to escape.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Virtual Book Tour for Steering to Freedom starts tomorrow!

Pat at MIT reading croppedSeptember saw three readings of Steering to Freedom--at Porter Square Books, the Old State House Museum, and at MIT. I'm grateful to all the sponsors who brought me in and to all the book lovers and my friends who showed up to hear me read and talk about Robert Smalls. I never get tired of talking about this amazing man and his adventures during the Civil War.

Though my in person readings and signings are finished for a little while (I hope to do another at a Lab Rats show in November), I'm still working hard on spreading the word about Steering to Freedom. For this book, I'm trying something a little more ambitious. Tomorrow, I start on a virtual book tour, a blog tour on 16 different blogs, from October 5-30. I set up the tour through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Here's the schedule:


Monday, October 5
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Tuesday, October 6
Spotlight at Carpe Librum

Spotlight & Excerpt at The Never-Ending Book

Wednesday, October 7
Review at Book Nerd
Spotlight at Broken Teepee

Thursday, October 8
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Friday, October 9
Spotlight & Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Saturday, October 10
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Tuesday, October 13
Excerpt & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Thursday, October 15
Spotlight at Genre Queen

Friday, October 16
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, October 21
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, October 22
Excerpt & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Sunday, October 25
Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, October 26
Review at Worth Getting in Bed For

Tuesday, October 27
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, October 30
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Please check out the giveaways and interviews and all the other content about Steering to Freedom at some of these sites.  (And, please, make a comment, so that they know you were there.)  I'm thankful to all the bloggers for hosting me this month and for reviewing and discussion the book.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Steering to Freedom is published!

My newest novel, Steering to Freedom, has just been published by Penmore Press!

In May 1862, Robert Smalls, a slave and ship’s pilot in Charleston, South Carolina, crafts a daring plan to steal the steamship Planter and deliver it along with the crew and their families to the Union blockade. After risking his life to escape slavery, Robert faces an even more difficult challenge: convincing Abraham Lincoln to enlist black troops. Based on a true story, Steering to Freedom tells the powerful and inspirational tale of a young man who becomes the first black captain of a US military ship, while struggling to navigate a path to freedom for himself, his family, and his people.

I've been working on this project for  years, so it's a thrill to finally have this story published both in paperback and as an ebook.

You can order a copy through your local bookstore, or buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Penmore Press is a small publisher, so this book will need a lot of extra help in order to reach a broad readership. I know you're all busy, but I hope you will help spread the word. A mention on Facebook, Twitter, or a rating on Goodreads makes a big difference. If you enjoy it, please tell other people or write a review on Amazon or elsewhere. Most public libraries allow you to request that they add a particular book to their collection. I'm also happy to speak with book clubs, either in person or via Skype.

But most of all, I hope that you will read Steering to Freedom. Robert Smalls and his family and friends were amazing people, and their story is a thrilling and important part of American history.

(I know I've been quiet about posting here for a while, but I hope to have more soon. Including a bit of history about how this book came to be published.)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Writing by the Numbers, 2014

Distant Neighbors, produced by Fresh Ink, with Louise Hamill, Sheldon Brown, Gillian Mackay-Smith, Daniel Boudreau, directed by Liz Fenstermaker, photo by Jeff Mosser

Time for my annual round up of my writing stats. Being something a numbers geek, this is the perfect way to end the year and look forward to the next. Plus, I always hope that other writers will join in and together we can give folks a more general, if incomplete, picture of how life really works for a writer (especially playwrights).  (See a list of links to such posts below.)

I think it's fair to wonder, when it comes to gathering all these numbers:  Why bother? Why track so much?  In some ways, this is just an odd hobby of mine. But at the same time, capturing data allows for more rational decisions moving forward. Or at least allows for a potential honest assessment of the current state of one's work or career (if that's to be desired).  I often think of the principle in quantum physics, known as the Observer Effect, which states that by attempting to measure something, you end up having an impact on the result, just through the mere act of observation. Writing and submitting plays isn't exactly quantum physics, but by consciously paying attention to how I spend my time and efforts, I become more self-aware. This is part of the reason why in my work with the New England New Play Alliance, one of our first projects has been a comprehensive attendance survey of new work done in Boston over the past two years. We want to know the current state of the new play scene here in Boston, but we're also curious to see whether actively measuring the new play ecosystem  has some impact on how it operates. We'll see. (Watch for a big report coming out in mid-January.)

Anyway, back to my own numbers.  2014 was a busy year, with lots of productions and readings. And many hours spent.  And a few dollars earned.  Here are the stats:

Number of Productions/Readings:  44.
Number of Performances:  123.  (This includes published plays.)

  • 18 productions were of published plays. 
  • 1 production and 6 readings were of full-length plays.  
  • My work was read or produced in Japan, New Zealand, Canada, England, and the following 16 states: MA, WA, RI, NY, IN, CO, FL, PA, IL, MO, CA, NE, NJ, VA, NJ, NC. (None of these figures include plays done by students in competition--those were used widely, across North America).
Estimated Audience:  13,411 total. This includes 10,333 for performed work. For published plays I tend to estimate low, 40 people/performance. The rest of the total audience comes from people reading books, plays published in anthologies, etc. These are based on conservative estimates--the actual number is probably higher.

Books sold (mostly ebooks):  78   (Many fewer than I'd hoped. The bottom has dropped out of the self-publishing ebook market.)

Total:   235
queries for plays:  11
play scripts submitted:  164
queries for books: 54
book manuscripts submitted:  6

Hours spent on writing :  1,426 hours
actual writing and research:  452 hours (my initial goal was 600)
reading for work (not fun):  109 hours   (this used to be counted under writing time in past years)
rehearsals and writing meetings:  342 hours  (includes a tiny bit of teaching)
marketing and admin:  396 hours
New England New Play Alliance:  127 hours

I also spent 130 hours farming at the Long Life Farm this season (we didn't have our own farm this year).

Here's how my time worked in:
2013:  996 hours (394 writing/308 rehearsing/294 marketing)  + 902 hours farming
2012:  896 hours.  (386 writing/278 rehearsing and meeting/231 marketing)   + 734 hours farming

2011: 818 hours.  (I didn't break out rehearsals from desk writing time in 2011).

The hours are a bit under reported, in all categories. I'd thought that since I wasn't farming my own farm this year, the 900 hours I spent farming in 2013 would all come into my writing life, but that was wishful thinking. The farm work in 2012 and 2013 was intense (in many ways) and also mostly out of the house, so when I was at the farm or market, I was only doing farming. When I'm working from home to write, I also have to take care of various family and household duties.

Breaking out the reading hours was useful for me, because it helped me invest more time and effort into reading plays, and also kept me honest about how much time I spent actually sitting at my desk writing and researching. The New England New Play Alliance is a new project this year and is time intensive. I'm hopeful that it will have a measurable impact on the new play ecosystem in my home region, but we'll have to see.

2 new full-length plays (both on the short side)
3 new ten-minute plays (plus more scenes)
started a new full-length play
wrote some one-minute plays
LOTS of revisions--to multiple full-length plays, a musical, a novel.

Plays watched:  57
Movies/TV series watched:  64
Plays read: 50
Books read:  22 

I watched more plays than I'd planned (by a lot) and read fewer books than I would have liked. I read a lot more full-length plays than in the past, though I'd like this number to continue to grow this year.

Gross Income$7,974
published plays:  $1,051  (about the same as last year)
production royalties:  $431
commissions:  $5,000  (installments on 3 different projects)
teaching: $570
my novels:  $241  (down a little from last year)
Prizes: $110
misc. (essays, panels, editing & other): $571

Expensesabout $5,480 
I spent about $1,400 on theatre tickets, by far my biggest expense. (up a lot from last year and which seems excessive, but some of it was buying tickets for my family to see my own shows, plus I see a lot of plays. I'm going to have to cut back a little this year--I have a kid in college with some pretty impressive tuition bills.)
$330 went to submission fees (I only pay to submit to super big places, like the O'Neill, or to international festivals)
$565 went to professional dues and memberships (DG, StageSource, Rhombus, etc.)

Net Income:  $2,494  

past years:
2013:  Gross income:   $7,767  Expenses:  5,758  net:  $2,029
2012:  Gross Income:  $3,844  Expenses:  $2,808  net:  $1063
2011:  Gross Income:   $2,638   Expenses:  $4,665  net:  $-2027

Those are my writing numbers. For better or worse.  I was able to completely throw myself into playwriting this year, perhaps more than ever. In terms of finances, the news was mixed--my income stayed steady, but I worked 50% more hours. On the other hand, it was an immensely satisfying year artistically, and my plays were seen by LOTS of people. And I have more exciting projects coming up, with five productions scheduled for short plays, and readings and productions of four full-length plays on the calendar for 2015.  I would obviously like to reach larger audiences and get paid more, but that will require continued hard work, patience, and a little bit of good luck.

Please let me know if you keep track of numbers like this and if you post about it anywhere, let me know, and I'll post a link below:

Donna Hoke's submission tallies  (she submits a LOT more than I do)
Adam Szymkowicz's year in review 
Claudia Haas's year end stats 

Friday, November 14, 2014

In The Thick Of It (and how I learned to stop worrying about climbing)

Images from the plays I've been working on in this 18-month stretch.

There's a certain inherent dissatisfaction that can be part of having an artistic career, and playwriting is no different. There's never much money, there aren't many production slots, and there's always a hope for the next "bigger" thing. Maybe this reading will lead to a production, maybe this production will catch the attention of someone in New York, maybe an off off Broadway show will move to Off Broadway, maybe Broadway will come calling. Maybe the next reading will lead to a production at an NNPN theatre, or a LORT theatre. Maybe the show will get a positive review, in someplace important, maybe someone will notice my work, will notice me.

I confess to having these thoughts. They're not particularly productive. They haven't caused any of these things to happen. Thoughts like these are good at adding to a general sense of unease and anxiety. And though they generate pressure to perform, I'm not convinced they lead to the creation of better work. They do lead to a general far-sightedness, that lifts the eyes up to the horizon and removes focus from the people and work sitting right in front of me.

As much as I have ambitions of "bigger" things for me and my work, I haven't spent much time thinking about such things lately. My attention has been completely absorbed by the work at hand, and I feel like I'm the luckiest writer in the world. I'm in the midst of an 18-month stretch of working on seven different full-length plays and musicals, with more than a dozen readings, workshops, and productions of those seven plays. (A few of the scripts were written a while ago, but they're getting readings and productions now.)  Sometimes it feels like creative whiplash, trying to unlock the mental bin for Lost in Lexicon and then switch the next week/day to Lab Rats and then back to Distant Neighbors.

I don't know that any of these productions or readings are designed or likely to lead to something "bigger." They might not be impressive to people higher up the theatrical food chain. But I don't care. I love the sensation of being completely immersed in the warm (and sometimes turbulent) waters of theatre and creation. I love getting to work with collaborative artists from so many different companies. With the exception of Clockwise Theatre in Illinois and Liminal Space in London, all the companies I'm working with are here in Boston, so I'm getting to work with people who part of the community where I live. I'm engaging with an audience of theatre goers who surround me every day.

More and more, I'm realizing that the place where I want to be is exactly where I am, and the thing I want to do is what I'm doing right now. I'm working, I'm creating, I'm part of a creative community that gives me an electric jolt every day. I'm not spending so much time looking ahead for what's next, I'm just trying to make the most of where I am right now, and enjoy every minute of it.

I've found the whirlwind I've been looking for, and I wanted to say that I'm here and I'm grateful.

(Special thanks for that whirlwind need to go to: In Good Company, Clockwise Theatre, Tumblehome Learning, Argos Productions, Liminal Space, Fresh Ink, Theatre on Fire, and the Bostonian Society.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hey, kids, what color are your gatekeepers?

I've been putting off writing about this.  My motivation for blogging comes in spurts. This has been a busy time for my theatre work--with lots of workshops and readings and productions of plays coming up.

I write books, too, of course.  And both my books and my plays often deal with race, either directly or indirectly.  Actually, ALL of my books have race as an important element to the characters or the story.  I don't write books with an all white cast of characters (though if I did, race would still be playing a factor, let's not kid ourselves), because I'm interested in a multi-racial world and I live in a multi-racial family.

As a writer of novels, I've spent a lot of time and energy trying to find publishers for those books.  Sometimes with some success--my first book, Tornado Siren, found a small publisher and sometimes not--I self published my second novel, Moving [a life in boxes], and my third novel, Buried Treasure, about a young black girl and her white adoptive grandfather on a high stakes treasure hunt, remains unpublished.  I'm currently trying to figure out what happens next for a Civil War novel about the escaped slave and national hero (and eventual Congressman), Robert Smalls.

Partly it's my scarcity of success that's made me reluctant to write about gatekeepers in the world of fiction, but I'm not the only one thinking about this stuff.  There's even a whole online campaign now called We Need Diverse Books.  And in the March 16 Sunday New York Times of this year, the late Walter Dean Myers and his son, Christopher, published a pair of essays under the title, "Where Are The People Of Color in Children's Books?" (The second is actually The Apartheid of Children's Literature.) They talk about the power of books and stories to shape our perception of the world and ourselves.  And why it's important, not just for kids of color to be able to read books that have characters of color in them, but also for white readers, in order to have a more complex view of people who aren't white and come from different backgrounds.

Myers writes:
Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?

The intro to the article points to a study by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, with this killer stat:  "Of 3,200 children's books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people." You don't have to be a numbers guy like me to have a stat like this make you catch your breath.  This is not saying 93 were BY black writers.  It's saying there were only 93 ABOUT black people. 

There's lots more numbers on their site.  For 2013, only 68 children's books were BY black writers.  Books ABOUT Latinos: 57 (48 written by Latinos).

This doesn't say anything about how they're represented, just whether they're there.  Now, as an adoptive parent of two black children, I've spent a lot of time trying to find books with characters of color that might be of interest to my kids.  And just try finding a middle-grade novel with a black main character that is not about urban problems or violence. They're just not out there. (Well, that depends on how you look at it.  They exist.  Hell, I wrote one.  But they're not being published.)

Here's the crazy thing--when my daughter was born, in 1994, there were actually MORE children's books about African-Americans published, 166, than there were in 2013.  That's right--the number has declined by 43%.  The peak was actually in 1997, at 216.

Is it any wonder that we live in a society where there is so much racial misunderstanding and incomprehension?  (And violence as a result.)  Is it any wonder that the publishing industry flops around like a fish gasping for breath, when in a country where almost 40% of the population are people of color, less than 8% of children's books are about characters of color. 

Christopher Myers wonders at the cause--the "Market" is often blamed.
The closest I can get to the orchestrator of the plot — my villain with his ferret — is The Market. Which I think is what they all point to because The Market is so comfortably intangible that no one is worried I will go knocking down any doors. The Market, I am told, just doesn’t demand this kind of book, doesn’t want book covers to look this or that way, and so the representative from (insert major bookselling company here) has asked that we have only text on the book cover because white kids won’t buy a book with a black kid on the cover — or so The Market says, despite millions of music albums that are sold in just that way.
 My experience has been that it's hard to even get close to The Market with a children's book about people of color, or even an adult book about black characters. To get a book contract with a major publisher, your manuscript has to pass through two important gates.  First you need an agent to fall in love with your book, and then you need an editor (with the help of your agent) to fall in love with your book.

Books that will be obvious hits sell for purely business reasons.  It seems clear that they're going to make gobs of money.  But the books that are on the margin--and guess were books about people of color fall?--require that love, that identification.  Because, even though there are zillion bad books and crappy writers out there, there are still thousands and thousands of good and interesting books out there, on all kinds of topics.

And that's where I see a gatekeeper problem.  Because the kinds of rejections I see most often are either Christopher Myers' "the market isn't right for it" or "it just didn't resonate with me."  "I didn't fall in love with it."  Well, from what I've seen, the people making the decisions are almost all white.  (And so are the writers--go to a SCWBI conference sometime.)  Not only are they predominantly white, they also have spent a whole lifetime reading children's books mostly about white people.  Despite being avid readers, and I promise you, editors and agents are voracious readers, they have limited experience with books about people of color.  It's not their fault, really, the books don't exist for them any more than they exist for my kids.

In one search tool that I use, QueryTracker, there are 179 agents listed who represent children's books. That means that in 2013, about half of them didn't sell ANY children's books about black people.  None.

The argument could theoretically be made by agents and editors--"it doesn't matter that I'm white, I'm interested in stories about people of all races and backgrounds."  But the numbers show that to be false.  Or maybe they're interested, but interest is not love, is not identification, is not passion.

Of course, increasing diversity in the workplace is never easy.  NPR had a story last month about the publishing business and its need for diversity.  In it, Dawn Davis (she's black), editor of 37 Ink, a new imprint of Simon & Schuster, says that a recent Pew study shows that college-educationed black women are the people in American most likely to read a book. The market is actually there, but the people with an interest in multi-racial and multi-cultural stories are not in a position to decide which books get published.

This can't change until the big publishers get serious and work harder at recruiting and retaining editors of color, and literary agencies do the same. There has been a lot written about white privilege and race in America over the past few weeks. The publishing business is one of the few places with the power to influence our entire culture and way of thinking, for the better. But to do so, they've got to take some difficult steps and look hard in the mirror.

(By the way, don't think the gatekeeper situation in the theatre world is a whole lot better.  But that's a blog post for another day.)

(And one more P.S.--if you're looking for YA books that have black male characters, I came across this post online that has a nice list of some.