Our very first episode of This Pod Is Your Podis here! Cortney and I were so excited to finally record this episode on Monday morning after months of planning and thinking about how a podcast would be a natural and needed extension of the Pantsuit Nation community. We couldn't have asked for better guests to help us kick things off, and we're looking forward to hearing from our listeners and readers.
This week on This Pod Is Your Pod, we talked with two incredible women who channeled their rage, shock, and sadness after the 2016 election into action. Kristy Klein Davis shared her story of running for local school board in a suburb of St. Louis after being inspired to run for office. What she thought would be a straightforward process took a sharp veer into unexpected territory when a local hate group targeted her, other candidates, and students at a school within the district. Nevertheless, she persisted.
Kristy Klein Davis with her daughter
“After the election, I was devastated. But then I thought, OK, how can I make sure my voice is represented somewhere, even if it’s not represented at the White House?”
We also talked with Amanda Litman, a former Hillary Clinton staffer and self-described "campaign hack" who co-founded, along with Ross Morales Rocketto, Run For Something, a new organization that "will recruit and support talented, passionate young people who will advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench." Amanda shared her vision for supporting first time candidates who are looking for guidance on how to go about running for office at all levels of government, from city council to mayor to school board. She's incredibly inspiring and thoughtful and brilliant and we loved talking with her.
“We said, let's try to get 100 people to run for something in this first year and we'll see what happens. We launched 6 months ago, and we've had 10,000 people around the country sign up and say they want to run.”
Amanda Litman with her Run For Something co-founder, Ross Morales Rocketto
(Cat) Call to Action
We chatted with Cat Plein, Chief Operating Officer for Pantsuit Nation and our call to action cheerleader. She urged us to keep the pressure on as we continue to fight the GOP's treacherous plans to take healthcare away from millions of Americans. Progressives scored a major victory this week with the crumbling of the GOP's efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare in the Senate. It's important to recognize the victory but also to stay focused. We know that limiting access to affordable healthcare will remain at the top of the GOP agenda for months to come so please keep calling your elected representatives this week and every week to say how important The Affordable Care Act is to you and your community.
To find information, including phone numbers, talking points, and even a call script to get you started, we recommend checking out 5calls.org.
Our Golden Pantsuits this week went to Jodie Whittaker, breaker of alien glass ceilings as the first woman cast as The Doctor in the BBC's TV show, Doctor Who. It's about time!
Also a collective Golden Pantsuit goes to the entire cast and the director of A Wrinkle In Time. The trailer was released last weekend, we lost our collective minds (along with the rest of the internet), and we can't wait to see the movie, which is already breaking records as the film with the largest ever budget for a black female director (Ava DuVernay!). Plus we got a glimpse of Oprah rocking what we assume is a pantsuit, but it's a little hard to tell. What do you think?
Oprah in A Wrinkle in Time rocking what appears to be an intergalactic pantsuit
The Pantsuit Nation team is thrilled to announce This Pod is Your Pod, a weekly podcast that connects personal narrative to political action. With stories that will engage and inspire, the podcast (hosted by Pantsuit Nation cofounders Libby Chamberlain and Cortney Tunis) will focus on the people at the heart of policy decisions and discuss resources to effectively promote progressive change in American politics. It will be available to subscribe and listen to on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn.
Each episode will feature personal stories from a diverse range of guests and weekly calls to action that will move our community to greater collective impact. The podcast is a natural extension of Pantsuit Nation, where for the past nine months people from all over the world have connected over shared values, a commitment to a more equitable and just society, and the stories that knit us all together. Now members (and those who may not be on Facebook!) will have the opportunity to hear the voices we so enthusiastically read and support in our Facebook group. In addition to furthering the mission of Pantsuit Nation via storytelling-as-activism content, revenue generated from ads on the podcast (which will be available to listeners for free) will go to the incredible team that is helping us produce and distribute this podcast and to Pantsuit Nation Foundation, the nonprofit that supports our group and mission.
The podcast provides an incredible platform for conversation, something that can be challenging on social media. So much of what makes Pantsuit Nation special is the dialogue among members that occurs in the comments and offline, and the podcast puts those conversations front and center. Guests will be invited to speak plainly about how policies affect their daily lives, with the ultimate goal of making sure our government (in the US and beyond) reflects the values of inclusion and equality.
The podcast will be available to download and listen to on-demand beginning this Thursday, July 20. Subscribe to get episodes automatically delivered to you each week. We're particularly excited to be working with DGital Media, a leading creator and distributor of podcasts with programming partners that include Crooked Media, Recode, Vox Media, The Verge, and Vanity Fair, among many others.
For more information, please contact: Josefina Francis, DGital Media: Josefina@DGitalmedia.com Libby Chamberlain, Pantsuit Nation: email@example.com Cortney Tunis, Pantsuit Nation: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Flint, residents will be dealing with the devastating health consequences of lead exposure for decades. On an emotional level, it is profoundly disorienting and deeply traumatic when your water - the most crucial element to preserve life - is contaminated. On top of that, this water crisis is a fundamental betrayal of the social contract between citizens and government
Throughout the development of this crisis, Flint residents were lied to again and again, and were subjected to a relentless strategy of gaslighting. Although lead levels in the Flint water system continue to gradually improve, residents are understandably hesitant to trust the water from their taps, and many have vowed never to use tap water again. As you can imagine, the use of bottled water as a primary source has a negative environmental impact. And if residents do not use their tap water, the municipal system will not function as it should because municipal water systems require flowing water (regular use).
We know that Flint is not alone in its water woes. Many communities in the US have dealt with or are dealing with the trauma of unsafe drinking water. As our country’s infrastructure ages, there will no doubt be more water crises, and we’ve unfortunately learned that we cannot necessarily count on an appropriate, speedy, or compassionate response from our leaders.
This month Pantsuit Nation is partnering with Crossing Water, a high impact nonprofit providing services to Flint residents, to increase awareness about the ongoing water crisis.
Please watch and share Michael's video and consider supporting the efforts of Crossing Water. Even $5 makes a difference.
Video produced by Pantsuit Nation members Lee Fearnside and Holly Hey in partnership with Pantsuit Nation's Story+Action team.
Eight months ago, I created Pantsuit Nation on a whim — not as a political strategist with an agenda, but as a Hillary supporter, a mother, and an educator from rural Maine who was looking for a community of people with shared values and hope for the future of this country. So much has happened since then, and I’m incredibly proud of how this community has stepped up in the aftermath of the election to resist the current administration. Along with my amazing team of volunteer moderators and admins, I remain firmly committed to our mission of creating social and political change through personal narrative. Your stories matter. They influence. They create a ripple effect.
You have called your elected representatives. You have donated. You have marched. You have supported one another in ways that can’t be quantified but that are at the heart of the progressive movement. You have connected online and off, with resources and with love and with persistence in the face of bigotry and hate.
We believe that Pantsuit Nation has the potential to be on the leading edge of a cultural shift in our current political climate, where instead of pundits and analysts talking over and beyond our everyday, lived experiences, we are talking to and listening to one another. Together, we can understand the systemic racism that poisons our country’s efforts at true social justice — not just through statistics and headlines, but through the voices of those who experience it daily. Together, we can see how changes in health care policy affect our lives, not just in large, abstract numbers like 23 million Americans, but on an individual, human scale. Together, we can join with millions of other people around the country and the world to stand up for each other to have the right to love whom we want, to make choices for our own bodies, to demand accountability from our government, to use the privileges we have to fight on behalf of those who lack them. Pantsuit Nation members are standing up in so many ways — running for office, creating and participating in social and political movements within your communities, calling out oppression and calling in allies to make a difference. And those individual actions, shifts in understanding, and commitments to change are our best shot at influencing the outcome of future elections. We know that stories move people to act. They are the WHY. And we are doing everything we can, from our modest (and, ok, pretty random) beginnings as a Facebook group intended to inspire people to wear pantsuits to the polls to become a sustainable, organized force for good.
I’m thrilled to announce today that Pantsuit Nation has hired our longtime volunteer admins Cortney Tunis and Cat Plein as our Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, respectively. Their positions have been made possible, in part, by a grant by New Media Ventures supporting organizations that are working at the intersection of technology, media, and politics. We’re honored to be included in their portfolio along with 13 other organizations including Sister District, flippable, Swing Left, Indivisible Guide, Mijente, Town Hall Project, and Stay Woke. Cortney and Cat will continue to work with other progressive organizations to bolster calls to action through personal narrative, to develop our archive of public stories shared with permission as a resource for advocates, educators, and activists, and to grow our community beyond a secret Facebook group.
Sometimes 8 months seems like an impossibly long time (just ask my husband, who has taken on the bulk of caring for our two young children and doing everything he can to support our household while I spend nearly every free minute on all things Pantsuit Nation). But in truth, we are at the very beginning of what I know will be a long surge of united effort to bring positive social and political change to our country.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing your stories and for listening with intention and heart to the stories shared in this space. Thank you for acting in ways large and small.
For more information about Pantsuit Nation and to support the work we do, please like our Facebook Page, sign up for our newsletter, and consider purchasing a copy of our book, all proceeds of which go to supporting this community.
Pantsuit Nation is proud to partner with Crossing Water to bring you the first in a 3-part series of short films about the crisis in Flint, produced by Holly Hey and Lee Fearnside.
What you need to know:
In 2014, the government of Flint, Michigan, stopped buying water from Chicago and began to source from the nearby Flint River. Because an EPA-mandated pretreatment that would have cost the city ~$100/day was not implemented, the salts in the new water supply corroded and damaged the city’s water pipes, causing them to leach lead and other metals into the drinking water. Flint residents noticed a difference in water quality and expressed concerns. Even though General Motors had stopped using Flint water in order to protect against damage to its machines, and the government began providing bottled water for its employees, the city continued to assure citizens that the water was safe to drink.
The federal maximum standard for lead is 15 ppb. In Flint, independent testing saw lead levels as high as 13,200 ppb. Flint’s government tried to discredit this independent testing and in time, it was revealed that the city itself was not following proper testing procedures.
Today, 600 out of 29,000 lead pipes in the system have been replaced. The pipes that remain continue to leach lead into the water. Thousands of households still have unusable tap water and rely on bottled water for cooking, cleaning, drinking, and bathing. High levels of lead in the bloodstream can cause permanent behavioral issues and intellectual disabilities, especially in children. More than half of Flint’s residents are black. Flint is surrounded by communities that are 90% white. The surrounding communities were not impacted.
How you can help:
Crossing Water, a non-profit organization founded in early 2016, formed in order to help those most affected by this crisis. Crossing Water works to ensure that all residents have access to safe drinking water and information on how to access and utilize resources that are available to them.
Crossing Water developed and deploys Rapid Response Service Teams (RRST) in Flint to ensure that the most vulnerable individuals and families get the critical assistance and relief they need. The teams are led by social workers and supported by EMTs, RNs, plumbers, and other volunteers.
Volunteers are given intensive training and RRST teams document all field visits and debrief on their experiences. These teams provide necessary supplies and much needed support to Flint families. This support may include installing new faucets and faucet filters and teaching families to to replace filters. Volunteers also bring bottled water, tools, clothing, and other supplies in order to be ready to provide the residents what they need. To date, Crossing Water volunteers have visited over 568 families, made over 1,000 home visits, and distributed well over 20,000 gallons of water. They have become a trusted community resource and residents who are familiar with their work often refer their services to others in need. Crossing Water focuses much of their work on families with children, babies, pregnant women, homebound individuals, and others with special needs.
To support Crossing Water, please consider donating: $10 provides a case of water or a replacement filter cartridge $25 buys a faucet filter $30 buys a new faucet $280 provides one week’s worth of water for a family of 4 $395 funds a RRST visit, faucet, filter, extra cartridge, and water for a week
If you are not in a position to contribute financially, please consider sharing this video and the donation link on Facebook or Twitter.
For more information, contact email@example.com.
Pantsuit Nation members have generated over $16,000 in royalty revenue from sales of our merchandise on Zazzle in the four months since we launched our online store. The proceeds have been allocated to the following four nonprofit organizations:
$5,000 to The Conservation Fund: "Creating as many pathways possible for people and organizations to protect their natural resources and save the places that matter most - properties with ecological, historic and/or cultural significance."
$3,000 to Dress for Success: "We believe that achieving gender equality is imperative to developing a sustainable and just world for all, which is possible by acknowledging the crucial role that women play in the world economy."
$3,000 to American Refugee Committee: "Working to provide opportunities and expertise to refugees, displaced people and host communities. We help people survive conflict and crisis and rebuild lives of dignity, health, security and self-sufficiency."
The stories posted in Pantsuit Nation are testaments, fleeting snapshots, exhortations, rallying cries, eulogies, and community bulletins. These stories pierce through the noise of social media and sound an internal alarm bell for each of our 3.9 million members: Wake up. Listen. Connect. Speak out. March. Call. Donate. Write. Defend. Protect. Witness. Learn. Push yourself. Engage. Act.
Since this group started five months ago, these stories have come flying across our screens – on the subway or in the school parking lot or on sleepless nights – transporting us momentarily into lives not our own. Giving us strength or enraging us. Making us smile or slam down our fists. Pushing us into discomfort or welcoming us into solace. There for an instant. Then gone into the Facebook ether. A few of these stories have gone on to be featured in publications from The Huffington Post to the New York Times to Upworthy, but the vast majority are nearly impossible to access once they are buried given the volume and activity level of the group. They are also never seen by anyone who is not a member or who doesn’t have a Facebook account.
The idea for a book that would be a permanent collection of some of the stories shared in Pantsuit Nation came up as early as October, when we still numbered fewer than 250,000 members. I was spending nearly every waking moment of my free time moderating the group, reading posts and responding to member questions and concerns, blocking abusive trolls, and training a team of volunteer moderators and admins, a team that would grow to include over 170 people by Election Day. As the group size swelled and we began to see hundreds and then thousands of posts coming in every day (on Election Day alone, Pantsuit Nation members submitted over 120,000 posts to the group), I often found myself scrolling back to try to find a post I had loved and wanted to return to, only to be stymied by the sheer number of other posts and technical glitches within Facebook.
There was something so beautiful and ephemeral about the posts – the way they captured those days leading up to and immediately after the election. They painted a portrait of that moment in time that felt so much more real, more human and raw, than what we were seeing in the news. I didn’t want to lose that, and the hundreds of messages and comments from members who requested or suggested that some of the posts be collected in a book indicated that I wasn’t the only one who felt like I was trying to catch lightning in a bottle.
In early November I also began to hear from Pantsuit Nation members who were literary agents, editors, publishers, or published authors themselves who were suggesting or expressing interest in putting together a book based on the stories in the group. At that point I was still so overwhelmed with the unexpected growth of Pantsuit Nation and the day-to-day management of the group (and, as always, with being a mom to two young children) that I didn’t respond to most of these inquiries other than to say we were focused on getting out the vote for Hillary. And then, on November 9, when the world seemed shattered (but that highest glass ceiling remained obstinately, infuriatingly intact), I heard Secretary Clinton’s concession speech: “To the millions of volunteers, community leaders, activists and union organizers who knocked on doors, talked to their neighbors, posted on Facebook — even in secret private Facebook sites — I want everybody coming out from behind that and make sure your voices are heard going forward.”
I decided a few things in those (gutting) few days after the election, and as we have seen in this group and beyond, I wasn’t alone. I committed myself to continuing the work of the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group as long as possible. Like many others, I decided to reorient my life to focus much more directly on dismantling the systems of oppression and white/male/hetero/cis/able supremacy that allowed Donald Trump to become president. And I let Hillary’s message sink in: make sure your voices are heard going forward.
There are a lot of ways to create change — as we have seen time and again through the stories of our members, some who have been politically active since long before the election, some who are newly inspired to activism by recent events. You can run for office. You can donate money to impactful organizations or campaigns that align with your values. You can #grabyourwallet and boycott brands or companies that don’t align with your values. You can march. You can volunteer in your community. You can make a meal for someone. You can show up to a town hall or make a phone call or write a postcard. You can offer a bed or a warm coat or a clean shower. You can donate your expertise. You can make art. You can educate. You can vote. (Please vote.) What Pantsuit Nation has proven to us, and what Hillary and others have echoed, is that stories have an essential role in this constellation of actions. The explosive growth of the group and the stamina it has shown over the past five months to stay relevant and maintain momentum are further evidence that stories aren’t just pleasant distractions on the sidelines of the fight for justice. They are at the heart of it.
The decision to collaborate on a book with members of Pantsuit Nation wasn’t a hard one. In retrospect it feels almost predetermined, because the suggestion came up so often and because it felt like such a natural and needed extension of the group. It also aligned nearly perfectly with Pantsuit Nation’s (newly minted) mission to amplify historically underrepresented and excluded voices through the power of collective storytelling. While our Facebook group remains the cornerstone, Pantsuit Nation has the potential to move beyond that platform and reach so many more people. The book is one important piece of that effort, though not the only one.
I didn’t write a book proposal for Pantsuit Nation. I was fortunate to be able to rely on the advice of a good friend with deep experience in the publishing world, and she helped me navigate some of the inquiries from literary agents and publishers that had accelerated in the days after the election. I met with one agency and representatives from two publishing houses, all of whom were already members of the group. In late November, Flatiron Books acquired the rights to publish a book, edited and with an introduction by me, based on our Facebook group. In December, I began to think about what that book might look like and to do some research within the group about what kind of stories it might include. Although I still couldn’t get back to some of the early posts that I had loved (I still wish there was a way to find them!), I did manage to bookmark many from the days just before the election by scrolling back through photos and posts. In late December I began to contact members of the group to see if they would be interested in having their story considered for inclusion in a book. I reached out to over 700 members via Facebook, and provided those who responded with further information about the book via email and invited them to submit their post for consideration via a secure form outside of Facebook. There were also over 400 Pantsuit Nation members who emailed me directly to offer their posts for consideration for the book, and I contacted an additional 100 (or so) photographers whose photos had appeared alongside the written posts of Pantsuit Nation members. Every person who was interested in having their post considered for inclusion in the book submitted their material via a secure website and granted me and Flatiron Books a “nonexclusive right to use” their words and/or images, meaning that the contributors retain copyright over their work and can choose to publish it elsewhere.
In my communication with potential contributors, I clarified how they would be credited in the book if they wished or how their privacy would be protected if they wanted to contribute but remain anonymous. I offered compensation for contributors whose work was selected for publication and who chose to be compensated. Over 700 individuals – writers and photographers – gave permission for their posts to be considered for the book. Of these, over 250 are included in the finished book, and it has been an incredible pleasure working with and getting to know these contributors over the past 3+ months. They are courageous, passionate, inspiring people who firmly believe in the power of a story to ignite action.
The book also represents the first potential source of revenue for Pantsuit Nation. I’ve written about this at length in another post, but Pantsuit Nation has been managed by a group of volunteers for the past five months, and while we have benefitted tremendously from the work of so many tireless volunteers – graphic designers and lawyers and nonprofit finance mentors and others who have offered their expertise, in addition to our amazing group of moderators and admins – an entirely volunteer-run organization is neither sustainable nor likely to have the kind of impact we hope and trust Pantsuit Nation can have. We plan to build our non-profit organization into a powerful tool for progressive change with a lean budget, and the money allocated to Pantsuit Nation from sales of the book (roughly 10% of the suggested retail price of the hardcover edition, less the cost of compensating the contributors and other costs associated with creating the book) will be one important source of revenue for us this year. In addition to revenue from the book, we will also need to raise money from donations and grants to meet our goals, which include building a dynamic staff to guide this organization, developing strategic partnerships with other organizations with aligned missions, and creating a public archive of stories on our website for use by educators, advocates, activists, and anyone who wants to link storytelling with calls to action.
A Facebook group that was started on a whim by a woman in rural Maine who wanted to gather some friends to wear pantsuits to the polls, and which then exploded to a 3.9-million-person community, is anything but conventional. The path has not been straight, but we’re still here and we’re still together. I believe fiercely in what you’re doing, Pantsuit Nation. I believe that your stories matter, that your voices are crucial. I am proud of this book and I am proud of this group. It is an incredible privilege and honor to be a part of this huge, diverse, complex, multifaceted community, united as we are by our belief in the power of collective storytelling and a commitment to justice and inclusion. I can't wait to take this next step as we continue to move – confidently and with the urgency necessary to meet the terrifying administration that confronts us – out from behind a “secret private Facebook site.” Onward!
I am so thrilled that Pantsuit Nation is now available for pre-order and will be released on May 9. I worked full-time on this book from late December to mid March, and it was my honor and incredible pleasure to collaborate with the over two hundred contributors – photographers and writers – who are featured in its pages. I’ll be writing about the process of putting this book together in another blog post (update: here!), but first I wanted to talk more about how sales of the book will support the work of Pantsuit Nation.
I’ve sought to provide a clear and accurate description of how proceeds from this book will be allocated, while also recognizing that book publishing and nonprofit finance are complex and it’s impractical to attempt to address every nuance in a blog post. That said, I hope the information below will offer some clarification. I’ve included some percentages and numbers that are based on industry standards and will fluctuate slightly with regards to Pantsuit Nation depending on book format (hardcover or eBook) and sales levels. I found this article to be tremendously helpful when writing this post and if you are interested in the economics of publishing, I encourage you to read it.
First, to address the next chapters for Pantsuit Nation.
Our budget goals this year and beyond
Pantsuit Nation remains, primarily, a Facebook group with a current membership of 3.9 million people. With our focus on empowering individuals and creating large-scale change through the amplification of small-scale actions, Pantsuit Nation represents a well of energy and hope. We are confident that this 5-month-old startup can be a powerful force for progressive change: in 2017, 2018, and beyond. In order to achieve this, one of the first goals of Pantsuit Nation Foundation, the nonprofit we established this year, will be to develop partnerships with established and growing organizations to harness the power of collective storytelling to drive social and political change. Pantsuit Nation does not seek to take the place of any of the other incredible groups that are working to increase civic engagement, advocate for progressive change, support women and minorities who wish to pursue office, or any of the other issues that are central to Pantsuit Nation and our members. What we can offer that is different and new is our large number of engaged members (many of whom are new to activism) and the focus on first-person storytelling that has become the hallmark of our group. With resources to cultivate partnerships with organizations we admire (and whose missions are often beautifully illustrated by posts in our group) such as Planned Parenthood, Indivisible, Anti-Defamation League, and She Should Run, we can respond – as a nearly 4-million-strong coalition – to threats of injustice and regressive policies that will impact those most vulnerable in our country under the new administration.
Our second (and related) initiative is creating a web-based digital collection of stories that have been shared in Pantsuit Nation. With permission from the authors, these posts will be available in a public, searchable, constantly evolving archive to support the work of educators, activists, advocates, and progressives. At the heart of Pantsuit Nation is the idea that change comes from the heart, and the best way to move a heart is to share a story. Our archive will be one answer to Secretary Clinton’s call to action that we make sure our voices are heard beyond “private, secret Facebook sites” going forward.
These two projects will account for approximately 40% of our nonprofit’s budget this year.
In the past five months, this group has been run by a team of volunteers, which started with just me and quickly grew to include as many as 170 people all over the world. Our current team has about 40 people, almost entirely women, who volunteer between 4 and 20 hours a week (usually in addition to their full-time jobs and family responsibilities). That’s a ratio of 1 moderator or admin for every 100,000 members. Online community managers – for companies from The New York Times to HelloGiggles to Instagram – often work with groups a fraction of our size and earn between $60,000 and $200,000 a year. Of course this is in the private, for-profit sector, and these are individuals with a high degree of training in the field who work full-time. That said, another primary goal for our nonprofit is to begin compensating and more fully supporting the team that runs Pantsuit Nation. In addition to moderating our flagship Facebook group, managing our public social media platforms, coordinating our local chapters (also run by volunteers), and putting together our weekly Story+Action series, this team helped raise over $250,000 in 2016 for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. We hope to do much more in the coming months and years.
In 2017, we plan to create 3-5 full-time, paid positions, to fund small monthly stipends for our part-time volunteers, and to provide additional training for all of our staff – paid and unpaid – to better serve the Pantsuit Nation community and to do more of what I’ve outlined above. We estimate that these costs will account for the remaining 60% of our operating budget this first year. In addition to the money generated from sales of the book (see more below), our nonprofits will also need to raise money from other sources (individual donations, grants, or revenue from merchandise, for example) in the coming months to accomplish our goals.
How the proceeds from the book will be allocated
Again, these figures are based on market standards and don’t reflect any specific arrangements for this particular book (arrangements that are proprietary and protected by law), but they are nonetheless helpful guideposts when thinking about book publishing in general. The retail price of the hardcover edition of the book is $27.99. Of that, about 10%, or $2.80 per book, goes to Pantsuit Nation. From that amount, about 35% ($1/book) will go to the cost of creating this book and getting it published – compensating the contributing writers and photographers and our literary agent, and covering some administrative costs (legal fees, my local print shop, a few part time assistants who have helped me get this book ready to publish in a very short amount of time, etc.). The remaining 65% (or $1.80/book) will go to Pantsuit Nation Foundation and the areas I’ve described above – about $.70/book to projects including developing our online archive and building partnerships with other progressive organizations to drive social and political change and $1.10/book to staff and training.
As is the case with the vast majority of traditionally published books, an advance payment against future royalties (i.e. the ~10% of revenue allocated to Pantsuit Nation) will be paid to us by the publisher (Flatiron Books). This upfront payment means that we can both cover the initial costs of creating the book as well as have some seed money go directly to our nonprofit for the above-listed projects. An advance essentially gives us the opportunity to borrow money from our own future earnings from the sale of the book instead of taking out loans at this early stage of our development as an organization. If total income from royalties exceeds the advance (if it “earns out”), Pantsuit Nation will continue to earn about $2.80 per copy, which will be directed almost entirely to Pantsuit Nation Foundation (as most of our upfront costs are covered by the advance). The advance also means that the publisher does not start earning money from the book right away, as their initial costs are all incurred long before their allocated revenue from the sale of each book surpasses that initial investment. It’s a leap of faith (grounded in market research and a deep understanding of how books sell), and I remain incredibly grateful to our publisher for taking that leap with Pantsuit Nation.
The other 90% (or roughly $25 per book) of the revenue goes to the bookseller (45-60%) and to the publisher (30-45%). Let’s assume for the sake of this post that 50% of the money goes to the bookseller and 40% to the publisher. This is a good thing.
We need bookstores and we need books. Let’s start with bookstores and their roughly $14 of revenue for each copy of Pantsuit Nation sold at the list price. (Again this is not an exact figure but an approximate representation. Retailers are free to discount the book at their discretion, which impacts only their percentage of the proceeds.) I’m not sure I need to make the case here, but independent bookstores are pretty amazing institutions. They are small businesses. They are often centers of community, conversation, and, in the Trump era, resistance. They employ people and keep money within local economies. They host events and promote literacy and celebrate a culture of reading. They are intellectual, hopeful, soulful places. They are the brick-and-mortar, face-to-face, IRL antidote to our often screen-saturated society. We need more of that. Now more than ever.
There are also chain bookstores and online retailers that are similarly important. They put a lot of books into a lot of people’s hands. They are accessible for a broad range of readers in a huge number of places (as someone who lives in rural Maine, I can attest to their importance in my life!). They are on college campuses and in airports, they ship to servicemen and women overseas and to the very remotest corners of our country, and they can be incredibly important for those with limited mobility or less financial flexibility. I’m proud that the book will support both local independent bookstores and the larger retailers.
The remaining $11 (roughly!) per book goes to the publishing house, which in turn is responsible for paying for the book to be printed (in this case, at a printer in the US, which, again, employs people and contributes to a book-reading economy), for marketing the book, and of course for compensating all of the people who worked on this book and others – from proofreaders to designers to production managers to editors. Some books earn publishing houses a profit, some do not. The books that are profitable allow publishing houses to publish books that are less likely to be so – books by lesser-known writers or in less traditionally profitable genres (for example: poetry, gender studies, and literary fiction). About 78% of the people who work in publishing in this country are women.
I also want to add that in addition to being businesses (which, in my opinion, contribute tremendously to a social good), individual booksellers and publishers almost always have a commitment to philanthropy. They donate money and books, provide educators and community leaders essential resources to do their work, and they are an integral part of the support network that allows artists to create art. Flatiron Books, our publisher, is no different. In addition to being available at independent bookstores, chain bookstores, online retailers, and in eBook format, you may also request a copy of Pantsuit Nation at your local library. Flatiron Books will be donating 1,000 copies of the book to libraries around the country.
While I realize I could have self-published Pantsuit Nation and potentially generated a higher percentage of revenue from sales for Pantsuit Nation Foundation, I believe that publishing houses are important institutions to support. I would also strongly argue that this book would not have turned out as engaging and powerful as it has if I had tried to do it without the expertise Flatiron has provided. It would not have been prepared for publication as quickly, nor would it have the same potential to be distributed as widely and to be read by as many people as possible, which is central to the mission of the book and Pantsuit Nation. We amplify historically marginalized voices through the power of collective storytelling, and few industries have more experience and ability to carry out that objective than traditional publishing.
The power of purchase
Buying a book, or making any purchase for that matter, is an action and therefore an opportunity to engage in activism. Whom and what you choose to support as a consumer – whether it’s a local farm, an emerging artist, a socially conscious brand, a newly-threatened publicly funded program, or any of the other thousands of worthy investments we all know and see around us each day – is one powerful way to make your voice heard and so is very much in line with the mission of Pantsuit Nation. I want readers of this book to understand where their money goes, but also to see that the book has the potential to accomplish much more than simply provide a source of revenue that is divvied up. I believe, wholeheartedly, that this book has the potential to inspire conversation and reflection, to change the hearts and minds of people who may have previously lacked the sense of urgency that many of us feel about the state of our country, and to be, as one book contributor wrote, “wind in the sails” for all those who are marching, protesting, lobbying, writing letters, making phone calls, and working to create change at every level of government. We can do both. We can contribute to a bookselling economy that is aligned with progressive goals while also being mission-driven.
Thanks for reading, Pantsuiters, and stay tuned for more information about events at independent bookstores this spring.
For International Women's Day, we're excited to feature the following post and call to action from Brianna Wu. Brianna is the head of development at Giant Spacekat, and a well known figure for women in tech. She is running for Congress in Massachusetts’ 8th district in 2018.
[Image description: Brianna, in a black tee shirt and glasses with red frames, looks at the camera.] Photo from WBUR.
When you’re a woman, you’re endlessly marketed products that promise to empower you. I’m often barraged with ads for candles, creams, fragrances - I was even pitched a $150 leather calendar this week that promised to make my wildest career goals come true.
It’s hard not to notice that these products are rarely marketed to men. Maybe it’s because their cultural version of empowerment is a bit more direct. Everywhere you look, men are portrayed as leaders in every field - business, writing, academia, engineering and especially in politics. That’s why, this International Women’s Day, I have a challenge for you. I want you to stop asking male political leaders to do the right thing for women and run for office yourself.
That’s what I decided to do. Here’s in Massachusetts, I’ve had enough of male politicians that say they care about women - but can’t be found when we need leaders to stand up to the assaults on our rights. They want the credit but they won’t do the work. And things will not improve until we step up and do it ourselves.
Also - no one tells you this, but the truth is - running for office is fun! It’s a blast! Why do they never tell you this? Ninety percent of it is meeting people and just listening. You’ll hear incredibly humbling stories, American stories about hopes and dreams and, sometimes, fears. There is an incredible thirst for new blood in congress. People want to believe change is coming. They want to believe in you.
A study I often think about: Republican women and Democratic women agree on more issues than either group does with moderate men. Our lived experience makes us share perspectives on health care, education and workplace opportunities. The plain truth is, women win when more women are in power.
This year, International Women’s Day challenges us to “be bold.” Well, there’s nothing bolder than running for office. I hope I see some of you beside me in 2018.
To learn more and to support some amazing organizations that help women running for office:
A “Phenomenal Woman” tee-shirt campaign that's raising money for seven women’s organizations, including EMILY's List and Emerge America
EMILY's List “We ignite change by getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office.”
She Should Run “We believe that women of all backgrounds should have an equal shot at elected leadership and that our country will benefit from having a government with varied perspectives and experiences.”
Emerge America “Emerge gives Democratic women who want to run for public office a unique opportunity. We are the only in-depth, seven-month, 70-hour, training program providing aspiring female leaders with cutting-edge tools and training to run for elected office and elevate themselves in our political system.
Ready to Run “Ready to Run is a non-partisan campaign training program to encourage and train women to run for elective office, position themselves for appointive office, work on a campaign, or get involved in public life in other way.”
This week, in the first of a two-part series, we are honoring Black History Month by sharing the reflections of five of Pantsuit Nation members who have written about their experience of being black in America.
Photos of and contributed by (clockwise from top left): LeRhonda Greats, Dominique Troy, Ryan Isom, Tay Anderson, and Tanya Robinson [Image description: a collage of five portraits, including three women and two men.]
LeRhonda Greats, Sheffield, MA
"Being black in America is complicated and can weigh you down. Even at my age, I am always second guessing myself and that questioning is linked to my feeling of not being free. Not free to express my own truth. Once I was asked if I were a punctuation mark what would I be? Internally, my answer has always been that I would be an exclamation mark but honestly when I think of this question in terms of being black in America, I live as a comma, which feels to me like I am not enough on my own. I cannot just be me, I have to be me but as a part of something else. I have built a personal narrative for survival that proclaims that I am proud, strong and complex and it is through my studies of Black History that I have gained strength. I am a creator, most specifically a mother, and yet my creations are targeted for destruction on a regular basis, so I live with a constant pit in my stomach, waiting for the destruction to come. When I think of “liberty and justice for all”, I often wonder when I will be included in the “all.” Free to exclaim my truth. Freedom is the ultimate goal, to express my feelings without fear. But I am not there yet."
Tay Anderson, Denver, CO
"Some may see me as a threat because of the color of my skin. I receive many dirty looks from people on public transportation because of the color of my skin. It makes me think I do not belong.
"They are wrong. Being black in America means that I have a voice and I matter. Our ancestors paved the way for people like me to stand up. Being black in America means I can vote, and although we didn't break the glass ceiling this time, we have 65 million cracks in it.
"I am a senior in high school. I have been student body president since 2014, my sophomore year. This accomplishment has given me the privilege of being the longest serving student body president in the state of Colorado, and one of the longest serving in the United States. I served on the Student Board of Education for Denver Public Schools from 2014-2016. I am the Chief Operations Officer of a national youth lobbying and advocacy organization. I am the Chairman of the High School Democrats of the entire state of Colorado.
"Being a black male made this possible because I have the honor to represent my school in a very diverse district. I follow in the steps of our first and second black mayors of Denver who both were head boys at one point in time. I, too, can be President, and I will be! I am only 18 but I am going to the White House, because being black in America has shown me that I will be anything and everything I can. I am not afraid to stand up when they say sit down. I am Tay Anderson. I will be the President of the United States. And I am a black teen in America.
"When they go LOW we go HIGH!"
Dominique Troy, Staten Island, NY
"Being black in America means that I wake up every morning and face someone else’s expectations of who I am. I rise with limited knowledge about the centuries of history that explain why those expectations exist in the first place. With only bits and pieces taught infrequently in the 16 years of schooling I’ve received. And even those bits are mostly about how people of my race have suffered from systemic violence because white people are historically uncomfortable with people who do not look like them. And that will never be enough to explain why people think I am not enough. I KNOW I am enough.
"But in that knowing, I still I struggle to figure out what is mine, what isn’t mine, and whether or not “mine” exists at all. Am I neutralizing myself to be “whiter?” Or, am I simply being myself?
"Identity. Being black here has taught me that navigating my identity will be something I do every morning when I rise. It often means I seek consolation from my mother, from my sister, from my sisters and brothers whose blood runs as black as their skin, whose hearts pound in desperation and fear for what is to come."
Ryan Isom, West Hempstead, NY
"Being black in America means living a fractured but beautiful existence. Our culture sees everything through white cisgender male lenses-- this not only affects how black people are seen by white people, but other black people. Colorism, homophobia, and gender roles plague the black community as consequences of slavery and white supremacy. I’m a gay black man who is considered "mixed" (by black people based on aesthetics), effeminate (for not being hyper-masculine), big and scary by some white people (I'm 6'3), but at the same time not-- but my pride in myself has grown immensely as I have aged. The love for my skin, growing out my hair, and figuring out that my natural self is not only tolerable or acceptable but needed and beautiful, has been revolutionary for me. It is a struggle when everyone is telling you who you are is wrong, but as I become more centered in myself, I have also become more spiritually fulfilled as black man in a white world. I’m learning to love being black, even though sometimes I don't enjoy being black in America."
Tanya Robinson, Pasadena, CA
"Being black in America is a daily adventure. Constant vigilance is needed, an awareness of which neighborhood you are in and what you are wearing. It often means waiting longer to be seated at restaurants, slower service, then paying for the meal and having the change or credit card charge slip handed to your white companion. It means an extra adrenaline rush when pulled over by law enforcement without just cause, even if you have the backstop of a righteously indignant white person in the car with you. It means you are considered by some to be either a walking risk, or a potential burden on society. But do I ever wish I wasn’t black? Not one day of my life, because being black in America is also a study in resilience, maintaining a sense of humor and self confidence, and the everyday bravery of walking with head high and shoulders squared into every room in the world."
We look forward to sharing another collection of voices with you next week.