She’s the First Black Person to Lead a Major Publisher, and She’s Going to Get Authors Paid

Novelist Nicole Dennis Benn interviews Dana Canedy

Nicole Dennis-Benn
Published in
6 min readJul 31, 2020


A closeup portrait shot of Dana Canedy.
Dana Canedy. Photo: Eileen Barroso/Columbia University

One would never believe that Dana Canedy was only a few days away from her Monday, July 27 start date as the first Black woman ever to be senior vice president of publishing giant Simon and Schuster. I was tasked to interview this magnificent woman, and her tone was welcoming, a light, refreshing breeze to help settle my nerves. This powerhouse, who was once an administrator for the Pulitzer Prize, has broken the concrete ceiling and is now sitting at the head of the table in publishing — a dream that made the little Black girl in me scream as well as the grown version who once found herself as one of two Black writers in an MFA program where White writers were the standard.

This new development came weeks after fiery discussions about racial prejudices in the mostly White publishing industry that reward White writers with more lucrative book deals and opportunities, including film and translation rights. No longer were people afraid to rip down curtains and blinds and welcome truths to shine light upon the darkness of systematic racism. Though Canedy’s appointment was in the making well before the current social climate, it could not have come at a better time.

Nicole Dennis-Benn: I’m so happy to know that this is happening right now! Congratulations on your new position as senior vice president of Simon and Schuster!

Dana Canedy: Thank you!

You’re coming from the Pulitzer Prize, taking on this new position. I listened to your PBS interview last week and heard you say that you’re still relatively new and you’re still getting all your ducks in order. However, what are your priorities? What would you first want to start with in this new position?

The first thing I want to do is really get to know the staff and their priorities and also to assess what we have in the pipeline. Then begin acquiring more books for the future. You know for the next year and beyond.

What kind of books are you hoping to see more of on the market?

I think that, first of all, Simon and Schuster already does a great job of acquiring books…