This year started off admittedly rocky in terms of diversity in publishing. Our last blog post was about American Dirt and the controversy of “trauma porn” in literature. While agents and publishers have long purported a desire for diversity in the authors they represent, the books they publish, and the marketing campaigns they launch, the statistics in the industry still don’t reflect equal opportunities for authors of color, LGBTQIA+, those with disabilities, and more.
Diversity Baseline Survey 2019
Lee & Low Books posted the results of their Diversity Baseline Survey 2019 a few weeks ago. The survey reported that for the entirety of the industry (executives, literary agents, sales, marketing/publicity departments, book reviewers, and interns) numbers were as follows:
- 76 percent white/Caucasian.
- 74 percent cisgender female.
- 81 percent heterosexual/straight.
- 89 percent nondisabled.
To clarify, these are worrying numbers. The blog goes on to discuss that in the last four years, editorial departments in charge of acquiring manuscripts for publication have increased from 82 to 86 percent Caucasian (while more diverse books are being published, those selecting them are still predominantly white, straight women). One significant discovery in the research could mean positive change for the future of diversity in publishing. In their post, Lee & Low Books state:
“Interns are significantly more diverse than the industry as a whole. Of the interns surveyed in 2019, 49 percent identify as BIPOC; 49 percent are on the LGBTQIA spectrum; and 22 percent identify as having a disability. These numbers are a dramatic departure from the overall industry numbers and signal a new, more representative generation of entry-level publishing staff.”
The matter of whether these interns will end up pursuing a career in publishing remains to be seen. Not only does it depend if they receive the opportunities, but also the salaries necessary to do so.
Increasing Inclusivity and Diversity in Publishing
In spit of these numbers, there are efforts being taken to increase inclusivity and diversity in publishing. One promising initiative is #DVPit, a biannual Twitter event launched in 2016 by literary agent Beth Phelan. The goal of the event is to provide traditionally marginalized authors with a platform to pitch to participating agents/editors. There are two #DVPit events coming up. On on April 22, 2020 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. fo children and teens nonfiction/fiction. The second on April 23, 2020 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for adult/nonfiction and for artists/illustrators). Find more information #DVPit, its founders/collaborators, book deals that have resulted from the event, and more at their website. You can also read this Shondaland article to learn more about the event’s background and inspiration.
Permission to Write
Another wonderful organization dedicated to encouraging and providing resources for people of color is Permission to Write. This online and in-person community for African American writers and writers of color seeks to amplify authors’ voice. Using mentorships, a quarterly magazine, and meetups for feedback, support, and collaboration, this initiative deserves attention and support in 2020 and beyond. Learn more about Permission to Write’s founder, Ashley M. Coleman, and the organization here.
While these resources are very important and necessary for diversity and inclusivity in 2020, we have a long way to go. In order to see true change, every writer, agent, editor, member of the publishing industry, and reader must do. They must seek with passion and zeal to increase their awareness, understanding, support, and championship of marginalized communities and the content that represents them.
Midnight Publishing is an editing, writing, and publishing consulting company. We have been serving authors and entrepreneurs for nearly a decade. Contact us today to see if we can provide the right professional assistance, collaboration, and insight for you and your book in 2020.