Diversity in Publishing
Historically, the publishing industry has not been the most inclusive. Even now, publishing suffers from a real diversity problem. Lee & Low Books went so far as to do a baseline study of the current diversity standing and suffice it to say, things don’t look good. The majority of people in the industry are White/Caucasian, Women/Cis-women, who are Straight/Heterosexual, and Nondisabled.
…That doesn’t make for a very unbiased committee, at any level of publication, and can skew the perception of what “the market” wants. Of course, many publishers claim that their need for “cultural fit”, which is to say employees which gel well with existing employees, is the reason for these numbers – but regardless of the motivation, it poses a threat for writers of color and those who neither heterosexual or cis who may struggle to break into an already competitive industry.
The Cooperative Children’s Book Center has stated that across the years they’ve been tracking diversity in publishing, that they have seen evidence that small, independently owned publishers are contributors to the body of multicultural literature in the US and Canada. When individual editors at large and small publishing houses make an effort to attract a more diverse group of writers, illustrators, and stories – there’s an impact.
The Cooperative Children’s Book Center actually compiles statistics each year regarding the number of books about and for people of color and of First/Native Nations. They define these books as “multicultural.”
There is no single definition of the term “multicultural literature” as it is applied to books for children and young adults. At the CCBC, we use the term to mean books by and about people of color and First/Nation Nations.
It’s important for children and young adults to read content and see books which are about them, or people like them. It is important for people of all ages to be represented, both in the real world and in the media they consume. (Especially when that media is in print because books are incredibly important.)
How Can You Help?
There is great news, though! You absolutely can help spread and promote diversity in publication, regardless of your race, gender, disability status, orientation, or anything else. You can help even if you aren’t in the publishing industry or don’t want to be in the publishing industry! All you have to do is read books. That’s it! Buy, and read books by people of color. Buy and read books by women, trans folks, intersex people, and gender nonconforming authors. Buy and read books by lesbian authors, gay authors, bi or pansexual authors, and by asexual authors. Buy and read books by disabled authors.
You know what makes a difference in the publishing industry? You know what can help convince publishers, editors, and executives that it’s worthwhile to take on books that are by and about marginalized people? SALES. In the publishing industry, like any other, the end game is making more of the all mighty dollar. By making a conscious effort to purchase more books by marginalized people, you’re letting publishers know that choosing that author to tell their story was a good choice, which makes it more likely they will choose similar authors and stories in the future.
Review books by these authors and about these folks, so that others who are considering making a similar purchase (whether they are aware of the diversity disparity or not) will know whether or not you enjoyed the book. Book reviews on sites like Amazon and Good Reads will help draw readers to those titles, and again help bring on sales which will benefit authors and the publishing community in the same way your purchase did.