The lack of diversity in the book publishing industry is not new or surprising to veterans of the business.
PW first addressed the vexing issue of minority employment in a feature in the mid-1990s, and has since covered a variety of industry initiatives and business trends—including corporate internships, educational programs, and new ventures—that attract minorities and spotlight nonwhite entrepreneurs. But the problem persists: many years after that initial report, the book industry continues to lack a meaningful number of minorities.
In many ways, this year’s annual survey of African-American publishing is a response to a series of events in 2014 that directly focused on diversity. This year’s BookExpo America/BookCon was met with an outcry over its initial lack of diversity in programming for YA publishing. This spurred the We Need Diverse Books campaign, which grew from a passionate protest movement inside and outside the industry into a formal nonprofit with a mission to build diversity.
In addition, PW’s annual Salary Survey, which is generally focused specifically on industry pay scales, included survey questions on diversity in book publishing for the first time. The survey responses provided still more evidence—if any more was needed—of an industry that is overwhelmingly white. 90% of the survey’s respondents identified themselves as white; 3% identified themselves as Asian; another 3% identified as Latino; and 1% of the respondents identified as African-American. These percentages are so damning (though to many the survey confirmed the obvious) that even the report’s overwhelmingly white respondents identified the lack of diversity as a troubling issue likely to negatively affect the kind of books that are published.
In response to what we believe is a new level of concern and, it is to be hoped, industry-driven activism to address and embrace diversity, we informally canvassed a selection of book industry professionals and executives in search of fresh, practical ideas—hacks, as it were—that can be used as a template for action on diversity. First we asked our responders to define what they believe diversity means—race, gender, religious belief, sexual orientation, and other aspects were cited—within the book publishing profession. We then organized their comments into six hacks, or practical ideas, about how the book industry can begin achieving a diverse and representative workforce.
The responders include Shaye Areheart, director of the Columbia Publishing Course (formerly the Radcliffe Publishing Course); Ayanna Coleman, associate manager of events and programs at the Children’s Book Council (CBC); Dawn Davis, publisher at Atria/37 Ink, an imprint of Simon & Schuster; Linda Duggins, director of publicity at Grand Central Publishing; Kat Engh, communications manager at Berrett-Koehler Publishers; Tina Jordan, vice president of the Association of American Publishers (AAP); David Unger and Retha Powers, director and assistant director, respectively, of the Publishing Certificate Program at the City College of New York; and Diane Wachtell, executive director of the New Press.
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SOURCE: Publishers Weekly
Diane Patrick and Calvin Reid