Yesterday in #WeNeedDiverseBooks: Lee and Low Talks Diversity Behind the Scenes

If you’ve been following the #WeNeedDiverseBooks and the #DiversityinYA campaign, then you’d know (and let’s be honest, it’s pretty obvious anyway) that there’s a definite lack of books being published that aren’t starring predominantly white (cis, straight) characters. Different people have different takes on the causes of the situation, of course, as they should because it’s a complex, systemic issue. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to catch a rich twitter conversation started by Lee and Low Books on one key factor in the lack of diverse books being published: the racial diversity of the industry itself.

The conversation was sparked by an article released by Publisher’s Weekly in which they talk about salaries in publishing. Take a look at this quote:

Employees at publishing houses worked a little bit longer each week and made a little more money in 2013 than they did in 2012. Those were just two of the findings of PW’s annual salary survey, which was conducted this summer and which, for the first time, featured a number of questions on racial diversity in the industry. While it’s no surprise that the publishing sector is overwhelmingly white, the lack of diversity is a bit eye-opening: of the 630 respondents who identified their race, 89% described themselves as white/Caucasian, with 3% selecting Asian and another 3% indicating Hispanic. Only 1% said they are African-American.

The dearth of minority employees directly affects the types of books that are published, industry members agreed, and for this issue to be addressed, there needs to be more advocates for books involving people of color throughout the business, including in management, editorial, and marketing executives in publishing houses, as well as among booksellers and librarians.

It’s a very important angle to look at the issue on, one that I think needs more attention as many people tend to place the blame solely on authors. A lot of people had their own take on the subject of the industry, hiring practices, and so on. Here a few tweets I found especially interesting:

So there are different issues being raised here, including hiring practices – or, in other words, the methods through which most people are able to get their start in the publishing industry in the first place. On top of the issue of networking among an already racially homogenous group of insiders, there’s also the question of privilege:

As many have pointed out, having an industry where mostly white employees are making decisions as to what gets published and what doesn’t can affect what we get to read:

That last tweet is really shocking and scared. But as I mentioned myself, when there are so many people within the industry who may not have taken the chance to confront or even acknowledge their own privilege, what you get are many people making decisions who may not see ‘what the big deal is.’ Some people discussed how this might affect potential POC writers as well:

It is. It’s a hard position to be put in. But of course, we all want careers. We want to be let through the door too.

I really suggest going through Lee and Low’s timeline to get a better sense of the whole conversation. A lot of great points that I couldn’t quite get too here. But before I go, I’ll leave you with a few last tweets for you to think about:



Listen to Minority in Publishing’s take on the subject here!

And let’s keep the conversation going. 🙂

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