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Rethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing

RETHINKING ‘DIVERSITY’ IN PUBLISHING

The cultural and creative industries in the UK are neither reflective of nor produce content for the communities in which we live and work. COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter are showing the existing and longstanding structural inequalities in our society. There is an urgent need for the publishing industry to do more and to do better. 

Led by Dr Anamik Saha and Dr Sandra van Lente in partnership with Goldsmiths, University of London, Spread the Word and The Bookseller, Rethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing is the first academic study in the UK which looks at how cultural production itself might disadvantage writers of colour. The Report is published by Goldsmiths Press.

Across the publishing industry, various initiatives have been designed and implemented to diversify the composition of the workforce, based on the assumption that this will automatically lead to ‘diverse’ output that will reach wider audiences. But is this assumption correct? 

The research looks at how cultural production itself might disadvantage racial and ethnic minorities. Using the British publishing industry as a case study and focussing on literary fiction, crime/thriller and YA, it explores how writers of colour experience the publishing processEach stage of production is examined  from acquisition, to editorial and design, to marketing & PR, to sales, to retail – to see the particular challenges (or at times, opportunities) writers of colour encounter.  

Since May 2019, over 100 people working in the publishing industry have been interviewed, including authors, agents, publishers, editors, experts in marketing, PR and sales as well as retailers and festival curators.  

 A Report, with a foreword by Bernardine Evaristowill provide an overview of the findings and calls to action for the publishing industry and wider literature sectors to work better with writers from underrepresented backgrounds and reach wider audiences in the process.  

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and carried out in partnership with Spread the Word and The Bookseller

You can download the Rethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing Report here and the Executive Summary here.   

The Bookseller industry supplement was published on 26 June 2020.  

#RETHINKINGDIVERSITYWEEK

The Report was launched to an invited audience on 23 June 2020 with Dr Anamik Saha and Dr Sandra van Lente, novelist Alex Wheatle MBE, Rishi Dastidar, Chair of Trustees, Spread the Word, Philip Jones, Editor, The Bookseller and chaired by Joy Francis, Executive Director, Words of Colour. The film is captioned.

Opening up the conversation 

To open up the conversation with the publishing industry and wider literature sector on the Report’s findings and calls to action to make systemic change happen, a series of events took place as part of #RethinkingDiversityWeek. 

The Booksellers: Looking beyond the white middle-class reader

With Meryl Halls, Managing Director, The Booksellers’ Association, Alex Call, WH Smith’s former Head of Books Marketing and Founder of online bookstore Bert’s Books and Valerie Brandes, Founder, Jacaranda Books. Moderated by Dr Anamik Saha.

View the event on Words of Colour Instagram Live account.

Rethinking how books by authors of colour are sold, marketed and promoted

With Award-winning Novelist Dorothy Koomson, Times Bestselling Author Abir Mukherjee and Publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove (Dialogue Books). Moderated by Dr Anamik Saha.

View the event on Words of Colour Instagram Live channel.

The future publishing pipeline and meeting the needs of writers of colour

With Publisher and Bookseller, Aimée Felone (Knights Of and Round Table Books), Literary Agent Emma Paterson (Aitken Alexander Associates), Writer, Academic and Co-Founder of The Jhalak Prize Professor Sunny Singh, Author and Co-Founder of The Good Agency Nikesh Shukla and Dr Anamik Saha and Dr Sandra van Lente. Chaired by Joy Francis, Executive Director, Words of Colour. The film is captioned.

workshop (post COVID-19) will run in partnership with the Centre for British Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.   

Links 

Anamik SahaRethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing, The Bookseller 4 March 2019. 

Philip Jones’s interview with Anamik SahaHow we can enable different voices to emerge in book publishing?  The Bookseller 13 March 2019. 

Report Authors

Dr Anamik Saha

Senior Lecturer, Co-Convenor of the MA Race, Media and Social Justice Principal Investigator


Dr Sandra van Lente

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow