Writing the Future: Black and Asian Authors Publishers in the Market Place

Network & Knowledge

Writing the Future: Black and Asian Authors Publishers in the Market Place, commissioned by Spread the Word, edited by Danuta Kean and deputy edited by Mel Larsen, reveals that the publishing industry’s poor commitment to diversity is putting it at risk of becoming culturally irrelevant. Writers, literary agents and mainstream and independent publishers were surveyed to determine whether progress was being made on cultural diversity. The findings give cause for concern.

A survey of publishers and literary agents indicates that of the respondents over 74 percent of those employed by large publishing houses, and an alarming 97 per cent of agents, believe that the industry is only “a little diverse” or “not diverse at all.”

Out of 203 UK-based published novelists polled, 30 per cent came from a BAME background. Only 47 per cent said their début was agented compared to 64 per cent of the White novelists. Once into their publishing career, 53 per cent of BAME authors remained without an agent against 37 per cent of White authors.

The business case for publishers to be more culturally diverse in recruitment and the writers they publish is also compelling. BAME communities’ disposable income currently stands at an estimated £300bn, and they are expected to represent 30 per cent of the population by 2050.

As the writer development agency for London, talent development and diversity are key priorities in our programme of work. We have a 20 year track record in the provision of ground-breaking creative and professional development schemes for BAME writers, including The Complete Works 1 & 2 – a highly regarded mentoring programme managed by Dr Nathalie Teitler. This year, Spread the Word began Flight 1000, a three-year Associate scheme developed specifically to tackle a lack of diversity in publishing, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Take a look at how the media and publishing industry responded to the report here:

– The Guardian
– Bookseller
– Booktrade
– The Publishers Association

You can download the report here. A larger font version is also available here.

Published 14 April 2015