A Note to Publishing

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Hey Book Friends,

I wrote this note maybe a week and a half ago and posted it on my LinkedIn page. I wanted to connect and reach as many publishing professionals as possible, but I realized I never shared it with you all, so here it is.

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“In response to the recent, unlawful and untimely deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, various industries and companies have announced their solidarity with the Black American community. Thoughtful posts, likes, shares, and information are being shared across social media platforms. One industry also taking part is publishing. The book and magazine community has shown their empathy and proclaimed fellowship with Black Americans during this time of civil unrest and protests, however, it feels tone-deaf.

For years People of Color (“POC”) have made attempts to break into the overwhelmingly White publishing industry with very little to show for their efforts. LEE & LOW BOOKS, one of the largest multicultural children’s book publisher and one of the few minority-owned publishing companies in the United States, released results of a survey about the severe lack of diversity within the industry.

Questionable hiring practices, lack of inclusionary oversight, racist hiring managers and Human Resources personnel, and the lack of interest in diversity are the main reasons for the lack of diversity within publishing.

Honestly, publishing needs to be called out for its lack of support over the years.

The industry, for a while, has tried to figure out various avenues to expand monetization of products (books, magazines, ebooks, etc.), but has failed to figure out ways to diversify itself.

In an effort to make it clear for the general industry, individual companies, and personnel, I’ve highlighted a few tips to help move towards a more inclusionary environment:

  1. Hire Diversity & Inclusion Strategists/Managers in both Human Resources and Editorial departments. Personnel in Human Resources can advocate for diversity during the hiring & onboarding process, while also serving as a resource for company employees. Editorial departments, in addition to Product Development teams, can benefit from having several different point-of-views from diverse team members.
  2. Pay fair salaries to entry-level employees. The industry often recruits, and attracts, candidates that can survive off of super-low salaries due to the help of external assistance. Providing fair and ethical salaries would allow candidates of all socio-economic backgrounds to apply and work within the publishing industry. Also, three to five years of professional experience doesn’t apply to entry-level candidates. They are entry-level for a reason.
  3. Pay authors/writers equally for the same work, for example, book advances. White authors often receive substantially larger book advances than Authors of Color. Fix that.
  4. Work with more diverse literary agents and agencies. It is imperative that publishers make the effort to research and work with literary agents of diverse backgrounds (Black, LGBTQIA, LatinX, etc.). Nonidentical and distinguishable professionals offer more opportunities to learn about writers and authors with unique stories that would do well across different audiences.
  5. Make an effort to explain to existing employees that the definition of Diversity is the inclusion of everyone and *not* the exclusion of White employees.
  6. Understand that tokenism is a problem for many industries and publishing is one of them. Tokenism is the procedure of hiring or including one person of color to serve as the general representation of diversity: it does not. It is far from fair and doesn’t work. Hire more than just a few candidates.
  7. Provide equal promotional opportunities for everyone. The industry sharply struggles with diversity and the problem worsens as you go up the corporate chain; making the concerted effort to promote equally would benefit publishing companies by increasing applications, diversifying products, etc. Additionally, having diversity in upper editorial positions could help prevent the white-washing of content written by POC.
  8. Provide useful internships that actually teach interns, and those interested in working within the industry, useful skill sets, and applicable professional abilities. Setting up coffee machines doesn’t count.
  9. Listen to your current employees regarding the necessary changes to improve diversity and inclusion, especially employees of different backgrounds. They can offer easy and accessible changes to companies.
  10. Releasing corporate statements about diversity and stating efforts to make publishing more inclusionary is nice, but companies need to actually make the effort. Hire diverse candidates, promote fairly, make the professional publishing environment more welcoming, and pay fairly.

These tips are just a few general suggestions that may help change the current publishing landscape that is completely devoid of diversity.

We must stand together to fight against racial injustice and inequality.

Please feel free to follow my Instagram book page, @marsha_reads_books.

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