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Publishing needs a makeover

In 2022, Penguin Random House released their social impact report, which provided a transparent look at their organization’s demographics. In this report, it was revealed that white employees made up 74%-75% of their workforce. Additionally, 76% of their contributors (authors, illustrators, etc) were white.

To contextualize those numbers, this was after two years of actively prioritizing diversity in an effort to fix how inadequately their staff and contributors reflected real world demographics. These numbers were an improvement to the statistics they released in 2020, when many major publishers realized the need for more intention in this area.

I don’t bring this up to single out this particular publisher. These numbers are easily replicated at most larger publishing companies. Which makes the problem even more concerning. Literature has a significant impact on the worldview of readers. Which means that it also has an effect on the shape of the world.

The chances are, if you are reading this post, you are probably an American and you are probably filtering this information through an American lens. As such, these stats may not be all that concerning to you. (Although to me, as a Black American, these stats are quite serious to me even through an American lens). But consider that I am not giving you statistics for an American company, Penguin House is a global powerhouse in this industry. These statistics hold up for the major publishers across the world. People of color are, by far, the global majority and yet our voices are shockingly underrepresented. Our stories are mishandled. Our books are underproduced and marketed far less aggressively by major publishers. And because of this, the majority of representation that does exist for us is written by other people and presents an inaccurate and often harmful picture of us.

I want to be clear: this is not an anti-white author post. I want my white peers to continue to flourish in this industry. But it is important that we move forward determined to dismantle the barriers that only exist to protect the narrative of long-dead men who sought to conquer the world and reshape it into their image.

Diversity is not a buzz word and it’s not charity. It is an accurate look at the world. An accurate look that YOU have been denied because of how singularly every facet of media focuses on white narratives and voices. This problem isn’t going to be fixed by picking a few authors of color to throw a publishing deal behind each year. The industry needs serious change.

So, where does change begin?

Major publishers are actively working to diversify their workforces and to resource their staff to produce more diverse stories and to adequately serve diverse authors. That is an important step, but tin itself, it is not enough. Here are five additional actions that I believe are absolutely necessary for bringing effective and lasting change:

  1. Destigmatizing independent publishing (aka Indie Publishing).

  2. Challenging publishing standards

  3. Resourcing Black and brown publishers

  4. Strengthening indie bookstores

  5. Investing in Black and brown books for libraries and schools

Over the next few weeks, I intend to share information on each of these necessary steps in order to outline what we, as the public, can do to fight for a more diverse publishing industry as well as what role we, as a company, plan to play in making those solutions possible.

If you are just seeing this blog for the first time, please subscribe so that you can receive notifications as those blogs become available. In the meantime, here are a few ways that you can support our efforts as a company:

i - If you are seeking more information on how to navigate writing, publishing or reading diverse literature, you can join my Patreon. In addition to sharing information on all of these subjects, I also provide regular opportunities to support Black and brown writers and companies. You can subscribe for as low as $5 a month HERE

ii - We are fighting to resource and educate authors, strengthen relationships with indie bookstores, challenge publishing standards and educate the world's readers all while working on our 2023/2024 releases. Help us do that more successfully by donating toward our operating budget. You can donate HERE

iii - Subscribe for our monthly indie book box. We are pushing to bring Black and brown indie books into wider circulation and one of the ways we are doing that is by sending out a few hundred copies of a book each month in order to jump start conversation about quality Black and brown books that may not be as widely distributed as they deserve to be. You can subscribe for our full box, which comes with additional bookish merch/items, or for just the book at a discounted rate. Sign up HERE

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