Lots of people in publishing talk a good game about being more diverse. But, that’s usually all it is — talk. Attend a panel with industry professionals and authors. Take a look around, not just at the audience, but at the speakers. See a pattern? Now, attend a industry panel with diversity as the topic. Notice a disconnect, do you? It’s a bit of “never the twain shall meet.”
As a black woman working in the industry, I’m beyond frustrated with this. I’m tired of being the only chip in the cookie. As such, I have thoughts on how to make some real changes.
1. Stop hiring just your friends. And if all your friends are only white females, you have a problem. How can this even be possible in a city like New York? Besides, just because you know someone doesn’t mean they know how to do a certain job.
2. Stop regurgitating antiquated ideas about why certain books don’t sell, especially when you’re not really trying new avenues of marketing and publicity. Do you realize the huge missed opportunities out there to connect with readers through people like Black Girl Nerds? And that’s just one example. They have huge followings on social media. Send them books and let them rec them to their followers! You know how important word of mouth is. And if recent TV ratings are any indication, your outdated beliefs are just that, and poor excuses not to change the landscape.
3. And while we’re talking about sending books… Why is it that the books I get for free through publishing organizations I’m involved with are never by and/or about PoC or LGBQT or anything other than hetero-normative, traditional beautiful white people?
4. And those books you do acquire… let’s just say you need to expand your horizons on what it’s like to be someone other than yourself. We’re more than just ‘hood lit, for example. And if you don’t find that believable? Again, you have a very real problem.
5. People in power/gatekeepers — reach out to some of these organizations that are pushing for more diversity, like We Need Diverse Books for those panels. Go beyond that. We need to see the effort from YOU, not just hear it. Stop sending your underlings and show up yourself.
6. While I could write a whole book on that chip-in-cookie comment that directly addresses minorities, that’s not what this post is about. But… Who told you that you’re supposed to “be” a certain way, and why did you believe them? Think about that for a minute or two.
Damn, I feel better.