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Rethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing

Added on June 24, 2020. Download this resource

Rethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing, launched on 23 June 2020, is the first in-depth academic study in the UK on diversity in trade fiction and the publishing industry with a particular focus on three genres: literary fiction, crime/thriller, and young adult. These genres were chosen because of the way in which they varied in terms of the racial and ethnic diversity of the authors published.

Written by Dr Anamik Saha and Dr Sandra van Lente, the project is a partnership between Goldsmiths, University of London, Spread the Word and The Bookseller, and is based on interviews with authors, agents and representatives from all of the major publishing houses, including CEOs and managing directors, editors, designers and marketing, PR and sales staff. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, it is published by Goldsmiths Press.

Read the Executive Summary

The research entailed qualitative interviews with:

  • 113 professionals in the publishing industry

  • authors, agents, CEOs and managing directors, editors, designers, staff in marketing, PR and sales, as well as booksellers and literature festival organisers

  • respondents from both big and small publishing houses, literary agencies, and booksellers. All the major publishing houses were represented in the research.

Interviewees were asked about their practices and their experience of publishing writers of colour.

Primarily focusing on the so-called ‘neutral’ components of publishing (acquisition, promotion, sales and retail), the report found:

  • assumptions about audiences being white and middle-class still prevail, which is the only audience the big publishers are interested in

  • publishers still see writers of colour as a ‘commercial risk’

  • Black, Asian and minority ethnic and working-class audiences are undervalued by publishers, economically and culturally, impacting on the acquisition, promotion and selling of writers of colour

  • comping practices, when books deemed similar are compared to others as a predictor of sales, create obstacles that privilege established authors and restrict ‘new voices’

  • continued ambiguity of ‘diversity’ as both a moral and economic imperative.

The report is launched as part of a virtual #RethinkingDiversityWeek which runs from 12pm on Tuesday 23 June to Friday 26 June 2020.

 

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