The publishing world has long been struggling with diversity. It is a historically difficult environment for people of color to establish themselves in. While there are notable exceptions, the industry has been largely dominated by white writers for generations. As our society evolves, the industry is starting to see this dynamic shift, with new faces bringing diversity to all areas of publishing. The fight is far from over, though. As of recent, more authors of color are getting published, however, this change has called attention to a new problem: There is a huge shortage of published female authors of color.
A growing concern among non-white authors is that publishing houses don’t know how to properly market them or their work. This, in turn, is causing problems for the writers. Angela Flournoy, a black author from California, called attention to this topic in a recent article, stating that she felt it was an “undue burden” for writers of color to have to answer difficult questions regarding the diversity gap in their industry. She asserts that that isn’t a writer’s job and shouldn’t have to be.
Kima Jones, the owner of Jack Jones Literary Arts, is of a similar mindset. Her company works exclusively with clients who have not been properly represented in the publishing industry, typically of minority groups. These clients include popular novelist Dolen Perkinz-Valdez. Jones herself specializes in “culturally specific marketing” and her desire, as she puts it, “is to affirm the work of writers that have the burden of feeling like a publisher doesn’t know how to market them.” She also stated that there absolutely “need to be more women of color in publishing.”
There is considerable evidence to suggest that Jones is correct in her statements regarding the diversity problem in the publishing world. Even if more people of color are being published, the publishers are still predominantly white. A recent study from Lee and Low Books examined just how diverse the world of modern publishing really is. Of the 40 publishing houses and journals that took part, almost 80% of the participating employees were white. It was also revealed that 77% of the employees working in the departments of Publicity and Marketing were white as well.
These numbers show the root of the problem discussed at length by Flournoy and Jones. As writer Jean Ho stated in a recent article for NPR; “For writers of color, the lack of diversity in book publicity departments can feel like a death knell.” Her words accurately sum up the root of the problem that people like Kima Jones are so strongly fighting against. How books are marketed is often of greater importance than many people realize. Every writer deserves to have their work publicized by someone who is best equipped to find their audience.
Featured image courtesy of projekdialogue.com