Tag: publishing news

Annie E. Casey photos at Dunbar Elementary School, The Center For Working Families, Inc., and the Early Learning and Literacy Resource Center in Atlanta, GA Wednesday, October 10, 2012. Photos by JASON E. MICZEK - www.miczekphoto.com

The ‘Picture Book Bias:’ In Children’s Books, Girls & Minorities Aren’t Speaking

If picture books are meant to give voice to the experiences of young children, then why aren’t girls and racial minorities speaking? Using data from the top 100 bestselling children’s picture books, researchers have noted a growing gender and racial disparity in terms of which characters speak in children’s books.

Over half of children’s books feature a predominantly male cast; comparably, less than a fifth such books feature a predominantly female cast. It’s evident that male characters are literally dominating the conversation: not only does the gender gap exist in picture books, but it’s also growing. The Guardian reports that “speaking roles for male characters rose by 19%,” and at the same time, “one in five bestsellers did not feature any females at all.”

Only five of the top 100 books feature a BAME (Black, Asian, & Minority Ethnic) character in a prominent role. Of those five, three titles’ spots rely on the same character: Lanky Len, a mixed-race “nasty burglar” who hardly represents the sort of relatable character that nonwhite children can connect to. Statistics regarding BAME characters in less central roles are just as grim: 70% of such characters never speak at all. Across all 100 titles, only eleven BAME characters have speaking roles. And among these eleven, only seven have names. Of course, we’re discussing the umbrella of ethnic minority identities—on this list, there’s only one black male protagonist. Off the list, the disparity isn’t any better. Of all the 9,000+ children’s books published in 2017, only 1% featured a BAME protagonist… while 96% featured no BAME characters, speaking or silent.

 

 

(Right) Lanky Len, one of the few BAME children's characters of 2018
(Right) Lanky Len, one of the few BAME children’s characters of 2018 | Image Via What The Ladybird Heard

 

 

When it comes to picture books featuring LGBT+ families and disabled characters, it’s the same story. None of the 100 bestsellers featured same-sex parents. Only one title included a disabled character—but that character doesn’t speak or play any major role in the plot. We may be talking about fiction, but these statistics are unrealistic. Predominantly white, male stories for children deny the experiences of many readers, but they also don’t reflect the mathematic facts concerning the gender and racial breakdown of English children. Around 33% of English schoolchildren are from minority backgrounds; 48% are female. Our stories should reflect the varied experiences of the children they aim to depict.

What causes this disparity? Among the 100 books studied, not one author or illustrator is BAME. This lack of diversity extends beyond the list: only 2% of all children’s book illustrators in the UK, not just the bestsellers, are people of color. The lack of diversity in publishing is a capitalistic Ouroboros: because few children’s picture books feature diverse characters, publishers come to believe these books won’t earn large sums of money. At the same time, these books rarely earn money for their publishers because they are rarely published. But while the exact cause of this phenomenon may be unclear, the results aren’t—girls, minorities, and disabled children don’t see themselves in stories that are supposed to be for them. It’s also possible that these sorts of disparities in children’s media could reinforce disparity and bias as the children grow into adulthood.

 

 

 

Featured Image Via Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Publishing Isn’t Dead: Spike in Audiobook, YA Profits

We book lovers are subject to one constant anxiety: the death of literature as we know it. (Okay, two anxieties: the first is fear for our favorite characters’ lives.) The headlines are as clear as they are grim—publishing companies are losing money, physical bookstores are closing, fewer Americans are reading than ever before. It’s frightening for readers and writers alike to consider that the stories we care so much about may not always exist in a familiar, comforting way… or they might not exist at all.

These claims have varying degrees of truth. Yes, many Americans don’t read. But the claim about bookstores disappearing is only partially true: while chain bookstores have continually lost money and closed locations over the past ten years, indie bookstores are experiencing a period of growth. It’s much the same with publishing: self-publishing may be on the rise, but big publishers haven’t gone away. Despite all the grim news, the facts are a lot more optimistic. A recent financial report revealed which book genres and categories generated increasing profits in 2018—and, spoiler alert, it’s actually most of them.

 

"Print is dead is dead."

Image Via Kodak

 

The report compares profits in 2017 and 2018, indicating which genres generated revenue over the last year. This suggests which categories will continue to grow in 2019—and should offer a reason for book lovers to relax!

Though eBooks tend to get the most buzz, particularly with the widely-discussed self-publishing trend, it’s actually audiobooks that experienced the most growth (37.1%). Surprisingly, it’s eBooks that experienced a financial loss (-3.6%). Of course, figures like that can be a little abstract—in concrete terms, eBooks still made $1 billion in 2018.

Children’s and YA books also had notable financial gains, with 3.3 and 4.5% increases respectively.

Adult books generated significant revenue ($247.4 million) although some subcategories experienced financial decline. Audiobook and hardcover sales increased; mass-market paperbacks and physical audiobooks declined significantly. Since we’re pretty sure physical audiobooks refer to CDs and cassette tapes, we’re going to have to follow up with a resounding duh. These results plainly suggest that publishing isn’t dead (or even dying).

 

Publishing revenue chart shows increased earnings

Image vIA pENGUIN rANDOM hOUSE

 

Since publishers’ revenue increased overall (4.6%), maybe now you’ll be able to sleep at night—unless your next favorite read is keeping you awake!

 

Featured Image Via University of Cambridge