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INTRODUCTION


With 202,078 print books published in 2019 (Nielsen), publishers are competing for the atention of readers as well as for shelf space and bookshop support. Centralised book buying and dominance of a few retail players are seen as major challenges, and have an effect on publishers. Furthermore, interviewees revealed once more that the core audience they know how to reach is a white, middle-class readership. The accessibilit of bookshops was reflected upon. While independent bookshops and digital communication and sales channels can provide a number of opportunities for books by BAME authors, one concern remained that the whiteness of bookselling and retail created obstacles for BAME authors and their books. As one BAME respondent said: “we can do everything we want to in this building on geting in more authors of colour, but if retailers aren’t engaged with that conversation, then there’s no point”.


MARKET CONCENTRATION AND CENTRALISED BOOK BUYING AFFECT BAME AUTHORS NEGATIVELY Independent booksellers aside, most book buying on the retail side is centralised in the UK. While not all outlets stock the same books, the buying power is in the hands of very few people. And while particular bookshops can decide what they want to stock from the central warehouse, outlets like supermarkets don’t have any room for regional differentiation; as a senior, white book buyer stated, “that level of complexit would just kill the whole system. It’s just a big machine for moving books through fast and efficiently”. The centralised nature of book buying, combined with the


commercial pressure booksellers reported, can lead to a concentration on a very limited range of books, i.e. books by authors who already have a positive track record, or books that publishers and booksellers feel confident they know the audience for, thus perpetuating the status quo of representation.


SOME RETAILERS DISADVANTAGE BAME AUTHORS In a number of conversations, hope was expressed to have more (commercial) books by BAME authors receive more atention from booksellers. However, if books by BAME authors are considered “too niche” for supermarkets and/or get packaged as literary fiction, where sales are generally lower, conclusions might be drawn that BAME books have less commercial appeal. Respondents described the main book retailers as “reactive”, brand authors and expected bestsellers (with large marketing budgets) aside. Booksellers were said to wait for the reactions to a book before adapting order numbers, watching for “that kind of organic buzz that comes from a book, from booksellers reading it”, as a senior, white female bookseller put it. BAME authors also risk being disadvantaged if they are not backed substantially by their publishers, and/or if there are no appropriate comparisons that make booksellers stock the titles.


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