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12 O


ne of the clearest findings from our research, based on our interviews, is that publishers do care about diversit. Everyone we spoke to showed an openness around how they can make the industry more diverse,


 


especially in terms of the books it publishes. We encountered no denial or defensiveness about the inequalities that exist in publishing. There was a strong sense that publishers need to do beter. This is very encouraging for the future. We cannot claim for certain that there are more authors of colour being published than before. But it does at least seem like there is a genuine atempt to seek out and publish “new voices”. Yet, issues remain. One of the many topics that we did not have the space to address in this report was how publishers’ desire for more writers from disadvantaged backgrounds can stem out of fear or embarrassment of not being seen as inclusive. Social media has enabled audiences to publicly talk back to publishers in a way that was never the case before. Fear and shame in this instance are generating new opportunities for minorit and working-class writers. But it seems far from ideal when the push for diversit is more about preventing reputational damage than solving structural inequalities. Ultimately though, we find that the biggest challenge for publishers in producing more diverse books stems out of a tension that is at the heart of publishing: publishing as a business versus publishing as a public service. While the understanding that publishing is a commercial enterprise was clear among our respondents, they also demonstrated a strong sense of the cultural value of publishing. By cultural value, we are referring to publishers’ sense that books can be a positive force in societ, in educating and enlightening as well as entertaining readers. While publishers like to think that cultural and economic value go hand-in-hand, we discovered that these two poles are more likely to exist in a tension.


Approaches to diversit in publishing are shaped by this


      


tension. As stated, there was a strong sense from our respondents that the economic and cultural value of diversit are mutually inclusive, but our biggest finding is that publishers are still not convinced by the economic benefits of publishing more diversely, as this would mean reaching new audiences that they do not know how to actually engage. To put it bluntly, minorit and working-class audiences feel alien to the core publishing industry. One immediate step in addressing the problem of diversit in bookselling is through agents and editors being more proactive in seeking out new voices. In this regard, we want to acknowledge the new generation of publishers we encountered who are looking beyond the traditional spaces in order to discover new talent from disadvantaged backgrounds, and moreover, are giving them the time and space to develop. But ultimately, we believe making publishing more diverse entails diversifying the audience. That does not mean than black authors should only be sold to black audiences. But as things currently stand, publishers are not even trying to sell black authors to black audiences. If publishers are serious about the economic value of diversit, they need to find the cultural value in reaching these new audiences. To pose it as a question, which publishers out there are willing to go to Bradford to beter understand the desires and needs of the working-class Asian communit? We strongly believe that if those new audiences felt that the publishing industry actually catered to/cared for them, then more people belonging to those communities might be inspired to write.


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