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INTRODUCTION Publishers have a very narrow sense of who their audience is, and if a writer of colour is not seen as having value to this very specific group, then they are less likely to get published. It follows, then, that writers of colour who do get acquired are packaged and promoted in a way that is made to appeal to what publishers perceive to be their core white, middle-class audience. That is not to say that it is necessarily bad to publish books by minorit authors in this way. But in what follows, we want to explore how the promotion stage of publishing can disadvantage writers of colour.

WHO IS THE AUDIENCE? When we began our interviews with people involved in marketing and publicit, we anticipated hearing comments such as, for a black author, we targeted a black audience. In fact, respondents were quite critical of this tpe of marketing. As one white woman in marketing said about targeting specific audiences based on the ethnic or racial identit of an author, “I just think that’s not how readers approach books”. However, as our research continued, we found that the reason for not targeting specific minorit audiences for writers of colour was borne out of a fear about how this would limit the overall audience. Engagement with minorit audiences is seen as an additional extra. Hence our main finding: that ethnic and racial authors are marketed in a way that appeals specifically to the core publishing audience. As a respondent in sales put it to us “a sort of fiſtysomething middle-class to upper-middle- class white woman who reads a lot because she has time, and she has resources to spend on books”. She was oſten referred to in our interviews as “Susan” or “Suzie”. Some respondents contested the idea that focusing on a minorit audience would limit an author’s readership, especially when the numbers that publishers deal with are so low in the first place.


Across all interviews, literary festivals and author events were mentioned as important publicity opportunities to raise author profiles. Two recurring assumptions are that festival audiences (in particular in crime fiction) are white and middle-class, and thus lend themselves to a specific kind of books. The other is that a BAME audience would not be interested as much in literature. As one BAME respondent recalls, they were advised to not “call it a book festival, make it more festival” as stakeholders believed that “people are not going to engage with the literature festival, it’s too highbrow”. One solution has

been to “demonstrate that literature is not just picking up a book and reading”, or to create entertaining events with “the books at the heart” but other artists surrounding it, which “brings in different audiences”. The challenge seems to be to get publishers on board.

The cultural capital associated with some of the more established/traditional/white literary festivals make publicity staff try for them first. This makes one wonder if the value associated with BAME and working-class audiences is as high as the value associated with the audiences at the Cheltenhams, Hays and Harrogates.

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