By Ali Shaw, Founder and Executive Editor
At Indigo, it is and has always been our goal is to be inclusive and create a safe space for all authors.
With the national conversation over the past month, it’s clear that Black people in American society—and Black people in American publishing—do not have the same access to safe spaces and inclusion that others do.
This is why we support Black Lives Matter—because Black voices matter and are not being heard, even in our industry that is all about making authors’ voices heard. Here are just a few markers of that disparity:
- The #publishingpaidme Twitter hashtag revealed major discrepancies in advances for white authors versus Black authors in both America and the UK, with established bestselling sci-fi/fantasy writer N. K. Jesimin receiving only $25,000 advances for each book in her latest series versus literary fiction author Lydia Kiesling receiving a whopping $200,000 for her first and only book (so far).
- The Diversity in Publishing 2019 survey results showed that just 5% of American publishing professionals are Black. In a country where Black people make up 14% of the population and an industry that touts “representation matters,” this is a disappointing juxtaposition.
- The truth is coming out that some authors’ books are being rejected based on their race, like Arnold Henry, who was told, “In today’s market, stories on African-American ‘fathers’ is such a tough sell” regarding his children’s book, Daddy’s Mini-Me.
The lack of diversity in publishing is not news. It’s been a topic of conversation for many more than the sixteen years I’ve been in the industry, but there’s been no noticeable change despite those conversations. Now, though, there seems to be real concerted effort to actually make change. Here are some good things I see happening:
- American publishing associations are recognizing that saying diversity matters to them while continuing to appoint boards of all-white members is not enough. Meanwhile organizations like Literary Arts and Write Around Portland have been working for several years to consciously level the playing field for writers of color in the literary world, and they are deepening their commitment now. And Black-led organizations like Young Authors Publishing, We Need Diverse Books, and Well-Read Black Girl are gaining even more traction.
- More editors and publishers are turning to the Conscious Style Guide to make concerted efforts for inclusive and respectful language in the work they do.
- Some literary agencies, like Bookends, are actively seeking more submissions from Black authors.
We cannot leave the work of diversifying and creating safe spaces only to other associations and companies in publishing, though. Here are three things Indigo is doing to contribute to the movement:
- We are working on upgrading our mission statement to be clear on our stance for safe spaces and our support for Black authors and authors from other marginalized populations.
- We plan to launch a scholarship for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) clients starting in 2021.
- We also hope to implement a scholarship fund for BIPOC publishing students starting in 2021.
As Magdalene Abraha writes, “Beyond words of solidarity, the publishing industry must guarantee that this support for black voices remains – even after the current vogue for the Black Lives Matter movement wanes.”
We believe the publishing industry can do better. We believe America can do better. We believe it is our job to help. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating and encouraging inclusivity and safe spaces, and supporting organizations that are actively working to create equality in American publishing and American society.