Diversity and inclusion in publishing

Does the publishing world embrace us all?

Diversity and inclusion are big words and have a significant level of importance in the world we live in today. While the world of publishing has always been one that professes to be liberal and inclusive of all voices, there still appears to be more work needed to make it truly diverse and inclusive.

Less than twenty years ago, individuals from BAME and other diverse groups in society with published works accredited to them was extremely rare. While many argue that the number has risen in the years since, it still pales in comparison to the amount of white, middle-class written works in publication today, and that only 2% of published authors and illustrators in the UK are British people of colour, says BookTrust research.

Although according to a 2018 study, there are slightly more BAME individuals working in publishing than in the UK as a whole (87.3% vs 86%) . The literary world has opened up a number of channels for expression and representation for many under-represented social and ethnic groups, but in many ways still fails to achieve a truly equal balance of diversity and inclusion. Whilst 63.4% of those working in publishing in 2018 were female, they made up only 48% of those in senior leadership roles and a mere 0.6% were transgender.

One of the many core beliefs of the Margate Bookie is that all forms of literary writing and performance can, and should, be able to encompass people of all races, sexes, cultures, beliefs and abilities from whichever walk of life they may come from. With our forthcoming New Voices Bookie Chat with Helen Lewis and Abiola Bello, we discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion and how we can amplify new voices in literature. Here are some of the people we will be talking with and how they are trying to bring the world of publishing closer to a more inclusive and diverse future:

Book publicist and journalist Helen Lewis and children’s/YA author Abiola Bello founded The Author School in 2015. Bringing together their decades of experience in the publishing industry, they are passionate about helping authors, giving them accurate guidance and genuinely want to see them succeed.

They are advocates for diversity and believe that everyone should be able to see themselves in books, on book covers and also in publishing houses. They believe that it is their duty to produce content that not only celebrates cultures and traditions but respects them too. While they believe that publishing has a long way to go towards being truly diverse, and have a lot of work to do to make sure that everyone understands that, they have seen some great positive steps.

Now celebrating five years of The Author School, they have now created The Diverse Book Awards and self-publishing company ink, which they will help bring publishing closer to the ideals they cherish.

Sue Cheung is a British-Chinese writer and illustrator born in the Midlands, England. From an early age, she spent her time scribbling away at different projects. At the age of 16, she seized her chance to become an artist when she won a scholarship to the London College of Fashion. She now works on her books from her home in Dorset. Chinglish, he latest novel, is a winner of the YA Diverse Book Award 2020 and has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2021.

She believes that diversity in publishing matters because there is a need to reflect society as the way it is today. To her, there are two main aspects; getting books into the hands of children who can see themselves, which makes them feel like they belong (unlike the alienation that she felt when she was a kid where she saw no British-Chinese characters in what she read); and also, the exposure of black, Asian or minority ethnic characters to any readers who aren’t in these groups, so that they can become empathetic towards the struggles faced.

Children’s author and founder and CEO of Making Herstory, Onjali Rauf runs an organisation that mobilises men, women and children from all walks of life to tackle the abuse and trafficking of women and girls in the UK and beyond. Since 2015 she has organised and delivered emergency aid convoys for refugee families surviving across northern France; an endeavour which has led to the launch of O’s Refugee Aid Team.

Ayisha Malik‘s novels, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, The Other Half of Happiness, and This Green and Pleasant Land have been met with great critical acclaim. Ayisha was a WHSmith Fresh Talent Pick and Sofia Khan has been a CityReads London book. She has been shortlisted for The Asian Women of Achievement Award, Marie Claire’s Future Shapers’ Awards and the h100 Awards.

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