Books Front Matter

Diversity and Inclusion in Book Publishing

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is one of the foremost social issues of our time. Nowhere is this more evident than in the publishing industry.

Authors from traditionally underrepresented groups are seeing a massive appetite for their unique perspectives, thanks to readers’ growing desire to listen to and understand viewpoints different from their own.

Publishers are responding to this demand, opening the floodgates in every genre and driving positive change in the publishing industry: more stories written by people who have been traditionally overlooked.

Demand for other voices is growing

This hunger for inclusive storytelling and diverse narratives stems from socially conscious consumers who are increasingly interested in the breadth of human experiences, who are actively seeking stories that go beyond mainstream perspectives, and who embrace authentic voices from various backgrounds. Consider some recently  acclaimed indie titles:

  • Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love by Carlos Allende (LGBTQ+ Fiction)
  • Faith by Itoro Bassey (African American Fiction)
  • Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda (Women’s Fiction)

Countless other titles from minority authors were celebrated last year, followed by a significant uptick in traditionally published books by underrepresented authors. High-profile examples include the New York Times bestseller The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and the Printz Award-winning The Book of Unknown Birds by Isabel Quintero.

And as readers increasingly prioritize intersectional voices, works by traditionally underrepresented authors have garnered critical acclaim and commercial success — proving that inclusivity isn’t only a moral imperative; it’s also a profitable endeavor.

Publishers are paying attention. Taking cues from readers’ interest in these stories, publishers’ manuscript solicitation and selection processes are becoming more inclusive.

Publishers are embracing inclusion

As any writer or editor knows, getting words on paper is half the battle. The other half is getting those words in readers’ hands.

To that end, publishers are taking proactive steps to support traditionally marginalized authors through more comprehensive marketing and promotion strategies. By featuring diverse authors prominently in marketing campaigns, book events, and literary festivals, the publishing industry is gradually dismantling the long-standing barriers that once hindered diverse voices from reaching their full potential.

This newfound emphasis on inclusivity is becoming more prevalent within the industry too, as publishers diversify their editorial teams and decision-making processes. That approach is creating a continuum of representation from inception to consumption by getting stories written and edited by diverse groups into the hands of everyone.

Taking cues from inclusive creators

Scholarly publishers and university presses play an important role in this endeavor as advocates for greater diversity in their ranks. By democratizing publishing and lowering the barriers to entry, scholarly publishers and university presses can provide a springboard to traditionally underrepresented authors by:

  • Actively seeking underrepresented authors and their work
  • Building a diverse workforce, in both their editorial and marketing departments
  • Publishing books that address social issues of diversity and inclusion
  • Supporting organizations working to promote DEI in the publishing industry

Many are taking up the mantle. For example, The Council of Science Editors is calling for equitable actions that advance diversity in scholarly publishing, noting that DEI best practices are connected to ethical decision-making. And the Association of University Presses chose #SpeakUP as its 2023 University Press Week theme to celebrate “thought-provoking concepts, new points of view, and ideas that advocate for social change” and will feature such works in an online gallery and in bookstore events around the country.

These and other scholarly publishers are helping to dispel some of the biases and misconceptions that have excluded diverse authors from bookshelves. As commercial publishers follow suit, the literary world may be entering a new era of storytelling: one rife with exciting new stories, perspectives, narratives, and experiences.

Have a story to tell? Contact your Sheridan representative to learn how we can make your book into a reality.

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