Authors of colour made up 19.6% of YA writers in 2019

Authors of colour made up 19.6% of YA writers in 2019

Authors of colour made up 19.6% of Young Adult writers published in 2019, a huge leap on previous years, according to new research.

Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, senior lecturer and associate professor at University College London, revealed the findings at The Bookseller's Children's Conference on 28th January.

Ramdarshan Bold has been undertaking research into YA writers of colour, analysing all YA books published in the UK from 2017 to 2019.

Her previous research had found that, from 2006 to 2019, 9.9% of YA authors were people of colour, writing 8.9% of unique titles. Only 2.2% were British, writing 2% of the titles.

In 2017, the figures stood at 7.1% people of colour writing 6.1% of unique titles, with 2.4% of them British.

By last year, however, the figures were vastly improved, with 19.6% of authors being people of colour, writing 20.3% of books. That year also saw British people of colour make up 6% of the total, writing 6.5% of unique titles, showing the UK still trailing behind the US.

She said these were “fairly small but pretty significant changes”, with 2019 the most representative year for people of colour since her research began with 2006 statistics.

Conglomerates published the majority of YA titles and people of colour were more likely to be published by them than independents, she said, especially in 2019 when conglomerates published 73.8% of the total.

She said: “This is definitely not a slight against independent publishers, who often do the heavy lifting when it comes to supporting and promoting marginalised voices.”

Ramdarshan Bold added: “Authors of colour from the US are far more likely to have their titles published by conglomerates. This is because they've already demonstrated the surety of their sales in the lucrative US market and because independents simply might not be able to offer a comparable deal.”

She said she was “delighted” by the results, but stressed: “We must remember that while these increases are positive they're still fairly small and from a very, very low starting point.

“I do worry that black and other writers of colour often get deals when they are writing race-based narratives, generally around trauma. I'd like to see more UK YA where ethnicity is incidental.”