The Bookseller and Spread the Word are backing a major new research project into how publishers can work most effectively with writers from minority backgrounds. The research will look at how publishers approach the market when dealing with authors of colour, and how those processes impact the book.
“Rethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing” is being led by Dr Anamik Saha, senior lecturer in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. Beginning in May, Dr Saha will spend nine months conducting interviews with key people across the publishing process, including literary agents, publishing leaders, commissioning editors, designers, marketing and publicity departments, sales teams and booksellers.
Dr Saha will investigate how the publishing process affects racial and ethnic minorities and the stories they want to tell. The aim of the project is to help publishing houses better both support minority authors and widen the diversity of their audiences. The full research will be published by Spread the Word in 2020, with an abridged version to appear in The Bookseller.
Dr Saha said: “My hunch is that it is the production process itself - from commissioning/acquisition, to book design, to marketing and publicity, to distribution - that is the critical moment for writers of colour. I want to delve more deeply into these issues, and investigate how this combination of different tensions within the publishing process effect the books of writers of colour. When it goes wrong, are they the victims of ‘unconscious bias’ or rather, commercial/economic forces? When it goes right, what decisions made during the production has enabled this success? With this research I want to help publishers work with writers from minority backgrounds more effectively, reaching wider audiences in the process.”
Ruth Harrison, director at Spread the Word, added: “Rethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing, the first academic research project of its kind in the UK, builds on our 2015 Writing the Future report and provides a timely and unique opportunity for the industry to assess what is working, as well as gain an invaluable insight into how processes are impacting on writers of colour.”
The research has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and will kick off at the London Book Fair with a Q&A between Dr Saha and Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, to take place on 13th March 2019.
Jones said: “I urge everyone in the sector to support this research, and to come along to the launch event at LBF in order to discuss with Dr Saha how best to get involved.”
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