Little, Brown Book Group is launching a new stand-alone imprint dedicated to inclusivity called Dialogue Books. The new imprint will be spearheaded by Sharmaine Lovegrove (pictured), co-founder of Dialogue Scouting and literary editor at Elle, who has been newly appointed as publisher.
Dialogue Books' mission, according to parent company Hachette, is to "source, nurture and publish writing talent – and reach audiences – from areas currently under-represented or not covered by the mainstream publishing industry". This will include people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, the LGBTQI+ community and those with disabilities.
Little, Brown managing director Charlie King said the imprint was both a "moral" and a "commercial" imperative.
It will publish four-six titles in its first full year across fiction and non-fiction, catering both to mass-market and literary tastes and apply "an innovative, forward-thinking approach" to sourcing talent by using live events, specialist scouts and community outreach to give a platform to diverse and marginalised voices.
After taking the position, Lovegrove will give up running her book-to-screen scouting business, Dialogue Scouting, and her role as books editor of Elle to join Little, Brown on a full-time basis. She will start on 10th July, reporting to King.
Lovegrove said: "I am absolutely delighted to be at the helm of Dialogue Books and I can’t wait to work within Little, Brown Book Group with its incredible roster of imprints. My aim is to uncover and publish a variety of fresh, distinctive and diverse voices across all genres for an inclusive and wide-ranging readership."
King said: "I have long felt passionately that when it comes to the issue of diversity and inclusivity, real cultural and organisational change within our industry will be propelled by our publishing; by making a visible, wholehearted commitment to reaching and representing the whole of society rather than just the people who are already buying our books. This is a moral imperative, but it is also a commercial imperative. I am thrilled that Sharmaine, who is hugely impressive, dynamic and talented, will be joining Little, Brown to start her own imprint and to help lead our efforts to genuinely become a publisher of books for everyone, everywhere."
Dialogue Books is the latest publishing initiative intended to drive more diverse representation. Penguin Random House UK last year launched a nationwide campaign Write Now to find, mentor and publish new writers from communities underrepresented on the UK’s bookshelves, while, also at Hachette, W&N launched Hometown Tales, a series of short books publishing authors from underrepresented regions across the UK.
Prizes and competitions have been another method used to promote diversity. This year Stripes, an imprint of the Little Tiger Group, published a BAME YA anthology, comprising judged short story submissions, and last year the £1,000 Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour was founded by authors Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla to “celebrate the achievements of British writers of colour". It caused some controversy as one longlisted author, Shappi Khorsandi, withdrew her book while Tory MP Philip Davies lodged a complaint with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over it. The Commission responded it “supports and recommends” the prize.
Statistics revealed at the end of last year showed of the thousands of titles published in the UK in 2016 that only a small minority—fewer than 100—were by British authors of a non-white background. The lack of representation was also reflected in the bestseller charts, with just one of the top 100 titles of 2016 authored by a British writer from an ethnic minority background (Kazuo Ishiguro).