How Volunteer Organizations Are Creating Diversity in Publishing

Diversity in publishing has been widely discussed in recent years due to a lack of diversity among publishing professionals as well as among the stories being published. This problem has been the subject of various panels for a number of years, and the question of whether diversity is simply “trendy” has been raised in the publishing industry just as it has elsewhere.

But two organizations are working to make sure that the push for diverse books is not just a trend, and so far they’ve been successful.

The first is We Need Diverse Books, formed in 2014 by Ellen Oh and Dhonielle Clayton with a mission to put more diverse characters in children’s books. The second group, People of Color in Publishing, was founded by Patrice Caldwell in 2016. It is “dedicated to supporting, empowering, and uplifting racially and ethnically marginalized members throughout the industry” and aims “to create a safe and inclusive space celebrating and promoting diversity.” This past April, these two organizations gathered in the Penguin Random House building to celebrate their progress and to look toward the future.

So you may be wondering why this is a big deal.

If you know anything about publishing, you know that we all love Twitter, and we’re all always on Twitter. Twitter is our forum for talking about all things publishing. And that’s where both of these organizations began: on Twitter, as hashtags.

Both movements sprung from the concerns authors, publishers, librarians, and readers had about diversity in publishing. These ideas have since become more than just hashtags—they’ve created real progress in terms of the books we see on shelves and the people who are now working in publishing.

The town hall at Penguin Random House included a panel discussion, during which both organizations spoke on their progress and the future of their missions and reflected on how they started out as hashtags only five years ago. While both groups mentioned the need for continued diversity in publishing, their accomplishments so far are impressive.

POCinPub claims to have placed forty people in publishing jobs since its formal opening in 2017. And with its mentorship programs now moving beyond helping POC find publishing jobs and beginning to focus on helping authors of color get published through writing mentorships, the organization’s impact will only continue to grow.

While the changes may seem gradual, the impact is tremendous for future readers who will finally be able to see themselves in books, as well as for future professionals who are beginning to see themselves reflected in the industry. Given the constant questions about whether diversity is simply a “trend” in publishing, seeing real change to the system is reassuring. Following both of these organizations for a while makes these successes even more inspiring, and I cannot wait to see the progress they make in the next five years.

Want to learn how you can join or help these organizations? Click here for WNDB or here for POCinPub.

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