Diversity in Publishing
I’m really excited about this topic. It’s actually one I suggested (if you ever want to suggest topics for the Let’s Talk Bookish series, you can do so on either Rukky or Dani’s pages above), because I really wanted to get other’s takes from the community about not other the level of diversity in publishing, but narrowing it down to the relationship publishing has with book bloggers. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about, lately; especially when you look at the privileges’ some book bloggers have that are set up, in some ways, by the publishing industry itself.
So, let’s get started!
How can we, as book bloggers, promote diversity of all sorts in the book world?
I think there is a lot we can do, as a whole. But first, we have to recognize that not all book bloggers are considered equal in the publishing world. International book bloggers aren’t given the same opportunities as US- and UK-based bloggers are. Book bloggers with smaller platforms aren’t considered for ARCs or promotional book tours. And now, with the rise of other social media platforms, like BookTube, BookTok and Bookstagram, the value of all book bloggers has diminished due to the type of content we created and the higher (and sometimes paid) value the publishing industry as placed on those other platforms.
*A note: obviously, anyone who has/runs/creates a BookTube, BookTok or Bookstagram account is valid and doing work and creating in a way that they enjoy, which should be celebrated and appreciated! Yet, it also doesn’t change the fact that these platforms are treated differently than book blogging. This is not a critique on those who run these platforms, but the publishing industry as a whole, for not valuing book bloggers in the same way they value other platforms (especially since it’s thanks to the work book bloggers have done setting the foundation of this relationship).
So, with all that in mind, what are some universal things I think book bloggers can do to help promote diversity? Well:
- Read diversely. Like I mentioned last week, you should be reading books by BIPOC authors, by LGBTQIA+ authors, by disabled authors. Preorder their books, when you can. Request them to be stocked at a local library (if you have one). Tell your friends and family about them. Show the industry that diverse books sell and that these stories deserve to be told, paid for and supported by the industry.
- Follow and support diverse bloggers. If your entire following list are white book bloggers, you’re doing it wrong.
- Widely post your reviews of diverse reads. Again, show up for these diverse reads and show the industry your passion for them! Book bloggers really can and do sell books by the work we do and the reach we have, even if you don’t have a massive following. Plus, posting reviews on review sites helps with algorithms to highlight those books, sending the reach even further!
And, an extra section for my fellow US-based bloggers. What else can we do to help use our privilege, on top of the above? Well:
- Read diverse ARCs on time. This is something that I’m horrible at and something I need to improve upon, but those first sales and promotional period is so important for all authors, but especially for debut authors and especially for BIPOC and queer authors. Reading any diverse ARCs we receive on time helps show that support that much more! (Yet, this also introduces the complicated relationship with ARCs in general and the potential expectations placed for unpaid work. That’s a different discussion for another day, but if you find yourself falling behind, read your diverse books first.)
- Hold publishers accountable. Ask publishers if a copy of a diverse book you’ve requested as an ARC is also being sent to bloggers who share that identity. Offer up your copy if it isn’t.
- Recommend diverse book bloggers. Ask that the publisher adds diverse reviewers to their lists. Share their content in your wrap-ups and feeds so publishers (and others) can discover them and support their work. Share their Patreons and Ko-Fis!
- Advocate for international book bloggers. Ask publishers if they are sending eARCs to international reviewers. Ask them to include international reviewer perspectives in blog tours and promotional content. Ask them to retweet and highlight their reviews.
Sure, perhaps book bloggers cannot change the entire publishing industry, but if every book blogger followed the above (plus all the ideas I haven’t thought of or laid out by others who participated in this week’s blog topic)? I dare say some change would happen.
What can publishers do?
Publishers, a lot of this is on you. I recognize that I don’t know the ins and outs of the business like someone who works within the business, but I am someone who has researched the industry pretty extensively, as a querying writer hoping to one day join your ranks as a published author. So, while I recognize that I might not know the legal restrictions or other barriers that might be in place, I do recognize that it is publishing professionals who need to take charge in breaking these barriers down, to the best of their abilities.
You could start by:
- Paying book bloggers the same way you pay other bookish platforms for promotional content
- Look at your reviewer lists and making sure you aren’t limiting it to high-platformed, white reviewers
- Always ensure that any diverse book you publish, you also market and provide ARCs to readers who share those identities
- MARKET YOUR DIVERSE BOOKS (and not by forcing authors to out their identities or use them for exploitation. But, the same level of marketing and publicity you give your white authors, give to your diverse authors, too).
- Explore ways you can include international reviewers.
- Reach out to your book bloggers and ask for input and ideas. Incorporate their suggestions and don’t be afraid to collaborate!
What do you do personally? Or, what do you want start doing?
Personally, I definitely want to do more. Learning about my own privilege as a white American book blogger definitely helped me see even more clearly the work that publishing still needs to do, to help support not only diverse authors, but also diverse readers and book bloggers, as well. While I already diversify my shelf (and can always improve in this and hope this is a lifelong journey!), I do want to do a better job of communicating with any of the publishers I work with and use my voice and connections with them to make sure the same opportunities are given to diverse, marginalized and international book bloggers.
What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic (or even see a post, if you’re so inspired). Let’s chat in the comments!