CBx Daily

Publishing While Black Is Making Huge Industry Gains

Jun 17

By CultureBanx Team

  • College educated Black women are the most likely to read a book of any genre
  • 79% of those employed by the publishing industry were white and 4% were Black

Usually the number of books by Black authors published by major publishing houses is historically very low.  However, the Black Lives Matter movement and media attention on the killing of unarmed Blacks by police officers has elevated interest in issues surrounding race and inequality. According to a 2015 study by Lee & Low Books, 79% of those employed by the publishing industry were white and 4% were Black. In 2019, the numbers had barely budged to 76% white and 5% Black. Readers are hungry to learn more about the Black experience, and even with the current lack of diversity, the industry is happy to deliver more books published by Black authors.

Why This Matters: It is extremely important for publishers to serve readers with books that match their lives. A Pew Research survey found the person most likely to read a book of any genre is a college-educated Black woman. Steps are being taken to make that a reality, as last summer Dana Canedy was named senior vice president and publisher of Simon and Schuster, making her the first African American to head a major publishing house. In fall 2020, Hachette Book Group created Legacy Lit, an imprint dedicated to authors of color led by Krishan Trotman.

Publishing is not a level playing field even though romantic fiction is remarkably innovative, with a strong tradition of independent and self-publishing. For some traditional romance readers the resistance to new narratives that have non-white, not-straight, or disabled protagonists can manifest in odd ways. Even the Romance Writers of America have acknowledged that in its 36-year history, no Black author has ever won the top honor for romance writers.

Situational Awareness: Despite the racial diversity apparent in books currently being published, the percentage of published authors who are Black is still low. The problem isn’t lack of Black literary talent but a shortage of diversity within the industry. As long as readers buy books by Black authors, publishing houses will continue to print them.

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