Why Amplify?

Publishing has a diversity problem

The publishing industry has yet to realise that racially diverse books have value. This, even though they consistently make it into bestseller lists and have huge potential for adaptations (e.g.: Becoming, Crazy Rich Asians, and Little Fires Everywhere).

The publishing industry is so white.

The 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey by Lee and Low Books estimates that the industry is 76% white overall and 82% white in editorial departments.

Because the industry’s traditional gatekeepers are overwhelmingly white, democratised platforms like Goodreads are consistently more diverse in their top picks.

Author Roxane Gay’s 2011 examination of book reviews in the New York Times, a traditional platform, found 88% of the reviewed books to be white-authored.

‘Diverse’ books are published less

Over the last 20 years, the number of ‘diverse’ books published in a year has not exceeded an average of 10%.

Independent & “Big Five” publishers all publish a disproportionately high number of white authors.

WHAT THIS MEANS: There is a smaller statistical chance that ‘diverse’ books will be discovered and become able to win awards and other attention.

GOOD NEWS: The percentage of children’s books by/about PoC rose from 7% in 1994 to 22% in 2016. BUT this is still not representative of the population: the US has a 38.4% non-white population and within this, 50.2% of children under five are non-white.

An industry myth: there are too few authors of colour to ‘meaningfully include them’

Authors of colour are plentiful. However, they face issues that their white counterparts don’t:

⚫ Difficulties getting agents and publishing deals; and

⚫ Pressure to write ‘identity books’ (books about their heritage) to be published, resulting in feeling tokenised and/or fetishised.

Representation is so important.

To encourage and create a space for non-white authors to write as themselves, publishers, book buyers & readers need to be more inclusive.

“Insider authors are much more likely to feature well-rounded protagonists from their same culture”.
This allows representative stories that enable white people to read about PoC without disregarding them as ‘other’.

Reading across broader cultural perspectives “presents diversity as a natural phenomenon”. Normalising racially representative stories shares knowledge that breaks down the mentality of an us/them binary, and “exposes the norms of the dominant culture as constructed rather than universal and natural”.

‘Diverse’ books are challenged more often

They are challenged in public libraries and schools at a rate disproportionate to their prevalence. This is presumably because they “destabilize the status quo”.

The themes in these challenges fit broadly into two categories: unsuitable for the age group; or presumed to contain a story that could be otherwise conveyed - even though these books often discuss topics central to the identities and experiences in them.

WHAT THIS MEANS: The industry shows a racial bias in how it suppresses these stories, as well as flattening diversity & cultural understanding.

A step in the right direction!

On June 9 2020, three of the Big Five publishers “pledged to diversify their workforce and publish more Black [sic] authors”.
This change followed collective action protesting the industry’s role in systemic racism. The publishers involved are Hachette, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Full reference list available here