Diversity in Publishing

Diversity in Publishing

The discussion of diversity in publishing has been happening for years behind closed doors, but 2020 was a breakthrough year in the publishing industry. There were several big “scandals” around equal pay and representation in the publishing industry that came to light, creating some really interesting conversations for those of us who care about both the state of the publishing industry AND who advocate for fair representation of marginalized voices.

2020 was a big year for the conversation around diversity in publishing.

If you haven't been following all of the recent events, let's get you up to speed. Back in January 2020, the acclaimed publisher, Lee & Low, put out their Diversity Baseline Survey 2.0. It was a follow-up to their often-cited 2015 survey, which really got conversations about representation and inclusion in publishing kicked into high gear. The company shared the 2019 results, explaining why they’d begun this work in the first place:

Before the DBS, people suspected publishing had a diversity problem, but without hard numbers, the extent of that problem was anyone’s guess. Our goal was to survey publishing houses and review journals regarding the racial, gender, sexual orientation, and ability makeup of their employees; establish concrete statistics about the diversity of the publishing workforce; and then build on this information by reissuing the survey every four years.

The results weren’t encouraging. Even after 4 years of activity that an optimistic person would imagine might move the needle – things like Drag Queen Story Hours popping up nationwide, the #ownvoices movement gaining steam after American Dirt was published, the industry remained largely white in traditionally published books.

Everyone in this industry went into 2020 knowing that we had work to do. But we really had no idea…

When #PublishingPaidMe broke last summer, exposing the massive gap between what white and Black authors were paid, it shocked a LOT of my colleagues, even the ones who knew it was bad. I mean, imagine paying N.K. Jemisin, one of the most award-winning, critically acclaimed, reliably bestselling authors less of an advance than some complete unknown first-time white novelist? It seems like bad ethics AND bad business!

In 2020, it seemed like America was finally ready for a real conversation about Black Lives and justice. Black authors’ books rocketed to the top of the bestseller lists. By the end of 2020, did all this conversation change much? We won’t see more hard data for a while, but a November 2020 survey from Publisher’s Weekly reported that 75% of publishing employees said they’d seen a definite increase in diversity programs and efforts over the last year. The initiatives mentioned covered everything from recruiting more BIPOC, LGBTQIA and disabled employees at every level, to running DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) training and forming DEI committees in house.

But there are other bigger changes in the works that impact all of us. For example, in a recent meeting with an agent, she mentioned that many publishers of middle grade books are not interested in even looking at books if they don't have a “diverse” character base. While this may not be true for all genres or at all publishing houses, it's important to know if your targets fall into this category.

Another positive outcome came in the hiring process for publishing companies. We saw high profile publishing jobs going to Black and POC candidates. Seeing brilliant, exciting elevations like Dana Caneday at Simon & Schuster is certainly encouraging. It’s also promising to see new imprints popping up, led by BIPOC and focused on authors of color.

But what about the very simple, very important goal of getting more books published by people who are Black, disabled, queer, Hindi, Asian, trans, Latinx, Muslim and all the other diverse identities that make up our wide world of authors with something to say? Having publishing gatekeepers – at all levels – start to look more like our diverse nation is a start, but the rest might depend on us.

How can we help increase diversity in publishing?

It might depend on us as readers – we have to demand more books and make profitable (read: buy!) more books from underrepresented folks.

It might also depend on us as authors – we have to keep writing, getting our books out there, disrupting the system, and challenging the traditional gatekeepers.

We’ll be diving into all of this at our March 30 roundtable on Diversity in Publishing. We are welcoming some of our favorite indie and traditionally published authors to discuss the challenges, the joys and the work ahead to stock a more diverse bookshelf for everyone. Register here, and even if you can’t make it, we’ll send the replay your way!

So, tell us – what’s the one book by an author from an underrepresented group that is a MUST READ? We want to hear from you (and restock our bookshelves)!

Diversity in Publishing roundtable

Day 1: Writing a Powerful Memoir:  Keri Mangis, Shahira Niggin Qudrat

Day 1: Writing a Powerful Memoir: Keri Mangis, Shahira Niggin Qudrat

Writing a Powerful Memoir

Description: Conference host Alexa Bigwarfe faciliates a conversation with  Keri Mangis and Shahira Niggin Qudrat on writing a memoir that has an impact on readers. 

Format: Panel Discussion

Level: This presentation is for all levels. 


Alexa Bigwarfe

Alexa Bigwarfe

Author, Publisher and Summit Producer

Alexa Bigwarfe is a wife, mother, author, publisher, speaker, and author coach. She has published numerous books of her own and for many other writers and entrepreneurs through her author coaching and hybrid-publishing company Kat Biggie Press (katbiggiepress.com). Kat Biggie Press is dedicated to sharing women’s works of inspiration, self-help, and books that make the world a better place. Her children's book imprint, Purple Butterfly Press, publishes books of encouragement, inspiration, self-love, and healing for children and parents. She is also the founder and producer of the Women in Publishing Summit. Follow her everywhere on instagram @katbiggiepress and on youtube for publishing tips at https://www.youtube.com/writepublishsell.

Keri Mangis

Keri Mangis

Author, Speaker & Podcast Creator

Keri is a curious seeker and truth speaker, an Earth Realm explorer and Soul Realm mediator, a philosopher and boundary-free visionary.
On the surface, Keri Mangis might seem a gentle yet candid introvert. But peel back a layer and you’ll uncover an inquisitive explorer of inner and outer realms. Peel back another layer and you might see a brave visionary pioneering her own brand of spiritual revolution. She has studied or taught yoga, Ayurveda, herbal medicine, energy work, aromatherapy, Buddhism, Hinduism, Tantra, Christianity, and other spiritual teachings and healing modalities. A Minneapolis-based writer and speaker, her work has appeared in Elephant Journal, Urban Howl, The Sunlight Press, Grown and Flown, Rebelle Society, The Good Men Project, Stitch, Literary Mama, and elsewhere. Embodying Soul is her first book.  Keri also has created a  podcast entitled Awaken your Power. In this podcast, she seeks to redefine power from something we try to get from the outside world to something that we cultivate from within.

Shahira Niggin Qudrat

Shahira Niggin Qudrat

Author and Speaker

Shahira N. Qudrat is the only cross-cultural leadership guide and business consultant working on diversity and equity initiatives. She recently launched a book called Authenticity in America that tells her own story of juggling multiple cultural identities. When she is not working Shahira enjoys spending time with her husband, five children. You can always find her reading books that broaden her lens on the world.
In her work, Shahira especially enjoys working with Multicultural American women who desire to excel in corporate leadership while defusing cultural blocks and self-limiting beliefs and juggling dual-identities. She specializes in simple half-day training sessions to the development of large-scale initiatives such as executive development programs, running focus groups, launching community relations activities or consulting on recruitment strategies.

Mentioned in this video:

2 very different memoirists

Shahira Niggin Qudrat – talking about difficult topics; creating a social space for the conversations you want to have: Authenticity in america: https://amzn.to/2TlynmP

Keri Mangis – the healing art of memoir and how we can use our personal stories for healing the collective heart; Embodying Soul – https://amzn.to/2wa5AJO

Shahira’s parents came to American from Afghanistan when she was a young child. Her experience as an Afghani native, a feminist woman, and a Muslim – she felt her story really needed to be told. A duality.

Keri’s duality – the person I thought I was versus the person I wanted to be. How she was in a period of the “dark night of the soul” – a loss of sense of purpose and worth in the world. Felt she wanted to be more authentic in the world – if she wrote her stories and shared them, she would be able to live with a greater sense of connection

How they decided to write their memoirs and for what overall purpose.

How they determined the approach for their memoir.

The lessons they learned while writing.

Truth versus fact in a memoir. How do we cover fact vs. more of a global truth.

How to navigate triggering memories.

Knowing which stories are for public consumption.

Tips for writing the Memoir

I bought both of their books after this recording. 🙂



The Loft Writing Studio – in Minneapolis https://loft.org/

Shahira’s TedEx: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaSbycy3Imo

Reexamine, Redefine, Reclaim Your Multi-American Identity | Shahira Qudrat | TEDxCherryCreekWomen

[bctt tweet=”This #memoir panel with Shahira Niggin Qudrat and @KeriMangis is really powerful. Don't miss this one. #womeninpublishing #womeninpublishingsummit #womensvoices #amwriting ” username=”womeninpublish1″]

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