Sunday, April 17, 2016

Is The Book Industry Racist?

That is a loaded question.  I’m not sure that it is true.  But one thing is clear:  Publishing is still very white.

Book publishing, you’d think, would be more diverse than other industries, considering it reflects a diversity of topics, ideas, and events.  Additionally, consumers are not just white people, so you’d think books of all kinds would be marketed to various ethnic types and that to do that would involve more minorities in their employ. Lastly, the big publishing markets:  New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles are fairly diverse and should have no trouble finding qualified non-white employers.

But here are the statistics from a recently released survey about the book industry (from Lee and Low Books):

·         82% of the editorial departments are white and only 6% were either black or Hispanic.  7% were Asian. 
·         79% of the entire industry is white and just 4% black and 6% Hispanic.
·         1% of the industry – and of editorial departments – is Middle Eastern.

So what does this mean for books?

We can conclude the following

·         We are less likely to have books that appeal to ethnic minorities if we have few people on the inside cheerleading for them.
·         We are less likely to have books that appeal to minorities that are great and accurately produced if there are few people in the publishing world who are knowledgeable about the intricacies and sensitivities of their race.
·         We will see media and advertising campaigns that miss ethnic minorities, in part, because many whites don’t fully appreciate how to sell to non-whites.

This leaves the book world in an unfortunate position.  Is it under-appealing to people who could become great consumers and proficient readers?  Is it skewing content that only certain segments will appreciate while not addressing the needs of others?  Will policies that could be influenced by books and readers not change or come about simply because the book industry accidentally or intentionally avoided them?

On the other hand, so many books can be absent an ethnic fingerprint.  Books about sports, investing, or gardening should be great whether the author is black or white.  But maybe certain novels, cookbooks, or books on lifestyle and or religion would have different content, themes or styles depending on the ethnic background of the writer, editor, and marketing team.

The industry disproportionately has a New York, Jewish, women and gay influence to it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but let’s face it, book publishing is not color blind and in fact, it can no longer ignore the growing non-white demographics of our nation.  It can be advantageous to the industry to hire more minorities and to publish more books written by and for them. Not only will society grow from this, but publishing will too.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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