Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Survey of UK publisher catalogues shows representation on the rise

In the UK, a survey of the country’s most prolific publishing houses by the Bookseller has found that there were 200 books by British writers of colour this northern spring. In 2016, a similar survey found there were fewer than 100 books published by authors of colour.

Of 4017 authors and illustrators featured across 33 catalogues, from the UK’s Big Five and selected independent publishers, 2.5% were Black British. Looking at writers only, Black British writers made up 3%. According to the last UK Census in 2011, Black/Black British people make up about 3.3% of the population of England and Wales, although the Bookseller said ‘this likely will have risen since that date’. Of the authors and illustrators examined, 83% were white.

The publishers with the highest proportion of Black British authors on their catalogues were Canongate (6.8%) and Faber (5%), followed by Hachette, HarperCollins and Penguin Random House (PRH) at 3% each. Bloomsbury, Pan Macmillan and Profile were all below 2%.

The Bookseller said that while ‘the big publishers are committed to publishing audited data’, so far only PRH has done so publicly. PRH said that 5.3% of its commissions for 2020 were from Black British/Black writers, compared with 0.8% in 2019, ‘at least in part due to its accelerated inclusion plan’.

The UK Publishers Association (PA) is planning to release a toolkit for publishers by the end of April, aimed at establishing an industry-wide approach to collecting author data.

‘There is widespread recognition that this is an important thing to pursue and that an aligned industry-wide approach to collecting this information would be valuable,’ said PA CEO Stephen Lotinga. ‘There are a range of legal, practical and ethical considerations when publishers approach authors to ask for this information. We have been asked to produce guidance for publishers around this area of data collection, which, following a series [of] in-depth interviews with publishers, an independent researcher is in the process of drafting.’


Category: International news