In May, I attended a writing conference where I asked the panel of agents if they thought that diversity was just a trend or if it was here to stay. There were about eight agents on the panel out of which two were people of color. Both of the agents of color admitted that diversity was a fad in the industry right now. They said they were afraid that the number of people of color that are being published will decline once the fad goes away, but that they were both working actively to make sure the trend continues long after the fad is gone. The rest of the agents who weren’t people of color all had the same response: “That’s something the older White people in the industry do, we’re different and we’re into diversity.”
I was disappointed to hear this response because instead of providing solutions or explaining what they are personally doing to challenge the lack of diversity in the industry, they blamed it on older White people and were convinced that they were not part of the problem. In fact, they made it sound like the lack of diversity problem was no longer a problem because of them.
Yes, there are more writers of color being published now, but the growth is minuscule. The best way to get more writers of color in the publishing industry is to have more people of color working in the publishing industry. Today, there are only a handful of agents and editors of color working in the publishing houses. Having more agents of color accepting queries and willing to represent writers of color and having more editors of color willing to work on books with writers of color will increase the likelihood of more writers of color getting published. So how do you find these agents and editors of color?
The truth is, it is not easy to find them. The way I found agents and editors of color is by attending writers conferences, other writing events in the community, and in grad school. All of these options are expensive. You can also go online and look through agent databases, like the Poets & Writers literary agents database, to find them. It is time consuming and requires a lot of research, but you can find them online. In other words, it isn’t impossible, but it is difficult to find agents of color to pitch to.
Fortunately, there is a fairly new organization called People of Color in Publishing that was established in 2017. POC in Publishing was founded by professionals of color who actively work in the publishing industry like agents and editor and their mission is to diversify the industry. As they continue to build this organization, they are putting together resources for writers of color to help us get into the publishing world. If you are a person of color in the publishing industry, this is a great organization to be a part of.
Of course POC in Publishing is just one organization with a big mission so it will take them time to grow and create change. Until then, the only thing we can do is keep writing our stories and owning our narratives. We can also encourage each other to work in the publishing houses to help create the change from inside.
Thank you for reading! Please share your opinions on this topic with me in the comments below so we can continue this important discussion.
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