It’s award season! As a culture we’ll ooh and aah over celebrities in gorgeous dresses and ghastly tuxedos as they climb the steps of polished stages to accept awards for Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Album and more. In the book world, there are a number of awesome awards out there too, though they get considerably less fan fare. For some, it’s there favorite season for television watching.
But the tea (as they kids say) or scandal for you old folks is that this year’s Academy Awards are the whitest awards in a very, very long time in terms of nominations.

What does this mean? Is it discrimination or something else?

I’m not sure, but it’s highlighting a lack of diversity in the film world, a lack of good roles and a lack of recognition for the contributions of people of color. We can say the same for book awards, though there are a growing number of awards that target specific demographics I worry about the ghettoization of the award world where the Coretta Scott King award has to exist because otherwise there would be no recognition for books featuring kids of color, or worse no incentive for the publishing industry to produce these titles.

I think the publishing world suffers from the same malady as the Academy in that the voting body is not at all reflective of the viewing/reading body. As in the advertising world, the deciding figures are still older, male and white. Editors in the book industry tend to be young, female and white and the business is largely subjective. Those editors pick books that they like and speak to them. If there is to be real change in the industry then there has to be a change in who the gatekeepers are. Publishing houses are going to have to diversify their editors and agencies will have to do the same.

Publishers can:

  • Look at HBCU’s and public colleges that aren’t Division I. Recruit from smaller liberal arts schools and see what those students have to offer.
  • Offer “paid” internships over the Summer or for shorter periods of time. Non-paid internships ensures that you will receive students in a certain income bracket, and cuts yourself off from the perspectives of a large part of your reading body.
  • Do short-term “open calls”. I know it’s a lot of work, but  agents will only pitch what they think you’ll buy. 
  • Fire all of your cover artists. You guys just really need to re-evaluate how you package books for YA. I mean, that’s a post in itself.
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