Today we’re shining the spotlight on the new podcast, Minorities in Publishing, which just became a friend of WA (See our “Partners Page”). We asked founders, Jennifer Baker and Bev Rivero for the 411.
WA: What is Minorities in Publishing?
JB: It’s a podcast Bev and I came up with as a joke, initially, and became a bigger thing or a reality when talking to people and they mentioned that they would actually be interested in a podcast featuring minorities in publishing talking about minorities in publishing, or really the fact that there aren’t a lot of minorities in publishing.
BR: MiP is a way for us and our POC guests to say “We’re here, in your overwhelming white industry, we have ideas, and guess what they aren’t even all the same ideas.” This takes the form of a podcast we record and release twice a month. As Jenn mentions, it came about because we would jokingly tweet at each other with the hashtag #minoritiesinpublishing but it became a thing we decided to make a reality when our publishing colleagues (on twitter and via text) piped up and said they’d like to hear more about those experiences.
WA: Why did you want to start Minorities in Publishing?
JB: I think once Bev and I realized it was something others thought about and we were passionate about as well that it could be done. I’m part of the We Need Diverse BooksTM team and that grew out of someone saying “This needs to change!” and it’s steadily growing as a movement really. But what WNDB focuses on is the diversity of representation in books and we know that it’s full circle that in order to have more diversity we need more submissions of diverse work by diverse people but this needs to be acquired, promoted, sold, and purchased. And that’s where publishing comes in. And as publishing professionals with over 20 years experience we know that insider aspect that others may not be talking about when it comes to diverse books.
BR: I wanted to start this as a podcast so that we could have minorities tell a wider audience their thoughts in their own words about how to enact change in the industry. In my life I’m a believer in having room for POC only spaces so it was important to me that this be one of those, because of the topic at hand and also because we are dedicating a lot of our time to this endeavor! I also love that, thanks to social media, the “average reader” is increasingly more aware of the behind the scenes of the book industry; if you follow your favorite authors on Twitter you’ll see many of them tweeting about submitting their manuscript, talking about the cover selection process, or getting excited about tour dates–all well in advance of their book’s publication date. It feels like the right moment to do this, as fan culture is increasingly tied to market influence and people are paying attention. We Need Diverse BooksTM is proof of that, and we want to explore how diversity is necessary in the context of the industry as a whole, beyond characters in books and the authors themselves.
WA: Why is diversity in publishing so important?
JB: It’s important because it’s the way to get these books out there and in people’s hands and in magazines for review. It’s important because the world is diverse and we want to see ourselves in various aspects of art. And to not see yourself in art is to skew one’s vision of the world, I think.
BR: Diversity in book publishing is important because it’s an industry that employs an incredible amount of very talented people–and as any young person who’s tried or even Google’s autocomplete will tell you, it’s a very competitive industry to break into, despite the salary. With a seemingly endless supply of potential candidates, there’s no reason that the book publishing industry can’t change across the board to reflect the reality of our nation’s demographics. The fact that it’s an industry that is an established voice and platform in our cultural landscape is all the more reason such a change is needed.
WA: Do you have any suggestions on how writers can write books that are more diverse?
JB: Author Linda Sue Park said it great at the recent SCBWI conference in LA: that if there’s no connection between the artist and the work then why are you writing the story? I think stories are told from various perspectives and writers can take that knowledge that only they have and refine it and make it something others can relate to. I’d suggest that if you don’t know people of various backgrounds get to know them. Not simply for the sake of material but for the sake of expanding your own horizons and knowledge.
BR: Consider your own lives, consider your audiences, and if you’re charting unfamiliar territory, actually talk to the people who are living those experiences. Talk to them a lot and take them seriously.
WA: Where do you see Minorities in Publishing in 5 years?
JB: It’d be awesome to see us on a larger scale. As a podcast that’s grown as fast as WNDB has in scope and interest and more so that people not only talk about diversifying publishing but put this in action. We don’t presume to “solve” the problem so to speak but if we’re still talking about it, I won’t hide that I’d be bummed, but if we’re seeing growth and expansion from a larger outlook it’d make me happy about what MiP has contributed to the larger discussion.
BR: I am honestly enjoying learning about the podcasting process. It’s early on but I’d say, “I’m ‘bout this life.” I hope that as our audience grows we can start putting together a regular e-newsletter with extended content from ourselves and others. A live panel event is definitely one of our 2015 goals.