Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

Inkluded: Making Space in the Industry for Everyone

Over the last few years, American art and pop culture has begun to focus on diversity in a serious way. This is particularly true of publishing: our industry celebrates free expression but is still predominantly white in both workforce and output. Inkluded is one of a few organizations aiming to change that.

While it’s true that publishers have begun to have a difficult conversation about how to move forward, some people are frustrated that not a lot of action has been taken. This frustration brought together Inkluded’s founding members: Michael Mejias and Andrea Morrison of Writers House, along with Alexandra Hightower, Natalie Guerrero, Mary Gaule, Mackenzie Brady Watson, and Julia Kardon. Its stated mission is to “champion diversity in publishing by supporting like-minded organizations toward actualizing their missions and goals.” Already, it has begun collaborating with a number of programs. Some work from both the bottom up, like Barbershop Books, which creates child-friendly reading spaces in inner-city barbershops to increase black boys’ access to and enjoyment of reading, and the I Have a Dream Foundation, with whom Inkluded set up a day for children at the foundation to learn about the publishing process and meet people, like editors, agents, and writers, who make it all happen. Others work from the top down, like We Need Diverse Books. And this last program has an idea for getting new voices into the business.

In case you weren’t already familiar with it, We Need Diverse Books was founded in April 2014 when Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo started a Twitter exchange about the frustrating homogeneity in children’s and young adult publishing. They’d been having this conversation for a while. The impetus this time around was news of an all-white, all-male panel of children’s authors assembled for the following month’s inaugural BookCon. As the exchange unfolded, Ellen began talking about taking action and others in the book industry chimed in to express their interest. 

The inaugural event was all digital and ran from May 1-3 on Facebook and Twitter. The hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks was created on April 24 to promote it. By April 29, the hashtag was trending, and WNDB’s vast social media campaign was born – and continues to this day.

This campaign drew attention to the lack of diverse literature for children. In 2013, the year before WNDB launched, only 93 children’s books out of a total of 3,200 were about African American people. From year to year, as demonstrated in a graphic assembled by multicultural children’s publisher Lee and Low, the percentage of children’s books featuring people of color holds pretty steady at 10%. However, people of color make up about a third of the country’s population, and that number is rising. Clearly, America’s actual demographics can support a broader set of books.

Of course, books are only part of the goal. Publishing itself is predominantly white. And so the We Need Diverse Books Internship Grant Program was launched in 2015 to address another problem: the barrier young people of color face when pursuing careers in publishing. Internships in children’s publishing are valuable for getting a foot in the door, but, like internships the world over, they’re generally very low-paying. Without the appropriate financial resources, a student can’t pursue the position; later, without an internship on their resume, they’re at a disadvantage in the job market.

The grant program aims to change that. It awards $2,500 to five applicants each year: already, eleven recipients have gone on to land entry-level jobs in publishing – one small step toward closing the gap. These scholarships can launch careers. And, of course, more diverse minds in the industry mean more diverse books for all of us.

This is exactly the kind of work that Inkluded likes to support. In an interview, Julia Kardon says that the group “brainstorms organizations that we know are doing good work during our monthly meetings and reach out of members of those groups.” Accordingly, Michael Mejias contacted WNDB about partnering on a fundraiser for the internship program.

Photo by Taylor Templeton.

And so, on the evening of March 15, a lively crowd filled Manhattan’s Writers House for wine, snacks, and a ticketed reading. The line-up was top-notch, featuring Jazmine Hughes, editor at the New York Times Magazine and co-founder of Writers of Color; Leigh Stein, executive director of Out of the Binders; YA author Cristina Moracho; and PEN/Bingham Prize-winner Mia Alvar. Moracho and Alvar read from their books, while Hughes read a Shouts & Murmurs piece. Stein read an essay about restaurant hostessing and a poem about – what else? – The Bachelor. Representatives of We Need Diverse Books spoke about the grant program and about the young professionals who now work in publishing because of it.

The evening was lively, funny, and powerful – and, fortunately for those who missed it, will happen again. A second reading, says Kardon, is planned for June and will feature Imbolo Mbue and other writers.  But you don’t have to wait until then to support the work that Inkluded and WNDB are doing, They’re still raising money, and until April 15, Leigh Feldman Literary will match every dollar raised up to $5,000. You can make a tax-deductible donation here via credit card or PayPal. Mark your donation “INKLUDED” so it will count towards this pledge.

What else can you do to help the cause? Kardon has a few ideas. “If you work in marketing or publicity,” she says, “think about how certain groups of people are not routinely engaged, or how tactics to engage certain middle-class white women don’t work for other groups.” And wherever you are in the industry, she says, “Make this something you talk about and think about and make sure that you recognize that the feeling of being defensive is less important that the voices being excluded. And try to listen, always, no matter what.”

As organizations like Inkluded and We Need Diverse Books continue to shake up the status quo, our support, monetary or not, matters. There’s plenty that everyone can do to make sure that all of us really does mean all – and each of us will be better for it. 

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 3/27-3/31

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Offbeat, beloved literary magazine The Believer has a new publisher.

Amazon moves into the Middle East with the purchase of Souq.com.

IDW Publishing‘s comic book Love Is Love raised $165,000 for victims of the Pulse shooting.

Elena Ferrante and Colson Whitehead are coming to the small screen. 

Bob Dylan is finally picking up that Nobel Prize in person.

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 3/20-3/24

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

The 2017 Whiting Award Winners have been announced.

Medium unveiled a new subscription service.

A bill to move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress has been introduced in Congress.

In the UK, the University of Warwick launched a new prize for women in translation.

Amazon released Send to Kindle functionality for the iPad and iPhone.

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 3/13-3/17

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

The Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts include eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts  and the National Endowment for the Humanities

Wattpad and Hachette are teaming up to create audiobooks together. 

Amazon is facing a class action lawsuit regarding disappearing audiobook credits. 

The One Book, One New York winner is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

The Man Booker International Prize longlist was unveiled

 

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries: A Trendsetter Roundtable

The dictionary is one of those funny things that almost everyone has, but doesn’t necessarily use very often, or even think about. Well, there are people that do think about the dictionary very often, like those who have to write it. That’s where Kory Stamper comes in. Stamper is a lexicographer for Merriam-Webster. She writes and edits the dictionary along with her colleagues. As fans of the Merriam-Webster Twitter account and videos (of which Stamper is often the star), we were very excited to hear that there was a book about what exactly goes into writing the dictionary. Without further adieu, we are proud to present the next installment of the Trendsetter Roundtable: Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper (Pantheon, 2017). 

Sam: Okay! So, wow. Dictionaries!

Nina: Dictionaries are great! 

Sam: I feel like “The Secret Life of…” is overused in book titles, but here it really fits.

Nina: It sounds like a TV show I would watch all of, which is to say, I agree.

Sam: I, like much of the internet, have followed Merriam-Webster’s Twitter account as well as Kory Stamper’s account for some time, and yet I found myself totally surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

Nina: I was expecting to like it, but I wasn’t expecting to read this much of it aloud to long-suffering friends and family. 

What most compelled you about it?

Sam: I just completely took dictionaries for granted. Like many others, I just figured they were put together once, and with some minor upkeep here and there – additions of new words and such – there wasn’t much to them. And boy, was I wrong. I feel so ashamed for thinking it was a smaller feat. Just her bit about doing the definition for “take” was mind blowing.

Nina: That’s the one that took several weeks, right?

Sam: Yeah. Stamper writes about how the simplest words are the hardest to define and yet most people don’t look them up. Which of course they don’t — when’s the last time you looked up “take” or “the” or “like,” for that matter?

Nina: It reminded me a bit of studying foreign languages in high school and college, and how the most basic words – the filler, the conjunctions, the interjections – are the hardest to pin down. “Like” is a great example, especially because its usage has shifted over the last few decades to include a sort of colloquial paraphrase (she was like, “I read the dictionary”), which, as a native speaker, you barely register. Unless you’re a word nerd.

Sam: Well, Stamper is definitely a word nerd! There’s something so delightful and quaint-seeming about a bunch of word nerds quietly working away in an office in Massachusetts on the dictionary, but it really seems like gut-busting work a lot of the time.On the other hand, it does seem fun in some ways, not to mention important! Her chapter about changing the definition of “nude” to be, well, not about white skin was very thought-provoking. 

Nina: Right: language reflects who we are, and we are people with particular biases. The fact that no one had thought about the implication of the existing definition is unsurprising because, on a grander scale, that’s exactly the kind of thing we, as white people, don’t stop to consider. Of course nude means both “white skin” and “naked” if you have white skin.

I also really enjoyed the time and attention given to descriptive vs. prescriptive grammar, and to the general culture of bad-grammar-shaming. Like I said, I’m a word nerd, but there’s something about pointing out the obvious differences between they’re, their, and there that goes beyond simple usage.

Sam: Yeah! I took one and only one linguistics class in college (thanks, Dr. Brice!), and it was a big struggle for me in general, but learning the differences between descriptivist grammar and prescriptivist grammar really changed my view of language for the better. Descriptivism forever! I keep thinking about she’s a self-proclaimed protector of “irregardless” being in the dictionary since people do use it and people understands what it means! Her retort to folks saying it’s a made up word – that all words are made up words – is genius. And so true! That approach to language is something I wish more people could adopt.

Nina: As a native Appalachian, I grew up with West Virginia English, which is not exactly “proper” in all circumstances. It’s not bad grammar so much as it is an entirely different grammar. Outside of my home state, though, the English I heard as a kid gets brought up to signal a certain kind of poverty and lack of education. There’s a value judgment to it. So I’m also a descriptivist and an avowed defender of “ain’t,” one of mankind’s pithier and more useful creations.   Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 3/6-3/10

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Bonnier‘s new self-publishing platform will launch in English at the London Book Fair.

Elena Ferrante’s novels are coming to the small screen in Italy.

Harlequin launched its third new imprint of the past yearHanover Square Press.

Former DC editor Shelly Bond is joining IDW Publishing, where she’ll run her own imprint

After fierce in-house bidding, Crown will publish Michelle and Barack Obama’s upcoming books.

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 2/27-3/3

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Penguin Random House bought both Barack and Michelle Obamas’ memoirs for a rumored $60 million.

On her last trip to the US, Australian children’s book author Mem Fox was detained by border control. 

HarperCollins rolled out two book recommendation bots on Facebook.

B&N Education purchased MBS Textbook Exchange.

Africa-focused indie publisher Catalyst Press will launch this fall. 

Boom! Pow! Ka-Ching!: Sales of Digital Comics and Graphic Novels

This article was originally published on our parent site for the book publishing industry, Publishing Trends

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Comics and graphic novels have been having a good run lately. Comichron and ICv2 – respectively, a database and journal covering the industry – estimate that, in 2015, total domestic sales reached a record of $1.03 billion. In their joint report, they note that in 2015, print sales accounted for a staggering $940 million, with about $535 million coming from graphic novels and $405 million from comic books; compare to 2000, when sales grossed a relatively modest $265 million. Ted Adams, CEO of IDW Media, noted that this market is quite stable: “At IDW, the huge growth we saw in digital sales in the early days of eBooks flattened from 2015 to 2016. It’s still a significant revenue stream — measured at around 11.5% of physical sales — and I expect we’ll see growth in the near future as more players enter the storefront marketplace and new technologies develop.”

However, digital sales of both comics and graphic novels accounted for only $90 million of the total, and that $90 million sum represents 9% of total sales, a 10% decline from the same category in 2014. A 9% share of sales seems low nearly a decade out from the launch of the Kindle, especially by comparison to other ebook categories. Genre does matter a great deal when it comes to electronic sales. Forbes pegged text-based ebooks at 30% of sales in 2014, and for some categories like romance, it’s over 50%. And digital comics and graphic novels actually do better than their neighbors in other visual genres: ebooks anecdotally account for only about 3% of the illustrated book market. Why is this?

Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 2/20-2/24

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Simon & Schuster dropped Milo Yiannopoulos’s book deal; will anyone pick it up?

The PEN America 2017 Literary Award Winners have been announced.

Textbook publishers have new competition in Canadian startup Top Hat.

Family Christian Stores is completely shutting down, and much remains unclear.

During March, the Women’s National Book Association will send a book a day to the president

Turning the Virtual Page: Virtual Reality and Traditional Publishing

This article was originally published on our parent site for the book publishing industry, Publishing Trends

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When we first got GooglGoogle daydream headsete’s virtual reality headset at my house, called the Google Daydream, I can’t say I was too excited. But then I tried it. I downloaded BBC’s The Turning Forest, grabbed the controller, and put on the headset. A man who sounded vaguely like Martin Freeman narrated a fairytale-like story that took place in a beautiful digital forest. The short tale is complete with a fantastical beast, an interactive forest, and all tied together with an entertaining plot. It got me thinking; what’s traditional book publishing going to do with this technology, if anything?

Ever since Facebook bought virtual reality and tech company Oculus for a staggering $2 billion in 2014, virtual reality, or VR, has remained at the forefront for tech nerds, engineers, and investors. The key word here is investors. $1.2 billion was invested in VR in Q1 of 2016 alone.

Before we move on, a quick background on this technology.

  • Oculus announced their plans for Rift, their VR headset in 2012.
  • Google Cardboard, a VR viewer literally made of cardboard, was released in 2014 and is still available from the Google Store for $15. It works with virtually any smartphone.
  • Giroptic, the first VR camera, received full funding on Kickstarter on July of 2014. Consumers can now order this camera directly from their website.
  • YouTube (a Google-owned entity) launched 360 degree videos on their site in March of 2015. (Users do not need a VR headset to enjoy these videos.)
  • In November 2015, The New York Times sent 1.2 million Google Cardboard devices to their subscribers to promote their own VR channel.
  • Rift was released it in May of 2016 with an introductory price of $599.
  • Google’s Daydream VR viewer was released last November for $79. It requires certain Android phones to work.

This timeline shows that VR accessibility is ramping up. While some VR viewers – like the Rift – carry a hefty price tag, the Google Cardboard can either be made at home or purchased for $15 with no shipping directly from the Google store. Beyond the viewer, all any user needs is a smartphone. That means content creators have work to do. In an interview with Engadget, co-founder of the aptly named Virtual Reality Company Robert Stromberg talked about the participatory aspect of storytelling in VR content: “It’s kind of a hybrid – a cross between observer and a participant.” One of Stromberg’s first major projects was in connection with book-turned-film The Martian. Stromberg feels as though there’s a place for longform narrative in VR settings. “The Martian started out as a 12-minute experience, which ended up being 20 to 28 minutes depending on what you did with the interactive component. What we realized is that people didn’t have a problem in an environment for that long.” Interesting that he brings up in an environment since, after all, any VR experience is going to be a solitary one. No matter how interactive it is, it’s something the user does alone.

Here is where I see some of the unique overlap of VR and book publishing, because what else is a uniquely solitary form of entertainment? Reading a book. Last fall, Dan Berkowitz wrote for Digital Book World how filmmakers are drawn to VR but realize “the hurdles and the possibilities in how they are able to create and tell stories…movie-going tends to be a communal experience, whereas watching a film on a VR headset is a singular experience.” Berkowitz goes on to surmise that perhaps readers are the exact type of person to best enjoy VR as they’re both solo entertainment experiences.

Read more.