Unsurprisingly, the internet is home to lots of publishing blogs. Some focus on trends, some news, some a smattering of publishing ephemera, and some a mix of all of the above. But few websites are dedicated to providing the industry with the reality check it needs. Jenn Baker and Bev Rivero started Minorities in Publishing as a blog and podcast series to get the conversation really started, and to keep itmoving, regarding the lack of minorities on publishing. The podcast is available for free on their Tumblr, and you can also find them on Twitter.
I know episode one of your podcast is mainly about introducing yourselves, but for those who haven’t listened to it yet, tell us about your backgrounds and what brought you to publishing and starting the podcast.
Jenn Baker: Well, I’m a production editor at a small university press and also freelance as a copyeditor. My publishing experience is heading into the 12 year mark. I found publishing via the Publishing Certificate program at City College of New York and the main goal of that program was to get more people of color into publishing jobs. Once I got into the industry I jumped a bit from position to position until I find my fit as a production editor. It caters to my obsessive and overly organized tendencies.
Bev Rivero: Currently I am a publicity manager at an independent press. I’ve been working in book publishing since graduation, almost 10 years ago, and I had internships in college – it was sort of always in my mind. The podcast came out of a bunch of conversations that we started before a lot of the great media coverage that’s happened this year, like the PW salary survey backlash. We chose the format of a podcast rather than a blog or something more static to highlight how we consider this to be a conversation with everyone – readers, those working in the industry or looking to get into it, and of course authors and artists.
One of my favorite things about the podcast is that each episode zooms in on one particular person and part of the publishing industry and how it can expand within that arena. To place things in a wider scope, how would you place Minorities in Publishing in the entire context of publishing now, and your hopes for the future?
JB: It’s interesting because in one of our most recent episodes with Anjali Singh I had mentioned that we all (Anjali, myself, and Bev) worked at small presses. So the numbers are different and the diversity aspect is also a bit more emphasized. When you work with a dozen or two dozen people you may see more people like yourself, maybe not. In my company my department is mostly minorities. So sometimes that can sway opinion because your immediate viewpoint is working with those of the non-majority but in the larger industries, the Big 5 in particular, the lack of diversity is even more evident in terms of not just what is being published but in terms of who is behind the scenes and has power to make things happen for any particular title. I would say in my eyes that perhaps it is getting more diverse but from a larger standpoint I’d say it’s still a very slow going process that can be much improved.
BR: I put MiP on the spectrum of conversation starters. I work on this with the hope that people will think differently about their colleagues, perspective authors, and those around them, and work towards bringing more POCs into the literary world. Looking towards the future I hope that we can continue to be out there and reach a level where more people in the industry are aware of our work and encourage everyone to listen and send people our way to interview.
How can everyone in publishing, regardless of their background, encourage more minorities in publishing?
JB: I think one thing is to actively reach out to minorities. So many of our guests, and myself included, didn’t even consider publishing as a career. People of color know books get made but do they know they can be involved in the process of these books being produced, edited, marketed, and sold? Are publishers reaching out to a diverse group when they appear at career fairs? Are master’s programs in publishing providing the guidance (and financial assistance) to those who may not have the money to embark on this industry? How are resumes looked at and sorted? Is it all about the “in”? And where are the mentors for those new to publishing?
BR: My answer to this has and always will be “Pay them.” To me this doesn’t just mean paid internships, but also upping the starting salary for entry-level employees that hasn’t changed in decades. Read More