The ‘Diversity’ Status Quo in the UK Publishing Industry



The Anglo-American publishing industries have contracted in the last few decades and are now dominated by a small number of large, global media conglomerates, which subscribe to neoliberal economic models. There are, therefore, fewer gatekeepers to an industry that currently focuses on best-sellers: this means that non-mainstream/non-commercial, and/or experimental, topics, what Bourdieu called the field of restrictive production, can be overlooked and their authors often have to find alternative routes for their writing (Bourdieu 1993). The issue of commerce versus culture is one that is weaved through the history of cultural production, what Hall refers to as ‘the dialectic of cultural struggle’ (Hall in: Storey (ed) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1998, p. 447). Hesmondhalgh and Saha (Popular Communication 11:179–195, 2013) argue that the relationship between culture and commerce is especially ‘complex and contradictory’ for producers of colour (p. 185). For example, in recent years, the media, the creative industry, and policy makers have shown an increased interest in the inequality, and the lack of ‘diversity’, in cultural production, recognising that the cultural industries are dominated by professionals from white, middle-class backgrounds. ‘Diversity’ [or lack thereof] has become a buzzword in the Anglo-American book publishing industries. It is used to describe an industry that is dominated by white, middle-class, able-bodied, cisgendered heteronormativity (in its workforce, authors, and characters). In the British book publishing industry, it is often used to describe books written by, or featuring, people of colour, and/or publishing professionals of colour. Various campaigns and initiatives to promote ‘diverse’ writing and industry professionals have followed. In this chapter, Ramdarshan Bold details the ‘diversity’ status quo in the British publishing industry. As publishers become increasingly focused on profit, they are likely to cater to existing and dominant market demands. Man-Booker winning author Marlon James has publicly spoken out about this issue, arguing that publishers aim to produce fiction that caters to the mass market and thus ‘panders to that archetype of the white woman’ (Cain 2015). Consequently, the work of authors of colour might be manipulated with the reader, or imagined audience, in mind.


Publishing Diversity Diversity initiatives Editors Marketing Editor–author relationship Authors Authors of colour Hierarchy Gatekeepers Conglomeration Culture vs. commerce 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University College LondonLondonUK

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