The publishing industry is crucial to society. It gives us new perspectives, encouraging much-needed understanding of the world around us. The content being published has the power to change perspectives and narratives in real life. However, what the industry publishes is a reflection on who is purchasing that content.
Currently, the core audience for publishers in the UK is white and middle-class. The whole industry is essentially set up to cater to this one particular audience.
Being mixed-raced means subjects or content in contemporary publishing that relate to my own lived experience feel few and far between.
I have always loved books and stories, finding it easy to be whisked away by dragons or follow heroes into battle. However, it has always felt to me like someone else’s adventure, someone else’s journey. To this day the content I consume, though wonderful, has very little to do with me or the cultures I am familiar with.
When I started studying publishing at university, it was originally because I wanted to be the one to discover stories like those I’d loved before first-hand. However, throughout my studies, it became clear that this lack of diversity in both industry staffing and output was an issue – and not just my issue, but an issue for publishing as a whole. How much of an audience is this current industry reaching? I knew I wanted to make a change for others like me.
When I handed in my dissertation and final major project back in May 2020, despite the global pandemic raging on, I entered the real world with a sense of naivete about how easy finding a job would be.
At any given time, it is difficult to get a toe in the door of the publishing industry due to its competitiveness. One role at a Big Five publisher can have over 1,000 applicants. But what made it worse was that during the uncertainty of the pandemic no one was hiring.
I became frantic, spending hours writing and re-writing my CV. Cover letter after cover letter. Adhering to the advice of tutors to just keep on trying… and trying. Tailoring everything for each new role. Endless optimism…only to find hundreds of job rejections in my email.
It is evident that publishing companies have put some useful initiatives in place for potential graduates, however if the industry wants to transform and diversify, it needs to make far greater and more fundamental changes. Putting more support in place for potential graduate employees is a must. Having a BAME internship available is all well and good, but when only 13%of the workforce identifies as minority ethnic, this leaves a lot to be desired. The goal should be recruiting in a balanced way from all backgrounds, reflecting the demographics of real-life, to prevent gatekeeping of our published output becoming the preserve of a privileged few.
More needs to be done by the industry once the pandemic is over to ensure that minority groups have a chance to gain employment and in turn make the change needed for a more diverse workforce. It is our job as the young voice driving the next generation to find these solutions and drive for them to be implemented; I have so many ideas and such a thirst to get going – what a difference we can make for our future. I’m excited to see the view from the other side.
The writer is a graduate, seeking her first job in publishing