Tomorrow (May 1st) is the launch of the We Need Diverse Books campaign. The campaign aims to both raise reader awareness about diverse books that are already available, and to send a message to publishers that readers want more diverse book, and greater support of diverse authors.
I’m not involved in the campaign, but I do think it’s important, so I wanted to share it with you all.
The conversation about the lack of diversity in YA, and in YA authors, has been growing for some time, but things came to a head recently with the announcement of the lineup for Book Expo America’s Bookcon. BEA is the biggest event in the publishing industry, and Bookcon is a connected event open to the public. First, the convention announced its headliner panel, four “children’s book luminaries” who are “staples of bestseller lists.” All four of the authors were white men. And yes, Jeff Kinney, James Patterson, Rick Riordan and Lemony Snicket are all massive selling children’s authors. But there are also plenty of hugely successful authors who aren’t white and aren’t male who could also have been included.
After facing backlash for this, the organizers announced the lineup for the entire convention. The lineup features 18 male authors, 12 female authors, and one cat. And there are more cats in the lineup than authors of color. Seriously.
And sadly, this neglect of diverse authors and stories is reflected in publishing deals and book sales. According to Diversity in YA, out of 123 YA bestsellers in 2013 (with bestseller defined as “a book that sold over 100,000 copies or ebook that sold over 25,000 copies”), only 12 had a non-white protagonist, 7 had an LGBT protagonist, and 7 had a protagonist with a disability. Out of the 50 authors included on the list, only 4 were authors of color.
Basically, we need more books about diverse characters and written by diverse authors, and we need those books to receive more marketing attention, and so a better chance at receiving good sales. And that’s what the campaign aims to do.
The campaign has three parts, and you can join in for any you like, on both Tumblr and Twitter:
#1: Why We Need Diverse Books. On May 1st, people are encouraged to take a photo of themselves (or their friends, their teddy bears, whatever) holding a sign reading “We need diverse books because ____”. You can submit your photos to the official Tumblr here, or just post them yourself with the tag/hashtag #weneeddiversebooks. (More instructions here!)
#2: We Need Diverse Books Twitter Chat. On May 2nd at 2pm EST, publishers Lee & Low and Tu Books will host a Twitter chat (#weneeddiversebooks) about diversity in literature and why it matters.
#3: Diversity Your Shelves. First, there’ll be another Twitter chat on Saturday May 3rd at 2pm EST about people’s favorite diverse books and authors (#weneeddiversebooks again). Then, on May 3rd and 4th, people are encouraged to go to their local bookstores and buy new book(s) by diverse authors, snap a photo of the book, and post it to Tumblr or Twitter. There’s also a giveaway for people who participate!
It starts tomorrow at 1pm EST.