It’s no secret that the media is image-obsessed and has a problem with whitewashing and gender stereotyping. From magazine covers doing Photoshop “touch-ups,” to fandoms having an issue with a character’s casting in a film, to debates about the term “chick flick” or just how overly pink “girl” toy shelves are. For the publishing world, book covers are a problem we have to fix.
Publishing companies started calling for submissions from marginalized authors during the summer protests in 2020 but have done little to actually address the inequities that marginalized authors face. As a teaching press, Ooligan understands how inaccessible even the most basic publishing information is.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the months of protesting that followed, the publishing industry has decided to take into account the role they play in systematic racism and how they have been uplifting those systems that benefit it and white privilege. As a young Black woman pursuing a career in the publishing industry, this is something I am glad to hear. I recently decided to spend some time learning about the diversity efforts that have been happening in the publishing industry, but unfortunately, I walked away incredibly disappointed.
Marketing is an intersectional endeavor. As publishing professionals, we need to talk to our editors and acquisition teams about the kind of content we are publishing, we need to talk to the artists who are creating covers for our books, and we need to combine all of these elements together when we create our copy and really ask ourselves if what we are doing is an accurate representation of the work we are putting out.
Between the outrage over American Dirt, Woody Allen’s Apropos of Nothing, the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, and #publishingpaidme, there has been tremendous pressure on the Big Five to do their part to decolonize book publishing. As a show of good faith, each of the Big Five publishing houses made public promises to be more socially conscious. We are now well into 2021, which is heralded as the year that is meant to save us from the horrors of 2020, so let’s see if the Big Five have made any progress on following through with their promises.