Bernardine Evaristo, the first black woman to win the Booker prize, has hit out at “ridiculous” and “misguided” beliefs in the publishing industry, where “black and Asian people are not considered to be a substantial readership, or to even be readers”.
Evaristo, writing the foreword for the UK’s first academic study into diversity in trade fiction and publishing, released on Tuesday, said the report showed that the UK books industry “hasn’t changed fast enough to become more inclusive”.
A key finding of the study was that writers of colour and their books are “either whitewashed or exoticised” to appeal to what UK publishing sees as its core audience of white, middle-class readers.
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The report, Rethinking “Diversity” in Publishing, found that writers of colour are disadvantaged during each key stage of the publishing process, from finding an agent, to having to “fulfil certain expectations of what white, middle-class editors want” with their writing in order to land a book deal.
Researchers found the majority of publishing continues to cater for what it sees as a “core audience” of white, middle-class readers – “a sort of 50-something middle-class to upper-middle-class white woman who reads a lot because she has time, and she has resources to spend on books,” according to one respondent.