I was a part of the panel discussion on Inclusive Publishing at the Ananke Women in Literature Festival held last month. It was a great discussion with Arpita Das from Yoda Press, Mehr F Husain from Zuka Books, Christina Dhanraj (Writer, Activist, and Co-founder of Dalit History Month), and me, who were in conversation with Nida Usman Chaudhary (Founder, Lahore Research and Education Network, Pakistan) and Nuzhat Nisar (Editor at Paramount Books).
We spoke about various challenges faced by women writers and writers from marginalized communities. About the gender pay gap and the impacts of digital evolution.
You can watch the full session on YouTube
One of the many important points we discussed therein was how can we create an inclusive environment in publishing. Sharing some of my thoughts on the topic:
8 Ways to Make Publishing More Inclusive
- 8 Ways to Make Publishing More Inclusive
- To Conclude
Inclusive and Diverse Hiring
Hiring plays a huge role in creating an inclusive environment in publishing. From the editorial staff to the marketing team, each individual plays an important role in bringing a book out. When you hire a diverse team you not only increase innovation and creativity but also help broaden the range of skills and talent.
Writing on sensitive subjects is important, just as representation is. However, accurately writing about them is more important just like accurate representation is. In such scenarios, hiring sensitivity readers to beta-read a book while in the initial stages is important to determine the message it is sending to the groups, communities, or people the book talks about.
Ranging from body image issues to gender disparity in companies, each of these topics is important to be highlighted. The challenges of a queer person or a disabled person in India are crucial to make others realize how backward our infrastructure is to become an inclusive society.
While bringing out such books, the following things can happen:
- It is often noticed that the voice gets diluted.
- Incorrect information gets approved and spreads once the book is published.
- The real cause is lost in token representation done to simply tick one thing off the list.
Most of the time, this happens when it is written by someone who does not have any lived experience on any of the topics they are writing on. And that is where a sensitivity reader comes into the picture.
A sensitivity reader is a reader from the community on which the book has one/ multiple aspects. They are paid to read the book (before it is published) and share their feedback about the representation of their community in the book.
Hiring relevant sensitivity readers for books that are on such important topics is necessary to ensure the right and relevant aspect of the story comes out, in the right manner.
Practice inclusivity and diversity across literary platforms and communities
From social media to newsletters, from lit fests to meet-the-author events, publishing houses need to practice inclusivity and diversity in every aspect.
- On Social Media start with making your content gender neutral. Use colours, graphics, and tones that are inclusive and diverse.
- Make your newsletters gender-neutral. While giving an example, move beyond he and her.
- In all online meetings and emails, encourage everyone to use their pronouns.
- Have forms where you can fill in your own- Name, Gender, and Pronoun.
- Avoid having manels.
- Make lit fests and other literary events accessible for the disabled.
These are just some of the things that we can start with, while there are many that can follow suit.
Affordability and Accessibility
While the need for paywalls is a means of earning for many platforms, there are alternative arrangements that can be made for students or readers from marginalized communities who cannot afford these paywalls.
Moreover, making the content accessible to people including people with vision issues, hearing impairment, or other disabilities which hamper their ability to read and process the information is important.
Consider diverse perspectives
At publishing, it is important for everyone to think if the content they are putting out is diverse enough. It can be newsletters, social media posts, short stories, articles on blogs/ websites, or books. A regular audit for this is important. And it is also important to have an advisory board of people from all walks of life, experts with different backgrounds including regular feedback from an audience with diverse backgrounds.
Provide mentorship and training programs
Offering mentorship and training programs to writers from marginalized communities is a great way to support their writings along with providing a safe place where they can share their stories.
Support marginalized writers
Marginalized writers should be supported further by offering grants, fellowships, and scholarships. This not only encourages writers but also helps them develop their work further with guidance.
Partnering with community organizations
Partnering with local bookstores, libraries, and schools is equally important to encourage inclusive publishing.
While these are some of the things we could do to start with and make publishing inclusive, there are many other ways in which one can do this too. Inclusive publishing is great not only for the employees but also for the readers who will read the books coming out of such an involved publishing house.