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There's a lot I think I can do differently to support #BlackLivesMatter in publishing, so I've drawn up an action plan. I've spoken to lots of white authors who don't know how to help, and there might be something in this that resonates.
This is not an explanation of why black lives matter: that isn’t something that should need explaining. It isn’t a quick fix, or a magic wand, or the sort of major, systemic overhaul the industry needs in order to amplify black voices.
It's a personal action plan, because activism often needs to start at home. My intention is not to preach or to patronise, and if you're already doing a lot to amplify black voices in publishing then that's terrific - you can ignore the rest of this thread.
I'm sharing it because I've been floundering for a couple of weeks, wondering what difference I can make, and perhaps you're floundering too. Sharing publicly also makes me accountable, so feel free to ask me how I'm doing on this in a few months' time.
1. I want to be represented by a literary agency that recognises diverse talent. I will ask my agency what they’re doing to seek out marginalised voices. I will ask what development schemes they have to support black people in the industry.
As part of these internal development schemes, I will be happy for my meetings to be shadowed by individuals who would benefit from the experience.
2. If I am invited to an industry event that enables me to take a guest, I will not always look to friends & family. I will think about how that opportunity might be welcomed by an emerging black writer, or someone in the wider team at my publishing house or literary agency.
3. I want to be published by an organisation that recognises diverse talent. I will ask my publisher what they’re doing to seek out marginalised voices. I will ask how many books they have published from black authors. I will ask how they are supporting black staff.
4. When I am invited to take part in a literary festival, panel discussion or online event, I will look at the programme and assess its inclusivity. I will ask to see the organisation’s diversity policy.
5. I will broaden my own reading. If my reading comes mainly from advance copies sent by publishers, and those books include few – or no – authors of colour, I will take proactive steps to seek them out.
6. I will never be disingenuous about what books I like or dislike, but if I’m invited to write a list of recommended books for a media platform I will make a conscious choice to include authors from diverse backgrounds.
7. I will mentor emerging black authors on an ongoing, professional basis.
8. I will include characters in my own books that reflect society. I will not make race the defining characteristic of any character, but I will not use it as a token offering either. I will not fall back on stereotype.
9. I will follow more black authors and voices from communities other than my own on social media. I will listen and learn, and adapt my action plan in response to what I hear.
Action plans are critical for personal and professional development. They can change over time and they shouldn't be scary - they're pledges to do better, that's all. If you've never made one before, making one about #BLM is a good place to start.
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