Please note this article contains a number of acronyms, e.g. BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic), or BPOC/BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour). We acknowledge the limitations of this terminology. Our readers and partners may identify as Black, a Person of Colour, or white, or another racial or ethnic identity, and we welcome all those who believe books, reading and writing have the power to change lives.
Diversity in publishing
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement resurging since summer 2020, there is more need than ever for BPOC writers to be supported and represented in the literary sector in Scotland. Three significant reports have been published since then, outlining the experiences and barriers faced by BPOC writers in Scotland and the UK:
- Rethinking 'Diversity' in Publishing – Goldsmiths, University of London, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and The Bookseller
- BAME perceptions and experiences of Scotland's literary sector – Scottish BPOC Writers Network (SBWN) in association with EDI Scotland
- CLPE Reflecting Realities – Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children's Literature 2017–22
One of the main findings of these reports is that BPOC writers and stories are undervalued and under-represented in publishing:
- CLPE reports that the percentage of children's books published with a main character from a racially minoritised background has risen year on year (from 2017) but remains extremely low at 9% in 2021.
- Rethinking 'Diversity' research indicates that publishers 'would like to publish more writers of colour but expressed concerns about their lack of "quality"' but also that such a concern 'speaks more to a publisher's lack of confidence in how to reach non-white, non-middle-class audiences.'
- SBWN reports that 62.5% of BPOC writers 'felt that, within the past 12 months, their ethnic identity or race had been a barrier to success in Scotland's literary sector.'
- Additionally, 78.5% disagreed with the statement, 'I believe enough opportunities for collaboration and partnerships exist between BAME people in Scotland's literary sector.'
In somewhat brighter news, a 2022 survey of diversity, inclusion and belonging in the UK Publishing Workforce showed that, 'Representation of people from ethnic minority groups [in the publishing workforce] has increased to 17% from 15% in 2021.'
The Publishing Association, who conducted the survey, launched their 'Inclusivity Action Plan' in January 2023, which commits publishers to a set of 10 strategies, including training, mentoring, and hiring practices that promote equity, diversity and inclusion across intersectional identities.
The Plan also mandates consistent cross-industry data collection to provide a clearer, more comprehensive view of the sector, which aligns with the Association's aim for the entire publishing workforce to 'reflect national demographics at all levels.'
What Scottish Book Trust is doing
As a national charity, we deliver our life-changing programmes the length and breadth of Scotland. Our work is for everyone, but we will endeavour to do more to remove barriers to participation, support those whose voices are marginalised and ensure that everyone in Scotland understands and feels like our work is for them.
We acknowledge we have a responsibility to tackle inequalities through our programming, and that we can do as much as we can to help to create a community where everyone can thrive.
We are actively working, within our scope, remit and programmes, to embed anti-racist values and approaches within the Scottish literary sector, and to ensure the sector is inclusive of people of colour.
For more information, check out the resources publicly available on our website:
- Free writing resources
- Updated calls and opportunities for writers
- New Writers Awards
- Ignite Fellowship
- Next Chapter Award
- Book list for Black history in the UK and across the world
- Book list for Children's books on Black history
- Teachers/people working with children can use the Anti-racism topic on our website to find further resources (including one created with Show Racism the Red Card)
- Research on promoting BPOC representation and diversity in children's books
But Scottish Book Trust is committed to doing more. We are committed to embedding equalities thoroughly, to educating ourselves and making improvements. We know that this must be an ongoing process. We know our actions must speak louder than these words.
We welcome and champion BPOC readers and writers and are always open to feedback on how we can continue to improve and fight injustice with the life changing magic of books.