Equity and Inclusion in Traditional and Independent Publishing

By: Ebonye Gussine Wilkins

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion. I’ve watched several organizations promote themselves as diverse and inclusive, but fail to understand what that really means. Just because something is diverse doesn’t mean that it’s equitable. Just because an organization claims to have diverse people doesn’t mean that different groups are fairly represented, or represented at all.

Not everyone starts at the same starting point. Not everyone can take the most efficient or direct path to get to the finish line. Often times, people are left behind and forgotten because they couldn’t “keep up.” After a while, people start to trick themselves into believing that someone did not get to the finish line because they didn’t work hard enough, or they didn’t want it badly enough. People have different talents, inclinations, resources, and levels of support. All of these things need to be considered. The attribution error only makes someone who has succeeded feel better about personal success. It does nothing to explain why others did not reach the same success (actual or perceived).

Predatory companies like Author Solutions only make matters worse. Predatory vanity presses are only interested in making money, not helping the authors achieve their goals. While one could say that some authors didn’t do their due diligence, that only ignores the fact that not everyone has the same access to information or resources to make informed decisions. This is the reason why over 100,000 authors handed over money to companies that do not have any interest in maintaining any quality or set of standards. It functions by ignoring the situations that authors have come from and uses money as the entrance to the gate. It takes no account if the money you spend was your life savings or just a drop in the bucket from your total income. Yet some are never able to even try because they’ve never had the resources or support to make the dream of becoming an author come true. Predatory vanity presses pretend to be fair by asking for money to reach a particular goal, but it doesn’t offer any benefit in return. Of course, the people who do have the money to pay these predatory vanity presses likely come from certain groups who have access to those resources, so it still ends up being a particular sliver of the entire pie. Overall, it is making everything worse for everybody.

The pursuit of money has left many people without books, without diversity, without inclusion, and without equity. In order to creating a world of publishing that is equitable and diverse we need to look deep within ourselves and test our value systems. What steps can we take to ensure that everyone who wants to lift up their voices and publish work has the opportunity to do so? How can we help our fellow writers reach their goals? What can we do to make publishing more inclusive?

I’d love to hear your thoughts below. How will you work to make publishing more inclusive?

A version of this post was originally posted on the August Rose Press Blog.

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