Nikesh Shukla and Jon McGregor have just published an honest and compelling statement on how they see UK publishing. To reduce it to the most essential element they're asking: 'Where are the brown people?'
Shukla breaks this down in The Guardian:
“It’s a perfect loop-de-loop of blame and it gets very wearing – nobody wants to take responsibility. When you criticise prizes and review coverage and lists for not being diverse enough, you’re told it’s because of what publishers are submitting, that it just reflects what publishers are putting out. So you say OK, publishers, and they say what they publish reflects what they’re sent by agents, so you say to agents, ‘Where are the brown people?’ and they say they don’t discriminate, they just aren’t getting submissions through. So you say it’s the writers’ fault. So you speak to writers, and they say they look at the prizes, the lists, the reviews, the bookshops, and they don’t see themselves reflected. So whose responsibility is it?"
Who is responsible? It's an interesting question, for sure. Publishers like And Other Stories already do great things for literary fiction and the launch of @DiverseDecember is another step in the right direction. But steps aren't a completed journey, they're part of it. Because in terms of resolving the issues, understanding where responsibility lies is only part of the solution. Getting on with breaking the cycle is the other.
So we want to do just that. Let's come out of the loop-de-loop with a flourish. We're actively encouraging BAME writers to submit your work to us.
We want your words.
What we want, first and foremost, is to publish the most interesting, the best genre writing there is. The writing that makes us rub our eyes and look at the world anew. Books that shake our foundations, grab our hands and drag us into the light. Which means stories that refuse to conform to expectation, from a wide array of perspectives.
So here it is - we are open for submissions. Un-agented submissions. No gatekeepers or endless hoops to jump just to get a shot at publication. Just writers and publishers, looking out for each other.
The best way we can change things is to do it ourselves. Help us do that.