A little over a year ago, when the FOLD team began meeting with publishers to talk about diverse authors, we had a hypothesis that few diverse books were being published: however, we were glad to be proven wrong. Some of the most exciting moments for us have been with eager publicists, working their way through stacks of books while giving careful attention to their pitches of first time and established diverse authors. These kinds of forward-focused conversations with industry professionals have made it clear that a festival like the FOLD, and the prioritizing of diverse authors, is “long overdue.” In fact, some have started to contact us directly to let us know they’re making specific calls to find them:
“For the rest of 2015, Cormorant Books is opening our submission inbox to all writers of literary fiction and non-fiction. Cormorant Books is especially interested in hearing from emerging and unpublished writers with diverse voices and stories.”
We hope this call from Cormorant sets a precedent for the Canadian publishing industry. It is an important first step: but only the first. Recently, while hosting a booth at the inimitable Eden Mills Writers Festival, the FOLD team met many self-professed avid readers that were unable, in a lineup featuring 10 contemporary diverse Canadian book covers, to name even one. So.. why is it that despite the plethora of outstanding #diversecanlit offerings, the average Canadian reader is still grossly unaware they exist? The mystery seems to lie somewhere between marketing and discoverability. Marketing and publicity strategies need to dismantle outdated ideas about niche audiences, and build innovative plans to get diverse books into the hands of new readers. It is through reading more diverse books that we can become more tolerant, empathetic, and understanding of other ways of thinking.
Calls like this one from Cormorant are necessary because the experience of being categorized as a diverse writer first, and a master of their craft second if at all, is widely misunderstood by writers who don’t face these unique barriers. Diverse writers need to be given unique opportunities to be recognized and celebrated for their craft, and to build a readership that is larger than those who share their unique perspective of the world.
The FOLD will become an inclusive space where writers can meet their would-be readers, educators, and publishers: a space we know that barriers like these can be unpacked, intercepted, and broken open completely.
Stay tuned for more tales from the road…
Megan Lambe is the Communications and Development Coordinator for the FOLD