A Few Statistics on the Extreme Whiteness of the Book Industry
‘We were shocked by the extent of the inequality once we analyzed the data’
When Toni Morrison worked as an editor at Random House from 1976 to 1983, about 3% of the books published during that time were written by Black authors. After Morrison left to focus on her writing career, that number dropped significantly: Between 1984 and 1990, Random House published only two books by Black authors, one of whom was Morrison.
After a summer when anti-racist books and books by writers of color climbed the New York Times bestsellers list, the newspaper decided to do a deep dive into racial inequity in the book publishing industry. This was always a portrait of astonishing Whiteness, but the study’s authors were still shocked by what they found. They’d set out to answer the question: How many writers from major publishing houses—in this case, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Doubleday, HarperCollins, and Macmillan—identify as a person of color?
The result: “Of the 7,124 books for which we identified the author’s race, 95 percent were written by white people.”
Opinion | Just How White Is the Book Industry?
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah had just turned 26 when he got the call in 2017 that Mariner Books wanted to publish his…
A few more statistics from the article:
- In 2019, 85% of the people who acquire books for publishers were White.
- Twenty-two of the 212 books on this year’s NYT bestsellers list were written by people of color.
- In 2019, half of publishing industry interns identified as people of color.
Oh, and about that wave of anti-racist bestsellers. Bookseller Katherine Morgan laid out in Literary Hub what it was really like to order book after book for her customers only to have them cancel their orders if the books didn’t arrive fast enough or fail to pick them up from the store. “Even though I’d like to believe that many of these people were acting with good intentions,” she writes, “my general sense was that most of these cases could be summed up as performative allyship.”