We at the Authors Guild and the Authors Guild Foundation are committed to working against racism in the publishing industry, and to elevate the voices of Black writers and other writers of color who have too long been suppressed. To that end, we adopted a joint anti-racism resolution and created a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Committee to help implement comprehensive DEIA policies and procedures both internally and for the Guild’s and Foundation’s programs. The Guild’s council and the Foundation’s board authorized the retention of a consultant who has conducted a series of DEIA workshops with the staff, the leadership of both organizations, and the Guild membership, and who is assisting the organizations with developing their anti-racism strategy going forward.
The DEIA Committee has worked with staff to develop and implement initiatives to advance the organizations’ anti-racist agenda, including:
1. Authors Guild Policy Regarding Discriminatory and Harassing Posts: In response to racially insensitive posts made in the Guild’s online community, the DEIA Committee recommended that we issue a “statement of principles” to the membership, which says that the Guild supports inclusion and intends to provide a welcoming environment in its online fora. This statement, titled the “Authors Guild Policy Regarding Discriminatory and Harassing Posts,” is now part of the terms of service for the Guild’s online community and must be acknowledged and agreed to by users before they may access it.
2. DEIA workshops for membership: The Guild is hosting a series of DEIA workshops for its membership to help members better understand and join in the Guild’s anti-racism efforts. Workshops will also help authors explore issues of racism and anti-racism in their work.
3. Anonymous survey of author advances: Inspired by the #PublishingPaidMe movement on Twitter, the DEIA Committee discussed doing an anonymous survey comparing advances, royalties, and other writing income of authors of different races, ethnicities, and sexual identities. The survey will take a deep dive and compare data for first, second, and later books by book genre and publisher type to see if factors such as race, ethnicity, or gender correlate with authors receiving lower advances or different levels of marketing efforts. We hope to reach 5,000 authors to have a large enough sample to compare data for first, second, and later books by BIPOC authors and white authors, as well as by gender and sexual preference.
4. Partner with BIPOC writer groups: The Authors Guild Foundation provides excellent programming to authors in all business aspects of writing. The DEIA Committee has charged the staff with providing even more of its excellent educational programming and ensuring that the programs reach BIPOC authors. We hope to achieve this by partnering with BIPOC writer groups to determine what programs would best serve their authors and develop those programs.
5. Exploration of marketplaces for diverse readers: The DEIA Committee agreed that one of the Guild’s goals is to help writers from Black and other underserved communities better reach an audience by broadening their access to the industry. One of the concerns voiced was that publishers may believe that there is not a sufficient audience for the work of new Black authors to justify a substantive investment. The Guild will research and discuss this issue with publishers, and will look into conducting one or more webinars or convening sessions on how authors and their representatives can address these concerns with publishers.
6. Survey of member demographics: In view of the Guild’s DEIA efforts, we would like to collect and understand the demographics of our membership and ensure that we are reaching authors of all backgrounds, as well as to enhance and better target our programming.
7. Develop mentorship program: The DEIA Committee discussed how emerging BIPOC authors sometimes lack inside knowledge of or contacts within the industry and might benefit from guidance from more-established writers on how to get their works published and sustain a career in writing. The Guild will create a mentorship program to allow new and mid-career authors to obtain advice in the business aspects of a writing career.
8. Black Voices: Pushing for Change: In the summer and fall of 2020, the Authors Guild Foundation presented a three-part series of webinars titled Black Voices: Pushing for Change, aimed at Black authors of childrens’ books, followed by a series called Office Hours that connected participating authors with agents and editors for networking and personalized feedback, including manuscript reviews and the opportunity to submit their work directly.
9. Accessibility: The Guild’s and Foundation’s webinars are now presented with closed captioning, and we are currently assessing ways to make the Guild’s overall website more accessible to all. We welcome other suggestions of programs designed to aid and amplify the voices of BIPOC authors, as well as other ways in which the Guild can enhance the accessibility of its services and member benefits. You can contact us with your suggestions.
We will update this page as we continue and expand upon these efforts.