Diversity & Self-Publishing (ep. 4)

Three Wednesdays ago, I launched an ongoing series of blog posts centered on some of the questions we ask, or should ask, regarding diversity in self-publishing.  Two weeks ago, I explored the first two questions in detail (“What’s the track record of diversity in publishing?” and “What about within self-publishing, specifically?”), while last week I sought to address two more (“Are there differences, and why or why not?” and “Why does diverse representation in literature and the industry matter?”).

Since there’s a nice symmetry to the use of pairs, and because I’m feeling a bit rebellious against such staid notions as symmetry, I’m going to look at the following three questions today:

  1. What could healthy diversity actually look like?
  2. Who benefits from diverse representation, and who benefits from a lack thereof? (and)
  3. Can we make it happen?

And so it begins.  What could healthy diversity look like?  In its broadest sense, diversity should mean that all people who want to see themselves represented in literature and in publishing should be equally supported in developing their voices, seizing opportunities for upward mobility and vocality, and striving to achieve their dreams.  At the very minimum, it means that those groups which have historically been marginalized, whether minorities or not, should face the same barriers to representation as everyone else––and no more.  And diverse representation in publishing and self-publishing also means that those in the privileged oft-heard sector must cultivate an attitude of respect, support, and inquiry without descending to patronization, pity, condescension, judgment, or other, subtler or more violent forms of negativity.

Diversity looks like a community in which individuals are respected for but not defined by their race, gender, legal or medical status, sexual orientation, religion, or other aspects of personal identity.  And frankly, diversity in publishing and even self-publishing, in the long utopian term, looks a little less white, a little less male, a little less ableist, and a little less like mainstreamed convention.  Diversity, done right, doesn’t look like any one thing.  It looks like a farmer’s market, perhaps, or barely controlled happy chaos.  It looks like a community that cares about and for its members, representing the interests of all authors, readers, marketing and publishing specialists, not to mention all the craftspeople, librarians, academics, students, and other groups that might receive trickle-down benefits––because, who benefits from diverse representation?  Everyone.

No, really.  Everyone benefits from diverse representation, even those who might profit from a lack thereof.  Sound confusing?  Consider two baskets, one which holds a single huckleberry, and one which holds a whole supermarket bin of huckleberries.  Hundreds of huckleberries.  Thousands of huckleberries.  Uncountable millions of huckleberries, and the families and friends of those huckleberries, and the communities from which those huckleberries come from, and the communities in which those huckleberries end up, and the introverted huckleberries who maybe call home once a month.  A man may prefer the basket which holds one single huckleberry, but first he must convince himself and everyone else in the grocery store who might want a huckleberry that all those other huckleberries don’t exist, or that they exist but aren’t likely to be as good, or advance as far up the huckleberry pecking order because of some inherent flaw of character, or the simple blind fury of fate.  This is how a man might prefer and profit off of the single-berry basket scenario.  But if he happens to open his heart and mind to the reality of the other berries out there, his taste will expand, and his world too … and all the other shoppers get what they want, and all the huckleberries end up making their glorious splash.

Have I worn you out on huckleberries yet?

Really, the most difficult question to answer of all is this: can we make it happen?  Well, of course we can.  All of us, together.  Readers, writers, and (self-)publishing specialists alike.  Marginalized and non-marginalized, mainstream and countercultural.  Together.  We’ve seen some progress, as I already mentioned in my first blog post of this series.  This progress has convinced me that it is not only a moral imperative to carry on, but plain good sense.  We’ve got the means, we’ve got the will, and we’ll find the way.  Through concerted and strategic and repeated action, we can enable people of diverse origins and identities to succeed.  And we will.

These thoughts barely scratch the surface of these questions, much less the conversation as a whole.   As I continue pondering how to go about touching on the other questions I posed three weeks ago, please drop me a line in the comments section below with your own thoughts or suggestions!  And of course, check back next week as we delve into still more of the self-publishing world!

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

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