Thursday, March 15, 2018

Diversity - The Current State of the Publishing Industry

by Cyle Young @CyleYoung

In the over politicized culture of today, these next few paragraphs will either excite you or frustrate you. And for some of you reading this, you may feel a little bit of both.

The excerpt is from the submissions guidelines of one of the editors at a big 5 publishing house. These words were shared in a public forum, and they reflect the current trend and state of ABA publishing.

Submission Guidelines
I am an editor of picture books and graphic novels, and am only accepting unagented submissions from minority creators at this time*. Please send your query letter and manuscript to **************** the subject header “#MSWL query: [title of your submission]”. Due to inbox avalanche, I’m afraid that my response time is slothful.

*I recognize that asking people to self-identify as belonging to a marginalized background is imperfect at best, and problematic at worst, but am being direct about my ask because I feel strongly that editors need to do better at representing diverse creators in publishing. It is important for young readers not only to see themselves reflected in the stories they love, but also to know that should they want to tell their own stories one day, there is a space for that. If you wish to discuss this further, I am always open to dialogue (though still slow at responding). I am listening and learning.

Now, I understand depending on your political leaning, those words above will either infuriate your or give you a hope that marginalized voices are finding a place in the publishing world. Of course, some people will argue it’s getting harder to be published if you are not part of the diverse minority of the publishing landscape.

That perspective rings true, but competition is never a bad thing. Authors of all creeds and colors must work harder, write better, and market well. The recent box office success of the movie Black Panther, has revealed that diverse characters and settings can sell, and publishers are taking notice.

The publishing industry is seeking diversity from content creators. They also desire non-western settings and non-Caucasian casts of characters. Write your story, but don’t forget that we live in a world full of people who are different from each other. Don’t force diversity into your book, but be sure you don’t neglect it either.

Diversity and the Current State of the #Publishing Industry - @CyleYoung on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

We each must do our part to encourage diversity in #publishing - @CyleYoung on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cyle Young is an author and literary agent, husband & father of 3. As a self-proclaimed “Binge Writer”, Cyle writes over 30,000 words in a weekend. Get his free Binge Writing video class at


  1. Trends come and go.
    The Iliad resonates with with us over 30 centuries removed from the Bronze Age not because we can identify with its cast and setting but because its themes are universal and speak about the human condition.
    We are not Israelites living in 1800 BC but the story of the Exodus still resonate with us.
    Good storytelling is timeless regardless of publishing trends, gender, race or ethnicity.

  2. Thanks Mr. Cyle. Perhaps because I'm an "old guy", I am wont to pray for the editor who authored this guideline. I agree that all industries need diversity; as with it our best products are produced. However, the desire for diversity cannot override quality. Too many times in my career, HR specialists would insist that I interview a specific percentage of minorities or disadvantaged individuals for a position. I always resented this guidance because my goal was to fill the position with the best qualified candidate that gave the company the best opportunity for success. I believe the publishing industry is the same. The best success is achieved by bringing forth the best authors, editors, illustrators, and business people. Lord willing, that group is a diverse one. God has taught me that the world is best viewed through the "color blindness" of one's heart. God's blessings sir for your always insightful posts.