How Self-Publishing Is Diversifying The Book World

A much more diverse cast of authors has emerged into our cultural spotlight

Book publishing has a well-earned reputation of being two things:

  1. White
  2. Male

In 2012, the New York Times Review of Books published reviews of 405 books—and 316 were written by men.

Similarly distressing, Publisher’s Weekly found that 82% of employees in editorial departments of major publishers were white. Not surprisingly, writers who identify as anything other than a white man have been clamoring for change for a long time.

Over the last decade, however, something interesting has happened. A much more diverse cast of authors has emerged into our cultural spotlight:

  • Rupi Kaur, an Indian poet, has published bestselling poetry collections and has 2.3m followers on her Instagram.
  • Ashwin Sanghi, an Indian novelist, has emerged as one of the most prolific thriller writers in the world.
  • Amanda Hocking, an American woman, and her nearly 30,000 Twitter followers have staked a claim as YA fiction nobility with her series of bestsellers.

Obviously, the publishing world is still critically lacking in diversity, but serious progress is being made.

The question is, how?

How Traditionally Underrepresented Authors Are Publishing

Has traditional publishing changed? A little bit. There have been steps in the right direction, but we can’t put all the progress down to major publishers having a change of heart regarding diversity.

The bigger forces at play are the rise of small presses and self-publishing.

Of the three authors listed above, all three started out as self-published authors. Traditional publishers wouldn’t give them a shot, but when they self-published to much fanfare, publishers were chomping at the bit to get ahold of their book rights.

Why didn’t this happen sooner?

Self-publishing hasn’t always been viable as a legitimate publishing option. In the past, you needed a professional publisher to layout and design your book correctly, to handle your marketing, and to get your book carried in bookstores.

Self-publishing, however, has grown up quite a bit.

Now, you can learn how to make a book—formatting and all—out of your manuscript in minutes. You can hire someone to design your author website, or do it yourself, at a fractional cost. You can even put together a press kit and email journalists yourself—no major publisher necessary. So many marketing tools have also appeared, allowing writers to reach millions of people without signing over all of their rights and revenue.

The fact that this is all it takes for a writer from an underrepresented community to go from “unpublishable” to a bestseller speaks to a greater truth about books and the publishing world:

The audience for diverse literature exists and has existed for a long time. The bottleneck to this literature being released into the world was not the writers or the readers. It was the publishers who dropped the ball, failing to introduce the world to a diverse array of writers.

Now, it seems, that decision is no longer up to them.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Female Disruptors: How Brooke Warner is shaking up how books get published

by Yitzi Weiner

“Empathy is the antidote to everything” when sparking a movement, an interview with authors Sara Connell & Lorraine Devon Wilke

by Sara Connell

Los Angeles Review of Books and the University of Southern California Launch a New Publishing Workshop

by Madlen Grgodjaian

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.