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In this episode of All Things Book Marketing, Reenita M. Hora offers perspective and actionable advice on the topic of diversity in publishing for both authors and industry professionals. Let’s dive in to learn more, according to Reenita…
What does diversity currently look like in the publishing space?
Right now, diversity still feels like a “buzzword” in the space. It feels as though it’s still a check-the-box type item for many, and if a publisher, literary agent, company, etc., can somehow weave diversity in somehow and check that box, they will be covered.
I personally believe that diversity is not just something related to ethnicity and contained within the borders of America or the UK or any country. The reason I say that is because a lot of the stories that we will see reflect the experiences of ethnic characters. That is good, don’t get me wrong; but to truly get into what is diverse, we need to explore perhaps the origins of it. For instance, if there is a story that reflects the South Asian experience or the African experience, that is something that should be included in the book publishing or publishing format here in the United States. I say that because I have personally had the experience – and know others who have had the experience, as well – that if the story is based somewhere other than the US, agents and publishers seem to question how that story would resonate with the US audience.
What would diversity in the publishing space ideally look like?
I’d like to see the setting of a story count just as much as the diversity of the characters, dialogue, etc., because setting as a tool in literature is very underestimated.
I also think it’s important that readers set the tone for what types of stories they’d like to see, in order to better guide publishing industry professionals to support diversity. I do think that readers now, more than ever, are involved in and outspoken of the stories they want to see – and that’s so important and helpful.
Social media plays a powerful tool in this expression, not surprisingly. TikTok is such a powerful storytelling platform in particular that when readers express themselves on it, publishers are paying attention.
What else can be done to support diversity in the publishing industry?
In addition to reader involvement and using social media, I believe putting out more submission calls would be a powerful step in the right direction. Not only calls for “diverse” stories – again, this treats the topic as a sort of buzz word – but calls for specific subplots of substories with diversity angles within. A great way to do that would be through contests. Yes – I said contests! I personally have had a lot of success with my stories for screen through contests. My stories are all about the South Asian experience, whether they reflect the South Asian experience her ein the US or outside meaning in South Asia. They’re getting picked up through contests because they are different and people are seeing that, yes, this is a comedy or this is a fantasy, but it’s got this distinct South Asian thread and characters and themes, and it makes it different.
What is your number one piece of advice for authors who want to be published?
Plan! Beyond one book, what are your goals as a writer? I speak from personal experience as somebody who was very naïve about what it meant to be an author and publisher. I won’t say that I know everything now, but I do know a lot more than I did starting out: and you need to plan where you want to go as an author. Who do you want to publish with? Do you want to be a full-time author? Do you want to be someone who does this on the side? Do you want to publish traditionally or with an indie publisher? And if you need help in figuring all of that out, talking to your publicist, agent, or coach is a great way to get started and make use of their connections to help you get on the right path.
Reenita Hora is a South Asian writer, audio-producer and award-winning journalist. Her backlist titles are listed here: www.reenita.com/books. As a writer/journalist, she has contributed to National Geographic Kids, Cartoon Network Asia, Disney, South China Morning Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN, and Times of India. As an on-air news reporter, writer, and producer, she has contributed to Bloomberg, RTHK Radio 3, Monocle Radio and the BBC. She is a Script2Comic finalist (Shadow Realm), a Santa Barbara International Screenplay Awards winner (Operation Mom) and finalist (Shadow Realm) a Launchpad Prose Top 50 finalist (Playtime at the Bagh) and a Vail Film Festival Screenplay contest quarterfinalist (Shadow Realm). She has two podcasts —the True Fiction Project, and Shadow Realm. Her YA RomCom novel, Operation Mom, is a Grand Prize winner for the Chanticleer International Book Awards-Chatelaine Romance and the Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize winner too. She is Chief Storyteller at Chapter by episode, a digital publishing platform for immersive chat fiction stories with diverse themes. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and LinkedIn.