Publishing Industry is (Still) Overwhelmingly White, Straight, and Female

15203451642_6e055a18a8_hThe Guardian revealed on Wednesday that the US publishing industry has yet to resolve its diversity issue. In a post that sheds light on why Nicholas Sparks has been allowed to publish so many books, Alison Flood writes:

A survey of American publishing has found that it is blindingly white and female, with 79% of staff white and 78% women.

Multicultural children’s publisher Lee & Low Books surveyed staff at 34 American publishers, including Penguin Random House and Hachette , as well as eight review journals, to establish a baseline to measure diversity among publishing staff. They found that 79% were white. Of the remainder, Asians/Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders made up 7.2% of staff, Hispanics/Latinos/Mexicans 5.5%, and black/African Americans 3.5%.

This survey shows a gender and race divide not too dissimilar from the survey that PW reported on in 2014, when a self-selected survey group showed the industry was 60% white and 89% female.

In other words, it was about as diverse as the cast of Designing Women or Charmed.

That survey was drawn from PW subscribers, with only 800 participants out of a survey group of 7,500 subjects, so it is far from accurate. But as we saw today, that earlier survey was correct in the broad strokes, and it only reinforces concerns about diversity in publishing.

“Does the lack of diverse books closely correlate to the lack of diverse staff? The percentages, while not exact, are proportional to how the majority of books look nowadays – predominately white. Cultural fit would seem to be relevant here,” writes publisher Jason Low. “Or at least in publishing’s case, what is at work is the tendency – conscious or unconscious – for executives, editors, marketers, sales people and reviewers to work with, develop, and recommend books by and about people who are like them.”

The new survey goes on to show that 88.2% of publishing staff identify as straight or heterosexual, and that 7.6% identify as having a disability.

It is drawn from a slightly larger survey group than PW’s survey, although it does share the same self-selection bias. A total of 11,713 publishing staff and 1,524 reviewers were queried, with around one in four responding.

With a participation rate that low, can we really draw any conclusions?

image by Ignite New Zealand

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Muratcan Simsek29 January, 2016

    Living in a country where everyone is white, I don’t really get this. According to Wikipedia, %77 of USA is white; so why having %79 of a sector white is a problem? Percentages match. Having almost all of them female is a much bigger problem, I think.

  2. Michelle Louring29 January, 2016

    Yeah, I must admit I don’t see the problem with the White/Non-white ratio, either. It doesn’t seem alarmingly high.
    But then again, I’m also from a country where you simply wouldn’t be able to find enough black and Asian people to fill out even 10% of a medium-sized company.

    The amount of women surprises me, though!

  3. SAD29 January, 2016

    Not surprised. Most book readers are women. Most men are not into books. Stands to reason.


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