Diversity in the Publishing Industry

What is diversity?

Diversity can sometimes come across as a vague word pointing to race and/or gender. In reality, what makes diversity so complex and important is that it’s a blanket term for the many different categories of people and this is intersectional.


When I approached this topic, I wanted to make sure that I included not just race and gender, as important as those are, but also sexuality, and disability. When I found an article from Publishers Weekly, it included another link to an info-graphic from Lee and Lo Books which includes the aforementioned categories.  When talking about the lack of diversity in the publishing industry, its lack comes from many different angles. Of course, diversity also includes other equally important identifiers like religion, ethnicity, class, etc.

At the beginning of 2016, Lee and Low Books, dedicated to publishing multicultural children’s books, published their 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey. This survey was sent to 13, 237 publishing & review employees of 34 publishers and 8 review journals to measure diversity within the publishing industry itself.

Combining the statistics of the executive level, editorial departments, marketing/publicity departments, and book reviewers, the publishing industry was: 79% white, 78% female (cis-woman), 88% straight/heterosexual, and 92% nondisabled. 

Due to the lack of diversity in publishing, this is translated to what books are published and which audiences are prioritized. The book market suffers from a lack of inclusiveness.

Publishing companies, including the Big Five, have made efforts in improving diversity through internship programs and “diversity initiatives” but when it comes to diversity hiring—-this still remains a problem. Systematic racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc exists in the publishing world, just like many other industries.

wndbIn response, various authors and independent presses have made large strides in combating this problem. We Need Diverse Books, created in 2015 by authors, campaigns for diversity in children’s books. Indie presses like Lee and Lo Books, New Press, and Sibling Rivalry Press have taken large initiatives to hire diverse teams and publish books and subjects that would otherwise be ignored. Indie bookstores also have to opportunity to create spaces of diversity when large chain bookstores are not.

With that said, attacking this issue on a mainstream level is something that the publishing industry will have to address and now in the future. Which leads me to certain questions…








First Second Press

Graphic novels, more commonly known as comics, have maintained a large popularity for all ages and backgrounds. We can thank First Second Books, an imprint of Macmillian Publishers, for fueling the supply.


First Second Books is an independent trade press, founded in 2005 and located in New York City. Behind the brand stands a small, devoted team of seven individuals who edit, publish, and advertise an average of 20 to 25 comics per year. First Second Books is well known for producing high quality comics that appeal to a large audience of comic fans. In fact, all that First Second publishes is strictly comics; however, the comics are diverse in different aspects, including the fact that many stories are published from around the world. Genres span from children’s to adult nonfiction and this range allows any age to enjoy First Second’s collection of graphic novels. The only material that’s not allowed: pornography or “gratuitous” violence. As broad at this is, not everyone reads comics, so their market is not as large as conventional publishers.

There’s not a lot of explicit information about funding for First Second Books, but they are a popular independent comic press and seem to be doing well on their own. I’m also sure that being an imprint of Macmillan has its advantages, as well.

First Second maintains its own blog and stays connected to readers through twitter, tumblr, Facebook, etc. As a fairly popular indie publisher, articles can be found celebrating its 10-year anniversary, new series to be published, and spotlight books. Their presence is also prevalent at comic cons, as they stay involved in the comic community.


Successful graphic novels are necessary to keep publishers like First Second Books relevant. For them, American Born Chinese by Gene Luan Yang thrust them into the spotlight. This novel was published in 2006 and is still on shelves!

Here’s 5 out of 29 notable awards/nominations:

Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of the Year

National Book Awards Finalist

New York Times bestseller

Chinese American Librarians Association Best Book Award

2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album: New

Comics and manga are incredibly popular industries and have millions of fans worldwide, but, the competition is fierce, especially for genre specific publishers, which First Second is not. Standing out requires publishers to find their niche in the industry and First Second seems to have found theirs with stories that have a personal element, regardless of genre.  Balancing reader taste and staff taste has led them to improve each year’s publication.


Like most people who browse the internet, I am very familiar with the media giant called Buzzfeed.


Buzzfeed articles frequently appear in google searches and the brand has become famous for their YouTube videos, as well as viral quizzes easily seen on Facebook timelines. All of this, plus even more content, can be found on its main website. Whether or not you are personally a fan of Buzzfeed, its website is great material for design analysis.

Buzzfeed understands that creating a space containing an array of topics from pop culture to food to hard news, will potentially create a large spectrum of visitors. Millennials are most likely the biggest portion of traffic to the website although it is not uncommon for teens and older individuals in their 40’s and 50’s to also visit. This is largely due to the effort that Buzzfeed puts into creating their varied content. This can immediately be seen on the front page.


Most of the color comes from images and graphics. To add some neutrality throughout the site, the background is either black or white and almost all text is either black or gray. Although this brand is best known for entertainment, the biggest image on the front page is usually very serious news. By the website logo, a navigation system displays “news, videos, quizzes, tasty and more.” Here, people can immediately go to their place of interest.


If a reader is just browsing, they can scroll down the main page to find bright pictures to catch their attention. While images are an important part in Buzzfeed’s strategy to attract their audience, headlines are equally just as useful. Headlines, just like the text, are colored in black. Any other color in combination with the bright pictures would be too much. Straightforward titles like “12 Very Obvious Facts That Will Make You Strangely Happy” are common. These are attention-grabbing, much like everything else on the site. Keeping up with the mainstream, pop-culture theme, graphics with phrases like “wtf” or “omg” add a fun element to the website.

Even while reading an article, morebuzzfeed3 related content is displayed on the side and bottom of the page. The intention is to keep a visitor on the website by constantly providing something new to click. However, this can have the exact opposite effect, making a visitor feel overwhelmed or annoyed and quick to leave.

Two of the most important parts of the website is the ability to share article links and the comment section under each article. At the beginning and end of an article is a colorful bar that allows readers to share Buzzfeed content. Also at the bottom, the comment section (mostly from Facebook users) adds interaction amongst readers, which aids in developing a community.

All of the design elements on Buzzfeed’s wesbite has played a major part in supporting their media content and up-keeping viewership. These elements might attract or repel visitors, but nonetheless, have been essential in grabbing its large audience.