Religion Publishers Face Up to DEI Challenges

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From Publisher’s Weekly:

In 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, many religion and spirituality publishers publicly stepped-up commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workforce and in their book acquisitions and marketing. Since then, however, the impact of the Covid pandemic, plus economic upheavals that prompted layoffs, hiring freezes, and other cost controls have challenged these commitments—according to PW’s conversations with executives at half a dozen executives.

When asked for an update on their DEI efforts, no publishers shared statistics. However, executives contacted by PW at HarperCollins Christian Publishing, InterVarsity Press, Eerdmans, Loyola, New World Library, and Paulist Press each spoke of their determination to push ahead. Several acknowledged that hiring efforts have stalled in this economic climate, but efforts to broaden acquisitions from people of color are moving forward with workarounds such as new partnerships and strategies to reach more BIPOC editors, writers, and readers.

Mark Schoenwald, president and CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing and HarperCollins Focus, said, “We want to remain relevant in today’s conversations, which includes being more reflective of the world in which we live.” He added that despite the current economic downturn, HCCP, “continues to recruit, publish and promote diverse authors and subjects as a long-term strategy” across all their publishing teams. He highlighted 20 BIPOC authors recently published or signed for trade, fiction, and children’s titles and cited a new 10-year agreement between Harper Collins and the Martin Luther King, Jr. estate granting an exclusive license to publish new and previously published material from the estate’s archives. (HCCP parent company, HarperCollins, is cutting 5% of its North American workforce to reduce expenses in a move due to be completed by May 31).

. . . .

Eerdman’s president and publisher Anita Eerdmans told PW, “We continue to actively pursue authors that represent diversity of all kinds, and I’m pleased with some of our success there, though we acknowledge that we (all) have a long way to go in that regard.”

At New World Library, editorial director Georgia Hughes said they have broadened their author ranks. Their fall 2022 list of 14 titles included three books by BIPOC authors and, “in the last three years the numbers of proposals we have from people of color have risen dramatically.” She continues to work with Pub West and the Publishing Professionals Network, “to build diversity and understand the concerns of underrepresented groups.” Even so, NWL has not added any new hires and, she said, “I don’t see that we will in the foreseeable future, as we have not had any openings at the company for many years.”

Paulist Press is also focusing on broadening book acquisitions and marketing to Black Catholic organizations such as the Knights of St. Peter Claver, the largest African American lay association in the U.S., seeking advice and offering review copies of titles, according to president and publisher Rev. Mark-David Janus. The company does have openings—created during the Covid pandemic when many senior staffers chose to retire — but not the cash to fill them all yet, Janus said. The Catholic house is also challenged by its as location “35 miles from New York City in Northern Bergen County, which is as Caucasian as you can get,” he said.

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly

Of course traditional publishing has to jump on every political bandwagon that passes by and, of course, nothing in traditional publishing ever changes. These folks are among the more skilled practitioners of tokenism.