It’s a lot of work to do more than talk, so here’s hoping it takes. Publishers’ Weekly looks at what’s afoot.
Diverse agents and editors as well as open-minded allies are key, Dennis-Benn noted, recalling that her debut novel, Here Comes the Sun (Liveright, 2016), was “a hard sell” due to its exploration of race, class, and sexuality in a Jamaican setting. “”If there’d been more Black people at the houses who ‘got’ my work, it would have been easier,” she noted, giving a shout out to her publicist, Michael Taeckens of an eponymous marketing and publicity firm, who is white.
Brooks confirmed points made by the other speakers, noting that the Association of Authors Representatives is trying to nurture young agents who are BIPOC, since agents “are the gatekeepers” to what gets published – and what does not. She pointed out that it can be difficult for people from diverse backgrounds to become agents, as access to New York City publishers is essential. Working on a commission basis can also be a deterrent to becoming an agent, amplified when the work of authors who are BIPOC “is devalued” because it often is not properly positioned in the marketplace.