How to support black publishers and bookshops

Brilliant online initiatives, from #InclusiveIndies to black-run bookshops.

Image: Mica Murphy/Penguin

The horrifying events unfolding in America following the death of George Floyd have led to an international discussion about battling racism. We think it’s vital to support those who are helping to encourage understanding and respect of black lives and black people’s stories, including publishers and initiatives that enable their telling. Here are some of the ways you can participate:

Donate to the #InclusiveIndies campaign

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a crisis crowdfunding campaign was set up to prevent the loss of independent, inclusive publishers. With a target of £100,000, 80% of proceeds would go to keeping Jacaranda Books, an award-winning publisher of diverse adult fiction, non-fiction and YA, and children’s publisher Knights Of, with the remaining 20% being distributed to diversity-led independent publishers. With a week to go, the campaign has raised £37,000. While there has been a considerable uptick in donations over the past weekend, the target still needs to be reached. You can donate here.

Buy from a black-run bookshop

While all bookshops are currently closed due to Covid-19, putting a new set of pressures on independent bookshops, there are still bookshops founded and run by black people that are worth following and supporting for when lockdown measures ease. Founded in 1966, New Beacon Books was the UK’s first black publisher, specialist bookshop and international book distributor and will be closed until July. Round Table Books, based in Brixton, South London, is an inclusion-led bookshop that celebrates and sells underrepresented children’s books. They are currently distributing orders made through their website

Books of Africa, based in Dulwich, South London, is a boookshop that specialises in Africa-oriented books, selling a vast range of genres from fiction to children's, essays to works on African history through its online store. Peepal Tree Press is a Leeds-based bookshop and publisher dedicated to the "best of international writing from the Caribbean, its diasporas and the UK".  In 2009 it launched the Caribbean Modern Classics Series, which "restores to print essential books from the past with new introductions." 

For parents, Mybookbasket.com is an online bookshop that sells "culturally appropriate and relevant books" for children, while London-based No Ordinary Bookshop provides "multicultural books for children of all ages", from babies to young adults. Meanwhile, Lantana Publishing specialises in selling inclusive books for children that "celebrate our differences".

Then there's the Booklove Multicultural Travelling Book Carnival, an award-winning education collective that travels Britain promoting diversity in schools, nurseries, libraries and corporate spaces. But while it has had to put its roadshow on hold during lockdown, it continues to sell a wide range of titles through its website. 

Match your donation to your book purchase

Many readers have been showing their support and interest in black authors by buying important titles on contemporary race relations; White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, for instance, has topped the US Amazon charts. But it’s important to listen to what these authors are suggesting at this time of crisis, too. Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, has asked those buying her book to match the price of it with a donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, or consider borrowing a copy and donating the cost of the book. “This book financially transformed my life and I really don't like the idea of personally profiting every time a video of a black person's death goes viral,” Eddo-Lodge posted. Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good Immigrant, has asked the same of those buying his book.

Support a social enterprise literary agency for unrepresented voices

Set up by Shukla in 2015, The Good Literary Agency is a social enterprise that aims to represent the under-represented. It actively seeks out authors who are BAME, disabled, LGBTQ+ and working class, and helps to develop manuscripts and proposals with promising authors before submitting to editors. They represent Paula Akpan, Nicole Crenstil and Musa Okwonga, among many others, and, until September 2019, published quarterly The Good Journal, a literary journal for writers of colour. You can buy back issues and donate to support their work, follow them on Twitter and, of course, submit your work for potential representation.

Help every child see themselves in a book

Inclusive Minds is a collective of people who are dedicated to changing the face of children’s books by improving inclusion, diversity, accessibility and equality in children’s literature. There are a number of ways you can join them. If you work with children or books, you can sign their charter on behalf of your organisation to actively improve inclusion in what you do. If you are a young person, you can become an Inclusion Ambassador, who consult publishers and illustrators guidance on how to include more authentic experiences in their children’s books.  

Discover and support new black writers

Based in and focussed on London, Spread the Word is a writing development agency that aims to boost the careers of the city’s best new writers while campaigning to encourage greater diversity in publishing more widely. Spread the Word gives a platform for authors and writers to share their knowledge through workshops and events (currently running virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic) and holds awards such as the London Short Story Prize and Young People’s Laureate for London to shine a light on bright new voices. A new campaign, #SayYourPeace, founded by Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola, is encouraging people to find solace by writing and sharing poetry. Follow Spread the Word on Twitter and donate to keep their work going here. If you’re a young writer, you can find out more about joining the London Writers Network here.

Commonword is a Manchester-based initiative that has helped new writers develop their potential since 1977. Through competitions, workshops and events, they work to improve representation and diversity both locally (Commonword is the largest organisation dedicated to publishing and community writing in the North West) and on a national and international basis. Subscribe to their newsletter here.

Literary Natives is a UK-based platform for writers of colour in London and beyond, producing events and workshops in a bid to connect aspiring writers to the publishing industry. But since the coronavirus outbreak, the non-profit has teamed up with @HomeGirlsUnite to publish a one-off digital magazine called Creating in Quarantine to promote the poetry, short stories, essays, photography and art of immigrant daughters in lockdown. They are taking submissions until 15 June. 

WriteNow, our programme to find, nurture and publish new writers from under-represented background, is still open for applications here.

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