Diversity and inclusivity: they’re such buzzwords at the moment. But how do we in publishing go about taking them beyond things that we think about to things that are an effortless part of our lives every day, and infused into the way we work?
At Little Tiger Group, it’s by being proactive and taking risks on new ways of working. I’m one of those risks—before I became editor-at-large here, the role didn’t exist. I’ve been brought on board to make sure that the excellent books we publish across the group are as representative and inclusive as possible.
My role could probably only exist at an independent publisher, which can be nimble and try new things out quickly, then build on them if they work and improve them where they might not.
It’s something we did last year with A Change is Gonna Come, an anthology by writers from ethnic minority backgrounds. Change Book, as it’s affectionately known, brought together established writers and four new, previously unpublished ones, chosen through an open submission process. From conception to publication, the timeline was extraordinarily tight, but the team at Stripes and Little Tiger more generally was committed to publishing an excellent book and to giving new voices a spot. All four of those new writers now have agents, and two have book deals.
We didn’t stop there. We know that publishing’s workforce also needs to change, so for Change Book we brought in an intern who shadowed the editor of the book throughout the process. She now has a full time editorial job in the publishing industry.
We are following a similar path for Proud, an anthology of work by LGBTQ+ writers. We’ve found previously unpublished writers to contribute to the book, and we have an intern shadowing its editor. But we’re also going one step further this time with a new element: every story in Proud will be illustrated by an LGBTQ+ illustrator. It’s another way of ensuring that the work we produce is as inclusive as possible.
As a publisher producing books for children of all ages, we’re very much aware that children need to see all types of families from an early age. I’m currently working on a pre-school project with a very commercial brief. It’s important to us that we can prove that diverse doesn’t mean niche, and that by being so inclusive we’re actually widening our potential market.
At Little Tiger we know it’s not enough to just be thinking about being inclusive. We have to take action and put our money where our mouth is by investing in seeking out new talent. Independent publishers are at the forefront of innovation, which means we can take risks and reap the rewards of being a publisher that is seen as welcoming to staff, writers and illustrators and, perhaps most importantly, to readers of all backgrounds.