Abaddon Books

Abaddon Open Subs Month: diversity

2 years ago

Okay,  the Open Submissions month is going strong now, so let’s talk about this little line in the guidelines: “we’re really, really interested in wider representation.”

The world is changing, and very much for the better. There are more women, more people of colour, more LGBTQ+ people, more disabled people and more people in every other marginal group you can think of in our public spheres, creating, telling their stories, shining new and different lights on the world. And our community is embracing that, in awards lists and anthology tables of contents; hell, not one, but two of the most-tipped writers for genre awards in 2017 are transgender. There are hiccups in places – and God knows there’s resistance, in some corners – but the world’s growing richer.

But there’s a ways to go yet. Although women account for maybe two thirds of books sold, they write only about a third of titles; and writers of colour are still desperately underrepresented, to say nothing of other marginalised groups. Genre publishing can be better.

And there are limits to what we as publishers can do! You can only publish what you’re given, and the experience of our peers across the industry, in both direct submissions and open doors, is that most of the pitches come from a pretty narrow sample of society. That’s a totally fair reply! But it’s not enough to say, “Well, marginalised people need to submit more.” If you feel like the doors are closed to you, you’re less likely to knock.

And we appreciate the arguments about “finding the best,” and about not publishing to a “diversity quota.” But to talk about “the best” as though it were something objectively measurable is pretty silly – everyone has their own preferences, and in general the best five or ten percent of any given batch of submissions are all about equally brilliant – and anyway, you don’t need to publish to a quota.

You just need to look.

Seek and ye shall find! We talk to people at conventions, we follow new writers on Twitter, we read anthologies, we look for more diverse voices. They don’t get an automatic in – nobody should get that – but if you just look for the writers, show them the way to your door, encourage them to submit, give them your time, you’ll have those submissions you were looking for.

And you know what? It pays off. Writers from marginalised groups are less likely to take a punt on half-finished pitches and unpolished manuscripts; when you feel like the door’s closed, you make extra sure to have your very best foot forward when it does open. We’ve found actively pursuing diversity disproportionately brings in dedicated, talented, professional creators.

Abaddon wants in on the diversity party. We have done for a while. And while we’re not there yet, we’re trying – around half our titles in 2016 were by women, including two women of colour – and we plan to try harder.

Does this mean you shouldn’t send in to our Open Subs if you’re a white dude? Not at all! You should absolutely submit, and will be judged on your merit like everyone else. But we want diverse voices to know that yes, they’re welcome too, and no, it’s not just to tick a box, and when it comes to the crunch no-one’s going to question how “commercial” or “accessible” they are when it comes time to trim the final shortlist.

Next (and final) Open Subs blog: the Elevator Pitch!