On Tuesday, April 18th, five panelists from various parts of the publishing industry gathered to discuss their role in the political conversation with WNBA-NYC members and guests at the Penguin Random House auditorium. The panel, entitled “Publishing and the Political Conversation,” started out lightheartedly with moderator Kendra Levin (executive editor at Viking Children’s Books) instructing the audience to give a “Woo” when they heard the word book in the introduction; there were several that rang out as the panelist bios were read.
Each participant had something to say regarding activism and the line between personal beliefs, their company’s stance, and buyer and customer desires. Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction, spoke about how important it is to think about the audience you are trying to reach. Agent Saba Sulaiman (who also participated in our Query Roulette) discussed her belief that it “comes down to personal responsibility” to make sure the voices we want to
amplify are heard (follow her on Twitter @agentsaba). Editor Gabriella Doob brought together the fact that the publisher never stops talking about the bottom line—but that it is the job of the editor to put forth work that contributes positively to the conversation. Sales rep Marisa Baker expressed her frustration at feeling like the middle child in publishing, and felt that overall her responsibility was to her company. Dhonielle Clayton, author and COO of nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, discussed the imperative to give children books containing characters in which they can see themselves (follow her on social media @brownbookworm).
The panel discussed many key topics surrounding diversity, including the importance of publishing books on subjects and with characters that reflect the makeup of our country, the pay gap in the industry that disallows many from obtaining entry level jobs, and how we as publishers can participate in the conversation.
The panel ended with a book raffle and some fruit and wine for the audience. Those in attendance were very happy with the event and left inspired to participate in the conversation themselves.
Recap written by Christine Sikule