Survey finds publishers have failed to improve racial and regional diversity

A major survey of the UK’s publishing workforce by the Publisher's Association has found that “significant progress” still needs to be made on both the numbers of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff and improving regional diversity, with the majority of those working in the industry coming from London and the south east.

According to the survey of 6,432 individuals working for 42 organisations, which the PA described as the most comprehensive ever conducted of the UK industry, 11.6% of respondents identified as BAME – lower than the UK population (14%), and significantly lower than London (40.2%). The results echo those of a 2017 online survey of 1,000 publishers that found 90% of the workforce was white.

The survey also identified that the majority of people working in publishing grew up around the south east of England (19.8%), London (15.1%), and the east of England (12.5%), followed by the Midlands (9.5%), the north west (4.9%), Yorkshire (3.2%) and just in 2% in the north east (2%). Similarly, only 6.8% of publishing staff were Scottish, 1.4% Welsh and 0.9% Northern Irish.

Speaking to The Guardian* today, novelist Ben Myers, who was born in Durham, said that the regional imbalance of publishing meant that the English novel “resolutely remains the preserve of the middle and upper-middle classes [...] Unfortunately publishing’s London-centric stronghold is at the expense of budding writers who live far from the capital – in my case, in the north of England. With all the major publishers and agents based in London, the practicalities of getting a foot in the door are so much harder – for new writers, editors, designers, anyone.”

The survey also found the numbers of women in senior leadership roles, LGBT+ and disabled staff were all high: 8.2% of individuals identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual – four times the estimate in the wider UK population (2%) – and 54% of senior leadership and executive level roles were held by women. The industry continues to be female-dominated, with almost two-thirds of respondents identifying as women.

In light of all this, Comma would like to announce that, on behalf of the Northern Fiction Alliance, we are hosting a 'Regional Diversity Roundtable'**. Taking place at Manchester Metropolitan University on 30th January 2019, and supported by the Publishers Association, the regional diversity roundtable promises to bring together publishing representatives from across the industry, ranging from small independents to some of ‘the big five’, to discuss issues around regional inequalities, and how best to affect change and share good practice. It will also feature speakers including researchers and activists who have championed regional diversity within the publishing industry, as well as those that have successfully developed initiatives across the arts more broadly.

Sarah Cleave of Comma Press said: "We all know how London-centric the publishing industry is; the question now is how do we open more doors for people living and growing up outside of the capital. It’s obviously not a skills gap issue, so we need to look closer at how we recruit and reach new talent, how we support people to gain experience in the sector, and, ultimately, we need to start rethinking where we choose to set up our offices and creative spaces in order to make them more inclusive."

The Publishers Association*** said that significant progress still needed to be made to improve racial and regional diversity, and it has set a target of 15% of employees being BAME by 2022.

For more information, or to attend the roundtable, those interested should contact Sarah Cleave on

*The Guardian -

**The Bookseller -

***The Publishers Association -