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Summary of Workshops from Independent Book Publishers' Association Publishers' University - April 5-7, 2018

Wendy Jones

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From April 5- 7 of this year, as a member, I attended the Independent Book Publishers Association’s Publisher’s University  in Austin, Texas.


The association has an annual Publisher’s University in different areas of the country each year to educate members on various facets of the independent publishing world. The speakers are all volunteers from the industry.


I applied for and was able to obtain a scholarship to cover the tuition.  Through my research I had found a hostel in walking distance of the hotel which seemed suitable.  The “discount” rate at the Sheraton Hotel at the Capitol was not in my budget. When I asked   friends who lived in Austin to confirm or deny the wonderful descriptions of the hostel, they kindly offered their hospitality instead. I will report here on the first of the five workshops I attended, with others to follow separately.


1.      Multiculturalism in Publishing


Nataly Michelle Wright, Angeleno Ave Publishing; Alyssa E. Wright-Myles, Co-Author, The Audacious Little Princesses


These two sisters from California, whose heritage is African American and Indigenous, told this family tale. 


Another sister, who was a little girl at the time, while taking a bath, began vigorously scrubbing her brown skin. When their indigenous mother asked her what she was doing, she replied, “I’m trying to get the dirt off.”


Years later when she had a daughter, of her own, the same scene was repeated. This led the other two sisters to write a book about girls of color taking pride in their heritage. The book,  The Audacious Little Princesses, became the debut publication of their newly formed publishing house.


They shared the statistics on books by and about people of color (African American, Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islanders/First Nations/ Native Americans) collected by Cooperative Children’s Book Center from 2002 to 2015.


This wasn’t part of the work shop, but I found the history of this tracking and think you may find it interesting, too.




In 1985 the Cooperative Children's Book Center began to document the numbers of books we received each year that were written and/or illustrated by African Americans. Then-CCBC Director Ginny Moore Kruse was serving as a member of the Coretta Scott King Award Committee that year, and we were appalled to learn that, of the approximately 2,500 trade books that were published in 1985, only 18 were created by African Americans, and thus eligible for the Coretta Scott King Award.


As a statewide book examination center serving Wisconsin, the CCBC receives the majority of new U.S. trade books published for children and teens each year. In the early years of gathering these statistics, we used the CCBC's collections and worked in conjunction with the Coretta Scott King Award Task Force of the American Library Association, to document the number of books by and about African Americans published annually.

Starting in 1994 we began also keeping track of the numbers of books by Asian/Pacific and Asian/Pacific American, First/Native Nation and Latino book creators as well. We also began documenting not only the number of books created by people of color and First/Native Nations authors and illustrators, but the number of books about people of color and First/Native Nations, including the many titles that have been created by white authors and/or illustrators. 


I could not get the chart that showed the results from 2002 - 2016 to show up in a coherent fashion here, so please go to the link at the bottom of the page for that information.




Of the approximately 3,700 books we received at the CCBC in 2017, most from U.S. publishers, here's the breakdown:



340 had significant African or African American content/characters.

100 of these were by Black authors and/or illustrators. (29.41% #OwnVoices)

72 had significant American Indian/First Nations content/characters.

38 of these were by American Indian/First Nations authors and/or illustrators. (52.78% #OwnVoices)

310 had significant Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific American content/characters.

122 of these were by authors and/or illustrators of Asian/Pacific heritage. (39.35% #OwnVoices)

216 had significant Latinx content/characters.

73 of these were by Latinx authors and/or illustrators. (33.8% #OwnVoices)


A female character in a picture book was highly likely to be wearing pink and/or a bow, even if she is a hippopotamus, an ostrich, or a dinosaur.

A child with a disability appeared in only 21 picture books, and only 2 of those were main characters. Most others appeared in background illustrations.

We will continue to evaluate the data for the 2017 publishing year in the coming weeks and will post additional information on this blog.



At the same time, we are expanding our diversity analysis in 2018 to include a deep dive into all of the books we receive: picture books, fiction, and nonfiction.




In 2016 we began what we are calling a "deep dive" into picture books, and we continued that work with the 2017 publishing year (excluding books that are classified as nonfiction). The deep dive analysis also looks at other dimensions of representation, including gender, religion, (dis)ability, and LGBTQ. The results have made for some stunning--and unsettling--comparisons.


For example, an early-November analysis of the 698 picture books we'd received so far in 2017 from U.S. publishers revealed:

A character in a picture book was 4 times more likely to be a dinosaur than an American Indian child.

A character in a picture book was 2 times more likely to be a rabbit than an Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific American child.


Here’s the link to the CCBC for a more in -depth discussion and that chart I mentioned above:





This workshop was well attended. The workshop leaders pointed out that it is important  not only for African American, Asian, Latino, and Indigenous children to see themselves reflected in books, but also for European-American children who will grow up to work with colleagues, managers, and business owners who are people of color.


I hope this has been helpful.


All the Best,





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On 6/26/2018 at 3:50 PM, Wendy Jones said:

. When their indigenous mother asked her what she was doing, she replied, “I’m trying to get the dirt off.”


Years later when she had a daughter, of her own, the same scene was repeated.


@Wendy Jones The fact that it was repeated is troubling...It's good they started to write and publish books if for no other reason than to change their own minds.   This is a excellent illustration that  we are the first reader and customer for the books we conceive.  

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