Hello again honeybees! Lately I’ve been tossing around the idea of making a series of posts centered around how YOU as part of the book/book blogging community can participate in the revolution for racial equality and fair practices. So here’s the first installment all about ARCs/review copies/collaboration opportunities!
In case you weren’t aware, BIPOC aren’t treated fairly in the book world. The #whatpublishingpaidme trend on Twitter exposed the insane wage gaps between colored authors and white authors. And if you’ve looked at the top Book Tubers and bookstagrammers, you’ll see an obvious absence of color there. This was recently brought into better light with the Book Outlet and Book of the Month scandals.
Something that BIPOC (myself included) have been screaming into the void about for forever? BIPOC ARCs aren’t given to Own Voice reviewers, and white bloggers get offered way more opportunities than their BIPOC counterparts. This means we grow less, work more, and get little satisfaction.
What can you do to help fix bridge this gap?
Let’s start with ARCs.
Be mindful when requesting BIPOC/ Diverse ARCs
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I taking an opportunity away from an Own Voice reviewer?
- Do I want this book purely for the diversity points?
- How much do I want this book? Can I wait to preorder it? (Which supports the author a TON)
- Will I prioritize it and review it right away? Or will it sit with the rest of my books, and possibly go unread?
These are so important! Even as an BIPOC reader, I still ask myself these questions, because I would never want to take a book and opportunity away from another marginalized reviewer who wants to read it more (especially if I’m just requesting out of a sense of entitlement).
Something you could also do when approached to review a BIPOC/diverse novel is ask the publisher/author/agent if they’ve contacted Own Voice reviewers as well as you, and send them the links of a few reviewers so they can get in contact with them. This right here is how you, as an ally, can use your voice to boost the marginalized voices of others.
Please, before you rush to request that new Angie Thomas or Adam Silvera book, consider your privilege. These books might be enjoyable to you but the representation means the world to Own Voice reviewers, and they have so few opportunities to get their voices heard in this majorly white community.
Just because you can get something, doesn’t mean you should.
So you got offered to collaborate with someone. Go you! Great job! But here’s the thing: BIPOC have to do the research to see if the company’s practices are discriminatory and how diverse their team is. Why shouldn’t you?
If we learned anything from the Book Outlet / Book of the Month / Book Sharks fallouts, it’s that companies and organizations in the book world LOVE token BIPOC. If you support real equality and representation, here’s what you can look for before accepting a collaboration request or shopping somewhere:
- Research their team: How diverse is it? Are there BIPOC influencers? How many? Just one or two (tokens) or is the ratio nearly 50/50?
- Look at their social media presence: Who is their targeted audience? Do they boost the same white books/content creators repeatedly? Do they only celebrate BIPOC when it’s trendy?
- Stalk the comments/hashtags/mentions: Are BIPOC and allies complaining about lack of diversity and mistreatment? Is there a history of inequality in the workplace or among influencers?
I know this seems like a lot of work when all you want to do is just accept the dang offer, but this is necessary in ensuring you aren’t working with racist brands and companies. Whenever I’m offered a collaboration, I always look the diversity of their team and feed, and any mentions of mistreatment before I fully accept. It’s a hassle, but think about all the people that terminated contracts because brands showed their true colors.
Do your research!
A lot of brands, tour services, shops, etc., in the book world have shown their racist side during this Black Lives Matter movement. There’s a short list of bookish brands, companies, people that are being offensive and hateful on this Instagram page, but I’m sure there’s some missing. If you’re someone that “keeps politics out of it” then you’re not an ally, miss me with that excuse. If you are an ally looking to only put your money and energy into brands that stand for equality, this is for you:
- Browse their customer service page and/or their social media accounts. Are people complaining about racial discrimination? Do they silence BIPOC voices or amplify them?
- Look at their products. Are they profiting off cultural appropriation? (In the book world this translates to American Dirt) Do they mainly promote books and reviews by white people? Does their allyship look performative?
- Pay attention to their response to outcry and their equality posts. When a publisher or bookseller says they’ll “do better” are they also providing tangible steps in which progress will be made? Along with a black square or rainbow flag, are they actively promoting equality for marginalized groups, even when it isn’t trendy? Again, is their allyship performative?
We live in a capitalist society where money means something. If you truly are an ally, I implore you to put your money where your mouth is and support brands that are actively pushing for equality.
Buying from BIPOC owned independent bookstores, shops, etc, are a great way to show your support during this time, especially since a lot of them are struggling but are still donating some of the proceeds to equality funds.
This isn’t an exhaustive list on things you can do to be a better ally in the book world, but I hope it helps shift your focus and helps you asses your privilege. And please know this isn’t a pity post. This is a very real problem in the book community and it’s important to understand how you might be hurting marginalized content creators.
If you have anything to add or if this helped you in any way, please let me know! I hope to get the next installment of this new blog series out soon!
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post. Please consider following for more posts like this! You can also find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads, or buy me a coffee on ko-fi. Thanks again for reading! Bye for now honeybees.