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Color of Publishing 2, perspectives from the United States
Episode 3630th May 2023 • BookRising • Radical Books Collective
00:00:00 01:03:36

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In the second episode of Color of Publishing, we focus on publishing perspectives from and about the United States with Elizabeth Méndez Berry (One World Books) and Porscha Burke (Random House). Host Bhakti Shringarpure engages the two experts in a wide-ranging conversation about book acquisitions, editorial processes, taste and culture-making, equity, and structural racism as it impacts the publishing industry and the book market. Méndez Berry and Burke speak openly about what brought them to publishing and the challenges they encountered in the industry with regards to race as well as gender. PEN America’s scathing report Reading Between the Lines: Race, Equity, and Book Publishing has “found deep and persistent obstacles to bringing more titles by authors of color to commercial success” and that 95% of books published in the United States from 1950 to 2018 were written by white authors. Employees as well as senior level positions in the publishing industry remain disproportionately white. Méndez Berry and Burke take listeners through the many invisible stages of book production (acquisitions, book deals, editorial, cover design, promotions, distribution and marketing) and the obstacles encountered by writers of color at every stage. Méndez Berry cautions that when “we primarily publish books by white authors, the number of stories that we’re avoiding or suppressing is significant.” Burke speaks about her career as service-oriented in order to transform publishing and create space for diverse authors and diverse stories.

Elizabeth Méndez Berry is Vice President and Executive Editor of One World, an imprint of Random House in New York. She is an award-winning writer and editor who writes about culture, gender, criminal justice and politics, and has also co-founded several philanthropic institutes.

Porscha Burke has revolutionized publishing in her fifteen years at Random House. She has worked with authors such as Maya Angelou and Reverend Amy Butler, and has led the publication of new editions of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and The Black Book that were originally edited by Toni Morrison. She received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College, where she currently teaches book proposal writing.