A discussion on what compels publishing professionals to stay in the field, and their visions for the future~
The publishing industry has been slow to become diverse in race, class, gender, ability, and more. As diversity surveys and campaigns like #PublishingPaidMe have exploded the issue, and initiatives like BIPOC-focused internships and coalitions have helped change the landscape, overall structural change still upholds establishment norms. Yet, the desire to create the best books possible for readers still drives many BIPOC to remain in the industry. Four book publishing professionals from companies of varied structures—Ibrahim Ahmad (Akashic Books), Angela Abreu (Dominican Writers Press), Chantz Erolin (Graywolf Press), and Nicole Counts (One World/Penguin Random House)—discuss why they joined the publishing industry, what challenges they have faced within it, and how we might tackle the work that needs to be done to ensure that books reach all audiences. The panel will be moderated by Jennifer N. Baker, whose nearly 20 years of experience come to bear on her long-running podcast Minorities in Publishing.
Angela "Angy" Abreu is a Dominican-American mom, writer and community organizer. Angy firmly believes that “if it does not exist then you must create it.” In 2015, feeling dismissed as a Dominican American writer in many literary spaces, she decided to create the Dominican Writers Association, a 501 c3 non-profit organization solely dedicated to highlighting content that not only promotes the works of Dominican Writers but also provides them with the tools and resources necessary for their development. Part of DWA’s activities include the book publishing arm, DWA Press. Angy is the Creative Director of Dominican Writers and along with the Board manages and creates content that serves the Dominican Writers population.
Ibrahim Ahmad is the editorial director at Akashic Books, where he has worked in various capacities since 2000. He teaches at the Wilkes MFA Low-Residency Creative Writing Program and Literary Publishing MA Program, leads frequent writing workshops, and is the cofounder, with Akashic publisher Johnny Temple, of Brooklyn Wordsmiths, an editorial and consulting program. In 2015 he was named one of four finalists for the inaugural Star Watch prize by Publishers Weekly, awarded to “young industry professionals who have distinguished themselves as future leaders of the industry.”
Jennifer Baker is a publishing professional, creator/host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, and contributing editor to Electric Literature. In 2019, she was named Publishers Weekly Superstar for her contributions to inclusion and representation in publishing. Jennifer is also the editor of the all PoC-short story anthology Everyday People: The Color of Life (Atria Books, 2018). She has volunteered with organizations such as We Need Diverse Books and I, Too Arts Collective, and spoken widely on topics of inclusion, the craft of writing/editing, podcasting, and the inner-workings of the publishing industry. Her fiction, nonfiction, and criticism has appeared in various print and online publications. Her website is jennifernbaker.com.
Nicole Counts is a Senior Editor at One World, an imprint of Random House, where she works with Fatimah Asghar, Morgan Parker, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Donovan X. Ramsey, Brittany Packnett, Danielle Geller and Gabi Burnham among others. She started her career in marketing and publicity at PublicAffairs and Nation Books. She is a freelance writer, as well as a facilitator and mentor with Girls, Write Now, a mentor with Representation Matters Mentorship Program, and a member of POC in publishing. A Jersey native and Philly lover, she lives in Brooklyn.
Chantz Erolin works with poets through manuscript development and all stages of production as editorial and production associate at Graywolf Press, where he was the inaugural Citizen Literary Fellow. A poet and critic, Erolin’s writing can be found in the Believer, Good Job, and elsewhere. He lives on the Southside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he grew up.