The Publishing Industry Has A Major Diversity Problem In The Romance Department — Literally

"Honestly we were shocked at how abysmal the numbers are."

It looks like we need more people like Jane Gloriana Villanueva in the world. A recent study conducted by The Ripped Bodice, the nation's sole romance specialty bookstore, found that out of every 100 books published by leading romance publishers last year, only 7.8 were written by people of color — so it turns out that realities like the one The CW's Jane the Virgin features are few and far between.



This report — the first of its kind — was authored by sisters Leah and Bea Koch, owners of The Ripped Bodice, who told Entertainment Weekly they were inspired to research this after they noticed how few options they had available to customers who came in looking for traditionally published books by authors of color. The two were surprised by the findings they unearthed and have since promised to track the progress (or lack of) each year.

"Honestly we were shocked at how abysmal the numbers are," Bea told the magazine. "We thought they would be bad, [but] we didn't think they would be this bad."

That's because, of the 20 publishers surveyed, fewer than 5 percent of books were authored by people of color and only three had at least 10 percent of their books authored by people of color. The data focused on these 20 publishers and did not account for self-publishing and other non-traditional models which, they point out, makes up for a large portion of romance publishing. A little more than half of the publishers provided data to the sisters directly, but they hope participation will increase in the coming years.

The sisters wrote in the study that they decided to look into this issue because they were tired of hearing publishers say "we're working on it." They chose to focus on race because, to put it simply, they had to start somewhere. The report notes that people with disabilities, people of marginalized religious groups, and people on the LGBTQ spectrum are underrepresented as well. They also chose to only focus on authors themselves — giving a breakdown of the logic they used to determine if someone was a person of color — as opposed to the content of the books. Racial discrimination, they said, is "one of the largest barriers" to break down in any industry.

"The traditional romance publishing industry is going to collapse if it doesn't start hiring authors that reflect the current U.S. population," Leah told EW. "We're hopeful that by contributing this data to the discussion, we will start to see real change."

You can check out The Ripped Bodice's full study here.

Cover image via Robert Voets / The CW

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