8 Conferences that Target Diversity in Publishing

This blog post is part of our ongoing Diversity in Publishing series, focusing on the need for inclusion, equity, and diverse voices within the book industry. Read more posts here.

It’s all well and good to have publishing organizations be committed to diversity through efforts like seeking out diverse writers, and having resources for finding diverse artists. Those things make a huge difference in our ability to publish more diverse voices and tell stories that haven’t been told, from perspectives that haven’t necessarily been given as much time and attention.

But change on the industry level is an important factor, especially for an industry like publishing that is often a bit, *ahem*, slow to embrace change. Not only does having industry support emphasize the importance of representing a variety of voices, but it also puts the pressure on (and makes the business case) for individual publishing houses to create books that represent a wider set of experiences, voices, and perspectives.

One of the best ways to see the impact is by looking at how national book and publishing conferences are addressing the topic of diversity, so we’re looking at how diversity is being integrated into those annual (or semi-annual events) within the industry. Read on below!

8 Conferences that Target Diversity in Publishing


8 Conferences that Target Diversity in Publishing

Conferences 1-4 focus solely on diversity in the book world, while 4-8 have panels and sessions within the overall conference that highlight diversity in the book world.

1. Publishing in Color

This organization is specifically targeted at diversity in publishing, but it’s limited to religious and spiritual publishing. They host several conferences each year in various cities around the United States with the goal of promoting the stories of spiritual writers who are under-represented in publishing.

2. Joint Conference of Librarians of Color

We love librarians and we love seeing that they are focusing on supporting diversity. This yearly conference has been around since 2016 and looks into the policies, practices, and issues of diversity in libraries and how they affect the communities they serve.

3. Design + Diversity Conference

While this isn’t technically publishing focused, design is a huge part of our publishing process (and that process for many other houses), so we wanted to highlight this conference. Held yearly in St. Louis, MO, it focuses on exploring diversity in the design industry.

4. National Conference of African American Librarians

This conference is hosted by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and offers programming on different topics that relate to diversity. The event takes place every few years and the organization will host their 11th conference in 2020.

5. BookExpo America

BEA is the largest annual book trade fair in the United States, and one that nearly all US publishers and many international ones attend each year. Events at this year’s conference included panels on the financial necessity of diversity in the book industry, how to empower minority voices and as a result find new stories, and one on hiring for diversity when job opportunities come available. All of these consider diversity from the business perspective, which makes sense given the audience for the conference.

6. BookCon

This convention for book fans is similar to Comic-Con, except the celebrities here are authors and illustrators. And like at BEA, diversity was a major topic in events at this year’s conference. Not only did We Need Diverse Books have a panel discussion, but there were various genre-specific panels that addressed the issue of diversity stories in a variety of categories, from graphic novels to mystery books to romance to young adult fiction.

7. American Library Association Conferences

This group is the oldest and largest organization of librarians in the world. They host two conferences throughout the year to promote their mission and support librarians and librarianship. In 2017, the organization added a new strategic initiative to its areas of focus: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. The groups conferences now include updates on that initiative, as well as weaving topics of diversity and inclusion into many events during its summer and mid-winter conferences. Specific organizations for librarians of color affiliated with the ALA also hold meetings during the mid-winter conference.

8. American Booksellers Association Winter Institute

Another big part of the publishing landscape is booksellers, and while they gather at BEA, they also have their own conference for the independent bookselling community every winter. A look at their events list shows that diversity is a consideration for this arm of the industry as well, and their upcoming conferences has sessions specifically related to diversity and inclusion in hiring practices, presumably to better represent all those diverse books they’re stocking.

8 Conferences that Target Diversity in Publishing

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Our biggest hope is that this list grows in number. Did we miss anything? Feel free to comment below with your thoughts and recommendations and we’ll update this list continuously. And be sure to follow along this blog series here!

Deanne Katz

Deanne Katz

Associate Editor, Food + Drink and Lifestyle Publishing. You can follow her on Instagram at @deannegrams.
Deanne Katz

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