How To Diversify Your Literary Publication

The quickest and dirtiest guide ever.

Hello and welcome to the quickest and dirtiest tutorial on how to diversify your publication. Yes, I know you are the most sensitive, alert and most well-intentioned editor in the world. I bet you even read The Color Purple once in college and you follow Roxane Gay on Twitter and you have enough restraint not to @ her every time she says something that makes you uncomfortable. You won’t say publicly you love genre fiction but, you’ve dabbled in some Octavia Butler or maybe even some Nnedi Okafor.

I see you, I’ve probably worked with some of you and I’ve heard the many pleas of editors who are not marginalized people asking how do they diversify while maintaining the integrity of your publication and not sacrificing your ideal aesthetics. Ready? Get your helmet, let’s go.

1.) Do social media in a smarter fashion. If you are not a marginalized person and you post long posts about ALL the reasons you personally find identity politics terrible, don’t expect marginalized people to trust you with our work. These things aren’t theoretical for a lot of us and will be in and through our work. We can see you and to be frank, we don’t trust you.

2.) Unlearn the concept that adherence to the Western Literary Canon is the measure of quality. Let’s cancel that.

3.) When your publication screws up, small or a big royal public screw up. Don’t double down. Back away, and pay attention to what is being said. Easy to say, very hard to do and part of the necessary work of not upholding White supremacy in the literary world. There are many, many resources on learning how to deal with being called out, again use your Internet machine.

4.) If you don’t read the work of marginalized people, start. If you don’t know where to start, get thee to a search engine. Ask marginalized people who they are reading. There are (when I googled the phrase “marginalized writers to read”) literally dozens of lists to get you started. If you say you can’t find writers, you’re full of beans.

5.) If you are in the weeds about this, call in back up. Here is what brought me in for a special (a thing that has problems but that is a whole other thing) issue of a magazine. Let me show you a super-secret. Find a writer you like who experiences whatever flavor of marginalization, you say something like:

Hello Writer,

I am familiar with your work through (enter thing here) and really like what you do. I am reaching out to ask if you’d be open to editing/guest editing/sensitivity reading for my publication.


Now at this point if you’ve screwed up before, reference it, acknowledge it and ask for help rectifying it with the community. Be honest. Understand that if you have a bad track record that someone like me has witnessed, we probably won’t trust you with our work. Many of us have been taken advantage of and are leery. You’re gonna have to deal with it.

If you want the quickest and dirtiest start, just listen to us. Understand that we’re experts in marginalization and we know what we’re talking about. Don’t Devil’s Advocate us, don’t tell us the many ways in which your privileges mean you don’t even bother to think about this stuff. And don’t say that having diversity and really doing the work is impossible.

It is possible to run an inclusive, chock full of amazing work publication. You have to put in the work. You have to be willing to screw up, get some blow back, apologize and learn from your mistakes. Do some of the work on your own. Read, read, read and then read some more. Take some of the burden and in the end, the lit world we all belong to will be a finer place.