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Stoke Newington author calls for diversity in publishing industry

PUBLISHED: 11:46 07 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:46 07 September 2020

Abiola Bello is the author of the Emily Knight series. Picture: Aleta Thompson

Abiola Bello is the author of the Emily Knight series. Picture: Aleta Thompson

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A Stoke Newington author is raising awareness of the lack of diversity in the publishing industry ahead of her new book.

Author and publisher Abiola Bello has called for action to increase diversity ahead of the release of her new book, Emily Knight: I am…Becoming, the next instalment in her Emily Knight young adult series.

The call comes following the release of the Rethinking Diversity In Publishing Report in June earlier this year.

Abiola said: “I’m not a fan of these reports, nothing they say is a surprise for me and what irks me the most is they come out and people read them, have an opinion and then forget about it.

“Publishing is a slow-moving industry.”

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The 32-year-old winner of London’s Big read 2019 said when she first arrived in the industry, she was surprised by the lack of diversity she saw and is now encouraging publishers to change their hiring policies.

“Hire more diverse teams,” she said. “Don’t just hire people from London, hire people from Wales, Scotland – they have different experiences.”

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Her hope is that by encouraging diversity, publishing houses will become more approachable for non-white authors, improving the diversity on bookshelves.

“Smaller publishers can get it together, just not the bigger ones with all the money and all the staff. It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Abiola added.

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Nominated for a Carnegie award last year, Abiola said: “I find that when I go into a bookshop, I’ll find the exact same book from a Black author, but there are so many more books (out there).

“It’s like they pick one (and that’s it).

“I do think Black Lives Matter (BLM) forced peoples’ hands and there was some improvement but there is a lot more to do.

“When BLM (was at its peak) it felt like a lot of publishers were putting out stuff because they felt like they had to, not because they care.

“Then you read the reports saying, ‘we need to do better’ – but we don’t need (publishers) to keep saying that.”

Abiola, who wrote her first novel at the age of eight, won the Trailblazer Award by London Book Fair in 2018.

The third book in the Emily Knight series, Emily Knight: I am… Becoming, will be available from September 17.


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