While 7.9% of the UK’s population is of ethnic minority origin, only 50 (1%) of this year’s top 5,000 bestsellers are by BME writers, despite the high profile of award-winners Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy and Monica Ali. The report points the finger at publishers who are reluctant to commission books targeted at an ethnic minority group or to tailor books to appeal to a specific audience.
However, publishers who responded to the survey tended to emphasise the importance of the quality of the writing above the cultural setting of a book or the author’s own ethnicity. Jason Arthur, editor of Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal’s Tourism (Vintage), commented, “It’s probably a lie to say that what is in an author’s background has no influence. But the first consideration is always the story and how it’s written. ” Another, anonymous, respondent from the publishing industry said, “Colour is a dazzling irrelevance that simply sucks up to the PC brigade. If a submission is good, it’s good”.