The Ripped Bodice has released its fifth annual report on the State of Racial Diversity in Romance and, spoiler alert, the overwhelming whiteness in Romance publishing that they identified in 2016 has not been resolved.
The Racial Diversity Report looks at the largest romantic publishers and gives the percentage of titles published this year that were by color authors. Some publishers provide this information themselves, while Ripped Bodice has to do the research itself for others. This means that more than a thousand authors are looked up and biographies and other public information are used to obtain this estimate.
When The Ripped Bodice opened in Los Angeles in 2016, it was the first pure romance bookstore in the northern hemisphere. It is run by sister owners Leah and Bea Koch, who raised money at Kickstarter to help make their dream of opening a romance bookstore a reality. In addition to other initiatives such as the Ripped Bodice Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Romantic Fiction, they have been conducting an annual diversity report on the romance genre in publishing since their first year of business.
Today in Books Newsletter
Sign up to Today In Books for daily news and all about the world of books.
Thanks for signing up! Keep an eye on your inbox.
This year’s report highlights how many publishers made public promises in 2020 to promote anti-racism and address white supremacy in their organizations, but that doesn’t seem to have affected those numbers. Publishing is a notoriously slow business so these efforts may bear fruit in the 2021 report, but I’m not particularly optimistic.
Of all love books published in 2020, 12% were by color authors, while blacks make up about 40% of the current US population. Worse, even that percentage is largely attributed to one publisher, Kensington. Without their titles, the percentage would drop to 8.3%.
This is an improvement over last year when the average was 8.3%, but there’s still a long way to go, especially considering how much a publisher is responsible for moving the needle. Kensington rose from 12.7% in 2016 to 44.8% in 2020! Carina Press has also increased from 5.4% in 2016 to 37% in 2020, but that’s not the norm.
Most publishers stay roughly the same as where they started from in 2016, usually in the 2% to 10% range. A few are showing slow but steady progress – they may catch up in 20 years! However, there are some who are performing worse now than they did at the beginning: Bold Strokes Books, Simon & Schuster, and Forever. I have to say a special greeting to Bethany House out of disappointment: I keep myself constant at 0% every year.
Personally, as someone who reads more weird romance, I am particularly disappointed with Bold Strokes Books. They mostly publish F / F romance, and while their percentage was 7% in 2016, it dropped to 1.9% last year. For a publisher that should be about diversity, this shows only very little intersectionality in the selection of the authors to be published.
Read the full Ripped Bodice 2020 Racial Diversity report in Romance Publishing, including 2020 Best Sellers and a table for each publisher. As we conclude every year: Hopefully these numbers will improve until next time.
Looking for romance novels by color writers? To attempt: