Each year since 2020, we have published an annual message to update you on our efforts in advancing equity and justice in the publishing industry.
We’re both proud and honored to continue our commitment to this important work. The stories and perspectives shared and amplified by the publishing industry can have a profound impact on how people understand the world and interact with each other. As such, we believe it is critical that we all strive to offer fair representation, dismantle barriers to the book industry, and promote a diversity of perspectives.
We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve seen within our organization and in the publishing community at large since we began sharing these updates, but we also know more work remains to be done. These annual updates are our way of staying accountable to all of you. With this message, we are excited to share an overview of what we have accomplished in the past year and to offer a preview of our plans for the coming year.
As an organization, we have committed to improving representation among the books we promote by authors from historically underrepresented identities, and over the past year we’ve continued our efforts to promote equity in the visibility of their works.
For instance, on BookBub, we significantly increased the number of deals that we could include in the Black Stories and Experiences category, regardless of their main category, thanks to changes we announced in last year’s update and other work we’ve done in the current year to make sure our curation is representative. Another example of continued work has been our inclusive merchandising efforts in recognizing celebrations and awareness months like Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Black History Month, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and Juneteenth in articles, promotional collections, and promoted books on BookBub and Chirp that have provided additional opportunities to increase the visibility and interest in books from authors of historically marginalized backgrounds.
In our annual anonymous demographic survey of BookBub and Chirp readers, we were quite glad to see that BIPOC readers expressed significantly higher satisfaction scores compared to the previous year where we had comparable data, while satisfaction scores from readers identifying among other demographics remained similar. Though we can’t attribute this trend to one specific initiative, we are hopeful that the concerted efforts we’ve made to foster an inclusive space for all book lovers to discover their next read have contributed to this change.
While we’ve seen BIPOC readers expressing more satisfaction with our service, this year, we sought to improve our service for other historically marginalized demographics as well. Specifically, one notable change we made is subscribers to the LGBTQ+ category on BookBub now receive a broader offering of promotions relevant to LGBTQ+ identities. As well as improving things for readers, this has also been a positive change for authors, since authors with relevant promotions are now being exposed to a wider audience. In addition, we have built out more comprehensive subcategories and tagging of books within the LGBTQ+ category, and plan to do more in this area in the coming year to make it easier for readers browsing our website to find books matching their specific interests.
We’re glad that we’ve been able to make changes to the service that seem to have improved consumer sentiment, but we also want to be able to measure the effectiveness of our efforts to ensure authors from historically underrepresented identities are being equitably represented on our services. Right now, this is still somewhat difficult, since we have demographic data for authors who have elected to share it with us, but there are many authors for whom we don’t yet have that data. This means we still have an incomplete understanding of how we’re doing overall. We have made some improvements this year, like integrating a secure, optional survey into the sign-up process for new authors joining BookBub. This has started significantly increasing the amount of data we have, but over the next year, we intend to explore additional ways to expand the demographic information we can use, so we can better evaluate our merchandising mix.
Exploring new ways to broaden our audience
Another focus of ours has been to explore new ways to broaden the BookBub and Chirp audiences in our reader marketing efforts. This year we audited our consumer advertising materials to ensure they emphasized the broad range of books we feature, with a special eye toward books written by individuals from historically marginalized groups. Our hope is that by emphasizing the breadth of material we promote and tailoring our marketing to a diverse range of readers and interests, we will not miss opportunities to bring new readers to our services who will enjoy the wide range of books we feature.
An important reason we complete annual surveys is to understand how the composition of our member base compares to the general reading population. We strive for our membership to be representative of the populations of different regions we serve, and our latest surveys indicated some progress here — for example, this year, a notably greater share of new BookBub members identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community than in previous years, which we’re hopeful was due to updates in both our merchandising and marketing strategies. But we’re committed to doing more work in the coming year to make BookBub and Chirp even better for all kinds of readers, and to bring those new readers to our services — and we will continue checking in with our members on a regular basis to better understand how we’re doing for readers across all demographic groups.
Building an internal culture focused on equity, inclusion, and belonging
Over the past year, we continued our work to build an internal culture that fosters equity, inclusion, and belonging. We’re committed to supporting employees from historically marginalized groups, and as part of this commitment, we’re very happy to have four established community resource groups, which serve our employees who identify as LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, having a disability or chronic illness, or having a gender identity that is underrepresented in the tech industry. We also held a series of training sessions to help our leaders manage their work and teams from lenses of equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging; as well as workshops for all employees on inclusive leadership, supporting the transgender community, and understanding race and racism. Looking ahead, we’ll continue offering opportunities for all of our team members to build community and approach their work and collaboration with equity and inclusion in mind.
Investing in external organizations
And finally, over the past year we deepened our partnership with We Need Diverse Books, an organization that continues to do impactful and important work to advance equity in the book industry. We continued our tradition of sponsoring the Walter Awards grant and expanded to supporting their Black Creatives Fund as well. We’re also working with them to offer supplemental programming for their Internship Grant cohort and for members of the Black Creatives Fund initiative. Our partnership with Hack.Diversity continues to flourish — we regularly host Hack fellows and are lucky to have three alums of their fellowship program working with us as full-time engineers. We partner with 826 Boston in their efforts to support the writing and literacy needs of students in Boston, and volunteer regularly with the Prison Book Program, a group that supports currently incarcerated people by sending them books and print resources. Overall, we remain committed to maintaining and growing our relationships with thoughtful organizations whose efforts are focused on equity and justice in publishing, technology, and literacy.
In this update, we’ve mentioned several areas in which we’ve committed to maintaining existing efforts as well as some specific areas where we will need to advance new initiatives to make progress toward our goals. We are incredibly thankful for all of the support, insights, and collaboration we’ve received from this community over these past few years, and while we’re proud of the work we’ve done, there is always more that we could do. If you have any insights about our ongoing work, we’d be grateful to hear from you via this form, which you can complete anonymously. Thank you, as always, for your support!