Before I hit PUBLISH on this blog post, I thought long and hard about it. I stepped away for two weeks, ran things over and over in my head, imagined the potential outcome and blowback, and decided against it for a while. But it stayed in my mind, making me walk away from social media and believe less in my conviction to stand up for the truth even when it hurts. I became disenchanted and no longer looked at people in the same light as I did before. People I thought so highly of for quite some time. This was when I knew I had to say something.
I’ve been seeing writers post their support of diverse authors, saying how they’ve supported diversity in our indie/publishing industry all along. Instagram is flooded with books, new and old, by diverse authors, who are now being hawked as if they are the greatest thing. Like a fashion statement, the latest style, the hottest thing to have. This makes me so happy. No matter how or why, diversity is now at the forefront of publishing. Maybe the newbies, the ones just breaking into the industry, won’t have to change their name like I did. Or maybe just the experience alone will be better for them. And for this, I am overjoyed.
But for you who say you’ve been doing this all along, that isn’t true. For years, I’ve known the little cliques of bestselling authors. Like everything else in life, you do what you can to make it. But I grew tired of watching how the cliques and their industry supporters worked, and of trying to fit in. And because we’re being honest here – I finally realized I didn’t need to. I write this with so much peace, as I am at a place in my career and relationships that I never imagined I could, or would, be. This is the place where truth needs to be told. Because you don’t need to hear it from people who have a bone to pick with you. You need to hear it from people who are just as successful as you are. What we learn in leadership is that before you can change or remove your unconscious bias, you first need to admit you have it.
And you have it.
Let me be clear. Tolerating diverse authors is not the same as supporting them, elevating them, lifting them up as you lift yourself up. Knowing that we play on a different kind of field and consciously taking us to YOUR field. Leveling the arena so we can compete without any predetermined handicaps. This is what it really means to support diverse authors.
So, with all due respect, don’t say you always have.
You may have reluctantly posted one or two things about my books, who I was or where I came from. You may have assumed I didn’t need your help because this wasn’t my main source of success. But as one of the only diverse authors who broke out in 2013, don’t say you went out of your way to help. Because you didn’t.
Instead of jumping on the bandwagon because it’s the “cool” thing to do, tell us how you’ve learned the importance of supporting your fellow authors. Because long after popular hashtags like #ownvoices and #weneeddiversebooks have been replaced by the next new trend that comes along, your kindness and authenticity will linger on forever.