Readership, sales of titles from diverse authors are on the rise

By Adam Sockel, Staff Writer | March 2019

Libraries, authors, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and countless literacy advocates have long called attention to the need for greater representation in young adult and children’s books. Though there’s still a long way to go to achieve a semblance of true equality in the publishing world, 2018 did see a rise in both digital readership and sales of content created by authors that come from a diverse cultural or sexual background. Of the top 100 young adult and children’s digital titles borrowed through OverDrive library and school partners in 2018, 40 percent were written by diverse authors. These numbers align with sales data, as nearly half the top 100 young adult and children’s digital titles purchased by OverDrive partner libraries and schools came from diverse authors.

Leading the way in both sales and circulation numbers are Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give and On The Come Up, Jenny Han, creator of the popular To All The Boys series, and Tomi Adeyemi, author of Children of Blood and Bone. Sales of these titles and young adult and children’s books on the whole across the OverDrive network were up 15 percent from 2017, and their circulation rose 29 percent.

Lee & Low Books does an annual survey that shows while there’s much work to do, the percentage of children’s books by and/or about people of color and native people continues to grow.

Produced by Lee & Low Books, designed by Ben Mautner

There also continues to be a hunger for more content and dialogue about diverse content. At BookCon 2014, We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) held a panel titled “The World Agrees: We Need Diverse Books.” The panel drew a standing-room-only crowd of 300 people, with many turned away. Each year, WNDB’s now-annual panel routinely draws hundreds more readers hungry for representative content. The numbers and conversations reflect that, while equality hasn’t been achieved, this important content is finally getting the attention it deserves and the readership has followed.

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