No, readers do not prefer books written by white authors

The publishing industry is often criticized for its lack of diversity. Some defend this hermeticism and the consequent lack of plurality of stories by invoking the preferences of the readership. A theory strongly contradicted by a new US study.

89% of fiction books published in 2018 were written by white authors, according to the New York Times† This monochromy was recently brought to light by the movement #PublishingPaidMe† Many English-speaking writers have used this hashtag to reveal the amount of advances they received before the publication of their manuscript. Obviously, they vary greatly depending on the skin color of the author.

When the world of the book is feminized, it is still predominantly white. Some say that this lack of diversity is closely tied to the realities of the book market. They claim that the readership is turning away from literature produced by “minorities” and women, as if they could have no universal resonance.

No justification for the homogeneity of the book world

American researcher Dana Weinberg and American researcher Adam Kapelner, on the other hand, argue that lovers of literature love stories that reveal new voices. The duo asked more than 9,000 people who used Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), a service provided by US giant Amazon, to rate three fictional books based on their cover and description. The latter contain information about their authors, also fictitious, as well as a photo of them.

The Queens College scientists found that the writer’s gender did not affect the study participants’ interest in their book. They were also very excited to read a book written by a black author. Proof, the respondents even said they were willing to pay a little more to buy them. “This seemingly small book price difference can translate into a significant difference in profitability over the sales cycle”can we read in the study, published recently in the journal? PLOS One

For Dana Weinberg, no commercial argument can be used to justify the homogeneity of the publishing world. “What our research shows is that there is interest and appetite” for books by black authors and women authors, she told the magazine Quartz. “So there’s really no justification for it” [leur] exclusion”

Sexist prejudice has a hard tooth

But that doesn’t mean that readers don’t have (more or less conscious) prejudices against certain writers. Especially when they are young. Study participants of Dana Weinberg and Adam Kapelner believed that Generation Y authors, those of famed millennials, were less experienced than their elders. However, this did not prevent them a priori from wanting to buy their book.

The question becomes more complicated when we look at literature written by women. Journalist Mary Ann Sieghart says in her book: The Authority Gap, that women authors are often taken less seriously than their colleagues. She found that while women are willing to read books written by an author of the opposite sex, men are much less so. Of the top ten best-selling female writers (including Jane Austen, Danielle Steel, and Jojo Moyes), only 19% of their readership is male, compared to 81% female. This asymmetry is much less pronounced for their male counterparts, with 55% of male readers and 45% of females for the top ten bestselling authors.

To encourage them to overcome these sexist prejudices, the organizers of the Women’s Prize for Fiction have compiled a list of ten novels written by women. Something to capture the imagination and at the same time bring out voices that have long been silenced.

(ETX Daily Up)

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