I confess to mixed feelings on learning that the Guardian and 4th Estate are launching a prize for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) writers. On one hand, it is fantastic news, particularly when one considers the many reports highlighting the perennial truth that the publishing industry is overwhelmingly white.
Last year there was an outcry when all the books selected for World Book Night (an event that sees thousands of volunteers across the UK and Ireland giving away around 200,000 copies of 15 books) were revealed to have been written by white authors. “A sadly wasted opportunity to be truly diverse,” lamented the author Nikesh Shukla.
In the UK, 96% of the authors who take part in the big literary festivals are white, and white writers are more likely to have literary agents than those of any other race. These statistics don’t lie. Something has to be done to give the publishing industry in the UK a tan. See the BAME prize as part of the new melanin drive.