More than £100,000 has poured in from the public over the last week to help diverse independent publishers in the UK survive the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, inclusive publishers Jacaranda Books and Knights Of warned their income had reduced to almost zero after the outbreak closed bookshops and distributors, putting their futures at risk. They launched a crowdfunding appeal administered by the independent writing charity Spread the Word, looking to raise £100,000 to ensure their survival. Eighty per cent of donations go to the two presses, with the remaining 20% to other independent publishers in the UK.
The first few weeks of the fundraiser saw donations of around £16,000, but as protests over the killing of George Floyd by US police swept around the world, the publishers raised more than £100,000 in less than a week. More than £125,000 has now been raised, with a new target set at £150,000.
“It felt impossible. YOU made it possible. THANK FOR HEARING US. One. Hundred. Thousand. Pounds. AND IT IS STILL CLIMBING!!” tweeted children’s publisher Knights Of. “Asking for crisis support for inclusive publishing wasn’t how any of us expected 2020 to go. We had brilliant, ambitious books from exceptional creators to publish. Raising £100,000 to help our companies, our colleagues and our friends became essential to our shared survival. We are angry. We have a voice. We will keep working until you hear us.”
According to a recent report, only 5% of published authors in the UK are people of colour, and less than 4% of children’s books in the UK feature a BAME protagonist.
Jacaranda’s founder Valerie Brandes said her small press had been on a precipice when she teamed up with Knights Of on the fundraiser; she had had plans to publish work by 20 black British writers in 2020, an undertaking that “was evaporating instantly before our eyes”.
“The message to send to people was that we’re here, working really hard to create these communities and provide opportunities for under-represented writers, and we’re not OK right now,” she said, describing herself as humbled by the support.
While some of those contributing money said they were doing so in memory of Floyd, or cited the Black Lives Matter movement, Brandes acknowledged the gap between the appeal and the events in the US. “Obviously people’s attention has been drawn to the fact we exist because of that moment,” she said, “but I don’t want to exploit it in any way because it’s not the same thing. Somebody lost their life and what needs to happen to address that is way beyond giving £10 to a crowdfunding campaign for two publishers in London, as much as I’m really grateful for that.”