Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Changing the Conversation Around Diverse Publishing

An It's Complicated! — Book Covers guest post by Felicia Frazier, Senior Vice President & Director of Sales at Penguin Young Readers Group.

Felicia Frazier
I would like to begin my post with a point of clarification that my opinions regarding diversity in publishing are based on my opinion and experience that may not be the perspective of my publisher. As a 20 year publishing veteran I have held many positions including Event/Exhibit Planning, Marketing, and Brand Management but my greatest and longest tenure has been as a sales strategist. I currently lead the best sales team in publishing. It is a position of strategic planning and challenging assumptions with the goal of reaching our consumers.

A side lesson...

The Role of a Sales Team

A great sales team has the ability to position a book for optimal sales and builds a strategic plan around longevity of an author. A great sales team is a consultant, an educator, and a partner internally and externally. A great sales team identifies trends and/or creates them; a great sales team can make a book. A great sales team is focused on reaching the end user.

On the matter of selling content that reflects diversity…well there are as many questions as there are answers. But as in all selling, it begins and ends with the consumer, and the question, “Is what I have ‘in my bag’ as a sales strategist relevant to the consumer?”

One of my favorite examples of a great success that I’ve challenged my team to elevate is We Best the Street by Sampson Davis published in paperback in 2006. Lifetime-to-Date, the Point of Sales is over 150,000 units. The consumer arrives annually, but there is a still larger audience to capture.

Questions we ask regarding every book (diverse or not) include:
  • How will the market respond? 
  • Do we really know how to reach the market? 
  • How will this title be discovered? 
  • Are we overly reliant on the educational market as it relates to multicultural/ ethnic books? 
  • Does the verbiage “Urban Fiction” help or hurt? 
  • Do we have lower expectations of this category—and is it a self-fulfilling prophecy?

My approach with my team is to change our dialogue around diverse publishing. It’s not what it is, or has been, but what could it be or should be.

Every census update reveals substantial growth of minority segments with tremendous spending power. So when a sales person sells diverse books (or any book) we need to be fairly confident that the consumer will show up—that discoverability is easy, that we have, as a sales organization, challenged every assumption to attract the end users to ensure success; otherwise we’ve merely shipped books and sold nothing at all.


  1. I'm impressed that "We Beat The Street" sold over 150,000 copies. I didn't expect it, so your sales team must be very good. Best wishes with all the books that you aim to sell.

  2. I think it is wonderful to have a sales perspective on this because sales is one of the most important aspects of the publishing process, but I'd love to have more concrete details. You say that "we need to be fairly confident that the consumer will show up" -- but how do you do that? How do you make sure that discoverability is easy? How do you challenge assumptions to attract end users? Do you have any examples you'd be able to share?

  3. Thanks, Felicia, for sharing your thoughts here. Sales is SUCH an important piece of this, and Penguin is lucky to have you advocating for these titles!

  4. Hi Felicia,

    I couldn't find where on this blog to ask my question, so I'm trying you out on this... I can't find anything on this site about neurodiversity. Is the CBC interested in promoting children's books written by a person with autism? Writers with autism have a unique perspective, and with one in 77 children being diagnosed on the spectrum, that seems to me to be a small but significant minority. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Nan,

      Thanks for your question! The CBC Diversity Committee is a group run by the Children’s Book Council, a national nonprofit trade association for children’s book publishers, and therefore we can only showcase books featuring diverse content by our member publishers.

      Our member publishers send us lists of new books quarterly that we then place on our CBC Diversity Bookshelf hosted on Goodreads, which can be found on the left-hand side of any page on this blog. The list has categories that feature over 30 different types of diversity, of which one is special needs.

      We do hope you take a look at our CBC Diversity Bookshelf and if you have any book recommendations for us that are published by CBC member publishers, please do recommend them through Goodreads!