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Embedding Inclusive Cultures
A Virtual Hackathon on the 5 Levers

For those not familiar with the term ‘hackathon’ it originated as a social coding event bringing computer programmers and other interested people together to improve upon or build a new software program. Now it is synonymous with an event where people come together to collaborate in order to solve a problem or identify new opportunities in a short amount of time, and to have fun, improve skill sets, and network while doing it.

Therefore, we would be interested to hear your thoughts on how we as literary agencies and publishing professionals can utilise the 5 Levers explained in HSM Advisory Embedding Inclusive Cultures Workshop to make publishing for inclusive to authors for different backgrounds.


For each Lever, we have listed a series of guiding questions trying to tie Overcoming Unconscious Bias, Helping People Bring their Whole Selves to Work, Diversity of Thought, Encouraging Flexibility and Embracing Co-Creation, directly to the publishing industry, especially the parts of publishing we work mostly closely with. Feel free to ask new questions that we should be considering. But we would appreciate your thoughts on we can do to better embed inclusive cultures in our agencies and publishers.

Overcoming Unconscious Bias


The environment decisions are made: can the submissions process be altered? Are there any barriers making the process less appealing to non-middle-class authors? Are there any processes we have which invertedly weed out more diverse stories and authors? Are we basing key commissioning decisions on unsupportive data regarding diverse authors and voices? Is the Same-Same-Different decision making metric too prevalent when it comes to decision making and who are these key decision makers who have the greatest influence – are they the commissioning editors, are they the big publishing houses, are they the sales and marketing departments, or are they distributors and wholesalers, the algorithms who tell bookshops and websites what to buy, the chain bookshops and Amazon? How can we influence these big decision makers?

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Bringing Our Whole Selves To Work

How do you encourage a greater awareness of people’s identities in publishing and how do we encourage people to be more open in sharing them: how do we learn about different cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles? Are there enough opportunities to learn about Black, LGTBQ+, Asian heritage? Would this be something agents and publishers would be interested in or have the time to attend? What would make us more comfortable about sharing facets of our identity with colleagues or our authors? What do you think would make our authors feel most ‘at home’ when meeting us? Could author mentoring help and can we utilise existing diverse talent to encourage more diverse talent?

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Learning from Diversity of Thought


What is currently contributing to a lack of diversity of thought? Where are we overrepresented by a particular demographic both in publishing and in the spheres we work in (i.e. either our own companies or our networks such as publishers or agents we work closest with)? How do we encourage new voices into conversations we are having? Can we bring in the voices of Black, Asian or Working Class professionals or authors to offer their opinions on challenges we face or our publishing strategies going forward? Can they be freelancers or guest speaker? How can we encourage both willingness to share and readiness to listen with individuals feeling either intimidated or defensive? How do we let senior managers know we still value the work they are doing and yet want to hear from other perspectives? What could these Opportunities to Speak Up and Be Heard look like? Would they be internal meetings, or could we convene more industry wide events? Should these be online or in-person? What would incentivise people attend?

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Encouraging Flexibility


What areas of flexibility at work makes most sense for publishing? Where do we see the greatest inflexibility? Where can we be more flexible to encourage greater inclusion and diversity? Could we be more open to taking on those without degrees for entry level positions? Publishing is so highly sought after a career it can select from the most highly educated, at the best universities, but could we open recruitment up to less homogenous and more flexible experiences? How could this be done? Can we actively go to more diverse areas with greater proportions of different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and encourage more people to consider publishing as a career path? Can we then recruit from these areas? Can we do the same for authors?


What experience are we offering Black or working-class authors? Is it identical to white-middle class authors? Have we spoken to organisations such as the Black Writers’ Guild or the Black Agents & Editors' Group to ask their thoughts if homogenous experiences have discouraged Black writers or editors? When it comes to time, are working class writers more pressed due to the demands of a day job, verses middle-class writers who can lean on financial stability to meet deadlines or do revisions? Can we do anything to level the playing field? Do middle-class writers have greater access to writing resources which will improve their chances to get published? Are paid writing courses enabling writers to find agent representation? What options are available to those who can’t afford writing courses?

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How can we bring about moments of co-creation both internally and externally? Internally, how can we bring people together to co-create around a particular challenge? How can we bring together those within our team?  


Externally, how can we bring in the voices of others to solve problems? How can we create networks and look for outside voices? What will enable more people in publishing to attend networking events on Diversity and Inclusion? What could these events look like? 

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Next Steps


Over the next few months we are going to keep surveying people's thoughts and present these back to the you, highlighting key findings, suggestions and action points.

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