Pursuing Careers in Publishing as a Woman of Color

bokeh photography of open bookIt didn’t take me long to realize that my career and passion always laid in books. But the question was, what do I do? Or how? Well, I haven’t really gotten there yet, at least not where I want to be, but I have been through what all passionate publishing-hopeful people go through. I have been hopeful in the times when I thought “there is no better person out there for the job than myself.” I have always been terrified that I will never get there. I will never do the job that I love.

And to make it worse, I am still in a country where book careers are rather unreachable or most uncommon. You get up there on a job search portal and see absolutely nothing that you are looking for; instead, you just find something to help you get by, and all I am left with is hopes and dreams that I am not sure if I will ever accomplish. But I am not one of those who will just dream and never take any action. It wasn’t long ago that I began preparing to take a publishing course in the UK. I know it is the biggest risk anyone could ever take, especially for someone in a third-world country. My only option to fund my studies is the unbearable weight of student loans. And it is even harder to get there when the industry falls under the creative category, because most banks or organizations in these countries fund creative people for chasing their dreams.

The publishing industry is one of the most competitive industries in the world. There are few jobs available and the people pursuing them are far greater in number. But love for books and reading some of the marvelous but miraculous ones gave me hope (could be false hope). I immersed myself in the London-based publishing world, signed up for all types of virtual events, and spoke to some amazing people who are already there where I want to go. That’s how I came across someone who is known to be a career expert in publishing.

I thought it would help me but it didn’t. In fact, I regretted speaking with her, but I wouldn’t say she was wrong with what she said. The interaction went like, “You are an immigrant, it is unlikely that you will get any work.” I didn’t flinch or back down even as she kept repeating it. Even though I knew the immigration rules and alternative ideas that I was planning to work through, she just refused to give me any help or encourage me. And on what grounds? Because I was an immigrant, a woman of color, and the chances of me trying to navigate through such a competitive industry were out of the question in her eyes.

She might be right, but the book world, an industry which should be more open-minded and looking for the right talent, is more biased towards people of color (even if they don’t really require sponsorship from the employer). It was just disheartening that for a half-hour slot, she gave me about five minutes of her time to tell me that I should just give up and not look into a publishing career at all (unless I have the right to work in the UK).

Should I give up? Am I that far away from my dream? I would like to believe that I’m not. I know the path is harder than any other career choice; it might take longer for me to get there and I would have to work twice as hard as others, but I could pave the way for others who are in my position to make their dreams come true more easily. If I give up, I will just be another person who wished to be part of a world which has least of the representation for people like us, but if I strive, I know I can help many others. Many big publishers are already incorporating changes such as https://www.the-scheme.co.uk/ under Penguin Random House UK, which helps underrepresented publishing career aspirants to get first-hand experience working at their office.

It is a long road, but it’s worth going forward, and the result that awaits will be reforming the publishing industry worldwide for the better.