Five years after founding #DVPit, a semi-annual Twitter event connecting marginalized voices with the publishing community that has helped launch scores of diverse authors’ careers since 2016, literary agent Beth Phelan has announced the formation of DiverseVoices Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit organization with “the mission of empowering and advocating for book creators from marginalized communities in getting traditionally published within an industry dominated by white, cis-hetero voices.”
DVinc will focus exclusively on promoting authors and illustrators from underrepresented communities of books for both adults and children through various programs, Phelan told PW. Its emphasis will be on “helping them onto the traditional publishing path, and retaining them in the industry.” The guidelines determining which authors and illustrators are eligible for DVinc’s services, Phelan added, are broad and not limited by race “or any other specific marginalization—we are encompassing all.”
#DVPit, #DVart (a Twitter pitch event for illustrators), and DVcon, an annual conference for marginalized authors and illustrators (introduced in January by Phelan and a group of other publishing professionals), will operate under the DVinc umbrella. DVCon, which was held virtually, drew 3,000 registrants this year.
DVinc will also sponsor a mentorship program for debut authors and illustrators who are agented, as well as one specifically for those who are unagented; a monthly book club featuring a diverse author or illustrator’s book; a grant that will fund a published, marginalized author or illustrator’s appearance at a festival when the publisher can’t or won’t pay; and DVinc intends to host a retreat for authors and illustrators from underrepresented populations.
Phelan told PW two years ago that she launched #DVPit because she felt “frustrated with my limitations as a single person trying to make a difference, and wanted to corral other agents into some form of action” in making the publishing industry more accessible. She added that #DVPit was also conceived to accommodate editors who are receptive to diverse authors and their work—especially those who cannot or will not accept unagented submissions. Editors have more input into which submissions they receive, she explained, and can solicit projects directly from the agents “instead of waiting for a submission to fall into their lap.” #DVPit has recently transitioned from being a biannual event to an annual event that takes place in the fall.
Reflecting upon what she and others have done to diversify the publishing industry, Phelan told PW in an email, “I’ve worked on #DVpit for five years and it was exciting to add DVcon, which aims to increase the number of marginalized creators that get traditionally published through education and networking. We still have a long way to go in this industry with regard to equitable and inclusive publishing, so we’re currently working on expanding our team so that we can develop more programs to further our mission.”
DiverseVoices, Inc.’s leaders are a mix of children’s authors and industry professionals: officers are v-p Kat Cho, treasurer LeKesha Lewis, and secretary Norma Perez-Hernandez alongside president Phelan. Its board of directors includes Phelan, Cho, and Claribel Ortega.
Those interested can donate to DVinc here.