We Need Diverse Books announced on Wednesday that the nonprofit advocacy organization working to eliminate systemic racism in book publishing is partnering with Beacon Press and Hachette Book Group to launch in late spring Rise Up, an initiative designed to support diverse mid-level publishing professionals in an effort to increase their industry retention rates. WNDB will facilitate an online community platform on a private Discord server for mid-level professionals who work in both adult and children’s publishing to connect, network, and share resources.

“Diversifying book publishing is about more than bringing new people into the industry: it's about providing support for those folks as they pursue their careers,” stated in a release Kandace Coston, Rise Up coordinator, who also chairs WNDB children’s internship grant committee, a precursor to this initiative that has provided to date grants to 50 young people launching careers in publishing. “As young professionals learn and grow, they may need different mentors and programs to be successful. It's imperative that mid-career publishing professionals have access to a community that provides these resources.”

Besides virtual meet-ups, WNDB will host a webinar series through the rest of 2022 that will be geared towards the needs of participants. Each webinar will be moderated by a WNDB industry partner and will feature veteran publishing professionals in discussion upon a specific topic, followed by a Q&A with attendees.

Rise Up will also provide other professional development opportunities, with the possibility of in-person networking events and workshops in the future.

According to WNDB, the initiative was inspired by the Diversity Baseline Survey (2.0) released by Lee & Low Books in 2019, indicating that diverse publishing professionals leave the industry within three to six years, which likely accounts for why 78% of publishing executives self-identify as white although 49% of industry interns are BIPOC. Lee & Low's survey respondents contemplating leaving the industry or having already left cited such reasons as toxic workplace environments, lack of opportunities for career advancement, and unsustainable pay.

WNDB internship grant senior program manager Chelsea Villareal pointed out: “Issues of retention for diverse folks in the industry are nothing new. Lee & Low Books, POC in Publishing, and Latinx in Publishing have been raising these red flags for years. I’m incredibly proud of the WNDB Internship Grant Program team and its grant recipients, but can we keep our grantees in publishing? It’s our hope that this new program's contributions can help support and sustain not only our grantees, but diverse mid-level professionals at large.”

Sanj Kharbanda, Beacon Press associate publisher, stated, “We jumped at the chance to partner with WNDB when they expanded their internship program to include adult publishing last year. It isn’t enough to just hire entry-level diverse candidates. As an industry we need to ensure that we continue to provide ways for development of professional skills and to create pathways for growth.”

Carrie Bloxson, v-p for diversity, equity and inclusion at Hachette, added: “Representation matters, particularly at senior levels in our industry. I’m very pleased for Hachette to join forces with WNDB in creating opportunities for traditionally underrepresented employees to see themselves on the path to leadership positions in publishing.”