by Thirangie Jayatilake

Presentation by Jodie Lea Martire at the IPEd conference. 

Jodie presented the results based on her research involving Spinifex Press and Wild Dingo Press, and multiple authors they have published. 

She explained that she uses the phrase “writers of difference”, as the term “marginalised writers” emphasises the marginalisation and de-emphasises the writer. 

The presentation answered the question, “What do writers of difference want from Australian publishing?”

1. Know them (or respect them as they are) 

Writers ask for interest in a literature that is plural and growing. “Please do not make all your writers sound like you, or white, or Anglo-European.” They suggest:

  • establish and maintain genuine, ethical relationships
  • take your authors seriously 
  • maintain an author’s voice 
  • don’t force authors to perform their differences 
  • do not edit authors to make them sound uniform or palatable.

2. Give authors a chance to be heard

Jodie mentioned points for both acquisition and editorial, but I have only included some suggestions from her editorial points: 

  • consult authors respectfully on everything 
  • agree on how non-English terms and content will appear 
  • consult experts and/or sensitivity readers to support the writers’ work 
  • use an interpreter or translator, if necessary, to ensure writers understand the publishing structure and process. 

3. Sustain them by investing in them long-term …

… with money, creative development, support and time.  

  • allow authors to develop and experiment 
  • don’t force them to repeat earlier successes. 

4. Educate your readers on how to listen

  • establish a press that publishes work by writers of difference 
  • do not choose works or topics because of publishing fads or via a diversity-checklist mentality 
  • choose not to publish works that exoticise writers of difference
  • include multi-media/translated language content. 

5. Educate yourself, expand your literary palate

  • question your understanding of Australian national literature 
  • actively expand your literary and cultural horizons 
  • keep your acquisition guidelines flexible.

6. Re-think your idea of the market 

  • never reduce authors or their work to commodities 
  • have a dedicated imprint or department for diverse narratives 
  • develop leadership around commissioning and publishing plural voices. 

Jodie’s session was a series of in-depth points based on research that covered a breadth of topics about publishing diverse voices, and will be extremely useful to editors everywhere.

Thirangie Jayatilake recently completed her masters in Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing from the University of Melbourne and looks forward to exploring the world of publishing in her career.