The 2018 State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing from The Ripped Bodice

Patricia Elzie-Tuttle

Contributing Editor

Patricia Elzie-Tuttle is a writer, podcaster, librarian, and information fanatic who appreciates potatoes in every single one of their beautiful iterations. Patricia earned a B.A. in Creative Writing and Musical Theatre from the University of Southern California and an MLIS from San Jose State University. Her weekly newsletter, Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice offers self-improvement and mental health advice, essays, and resources that pull from her experience as a queer, Black, & Filipina person existing in the world. She is also doing the same on the Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice Podcast. More of her written work can also be found in Body Talk: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy edited by Kelly Jensen, and, if you’re feeling spicy, in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Patricia has been a Book Riot contributor since 2016 and is currently co-host of the All the Books! podcast and one of the weekly writers of the Read This Book newsletter. She lives in Oakland, CA on unceded Ohlone land with her wife and a positively alarming amount of books. Find her on her Instagram, Bluesky, and LinkTree.

It’s the three-year anniversary of The Ripped Bodice, the only exclusively romance book shop in the U.S., and that means it’s time for the third annual State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing Report. We wrote about last year’s report here and I’m not going to lie: it was pretty bleak.

The Ripped Bodice Bookstore Entry Artwork

Bookish Artwork in the Entry of The Ripped Bodice Bookstore in Los Angeles

If you’re unfamiliar with the report, it tracks the romance genre publications of indigenous authors and authors of color (AOC). As you can probably guess, the percentage of AOCs published in romance is nowhere near reflective of the percentage of people of color that make up the global population or even the U.S. population. When Leah and Bea Koch, the owner-sisters of The Ripped Bodice, began publishing this report three years ago, they had hoped that it would be a catalyst for the romance publishing industry to make massive improvements in diversity.

The romance publishing industry, however, has not made any improvements when presented with this data.

This year’s report is sad, sad, sad.

The State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing Report 2018 has less prose than previous years, where the Koch sisters offered responses to common excuses given by publishers with regards to racial diversity of the authors they publish. This year, however, the Kochs are letting the numbers speak for themselves.

In 2018, 80% of The Ripped Bodice’s bestsellers were by AOCs, while the publishing house with highest percentage of AOCs published in 2018 (Kensington) was at 22.8%. The next in line had almost 10% less than that (Entangled Publishing, 13.3%). The majority had far less still, with one reporting publishing house having ZERO percent.

“For every 100 books published by the leading romance publishers in 2018, only 7.7% were written by people of color. That compares to 6.2% in 2017 and 7.8% in 2016.”

These numbers are beyond disappointing; they’re disgusting. Change desperately needs to happen at the publishing level.