Veteran publishing professional Jevon Bolden is on a mission to make more room for Christian authors of color in an industry that often overlooks their contributions. As the founder of Embolden Media Group and of the newly minted Christian Publishing Professionals of Color, the best-selling book editor, writer, and literary agent says her work “is an extension for me of living generously and keeping open house with my life.”
Scholastic and Charisma House are just some of the clients she currently works with as a consultant while also representing several Christian Booksellers Association and American Booksellers Association authors.
In the following Q&A (conducted via email), Bolden talks further about her mission, industry trends, and where Christian publishing stands on diversity and inclusion.
You have an extensive background in publishing. What were some things you noticed as you moved through different companies and took on different roles—things that maybe didn’t sit well with you or you thought that could be done better?
In my initial experience, I think in Christian publishing it is taken for granted that we all think the same and come from the same context, so little work is done to get to know new hires and to help acclimate them into the culture as well as to really learn what they can uniquely contribute.
What does Christian publishing look like nowadays? Have there been improvements from previous years as it pertains to inclusivity and supporting diverse voices?
Believe it or not, according to hard data for publishing at large (Christian publishing does not currently do any measurement or research in this area), there has not been much change at all in the area of diversity despite the increase of conversation on the subject. It looks the same as it always has. What may be changing is the frequency of the conversations and a push to implement the strategies and ideas discussed.
Why did you choose to launch Christian Publishing Professionals of Color (CPPOC) this year? Was there anything timely or special about this particular moment that we are in?
I launched CPPOC in February 2020, before the pandemic and before George Floyd. What I felt was that who was in a better position than me to just set the table. While there are other organizations for publishing professionals of color such as Minorities in Publishing, Publishing Professionals of Color, Editors of Color, there is still part of the conversation lacking in those groups—the faith factor.
That it is inherently Christian to acknowledge, honor, and welcome the image of God in every person born on the earth. God is the author of diversity, and He cannot be left out of the conversation. CPPOC integrates God and His diverse kingdom culture as the context and common factor under which we as believing professionals of color can gather. This does seem to me to be a necessary and distinguishing feature of why Christian Publishing Professionals of Color needed to be founded.
Many companies have put out statements to show that they are attuned to the present justice struggle, and care about Black lives. Have you noticed similar efforts in Christian publishing?
Yes, I have actually. There’ve been some new hires and book acquisitions to support more inclusive publishing programs. There have been a handful of publishers who have reached out to me specifically to get to know what we are doing through Embolden Media Group, our content development services, our consultation services, and the authors we represent.
This kind of movement is not especially new. We have seen where there’ve been upticks in acquisitions of authors of color. We’ve seen the start of book imprints led by publishing professionals of color with a focus on publishing books by authors of color. Many were not sustainable due to the culture of publishing remaining [stagnant]. It will be nice to see more internal and missional changes among publishers so that the publishing and staffing decisions being made today will be sustainable from here on.
In an ideal publishing industry what would you like to see?
White people reading authors of color as easily as readers of color read White authors—that would be a dream. One more: a redo of what is considered canonical works so that the anthologies and reading list and curriculum that our kids are reading are much more diverse.
Any particular past accomplishments that you are just really proud of?
I am excited to have a full list of beautifully diverse authors who have really incredible messages for the world so much so that I am closing to queries for a season to tend to them. The B-side to this is that I am grateful in advance for the interest I know they will receive from publishers and readers that is so well deserved and that shine a light on the beauty of our Father in heaven, fulfilling the purpose for why I believe He has me here.