Hey, Pubs! Ever Heard of Sensitivity Readers?

Hey (1)Hey, Pubs! is a new post series that I’m hoping will call attention to flawed practices in the book publishing industry.


With an amazing rise of diverse novels being published, it’s been hard not to notice the amount of harmful ones that come along with the inclusive ones. And, there’s an easy way to get around publishing them…but publishers (and authors?) don’t really seem to care that much.

Before I start off really going at the big publishers, I would like to say that there are plenty of authors and indie publishers that DO use and encourage multiple sensitivity readers! I know some authors who have used multiple before even pitching it to publishers and agents, and these aren’t the people this post is going after. This post is for people who need to stop being so full of themselves and ask for some help.

There are many books out there with diverse characters, and many more without. So when we want to write with diverse characters, people should make sure they’re doing it right. Basically, don’t be an asshole when writing diverse characters. The first step of this is to admit that you don’t know everything, and could probably use some help. This is what sensitivity readers are for. Their job is to read through your manuscript, and to point out problems that have to do with their ethnicity, disability, mental illness, gender ID, or sexuality. They do this with the expectation that they could be harmed.

However . . . not every book that needs sensitivity reading gets read by a sensitivity reader until after it’s published/in the ARC stages. And by then, it’s extremely difficult to sort out what’s the problem and how to fix it–and so, a lot of them just don’t get dealt with, and left as they are. This allows so many harmful novels fall into the hands of unsuspecting readers, usually at the fault of the publishers AND the author.

Think about it. Most people are willing to admit they don’t know everything, so then why is it so hard for people to realize that no amount of research about any topic can be better than first-hand experience?

Publishers like to ignore the possibility that a book they bought could be harmful. They already paid money for it, and the sensitivity reads would not only cost more, but it would delay publication for a good time, while the author is making changes (hopefully) to be less harmful to readers. Overall, publishers probably just view sensitivity reading as an inconvenience. 

But there’s a reason they’re there. To protect others like them, and to make sure harmful stereotypes don’t become common. I can’t count how many times I’ve read the “bisexual cheater” and the “drug dealing Mexican” and the “depressed ps*cho”. Sensitivity readers are meant to prevent these.

As I’m new to the sensitivity reading world, this post was just to point out the need for sensitivity readers, and what they do. Publishers need to start realizing how vital sensitivity readers truly are, and that a book shouldn’t be published without going through a few rounds of these reads. 

If you’re looking for a sensitivity reader, please check out Writing in the MarginsThey have a full database of sensitivity readers, as well as a mentoring program. Keep in mind that all sensitivity readers charge differently, and depending on the length of your manuscript, will take time to read. And, something that always needs to be said: RESPECT AND LISTEN TO YOUR SENSITIVITY READERS. So many sensitivity readers have been ignored and bullied by the people that are paying them, and that is something that truly disgusts me.

What’s your opinion on sensitivity readers? Are you one? How do you feel about the necessity of these specialized readers?

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