According to a 2018 CBC article by Deana Sumanac-Johnson, it's not easy being a fiction writer in Canada. Her article leading up to the Giller Prize awards that year talked about the hard financial realities of being an author. In 2018, earnings were down 27% from three years prior. She writes:
"....tales of financial hardship extend to writers who are established, have published several books and even those who have won major prizes.
When the Writers' Union of Canada recently surveyed its members about their incomes, the results were sobering: an average writer made $9,380 a year from his or her writing. That's 27 per cent less than what writers made three years ago, and a whopping 78 per cent less than they made in 1998."
My own experience bears out this truth, and I have often been asked why I started out writing to "niche" markets, such as the LGBTQ2 community, if it is so hard to be a successful author.
Firstly, being an author is about having stories to tell. Long before I ever sat in front of a keyboard, I told stories to whoever would listen. Sometimes I told funny stories, sometimes poignant ones. Can't help myself. Stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things has long been my passion.
Having grown up in a small, rural community at a time when neither the laws of the land nor public awareness fostered compassion and understanding toward those of us who are "different", I lived a lie for many years, as I neither knew nor believed that any other way was possible.
Then came the internet and my world opened up, as did everyone else's, and I learned I was not alone. The over the past 25 years, the internet has opened my eyes to many things, including the injustices still faced by the LGBTQ2 community world wide.
According to Deborah Dixon, a guest on Angela Ackerman's Writers Helping Writers, there are two main reasons why inclusivity and representation are important.
"Seeing people who look, act, and experience life like them in media makes a person feel included in a society, and it reinforces positive views of themselves and what they can achieve in society. Also, members of other groups, especially majority groups, base their ideas of groups on what they see in the media."
I couldn't agree more. So I write fantasy, urban fantasy, romance, and science fiction stories that include a variety of people, both human and non-human, with different sexual orientations and gender identifications, doing ordinary and extraordinary things.
I will confess that to date, people of color have not been featured on my book covers as often as I would like. I was surprised to discover the reading public is more accepting of supernatural or extraterrestrial cover models. So despite the breakthroughs and progress made in my lifetime, we still have long way to go.
And given the financial realities facing writers, even well established and award winning ones, we all take real risks every time we choose to be inclusive in terms of our stories' characters and story lines. For any writer who themselves have felt unrepresented in society, in the media, or in books, this is as much an act of protest as it is a labor of love.
Inclusive media does influence how a society views itself and its members. And readers who support authors working to ensure all people are represented in books, are vital to the continuation of this good work.