Behind the ScenesPatrice Williams Marks on the complex, often secret work of publishing's sensitivity readers.

Behind the ScenesPatrice Williams Marks on the complex, often secret work of publishing's sensitivity readers.

  • Words Okechukwu Nzelu
  • Photograph Ye Rin Mok

Hundreds of thousands of books are published every year in the US. Alongside the author, most books are nurtured by a skilled team of editors, cover designers, proofreaders, sales executives, production workers and more. Increasingly they are also the product of work by people like Patrice Williams Marks, a sensitivity reader who helps ensure authentic portrayals of marginalized people and experiences. 

Okechukwu Nzelu: How did you get started?

Patrice Williams Marks: I fell into it. I had a group of writer friends, and we would critique each other’s material. If they had a Black character, they would ask me if it sounded right. And I would ask the same if I had a character that one of them fit.1 

ON: How do you find the emotional side of the work?

PWM: One of my first paid reviews ...

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