Author Topic: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!  (Read 22490 times)

Offline AlythiaB

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Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« on: November 02, 2015, 06:19:42 PM »
Did you guys see this conversation on twitter? I didn't think anyone in publishing would tell a client their book couldn't sell "because diversity." Especially since there has been such a huge move for diverse books!

https://storify.com/TeeEss/hey-agents-don-t-gatekeep-diverse-books
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Offline Pandean

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2015, 06:23:54 PM »
Ew no I didn't know about this. That sucks.
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Offline AlythiaB

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2015, 06:25:30 PM »
Ew no I didn't know about this. That sucks.

Right?!
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Offline slightlysmall

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2015, 06:29:09 PM »
I've heard that it happens. It's dumb.

Offline QuietWriter

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2015, 07:39:24 AM »
It's dumb. It happens though, and it's really not okay. Yes, some authors' take on representations can be poorly executed, and that's where the agent *should* be willing to work with them to craft a better portrayal. This editor and I have several mutual friends, and he definitely knows his stuff. So I'm not going to say he's wrong, but writers hear so much about making their works diverse from groups like WNDB so they throw it in as a kind of tokenism, which is really gross. Is diversity a trend in fiction? God, I hope not. I hope it's a genuine shift to portray a wider spread of voices. While there are agents who may shy away from diversity, there are others who are hungry for it.

Offline Pandean

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2015, 07:54:30 AM »
It's dumb. It happens though, and it's really not okay. Yes, some authors' take on representations can be poorly executed, and that's where the agent *should* be willing to work with them to craft a better portrayal. This editor and I have several mutual friends, and he definitely knows his stuff. So I'm not going to say he's wrong, but writers hear so much about making their works diverse from groups like WNDB so they throw it in as a kind of tokenism, which is really gross. Is diversity a trend in fiction? God, I hope not. I hope it's a genuine shift to portray a wider spread of voices. While there are agents who may shy away from diversity, there are others who are hungry for it.
[/quote

All very good points.
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Offline AlythiaB

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2015, 11:02:16 AM »
writers hear so much about making their works diverse from groups like WNDB so they throw it in as a kind of tokenism, which is really gross. Is diversity a trend in fiction? God, I hope not. I hope it's a genuine shift to portray a wider spread of voices.

Amen to that. I was worried about the same thing--if the call for diverse works is a "trend," it's subject to fizzle. Hopefully, those intending to make a change have a larger voice than those hopping on a bandwagon or fighting the change altogether.

I couldn't imagine writing something with only white people. Even as a kid, I'd color Disney princesses in all different races. Maybe it's because I grew up near San Francisco and my community/friend crowd is very diverse, so it feels more natural. But, seriously, I roll my eyes when it seems characters are thrown into a story for their ethnicity or sexual identity alone--especially when said characters hold up to stereotypes.
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Offline Kimberly-

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2015, 02:06:30 PM »
I had only seen one of his tweets, I think it was in the MSWL - I didn't see all these others.  The first few books I wrote back in 2007 had diverse main characters - they were Sri Lankan kids because my husband's ethnicity is Sri Lankan.  I wanted them to have MCs similar to them to relate to because they love sci-fi and fantasy.  The thing that has been bugging me (and it may be that I'm totally wrong about this) is that it seems like agents want diverse books that focus on the issues related to the MC's diversity (again, I could be wrong about this) - I got a rejection sort of in that vein where it would be more interesting if it focused on the issues related to diversity even though the agent was calling for diversity.  To be fair though, my MS may just totally not be the agent's style. 

I write Sci-Fi and Fantasy and I like having diverse main characters because my thinking is why can't they be the heroes and have flaws like other people do (think of some of the Will Smith Sci/Fi movies - they don't focus on the issue of his race) and not have it be all about the issues related to their diversity.  I think there's room for both types of stories (issue related and non-issue related) - it seems like the diverse characters would be further stereotyped if the only books agents want are the ones where the focus is on the MCs diversity. 

I hope I'm making sense.  Not sure if my point is coming across very well.

Okay, what are your thoughts? I hope I'm wrong about this and someone has examples of agents taking on sci/fi fantasy like I'm talking about.  :)

Offline TerryRodgers

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2015, 02:43:49 PM »
What's the big deal about diversity with some people? If the writing is great, it should not mater the content or cast of characters.

Offline Kimberly-

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2015, 02:59:36 PM »
What's the big deal about diversity with some people? If the writing is great, it should not mater the content or cast of characters.

I totally agree with this.

Maybe it's just bugging me because of the rejection I got that mentioned the diversity issues and I don't want my story to be about issue's related to diversity. It's just a sci-fi story with a diverse character who turns out to be the hero. :)

Offline bswb97

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2015, 05:13:48 PM »
What's the big deal about diversity with some people? If the writing is great, it should not mater the content or cast of characters.

I totally agree with this.

Maybe it's just bugging me because of the rejection I got that mentioned the diversity issues and I don't want my story to be about issue's related to diversity. It's just a sci-fi story with a diverse character who turns out to be the hero. :)

I think there are two ways to look at why people introduce diversity into storytelling:

1) If there is no plot driver for diversity, then race/gender/ethnicity/orientation/culture are assigned arbitrarily. From a creative perspective, it comes down to whether or not the writer thinks it's a good idea to sprinkle characters that are not standards for the genre in there -- whether to appeal to a wider audience (you never know who you can unexpectedly hook simply because there's that extra layer of unexpected relatability) or simply because there's no real good reason NOT to do it. The more common it is in art, the less of a novelty it is in real life, and hopefully it becomes less of an issue for people of all backgrounds.

2) From a world-building perspective, I think it makes sense to take the region/time period of your story and see if diversity makes sense. If you're writing a present day story set in a major metropolitan city, diversity is a fact of life, and NOT having diverse elements would seem odd. Similarly, if you're projecting 100-200 years in the future, culture/race/etc will have bled together even more and be even less of an issue. However, if you're doing something set in, say, 1800s Ireland, pretty sure you won't find a melting pot in there.

I personally have added diversity to my manuscripts, simply because they were arbitrary decisions and I figured "Why not?" It doesn't make it a better or worse book in terms of character or plotting but I didn't see any real reason not to.

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2015, 05:32:49 PM »
Quote
However, if you're doing something set in, say, 1800s Ireland, pretty sure you won't find a melting pot in there.

Although, as I love to point out, a story set before modern medicine damn well better have disabled people in it.

Offline violet

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2015, 12:45:32 AM »
Ah, publishing. It claims to want diverse books. But then you have a book with a diverse character and it's not selling, so hey, let's whitewash the MC on the cover.

Truth. This happens.

I could name ten similar instances to the above. It's gross. Publishing wants to be politically correct, but when you look at the sales of diverse books vs. non, it's kind of staggering.

I've always wondered if THG or Twilight would have sold if the characters were anything other than white.

Offline Pandean

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2015, 01:24:35 AM »
Quote
However, if you're doing something set in, say, 1800s Ireland, pretty sure you won't find a melting pot in there.

Although, as I love to point out, a story set before modern medicine damn well better have disabled people in it.

And at least one lepper colony.
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Offline Tabris

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Re: Editor Points Out Agents Gatekeeping Diverse Books!
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2015, 06:15:26 AM »
Quote
However, if you're doing something set in, say, 1800s Ireland, pretty sure you won't find a melting pot in there.

Although, as I love to point out, a story set before modern medicine damn well better have disabled people in it.

And at least one lepper colony.

I met a woman who runs a leper hospital! I danced with her at my brother's wedding.

Sorry, but back on topic -- if you're doing a historical novel and characters are having sex, then characters should also be getting pregnant. They didn't have the Pill back then.