There have been a lot of discussions lately about diversity in writing, specifically in the romance and women's fiction genres. Many are looking at the lack of or limited number of authors of diversity out there. While this is true and there are a limited number of authors out there, we have to slow down a bit to say that it is BECAUSE they are coming from these diverse background and that is why they are not published.
I want to look at this from the point of view of an agent who reads your submissions.
When I get a submission from an author, I get a query letter or they used the standard form I have on my website. What I get, for the most part, is the following:
- Word count
- High Concept
- A brief blurb about the book
- Maybe a bit of a bio
I do not ask for the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, or even their gender. I am just looking at the story concept and their writing. Let's assume I ask for a synopsis, a partial or a full manuscript. Again, I am just getting the same information as that query and now I look to see if their writing is quality, if it is something I represent, and if it is something that I can sell.
Just a a reminder, no decision is being based on the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, or even their gender. It is all about the writing.
Now, if the story is focusing in on characters with those diversity issues I will still look at the project and making a decision based on the quality of the writing, if it is something I represent, and if it is something I can sell.
Several months ago, I made a big push to look specifically for diverse writers and diverse stories. This went out on the blog and on social media. I received very few submissions. I will say I did sign one author but she was writing Bangladeshi stories. I did pass on many of the others simply because the writing was just not strong.
I think it is important to remember a couple of things. First, the market is really tough right now. Even Harlequin, with all of their smaller lines often sign no more than 20 new authors a year. Smaller independent presses are likely signing even smaller numbers. This means the writing has to be UNBELIEVABLY STRONG! Secondly, publishers of all size are making big pushes to find authors with great stories. This all means that you have to be a great writer. Stories cannot be mediocre.
So, if you receive a rejection, or you don't win a contest, be careful jumping to the conclusion that it was a result of discriminating against you because of diversity issues. It might have been that, but their is an even higher chance it was about your writing.