Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Diversity Now

This.  Read this.  Then come back.

Allegedly, two authors submitted a book and were told by an agent that if they removed a gay character, that the agent would represent them.  I only say allegedly because the authors won't reveal the agent (and I'm on the fence about whether or not they should), making their story unverifiable at this time.  I wouldn't be surprised though, to find out that it's true.

I really only have this to say:  Any agent or editor who tried to force me to remove a gay character or a black character or a Muslim character or a disabled character, because they were worried the book wouldn't sell, is an agent or editor I wouldn't ever work with.

I'm on the agent hunt right now.  And when I created my list of agents, I sought out those who published books by authors who were courageous.  Books that pushed the boundaries.  Those are the agents I want to work with.  The kind of people who get handed a book by their author that might be a tough sell, and then go out sell the crap out of it.  Those are the kinds of people I want to work with.

And I think that the agent who suggested these authors remove gay characters from their books is probably going to find it difficult to remain an agent for long.  Karma's like that sometimes.

Sometimes I think some agents take their roles as "gatekeepers" too far.  They only want to take books to editors that are 100% guaranteed to sell.  Where's their adventurous spirit?  Where's their drive to push the boundaries?  Andrew Smith has a book coming out next month called STICK.  I'm going to do a full fledged review of it as the date grows closer.  It's exactly the kind of book I'm talking about.  Fearless, courageous, amazing.  And probably the kind of book that a lesser agent might have had difficulty placing.  But his agent found it a home.  And his editor helped bring it to the world.  And when you read it, you're going to be really grateful that not everyone is as close-minded as the agent who requested those changes.

I'm done here.      


  1. Your work is done.

    I had a conversation with an agent about my novel once, in which she suggested I might consider changing the ethnicity of one character. Luckily she was making the point that he seemed a little cliche, not that it might keep the book from selling.

    But the story you're relating is just another kind of censorship, and we won't stand for it, will we?


  2. Great post, Shaun. My agent and editor didn't so much as blink at my having gay protagonists in my series. I already knew they were fabulous human beings and after reading this article I'm even more grateful to have them in my life! Brave, compassionate agents and publishers FTW!

  3. Matthew: Somehow I think our work will never be done. Not until we can include a wide range of people in our books without people thinking anything of it. A book of which I cannot speak now because its sort of out in the world maybe doing things features a gay protagonist, but being gay has nothing to do with the plot. It's just another detail, like eye color and skin color. And I think that until no one cares about that, or cares about what color the girl on the cover is, our work has to continue.

    Andrea: Yes! And those are the kinds of people we want to work with. Authors like you pave the way. And there are teens out there who are grateful for that.


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.