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oceansoul
08-30-2014, 02:56 PM
Possibly an odd question, apologies if it has been asked before. But, if one of the reasons you are querying a particular agent is because they have specifically stated both either on their blog, twitter, agency page etc. that they are an LGBT ally or looking for more diversity in the things they represent, should you tell them that in your query letter?

How would one even go about that without coming across like you're trying to use sexuality as a hook rather than simply being an LGBT author who really values that an agent would explicitly state that position?

I am a long way off from querying my current WIP, so this is a purely hypothetical question.

It's definitely NOT an 'issues' novel, I just decided when I started writing that most MG/YA fantasy fiction I read was ridiculously heteronormative and I didn't want my world to be that way. The book has a set of gay parents and one of the POV characters is a lesbian.

Putputt
08-30-2014, 05:17 PM
I think I remember seeing a couple of agents saying to mention it after the query. Something like:

Dear Agent,

[Query]

I am querying you because during the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, you mentioned wanting to see more LGBT characters. While the plot of my book doesn't revolve around the characters' sexual orientations, one of the POV characters is a lesbian, and another character's parents are gay."

Or you could mention it in your query if it is relevant to the plot. If you did that, I wouldn't then mention it in a separate paragraph as it would already be clear from the query that there is diversity in your book. :)

Fizgig
08-30-2014, 05:42 PM
Hi Oceansoul,
I actually asked this exact question on Twitter to agent-extraordinaire, Sara Megibow.

I asked: Question about queries: should we do the same? Sometimes feels a little strange to list all the specific types of diversity.

She responded, Tweet 1: Alis Franklin's query for LIESMITH said, "queer Loki unleashes the Wrath of Asgard by fallen gin love with man from IT dept"

Tweet 2: So, yes - I think mentioning diversity is useful - in an organic way. Hope that helps! :)

I've also done a little bit of what Putputt suggests and mentioned the other types of diversity in my book.

Jamesaritchie
08-30-2014, 06:07 PM
Mention anything an agent indicates will attract her.

Lillith1991
08-30-2014, 06:10 PM
I'm wondering about this too to be honest. My first instinct when it isn't an issue book but just something where the characters orientation, gender identity, race, faith, physical ability is just part of the character; is to say, "NOVEL is 65000 words long, and features an African American, Native American, Japanese etc. Lesbian as the main character."

Thing is that I'm not sure that's the way to phrase things. Thankfully I'm a long way off from my ms being ready to query.

Filigree
08-30-2014, 07:53 PM
Read Megibow's tweet for the answer: work your diversity point organically into the query. (I'm a friend of Alis from our fan fic circles, and LIESMITH is only a small fraction of her incredible work.)

The mainstream agents who are looking for diverse books (not all are) are passionate about it. But the mms has to be outstanding in every other way, as well - just having 'diverse' elements in a lower-quality story is not going to give it an edge.

Lillith1991
08-30-2014, 08:47 PM
Read Megibow's tweet for the answer: work your diversity point organically into the query. (I'm a friend of Alis from our fan fic circles, and LIESMITH is only a small fraction of her incredible work.)

The mainstream agents who are looking for diverse books (not all are) are passionate about it. But the mms has to be outstanding in every other way, as well - just having 'diverse' elements in a lower-quality story is not going to give it an edge.

I'm not so sure how possible it is if the diversity is more a facet of the character instead of a defining trait. It is certainly easier to incorperate in an issue book that's for sure, or one where the diversity is adding some sort of conflict instead of simply being part of the MC.

In the LIESMITH pitch, the Loki-alike's being gay was central to the story.

Any examples where it isn't central and simply a part of the character?

Filigree
08-30-2014, 09:15 PM
I don't know if there was a query involved, but Melissa Scott's two main characters in her 'Points' are bi males in a diverse-normative Renaissance fantasy setting. Lynn Flewelling's two male thieves and spies are primarily involved with each other - but like Scott's, they live in a culture where no one finds it odd. Scott Lynch has a similar freedom in his 'Gentleman Bastard' novels.

The sense I get from both agents and editors is that the diversity aspect of a story should be part of the background, and maybe not the whole focus. Working that into one or two lines (or even a paragraph) is the challenge. But isn't that the same for any story element?

mayqueen
08-31-2014, 02:17 AM
I would mention it in the paragraph about why you're querying that agent. When I was querying my first MS, I wrote this (and got a full request):


Based on your posts under #MSWL, I hope you will be interested in [TITLE]. Complete at 101,000 words, it is [genre] with a protagonist in a lesbian relationship.

The agent had posted on twitter asking for diverse characters, including QUILTBAG.

(The lesbian relationship is completely tangential to the actual plot. I just made my two MCs lesbians because damn it I want more books with people like me in them!)

Now that I'm querying my third MS (which also includes a QUILTBAG character), I make sure to point that out if an agent mentions anywhere wanting diversity *or* if they've participated in #WeNeedDiverseBooks. I don't see any reason not to highlight the diversity of your book in a clearly stated way, issues book or not.

Polenth
08-31-2014, 04:49 AM
I'm wondering about this too to be honest. My first instinct when it isn't an issue book but just something where the characters orientation, gender identity, race, faith, physical ability is just part of the character; is to say, "NOVEL is 65000 words long, and features an African American, Native American, Japanese etc. Lesbian as the main character."

Thing is that I'm not sure that's the way to phrase things. Thankfully I'm a long way off from my ms being ready to query.

I did a similar thing for some of my queries when they mentioned they liked diversity. I didn't get any responses to that version of the query, so I'm not convinced it worked. Unfortunately, there wasn't really a place I could work it into the main query text. Some aspects of identity just aren't part of the main plot, even though they're obviously important to the character in the novel itself.

We don't insist on queries like, "Heterosexual Tom Smith finds a body in his car. When his fingerprints are found on the knife, the white detective realises someone's out to frame him for the murder." That'd be as clunky as a bag of rocks. If there's isn't a way to make it flow with the query, it might ultimately be a negative, as it'll make the query read awkwardly.

Next time, I don't plan on mentioning it if it isn't something that's evident in the main query text. I figure it'll be a pleasant surprise for any agent who requests. Or a terrible shock.

Roxxsmom
08-31-2014, 10:46 AM
This is something I've wondered about at all. While my plot-driving protagonist is a straight, white(ish) male (it's a fantasy world) who has been cast out by his homeland and is adrift in a foreign land, every other important character in the story is something other than male, straight and white. While these things aren't plot driving issues in of themselves, I've got some pretty strong themes involving belonging, making your own family, letting go of prejudices, and about identity, how outsiders are treated and so on.

But they're not the plot. And queries focus on the active part of the plot, not the themes so much.

I actually have had a hell of a time stripping my story down to its core elements and conflict and coming up with a query that most readers have told me works pretty well. And it's really "just the main plot, ma'am," focusing on the struggle between protagonist and antagonist, up to the catalyst. I don't even mention the two other pov characters by name.

And anyway, mentioning the the nationalities the non white characters come from is meaningless in a fantasy query anyway. The agent wouldn't know what a Zeryan or Minuan is, and tossing all those made-up fantasy names into a query is a bad idea anywhere.

oceansoul
08-31-2014, 12:02 PM
Thanks for the responses guys. I'll have to think pretty hard how to incorporate it, as it's not really a plot element, so to speak. I can easily work it into the short synopsis, but I think it sounds pretty unnatural in a short query blurb no matter how I try to word it.

airship wreck
08-31-2014, 02:23 PM
I asked agent Amy Boggs (http://maassagency.com/amy-boggs/) about this on Twitter yesterday. She's outspoken about seeking diversity in the work she represents, so I said: "How do you recommend queriers bring up any diverse themes in their story if none of it impacts the plot?" (Under the assumption that if it's critical to the plot, it can be worked in naturally.)

Her answer: "It's not necessary, actually. Not terrible to mention of course, but no one expects a query to detail the whole cast."

Captcha
08-31-2014, 02:53 PM
Add another voice to the camp of using it as your reason for contacting THAT agent, assuming that agent has expressed an interest in diversity. It's a hell of a lot more relevant than the "We met at X conference" line people sometimes use.

Otherwise, if the agent HASN'T mentioned wanting diversity, and if the diversity isn't a significant plot point, I'd leave it out. Too awkward to fit it in, I'd say.

Karen Junker
08-31-2014, 09:42 PM
I'd either mention it in the lines about why you are querying that particular agent or in your brief bio line.

"On Twitter you mentioned seeking books with diverse characters. Though not central to the plot, I have many diverse characters in this story."

"My work has been published in XXX Quarterly and in 2010, I won the James Tiptree award."

"My novel XXX was published in 2013 by Amazing Press. I strive to bring diversity to my work." (I'm sure you could say it better than that!)

Wilde_at_heart
09-01-2014, 06:42 PM
I would like to add (and I don't think this is the case for the OP, but perhaps for others lurking on here) that if you have important PoC or quiltbag characters in the book that it should be somewhat obvious to the reader. Or in the case of 'bi' characters, if there isn't any actual same-sex involvement and their love interest is someone of the opposite sex, then it doesn't really count ...

On the #pitchwars hashtag, one 'mentor' commented: 'i'm getting a lot of "my character is [whatever] but the reader never knows." are they really, then?'

https://twitter.com/wilde_at_heart/status/502089716662296577

In one almost complete MS of mine the MC is of Indian origin, though it's set in North America and I'd been dithering on giving her a more 'typical' of her background name that is more common in North America or a more traditional Indian first name and am leaning towards the latter now.

My understanding is that the way it's generally handled if not obvious in the query is at the end to put something like 'Historical Fantasy with GLBT elements' or some such thing.

mkEngland
09-17-2014, 01:05 AM
Like a few others, I've been working it into the personalized "why I'm querying you" paragraph. It's honest -- the top agents on my list are there because they specifically requested diversity, and I let them know that their support of diversity in literature is important to me.

Of course, Sara Megibow rejected it (d'oh!) but it got requests from two other agents, so taken with what others are saying... I'm betting it doesn't affect anything unless the agent is already into your story. Diversity doesn't transform a bad pitch into a good one. If anything, I think it might tip a hesitant agent over to being willing to look at sample pages.

Who knows! I've spent way too much time trying to analyze the thought process of my favorite agents. I'm trying this radical new thing called "relaxing and believing in myself". We'll see if it works. :D

Roxxsmom
01-14-2016, 11:15 AM
I don't know if there was a query involved, but Melissa Scott's two main characters in her 'Points' are bi males in a diverse-normative Renaissance fantasy setting. Lynn Flewelling's two male thieves and spies are primarily involved with each other - but like Scott's, they live in a culture where no one finds it odd. Scott Lynch has a similar freedom in his 'Gentleman Bastard' novels.

Diverse-normative renaissance fantasy setting. That sounds a bit like how I'd describe mine (okay, it's set in a diverse-normative, early-modern matriarchy). The character's identities are just a part of who they are, not what drives the central conflict.

I hate that the Swordspoint and Nightrunner books are pretty old now, because I think my books would in fact appeal to a similar audience.

Lynch's work might be my best bet for a comparison, though my story is less sweeping in its scope (I really worked to keep the word count down), and my narrative style is rather different. (just saw how old this thread was, but heck, it's relevant to another we've got going right now).

Latina Bunny
01-14-2016, 05:04 PM
I think if an agent has explicitly expressed wanting diversity, then I would think that can be mentioned or addressed in the query. If the LGBTQA elements are sort of there, then I guess saying your story has "diverse elements" could work as well, I guess?

Otherwise, if you have to twist your query into a lotus pretzel in order to sort of say the story sort of some minor diverse elements...then I would think those elements really don't matter in the end, since they would barely be touched upon by the story or background. You can expand upon or get deep into those elements with another book (or rewrite the story so that those elements actually are shown/portrayed and are relevant).

Otherwise, it feels like a little forced, like when politicians try to appeal to the Hispanic/POC/female voters. Like, (what's the word?) pandering?

If there aren't much clues that there are actually diverse elements, then I don't see the point in saying there are diverse elements. (Just because an author tells me a character is [insert whatever] doesn't mean I will actually see that evidence in the story. I shouldn't have an author have to tell such details outside of the actual story. Show me, don't tell me.)

Roxxsmom
01-15-2016, 02:29 AM
Yeah, it could be misleading to emphasize elements that aren't central to the story. It's complex, because some agents specifically want to see stories with diversity that isn't a big deal but is simply part of the world and characters without being what drives them. Others specifically say they want stories where these elements don't feel "slapped on" but are more central to the plot (what some would call issue stories).

I suspect there's a middle ground, but even so, it's impossible to give everyone exactly what they're looking for. As people so often point out in other threads relating to social issues, no group of people has a hivemind. So all one can do is query what you have as honestly as you can and hope it finds a niche.

For me, I have a sinking feeling my story is doomed. Most of my favorite writers, plus other books I've found that has a similar flavor or feel have Amazon sales ranks well above that 100k level that's often touted as the breaking point. Who in the heck wants to rep a book that will attract the same fans as a book that's selling less than one copy a day via the world's largest bookseller?

Bleh. It sucks having unpopular tastes in fantasy.

Latina Bunny
01-15-2016, 05:04 PM
It's a catch22, as the phrase goes? They want diversity, but at the same time, they don't want the story revolve around there diverse identity.

Personally, I feel if they (agents, pubs, etc) are explicitly asking for diverse elements, I would mention said diverse elements. They are asking for them, after all. :P (I mean, I guess they could read the story and find out about said elements, but the query is the first part that attracts the attention, no?)