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Magnificent Bastard
03-24-2015, 05:13 PM
Hey. There's a thing I've been wondering about recently.

In my novel, I have characters who belong to the QUILTBAG community, as well as PoC characters and some "unusual" setups such as a polyamorous relationship.
However, the novel itself is not at all about what's it like to be any of that (although, of course, some characters do fight with their identities and preferences a bit, which I think is natural). The novel has its plot and the characters have their personalities, and belonging to or practicing anything mentioned above is just another aspect of them. In most cases, their labels aren't even mentioned directly in the book - it's just made obvious enough through their conversations, actions and interactions.

For those reasons, I feel like mentioning it in the query letter would put more emphasis on it than I want there to be. If I say that the main character is asexual, or biromantic, or whatever, I have a feeling that the agents might automatically expect that to play a major role in the plot of the novel.
On the other hand, I don't think not mentioning it at all would be fair. While I hope to find an openminded, accepting agent, and I think rejecting a novel based on its characters' sexual orientation or gender identity is just as discriminatory as doing that to living people, I can imagine that the agents might want to know if they might find something of the sort in the novel.

So, would just including a line in the query letter to let them know about it be enough? And if so, what do you think would be the best way to phrase it?

Thanks in advance c:

mayqueen
03-24-2015, 05:38 PM
You might check out this thread (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=295692) about diversity in query letters. :)

I've written one MS where QUILTBAG issues were central to the plot. That was easy to fit into the query. My current query is for an MS that has QUILTBAG issues that have nothing to do with the plot. I just wanted two of the three MCs (both women) to be in love with each other. I couldn't figure out how to non-awkwardly insert it into the query, though, (or at least, one of the versions), so it goes in the housekeeping section. "TITLE is XX,XXX word GENRE with characters in a lesbian relationship." Or something. I figured out a better way to phrase it but I'm too lazy to look it up. :) Or I just don't mention it at all. If the agent gets through the first three chapters, it's front and center. If someone would reject me based on that and that alone (rather than say the bigger issue of the plot or the writing), then we shouldn't work together.

ElaineA
03-24-2015, 05:51 PM
Hi, MB. First, welcome to AW. This is a great question, one I think it hard to answer definitively because, as you say, the characters are who they are and it's not always integral to the plot. (The MC in my current manuscript is a POC character but it's not relevant to the plot at all. There is no valid reason to include that info in the query.)

In QLH (Query Letter Hell here in AW, if you're not yet familiar)I think the best guidance I've seen is to bring characterization into the body of the query if it is important to the story, and otherwise, perhaps mention the multicultural or QUILTBAG appeal briefly at the end of the letter with the other "housekeeping."

I'll strongly suggest you come to QLH and hang out. You'll find some queries which have dealt with this very effectively. (It's in the Share Your Work section, password vista.) You can't post your own query until you have 50 AW posts, but you can certainly browse through threads and participate in critiquing.

One thing you mention in your post: "While I hope to find an openminded, accepting agent, and I think rejecting a novel based on its characters' sexual orientation or gender identity is just as discriminatory as doing that to living people, I can imagine that the agents might want to know if they might find something of the sort in the novel."

I hope you know that many, many agents are on record stating they are actively looking for stories with QUILTBAG characters so I don't think you'll have to worry about being rejected for this if you do your homework before you submit.

ULTRAGOTHA
03-24-2015, 05:57 PM
I also think it depends on who you're querying. If it's someone who is actively looking for fiction with QUILTBAG and/or POC it would be reasonable to point that out.

Magnificent Bastard
03-24-2015, 05:57 PM
Ooh, thanks for the link!

And you raise a good point there. I definitely agree, if that was the only reason for rejection, I'm not sure I'd want to work with that agent either. Sadly, my first three chapters/five pages/ten pages barely mention anything related, so I can't hope to let them discover it all there - but I guess the housekeeping section works, then.

ETA- QLH looks fantastic, I've already done some lurking there! I don't technically need my query yet, my novel is still a WIP - but reading other people's queries and thinking of what mine would look like eventually is somehow really really motivational. I'll also most certainly do my homework when looking for agents. I do believe/have seen that many (most) agents are accepting and even actively looking for stories with QUILTBAG characters, though I must say that hearing it from someone else who's (presumably) more acquainted with the whole thing than I am, is reassuring c:

mayqueen
03-24-2015, 06:01 PM
I also think it depends on who you're querying. If it's someone who is actively looking for fiction with QUILTBAG and/or POC it would be reasonable to point that out.

Definitely. This is where doing your research is also helpful. I've queried several agents who are active on Twitter under the #WeNeedDiverseBooks or #MSWL hashtags, or who mention actively seeking diversity on their websites, and I explicitly mentioned in my first paragraph that's why I was querying them.

Old Hack
03-25-2015, 11:26 AM
Write the book first, obviously.

Then write a strong query which is best for the book. Mention your characters' gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability etc if it's pertinent to the story; leave it out if it isn't.

An agent who declines your book because of those things, rather than because your writing isn't strong enough or it's not in a genre she represents, isn't worth bothering with. Really.

The ones I know wouldn't reject a book because it featured lesbian characters, or kink, or anything. They'd reject it because it wasn't written well enough, or because it wasn't commercial.