Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Query Tip: Avoid the Checkbox Grocery List In The Pitch

Status:

Diving into a contract first thing this morning.

Listening To:

WAIT UP FOR ME by Amos Lee

Note from Kristin: Jamie is one of NLA’s first reader on queries. He reads hundreds a week so this was worth sharing.

By Jamie Persichetti

As a gay man, it’s always weird to read in query letter book pitches that a story “features LGBTQ+ characters” or “has diversity” like they are bonus content on the special edition BluRay, specs on a laptop with extra RAM, or items to check off a culturally aware grocery list.

I mean, cool! Keep the queer coming. Books need them. But you sound a bit… odd… if you phrase it like they are features. Just say someone is trans, or that he has a boyfriend. Or (and I know this is a hard one) don’t mention it at all if it’s not actually important to the core of the book.

I get it. Don’t write diverse characters and you’re a bad person. Write diverse characters and you do it wrong. It’s a double standard that is suffocating publishing right now. This is just how I felt in the moment.


7 Responses

  1. Daniel Bacon said:

    Couldn’t agree more. And there’s no need to emphasize or even mention a character’s race, ethnicity or sexual preferences. Just let it come out naturally if the story warrants it.

  2. Charlene Marolf said:

    The adult characters that I am writing in my young adult fantasy are based on my spouse and I. Yes, a gay married couple. No where do I mention that we are a girl-on-girl pair. It’s all about our passle of grandchildren! I think it’s time for the world to open its eyes, and accept the fact that we just love our babies.

  3. Tottie said:

    As a gay woman who does not fit into gender norms, I find this post offensive. People who do not include characters of diversity are NOT “bad people”. That rhetoric is as damaging to us as it is them. All it does is widen the divide between the homophobic and us. Forcing people to write a particular way with particular characters at the risk of them being labeled as “bad” is ridiculous. What we want- at least what I want- is to just be allowed to be comfortable in my own skin and with my own inclinations. I think at the very least, I can offer that to the gender normative.

    I’m sorry, but this made me pretty upset. I get it. Diversity is sorely needed, but calling someone a bad person because you don’t like their straight, white characters makes you just as bad as the people who gag about a gay romance.

    I really hope you didn’t mean it that way.

  4. Michelle said:

    @Tottie: You misunderstood Jaime’s article. Jaime was not calling people bad for not including characters of color in their book. He is referencing a larger conversation in publishing about how to deal with whitewashing/exclusion of other people’s experiences using the catchphrase bad in a tone that indicated it was not his adjective, and that he actually disagreed with it. “It’s a double standard that is suffocating publishing right now,” confirms his disagreement. The message is that he’s sympathetic to how complicated it can be for a writer who feels they need to respond to the issues in their query. Nothing in the intent of the article is in disagreement with your desire “to be allowed to be comfortable in my own skin and with my own inclinations”. In fact, Jaime is making a companion point that highlighting the mere fact of a diverse character in a query renders a character anti-normative.

  5. Tottie said:

    No. I understood perfectly.

    “I get it. Don’t write diverse characters and you’re a bad person.”

    My point is that even while he recignizes that it is a double standard, he still promotes the myth that to write all straight and/or white characters, you are doing something wrong.

    I agreed with his article, but disagreed with this particular statement. It is untrue and, I would think, the reason so many people do exactly what he is complaining about.

    Like I said, I am a POC, not straight, and not gender normative. I understand the frustration. My point is this sentence- and this sentence alone- is what causes the very problem.

  6. laura said:

    I LOVE it when writers mention specifically that they feature diverse characters. Stop with the double standards and discouraging our future authors. Seriously, WHAT

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