Going on the Account: Say What…?

I had brought to my attention this piece in the PW Genreville Blog by Brown and Smith.  Their post, about a literary agent that asked that a gay character for a potential YA book either be ‘realigned’ or forced back into the closet (and might have been allowed to stay out of the closet if he was white), struck a cord with me on a few levels:

 

  • In this day and age, there should be no invisible characters that a writer can’t consider putting in the work he or she is working on.  Ever.  Years of Western culture and tradition did not lead us to a place where we start having boundaries put up before us.
  • If it is a “market consideration,” as Brown and Smith suggest, and it’s all in the name of Ars Gratia Pecuniam , then the argument of the so-called “Free Market” would suggest that if it is indeed in everyone’s best interest for such a character to remain in the work, and let the audience accept this person themselves as opposed to being walled away from that character.
  • And if market considerations are the real culprit, why does the blog Poking Badgers with Spoons have not one but three lists containing published works with major LGBTQ and non-white characters?

 

Should I get annoying here and suggest that the main pressure on writers not to go there is coming not from Publisher’s Row, but Hollywood, where everyone writing genre YA wants to end up following in the footsteps of a certain post-apoc spectacle contestant who is trying to fill a void left behind by a Joseph Campbell-esque starred sorcerer…?  The truly evil cynic would suggest that the character descriptions some folk are considering is the one that comes long after the first draft is sent to the editor.  Long, long after the book is written…

 

Though sometimes, not that long after, after all…

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3 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Writing

3 responses to “Going on the Account: Say What…?

  1. I agree in principle, but too many years of real world makes me disagree with a single point in your argument. Letting the Free Market sort it out sounds all very well, but when a publisher accepts a book, they’re the ones putting a lot of money into putting the book on the shelf.

    If they have a reason to think the book won’t do well and are reluctant to be the avant guard for a new movement–which this would be, because while quite a few YA writers have had gay characters, the authors have been already established and so guarantee some sales, and the characters are not necessarily the main character (though there have been successful exceptions).

    It’s possible that the risk would open up a new whole movement in the YA publishing world, and it’s just as likely that the book will sell okay and then fade. When money’s on the table and at risk, there’s a lot of be said for being conservative, and not as much for being an idealist.

    A shame, but I get it. Don’t like it, but I get it.

  2. And this is part of the reason I believe in writers seizing the means of production; if in order to be true to the work and standing by the product of your craft you are willing to take the hit directly, then you should be willing to do so. One of the great parts about our time and place is, with upfront costs a smaller portion of the process than it used to be, the potential hit can be borne directly by the writer that has the gumption to stand behind an ideal.

    And to be frank, with upfront expenses being less than they’ve been in the past, if a publisher is too gun shy about taking the risk, how are they running their business? And if the outlay costs percentage-wise are still so high compared with where they used to be, then what’s keeping them afloat other than relying on a flow-through market like a movie deal?

    When in the hell did book publishing no longer take into consideration the book…?

  3. When in the hell did book publishing no longer take into consideration the book…?

    Well, that appears to assume that the book itself is so mindblowingly good that it’s guaranteed to hit the bestsellers list hard, if only the publishers would let it do its thing. I haven’t read the book, and do hope that when it is published it proves the publishers wrong, but it might not be a good book at all.

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