Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How To Write A Compelling Query in 4 Steps

Last year, I started a query tutorial using Harry Potter as an example.  Looking back on it, the end result wasn't as polished as it could be.  So I'm here to add a fourth step: POLISH—with a goal toward readability.

Let's review.

Step 1: Introduce Your Character With Subtext

Step 2: Be a Tease Without Being Vague

Step 3: End With the Heart of the Conflict

Step 4: Polish with a goal toward readability.

Agents often tell us they spend less than sixty seconds on each query. Therefore, your sentences should read easily and the meaning should be clear without backtracking.

Below, I've taken another stab at the Harry Potter example. I've broken down long sentences, added paragraph breaks, rearranged the order of clauses.  All with one goal in mind: readability.

Harry Potter arrived on his relatives' doorstep as a baby with a lightning-shaped scar on his tiny forehead.  He's been sleeping in a cupboard ever since.  Although his aunt and uncle spoil their own son Dudley, they've never offered Harry the same treatment. 

Yet on his eleventh birthday, Harry receives something special: a letter from a school called Hogwarts, claiming that he is a wizard.

The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry introduces Harry to a world of potions, magic wands, and quidditcha sport played on flying broomsticks. But in an area forbidden to students, Harry also discovers a three-headed dog guarding a trapdoor. Apparently, his teachers aren't telling him everything. 

Harry and his friends are determined to find out what might be valuable enough for such drastic security measures—and what it might have to do with a break-in at the wizard bank, a professor's mangled leg, and a troll set loose in the school.

When his old scar begins to burn, Harry wonders if he should heed the warning to keep his friends out of danger. But perhaps true friendship means they must risk everything together—including their lives—to keep their newfound home at Hogwarts safe.

What do you think? Hopefully this is easier to digest.  Word count: 200.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Diversity Solutions with Brandy Colbert

photo by Jessie Weinberg
Welcome to the latest installment of Diversity Solutions! The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is going strong, prompting BookCon to create a diversity panel and First Book to expand its 2013 pledge to purchase diverse books

The momentum for diversity is building, but the fight to raise awareness isn't over.  Today we have Brandy Colbert here to discuss the need for diversity in YA and how we can achieve it.

Brandy Colbert's debut is the YA contemporary Pointe, the story of a girl who knows more than she's telling about her best friend's kidnapping case.  Brandy has also worked as an editor for several national magazines and as a copy editor.

Hi Brandy! Thanks so much for taking the time to discuss the hot topic of diversity in kid lit!

Please tell us a little bit about POINTE. What inspired your character, Theo?

POINTE is about a gifted ballet dancer whose best friend is returned home after being kidnapped four years earlier; her life begins to unravel once she realizes she played a role in the abduction. 

Typically the story comes to me first and then the characters, and in this instance, I was inspired by all of the long-term kidnapping cases I've kept up with over the years, especially the one portrayed in the TV movie I Know My First Name Is Steven. 

As for the ballet part, I grew up dancing and I've always loved reading ballet books, but I couldn't think of any recent ones that featured a black character. So I decided to write the one I'd always wanted to read.

According to this post by Lee & Low Books, there is a large gap between the percentage of children's books with diverse characters and the actual percentage of minorities living in the United States. It seems to me that if 37% of Americans are non-white, there must be an untapped market of readers waiting for books about minority characters. Why do you think publishers haven't invested further in books about diverse characters?

The top reason I've heard cited is that publishers are afraid the books won't sell. This is discouraging for many reasons, and can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy if no one is willing to fight for books written by and about people of color. And yes, publishing is a business, but these books were hard to find when I was a child and teen; it's baffling we still have the same problem in 2014, and hard to believe the demand isn't there.

Did you think it is easier or more difficult to get a book with diverse characters published? What was your experience like in the submission process?

I worried so much about fitting into a box when I was querying agents. The first three books I wrote were about black girls, but the plots all had a significant racial element because I didn't see books about black teens just living their lives, and assumed I'd never get one published that didn't focus on race. 

With POINTE, the main character is black and race is openly talked about in a couple of scenes, but the book is primarily a story about a girl who happens to be black. I never mentioned her race in the query, and I was terrified it would be the death of my story once agents got to the part where the main character mentions her race. But my agent and editor both found the diversity in the book refreshing, and I'm very lucky to have ended up with two people who really got it and understood why the story was important to tell on a number of levels.

Do you feel that writing about diverse characters has helped or hindered your career?

I think that in the past few months, people have been more open and honest about the need for diverse books, so it's encouraging to know that readers seeking out those stories might come across my book. We heard it loud and clear from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign that all types of readers want to see themselves and/or the world reflected in the books they read. 

I'm not sure I'd be able to directly tell if it has hindered my career, but publishing can be a pretty tough business, so the best thing I can do is remain positive and hopeful about putting my work out there.

There is a belief in the publishing industry that books with ethnic characters on the cover don't sell as well. If this is the case, what can we do to change it? What types of covers would you like to have for your books?

I personally prefer books that don't feature characters' faces as I like to imagine how they look based on the text, rather than being shown. That said, it is extremely important that covers accurately reflect the characters inside the book. It's also important to ensure that covers with people of color are designed with the same care as other books, rather than finding the first stock image available of a black or Asian or Latino character and calling it a day. 

I've been in love with the cover of POINTE since the first day I saw it. It's compelling and gorgeous and perfectly fits the story, and I'd consider myself very lucky if my future work was presented in such a beautiful, thoughtfully designed package.

In your opinion, what are the top three things publishers can do to help sales of books with diverse characters?

1. Market books featuring people of color in the same way they market books primarily featuring white characters; don't let these books slip through the cracks.

2. Hire more diverse people within publishing at every level: editors, marketing, publicity, sales, etc. (This applies to literary agencies, as well!)

3. Seek out good work by diverse authors, and don't lean on the excuse that these writers aren't out there. They're out there and they're working hard, because they want their voices to be heard, too.

What are the top three things writers can do?

1. Think about the characters you're writing and the world you're creating. Do they accurately reflect the people in your life? Your friends and family and colleagues and the strangers you encounter each day? Are you taking the easy way out by writing characters who all look, act, and were raised the same way?

2. Support diverse books and authors. Buy these books. Check them out from your library and request them if they're not there. And if you like them, talk about them. Recommend them. Start a discussion about what makes them great and different and important.

3. If you've been writing diverse characters for a while but are having trouble placing your work, don't give up. Keep writing the stories you believe in, and don't assume you can tell what an agent or editor is looking for by their physical appearance or current list. Change is constant and you never know who will end up connecting with your work.

Thanks so much for an inspiring and thoughtful interview, Brandy!

Thanks for having me, Maya!

To learn more about Brandy Colbert, check out her blog or follow her on twitter.

Also, don't miss the other Diversity Solutions interviews with Nathan Bransford, Sherri L. Smith, Stephanie Guerra, Lamar Giles, Aisha Saeed, and Jessica Martinez!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Diversity Solutions with Jessica Martinez

Hi all, and welcome to the latest installment of Diversity Solutions! The cry for more diversity in kid lit has been growing with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign kicked off last week.  Today we have author Jessica Martinez with us to discuss how we can achieve the change we need.

Jessica Martinez is the author of The Vow, a YA contemporary about two friends who decide to get married so that the boy won't have to return to his home country.  She has also written The Space Between Us and Virtuosity.  Her upcoming YA thriller, Kiss Kill Vanish, will be released in October 2014 by Katherine Tegan Books.

Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for joining to discuss the state of diversity in publishing today!

First, tell us a little bit about your upcoming novel, KISS KILL VANISH. What inspired your character, Valentina Cruz?

KISS KILL VANISH is about a girl who witnesses a murder—carried out by her boyfriend, ordered by her father. Horrified, she realizes that nothing in her life is as it seems, so she flees, leaving her privileged Miami life and taking on a new identity. Her past, however, has a way of finding her.

Valentina was inspired by a friend of mine. After we’d known each other for years, she confided that her father and uncle were in jail in her home country and that the family business was a criminal one. I was fascinated by the idea of growing up in a crime family. I wondered exactly when and how somebody would find this out about themselves, and at what point they would go from becoming an innocent victim to an accomplice. All that wondering gave birth to Valentina’s story.

You've written multiple novels with diverse characters. Do you feel a burden to represent their ethnicity when you're writing them, or do you focus more on their individual traits? How do you navigate that dichotomy?

It’s such a tightrope walk! I never want my characters’ ethnicity to be THE thing about them, but pretending it’s not an integral part of their identity would be a huge mistake. For me, the answer is in knowing my characters as entire people.

In THE VOW one of my main characters is Mo, a Muslim Arab American. He’s not your typical anything—totally unique, a little quirky, a little neurotic. As soon as I knew Mo as a real person, I didn’t feel a burden of making him Muslim enough or Arab enough. I understood how he feels about his faith and his ethnicity, but I also understood that he’s just Mo. One individual.

I definitely worried that because Mo isn’t devout, practicing Muslims would be annoyed at being represented this way, especially because it’s already such an under-represented group in YA. But at a certain point I had to put my “what will other people think” fears behind me and write my character’s story, because Mo isn’t a poster boy for anything.

According to this post by Lee & Low Books, there is a large gap between the percentage of children's books with diverse characters and the actual percentage of minorities living in the United States. It seems to me that if 37% of Americans are non-white, there must be an untapped market of readers waiting for books about minority characters. Why do you think publishers haven't invested further in books about diverse characters?

Money. What a dirty word, right? But publishing is a business, and if publishers aren’t financially solvent, they can’t continue paying authors and editors and producing the books we love. Now, whether it’s true or not, many publishers believe that books featuring diverse characters don’t make as much money. There are undoubtedly stats backing that up. At least, I assume there are, but I don’t pay much attention to them, partly because I’m a lousy business woman and partly because if those stats do exist, I’d like them not to affect my writing. I write what I want to write. If it sells, great. If not, oh well.

Have you ever felt any pushback on your books because of their characters, either from publishers or readers?

Never. I’ve had nothing but enthusiasm from my editor for both of my diverse books (I’m talkin’ about you, Anica Rissi!), and great support from both Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins.

Readers have been kind to me too. I’m pretty much the opposite of diverse (white, heterosexual, Christian, woman) so I research like crazy, and then I live in fear of being called out for inaccuracies. Thus far I’ve been spared. Actually, last week a Muslim America teenage boy wrote me some fan mail telling me I got it right, which just might be the best compliment I could receive.

You know what’s funny, though? I get way more “she didn’t get it right” complaints from readers of my books without diverse characters. Some VIRTUOSITY readers said, “this isn’t how classical violin is,” (I actually am a professional violinist) and some THE SPACE BETWEEN US readers said, “she gets the Canadian thing totally wrong,” (I actually am Canadian).

So…. I guess that’s why I can’t write in fear of offending someone. People will respond unpredictably. I’d rather gnaw my hand off than be called a racist, but the truth is, if I’m going to be writing diverse characters, I just might be called that. So, I do my research and I write the stories that need to be written. That’s all.

In your opinion, what are the top three things publishers can do to help sales of books with diverse characters?

Hmm. I don’t know if I have three in me (I really am a lousy businesswoman), but I think the biggest thing they can do is put real money behind the marketing for diverse character books. From what I can see, diverse books are being published, but they aren’t the books with the huge marketing and publicity campaigns. They aren’t the books with special placement at B&N or the ones being pushed at every trade show. If they aren’t making money, it has more to do with a “throw it out there and see if someone buys it” approach than consumer fear of diversity or quality of the books. In publishing, you have to sink money into something to get money back.

Beyond that, I don’t know. I do the creative side, and I hope that publishers buy my stuff.

What are the top three things writers can do?

1. Research. Don’t do it half-heartedly. Just don’t.

2. Be brave. No matter how much research you do, people might say mean things, because diversity is always an emotionally charged issue.

3. Know when to listen and when to ignore.

My friend Jenny Sanchez has a Turkish character in her debut novel THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE (great book!) and a professional review made some snide comment about him being Turkish for no real reason. Perfect example of when to ignore a comment!!! The boy is Turkish. He doesn’t have to have a reason, just like we don’t have to have reasons for being white or African American or Hispanic or ANYTHING! It’s hard to believe that kind of ignorance would come out of a professional review, but it did.

Another time to ignore: when well-meaning people suggest easier storylines so you don’t offend anyone. I had people doing that with THE VOW because it deals with a subject that gets people riled up (immigration, racism, perceptions of terrorism, etc.). I’m so glad I ignored them. Better safe than sorry is terrible advice when it comes to writing diverse characters. How about this instead: Better sorry than silent. 

Fantastic advice, Jessica! Thanks so much for joining us to speak to this issue!

To learn more about Jessica Martinez, check out her website, twitter, and facebook page. 

Also, don't miss the other Diversity Solutions interviews with Nathan Bransford, Sherri L. Smith, Stephanie Guerra, Lamar Giles, Aisha Saeed, and Brandy Colbert!

Friday, May 2, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign, Day 2!

Join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr!




Thursday, May 1, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign

I'm so excited about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign that was kicked off today! Here's my submission:


That's my daughter sitting next to me, acting very engrossed with Pointe by Brandy Colbert.  I feel certain that there will be more diverse books by the time she's reading YA, but it's not going to happen unless we take action.  In the meantime, I'm seeking diverse picture books to read to her!

Another reason I personally think this campaign is important:




Check out more pics from people all over passionate about diversity on the We Need Diverse Books tumblr page!


Monday, April 28, 2014

Diversity Solutions with Aisha Saeed

Welcome all! For the latest installment of Diversity Solutions, we have with us today author Aisha Saeed! In the last few weeks, the issue of diversity in YA has been heating up, with articles in the New York Times, CNN.com, and Entertainment Weekly.  Here, we focus on how we can achieve the change we need.

Aisha is the author of Written in the Stars, a YA novel to be released in 2015 by Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books.

She is also a contributing author in the New York Times featured anthology Love Inshallah.  Her writing has appeared in places such as The Orlando Sentinel, BlogHer, Muslim Girl Magazine, and Red Tricycle.  She writes a monthly column, Literary Mama, at LoveInshallah.com and is the YA contributor at Story and Chai.

Welcome, Aisha! Thanks so much for taking the time to join us to discuss the hurdles we face with diversity in YA today.

First, please tell us a little bit about WRITTEN IN THE STARS. What inspired your novel?

My YA novel is scheduled to be released in 2015 by Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books. The book is about a Pakistani American teenager who falls in love with a boy in her community against her parent’s wishes. When they find out, the consequences are greater than she could have possibly imagined.

Naila, the main character of the novel, spoke to my imagination for years and her story slowly shaped in my mind’s eye until I finally wrote it. I was inspired to write a story about a Pakistani-American because growing up I longed to see people who looked like me or had the same experiences as my friends or me in print. While this story is not about my own experiences, friends I know have encountered some of the issues my main character faces in the novel and I hope the novel will not only transport readers as all books should do but also speak to people who may be facing similar issues. 

According to this post by Lee & Low Books, there is a large gap between the percentage of children's books with diverse characters and the actual percentage of minorities living in the United States. It seems to me that if 37% of Americans are non-white, there must be an untapped market of readers waiting for books about minority characters. Why do you think publishers haven't invested further in books about diverse characters?

There is definitely a disparity between the number of diverse books out there and the diversity of the general population. I hope for a day that diversity is better reflected in literature and media in general but why that is not the case today, I don’t know. This great interview by the executive editor of Simon & Schuster, Zareen Jaffery, does provide some further insight to this question.

Did you think it is easier or more difficult to get a book with diverse characters published? What was your experience like in the submission process?

It’s hard to know if I had an easier or more difficult time getting my book published but I hope I was not looked down upon for having a culturally diverse story. My agent, Taylor Martindale, absolutely loved the diversity in the story and actively seeks novels with diverse characters and stories. My publisher Nancy Paulsen Books also has many diverse books on their list by POC authors like Jacqueline Woodson and Padma Venkatraman. I have been very fortunate that the agent and publisher I have are both deeply committed to sharing diverse stories with the world. For them, my diverse story was an asset and not a liability. 

I share my story to give hope to other writers hoping to see their diverse stories in print. While the news can often be dire when it comes to publishing diverse stories, and while it may seem that no one is interested in acquiring stories with diverse characters it is not always the case. Hopefully with time it will never be the case.

Do you feel that writing about diverse characters has helped or hindered your career?

Writing about diverse characters has helped my career because writing diverse characters and stories is the motivation and passion behind the stories I write. Whether or not writing diverse stories will ultimately be financially lucrative remains to be seen, but having the pleasure and challenge of writing diverse stories is the reason I write at all. Writing diverse stories is my driving force.

There is a belief in the publishing industry that books with ethnic characters on the cover don't sell as well. If this is the case, what can we do to change it? What types of covers would you like to have for your books?

I was so disheartened to learn about this back when Justine Larbalestier’s book LIAR was given a cover with a white character instead of representing the main character who was African American. It was my first time learning about this issue and since then I’ve seen many other instances of this. That being said, it appears the issue was getting a lot of attention and I hope the attention and controversy that the cover of LIAR sparked is helping to change things.

I am very fortunate because my cover is currently being developed and my publisher is including me in the process and is committed to creating a cover with authenticity. I hope that this is the trend as hopefully more diversity is reflected in literature.

In your opinion, what are the top three things publishers can do to help sales of books with diverse characters?

1. Publishers should encourage booksellers not to place diverse books in special sections marked off for diversity-specific areas. For example, a YA memoir on a girl in Palestine should be with all the other YA nonfiction books, not shelved in a separate section on World History. I have unfortunately often seen this to be the case and when these books are not in the higher-trafficked locations it makes randomly coming across a diverse book while browsing difficult, which results in less sales.

2. Just as there are conversations taking place in the media, on twitter, and by the general public on the lack of diversity I hope publishers are also having these conversations in a formal manner. I hope they are recognizing how important it is and are taking steps to not only acquiring more diverse stories but to nurture diverse authors they already have in their houses. Before anything can change with action, conversations, important ones, must take place.

3. Promote books with POC with vigor and enthusiasm. If diverse books truly don’t sell as well as other books, by not promoting and marketing them with full enthusiasm a self-fulfilling prophecy can be created.

What are the top three things writers can do?

1. Write the diverse book you’ve always wanted to read. And make it the absolute best book you can. The competition is fierce to get published and it gets tougher every day, so take your time, sit with it, show it to trusted review partners, and write the best story you can possibly write. We need more diverse stories and while successful books have a variety of factors behind them, a great story always has a leg up at succeeding over any other.

2. Don’t be afraid to write the truth, including the difficult truths in your book. The truth resonates and the truth sells. As POC we can often feel we carry the representation of our entire culture on our shoulders and we feel pressured to only paint a rosy picture of our culture, our religion, etc. Write the truth because the truth is shades of gray and will give dimensions to everything you say. When you’re simply writing the good it’s something readers can see through but when you write the truth it resonates and people read.

3. Support other diverse authors. Buy their books. Give them away as gifts. Request the libraries to carry them. Promote your favorite POC authors on twitter, facebook and other social media. Word of mouth is one of the most effective tools to sell books, use your words and your actions to support the authors writing diverse stories and hopefully with time we will see more and more diversity in the stories we read. 

Lots of great ideas! Thanks so much for sharing your excellent advice, Aisha!

You can connect with Aisha on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Tumblr.

Don't miss the other Diversity Solutions interviews with Nathan Bransford, Sherri L. Smith, Stephanie Guerra, Lamar Giles, Jessica Martinez, and Brandy Colbert!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Diversity Solutions with Lamar Giles

For the latest installment of Diversity Solutions, I'm excited to bring to you author Lamar Giles! The issue of diversity in kid lit has been all over the media recently, including in the New York Times, CNN.com, and Entertainment Weekly.  Here, we focus on how we can achieve the change we need.

Lamar Giles is the author of Fake ID, a YA thriller about a teen in the witness protection program.  Writing as L.R. Giles, he has also penned Serpent & Stallion, Live Again, and The Shadows Gallery.

Hi Lamar! Thank you so much for joining us and speaking up on the issues of diversity in publishing today!  

First, can you tell us a little bit about FAKE ID and what inspired your character, Nick?

FAKE ID is the story of Nick Pearson (not his real name) whose family is in Witness Protection. He moves to his fourth town in four years, and makes one friend, Eli Cruz, who dies under mysterious circumstances. When Nick looks into the death, he uncovers a dark conspiracy that leads back to his own, often shady, father.

I wrote Nick for a couple of reasons. I love to tell stories, so that’s the base driver. Also, I wanted to create the kind of character I never saw, but felt a deep longing for, when I was growing up. A kickass black male teen hero. Not the comic relief sidekick. Not the guy who dies first (because we’ve all heard those jokes, particularly in horror and science-fiction, “black guy’s in it, how long does he last?”)

So many people take for granted the power of having incredible heroes who look like them. I wanted to give that gift to some kids who aren’t so fortunate.

According to this post by Lee & Low Books, there is a large gap between the percentage of children's books with diverse characters and the actual percentage of minorities living in the United States. It seems to me that if 37% of Americans are non-white, there must be an untapped market of readers waiting for books about minority characters. Why do you think publishers haven't invested further in books about diverse characters?

I don’t know for sure, so everything I’m about to say is speculation. But, maybe the idea of increasing diversity just hasn’t seemed like a priority to whoever decides on a house or imprint’s direction. I don’t think there are malicious machinations behind the scenes. I’m not saying [in my 70’s Blaxploitation voice] “It’s The Man trying to keep Brown down.”

However, the issue keeps coming up. In recent weeks, I’ve seen at least two major entertainment outlets address the lack of diversity in YA. So, it’s not a matter of ignorance. The whole industry has been put on notice. Going forward, I think the questions we need to ask publishers are: 1) Who are the people in power that care about changing the dismal diversity numbers? 2) What proactive measures are they willing to take to initiate the change? 3) What quantifiable differences are they shooting for?

I say “they” because I’m not a decision maker. I do have thoughts on this, though, and would be happy to have a discussion with any decision maker who wants to chat.

Did you think it is easier or more difficult to get a book with diverse characters published? What was your experience like in the submission process?

It’s hard to get published. Period. Think of all the publishing lore around acclaimed books that initially got passed on for some reason or another. It’s the whole “J.K. Rowling got rejected a dozen times before someone bought Harry Potter.” I wouldn’t want to diminish or inflate any individual’s publishing experience based on where they’re situated within the diversity spectrum. What gets published is often based on subjective reasoning. Does an agent/editor like the book? If so, great. If not, why? The reasons are going to vary book to book and no one is going to admit they rejected something because the main character was non-white, or gay, or disabled, etc. The numbers from the Lee & Low post suggest SOMETHING is going on, but it seems almost impossible to determine if a diverse character hurts a book’s chance as much as a pacing problem, or an info dump in the first chapter.

Here’s what we do know about publishing acquisitions. It’s not enough for a book to be good; it also has to be wanted. Again, thinking of Harry Potter, one of the greatest book series ever, and a bunch of people who “know” publishing wanted nothing to do with the boy wizard. Some bold person with a contradictory belief had to get it, want it, and push it through.

My own publishing experience was one of those multi-rejection ones. FAKE ID took nine months to sell, despite receiving praise from nearly every editor who read it. I did wonder if Nick being a black male scared editors away, but no one said that to me. One editor admitted they didn’t feel there was a market for a teen thriller with a male lead. No one ever mentioned Nick’s race. In a way, it made his race (and mine) feel like the elephant in the room. But I recognize that sensation was internal, no one openly discriminated against me.

The editor who eventually acquired FAKE ID (and my next book, ENDANGERED) happens to be Asian-American, a member of another group that has very little representation in the YA space. She has since moved on to a different house, and my new editorial team has been very supportive of who I am and the characters I write. However, if not for that one decision maker seeing the value in my work, and wanting to move forward with me, you and I wouldn’t be having this discussion now. Make of it what you will.

In your opinion, what are the top three things publishers can do to help sales of books with diverse characters?

1) Consider starting diversity development programs like the major television networks. Not just for writing. But for editing, and marketing, and book design. IF there is someone in power who cares about this issue, then let’s talk about this. As I alluded to in my previous answer, more diverse decision makers would probably lead to more diverse acquisitions. With more diverse books on the market, there’s increased likelihood that something will hit big.

2) Examine the marketing practices used for books that are expected to do well. Do the same thing for diverse books if you aren’t already.

3) Be honest about your house’s numbers (and whether or not you really care). If diverse acquisitions are low, consider ways to increase those numbers incrementally and annually (the example I always use is a 2%-5% increase each year, arbitrary numbers, but, still, a starting point). And if there’s a problem finding the material through usual channels, consider contests or referrals. The more product, the better the chances for success.

What are the top three things writers can do?

1) Remain vocal. Keep the conversation in the public consciousness, and sing the praises of great diverse titles as you come across them. Sadly, that may be the only marketing some of these excellent titles get.

2) Keep writing. As discouraging as this industry can be, we must keep generating quality material to challenge arguments that diverse books aren’t good/relatable/marketable.

3) Educate peers and readers on the issue. A lot of folks see the desire for more diversity as an attack on writers and characters that are generally the norm. It’s not. Whenever I’ve seen this topic in any major outlets, there’s an immediate—almost violent—pushback from people crying “reverse racism” or accusing anyone who’s passionate about the issue of “playing the race card.” If you encounter this in peers or readers, take an opportunity to enlighten them peacefully. Share numbers and facts like those in the Lee & Low article. Try to take it out of an emotionally charged arena, if possible, so we can all move closer to real change.

Thanks so much for your excellent advice, Lamar! It was a pleasure having you on Diversity Solutions.

To learn more about Lamar Giles, follow him on his website, blog, twitter, or facebook.  Don't miss his fantastic recent post, Diversity in YA: Don't BS the Change!

Also, check out the Diversity Solutions interviews with Nathan Bransford, Sherri L. Smith, Stephanie Guerra, Aisha Saeed, Jessica Martinez, and Brandy Colbert!