Riposte and Counter-riposte

Monday’s “Say Yes to Gay YA” post contributed to PW‘s highest-ever one-day website traffic. It has been viewed nearly 40,000 times. I am tremendously proud of the conversation we’re having in the comments there and of the many people in the industry who have spoken up in support of authors who write YA with queer protagonists. I hope to see readers and editors voting with their purchasing power as well. Readers especially: the more of these books we buy, the more editors will be able to get approval for buying them and the more agents will be able to afford to rep them.

Speaking of agents, yesterday evening, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of the Nancy Coffey Literary Agency contacted me about posting a rebuttal to the “Say Yes to Gay YA” post. I said I was willing to post it but suggested an alternative to the statement she sent me. After some discussion, she decided to post her rebuttal elsewhere. You can read it in full here, hosted by my friend Colleen Lindsay, one of the staunchest advocates I know for QUILTBAG representation in publishing. A key excerpt:

We had read the manuscript, and had spoken to the authors to learn more about the story. Later, when this article was posted, we discussed in-house how awful it was they’d had to go through this.

Then we got a surprising call from an agent friend who had heard that this article was supposedly about us.

 Initially we thought it was just an unfortunate rumor.

Then the emails started pouring in

Did we know what people were saying about us?

Why were they saying this?

This can’t be true!

Well. It isn’t true.

Let me repeat this: there is nothing in that article concerning our response to their manuscript that is true. [...]

So let’s continue this conversation, and let’s base it on the truth, which is:

There are not enough mainstream books that depict characters of diverse race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and physical and/or mental disabilities.

Changing this starts with the readers. Scott Tracy has a great post about this on his blog. If more people buy books with these elements, then publishers will want to publish more of them. Sounds simple…yet, it’s not so simple.

How do we reach the readers who are looking for these types of books? And more importantly, how do we reach the readers who aren’t specifically looking for them?

We would love to start this conversation. It is one that our agency believes in and feels strongly about. Let’s discuss.

In response, Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown posted the following in their personal blogs:

The unnamed agency in our previous post has chosen to come forward to present their perception of our exchange. We confirm that it was the agency we referred to. We stand by every word we wrote in our original article.

We did not wish to name them, because we preferred to focus on the larger issues. We did not spread rumors about them, and we don’t know who did.

This is why we went public: After the initial exchange a month ago, we spoke in private to a number of other writers, without mentioning the name of the agent or agency. There was an overwhelming response of “Me too!” Many other writers had been asked by agents and editors to alter or remove the minority identity of their characters, sometimes as a condition of representation or sale. Sometimes those identities had been altered by editors without the writers’ knowledge or permission.

That response, and posts like Malinda Lo’s recent statistics make it clear that the problem is much larger than a couple of writers and one specific agency.

We urge you all to continue focusing on the bigger picture.

As comments are open on all of those posts, I am closing them here. (I’m also still moderating a steady stream of comments on the original post, which is about all the comment moderation I’m capable of doing at the moment.) I encourage anyone inclined to comment to keep the larger societal issues here at the forefront, as everyone involved has requested.

And since I see some commenters are already impugning both Genreville and Publishers Weekly (no apostrophe, please), I will add that I do not for a moment regret hosting the original post, any more than I would have regretted hosting the response from Joanna. I am perfectly happy to provide a platform for this conversation and encourage its continuation. In addition, Genreville is hosted by PW, and I am employed by PW, but a blog post is not the same thing as an article or even an op-ed in the magazine. Please don’t conflate them.