Saturday, June 19, 2010

Some white editors say Latino submissions are “sub-par?” What?!

guest post by Mayra Lazara Dole

Many of the thousands of Latino writers submitting to big publishers and getting rejected are intellectuals or academics who write perfect English and Spanish, thus I was shocked to read about editors “throwing their doors wide to submissions by PoC” and saying “the work they're receiving seems to be sub-par, not polished, or in need of more work than they have time for in this highly competitive business.”

Most editors don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. Writers must first go through agents. I don’t know a single agent in these times who’d present the work of a “sub-par” Latino writer to an editor.

Who are the editors stating these comments?

In my view, the remarks seem racist and hurtful to Latino writers. Shame on you!

Marcela Landres, ex-executive editor for Simon & Schuster says:

“If you are a Latino writer… all you can reasonably expect from your publisher is for them to simply print and distribute your book. Do not expect your publisher to invest more than the minimum of time and money in promoting your book…. Don’t assume your publisher or agent will actually tell you this. Most people are unwilling or unable to convey bad news; they’d rather point fingers when things go wrong. It’s just human nature.”

In order for Latino books to sell, not only do publishers need to promote Latino books in the same way they do white authors, they must have a huge Latino list of literary journals, newspapers, blogs, magazines, etc. Sending Latino books for review to your Caucasian list is important, but we need Latino reviewers too. (I have created my own list.)

If editors put the same effort in advertising and marketing Latino books, instead of discarding, rejecting and abandoning Latino writers and authors, I’m confident we can also become best-sellers.

Two Questions to editors who made these remarks:

• Do you think most Hispanics and POC are illiterate or semi-illiterate?--I'm always surprised when people aren't aware that a large percentage of Latinos and POC are highly literate.

• If you are receiving manuscripts from Latinos that aren’t up to par, why don’t you recommend professional book doctors to them as you do with your Caucasian writers whose novels need work?

The publishing business boils down to two factors:

• What white editors know will sell.

Many large publishers have made a mint with white vampire, zombie and werewolf novels. Now, most editors are searching for Horror, Dystopian, Paranormal and Steampunk. Obviously, in this economy unless Latinos wish to self-publish, it’s no longer about art, literary merit, or the love for the written word.

It’s all about TRENDS that rake in the mula. It’s understandable. If editors don’t publish books or authors that sell, they could be terminated.

Film director, Alejandro Agresti (Valentin and The Lake House—the latter’s stars are Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves) wrote me seven moving Emails (he’s a brilliant, poetic writer and I will save them forever) expressing interest in turning Down to the Bone into a feature film. Agresti has handed my novel over to Selma Hayek, his business partner, and I’m hoping for the best.

In other words, if you give underdog Latinos an opportunity we might shine.

Everyone knows I wrote Down to the Bone over TEN YEARS ago when no one knew what LGBTQ, or tranniboy meant (just a few of us used the term back then, when blogs and tweets didn’t exist) and it got published in 2008. I sent my manuscript to every publisher possible until Harper Collins snatched it.

I’m lucky, though.

My excruciatingly painful perseverance and hard work, at a time when I was dying of chemical injury—what my dad died of—and all I could do was move my fingers to revise, paid off.

None of my talented Latina/o writer friends submitting at the same time got published.

Now that I have my foot caught in the door, I have ventured out to write for larger audiences and in different styles. Down to the Bone was written for a “niche” audience: young LGBTQ, reluctant Latino readers without a single book that spoke to them.

Editors, why not place a call for submissions for authentic Latino writers and authors? It’s not enough for white authors to add Latino characters they know nothing about or for you to secretly advise white authors to invent Spanish noms de plumes. I’m confident we can find a solution for bringing in el dinero while at the same time staying true to ourselves. In case you haven’t heard about us, there are thousands of Latino-Americanos writing contemporary books with literary merit.

It’s time for equality in the publishing business, thus the following is my plea:

EDITORS: Por favor, give authentic Latinos a chance to shine in your ultra exclusive and neon white publishing world. Let agents know you’re searching for diversity and authenticity. Authentic Latinos in literature means the following:

PUBLISHERS: Por favor, hire Latino editors. We need equality and diversity in publishing.

READERS: Please buy Latino books. Most of us write contemporary Latino-American stories set in the U.S.

LATINO WRITERS: I understand the painful struggle. Many of us don’t have the money to pay editors, but do your best and give your work to at least ten avid readers for critiques. Revise 3,000 times if you must! Never give up! Talk about the issue of inequality in publishing on your blogs. Tweet about our challenges. Make change happen.

AGENTS: please open your doors to Latino authors.

The U.S. is comprised of different cultures. Shouldn’t kids, teens and adults read diversity in books?

Regardless of the state of our economy, and even though mula comes first, there must be some publishers, editors and agents interested in diversity. If you are one of them, please RAISE your HAND!

Diversity rules!

[This post originally appeared here on GoodReads.]

Mayra Lazara Dole, was born in Havana Cuba and raised in Miami's Cuban community. Her interests: writing, languages, cultures, architecture, landscape design, Green-living, literature, international cuisine (she LOVES to eat), critical thinking, theatre/arts... Dole's debut novel, Down to the Bone, was nominated for ALA Best Books for YA 2009. Mayra is the author of two bilingual strong girl picture books: Drum, Chavi, Drum! and Birthday in the Barrio. The latter is being transformed into an animated children's film. Her Cuban dialect poems and LGBTQ short stories have been published by Cipher Journal: A Journal of Literary Translation, Palabra: A magazine of Latino literary Art, Velvet Magazine, Sinister Wisdom and other paper magazines. Dole has worked odd jobs (dancer, drummer, library assistant, hairstylist, landscape designer and chef) while writing. She's taught ESL to Central American teens and designs writing activities for aspiring authors.

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1 comment:

nilki said...

Fantastic, Mayra! This is a great, strong grito to the publishing world. It is so refreshing to read in one concise post what so many of us are pulling our hair out over.

Congratulations to La Bloga, for re-posting this and helping spread the word.

I would also add that we need to shamelessly promote each other, and as a community, buy books and put our money where our words are.