This relates to two recent articles that highlight a really unpleasant side of the publishing industry. Considering the feasibility of self-publishing in modern times, compared to recent years, and the number of options available to authors, I would not have expected to see this. The first article was brought to my attention on twitter, and relates to reports of agents trying to convince authors to 'straighten up' their LBGT characters to make them more publishable. I called this article (and the next) examples of 'bullying' but that's probably a little broad:
In 'Authors Say Agents Try to “Straighten” Gay Characters in YA' , Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith relate their experience trying to sell their YA novel to an agent. They mention in the article that nothing more explicit than kissing occurs in the book, no different to the heterosexual characters.
An agent from a major agency, one which represents a bestselling YA novel in the same genre as ours, called us.
The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.
They explain it's not a singular occurence, and the acknowledge that this likely relates less to the agents' personal prejudices, and more to the marketability of a book.
This isn’t about that specific agent; we’d gotten other rewrite requests before this one. Previous agents had also offered to take a second look if we did rewrites… including cutting the viewpoint of Yuki, the gay character. We wondered if that was because of his sexual orientation, but since the agents didn’t say it out loud, we could only wonder. (We were also told that it is absolutely unacceptable in YA for a boy to consensually date two girls, but that it would be okay if he was cheating and lying. And we wonder if some agents were put off because none of our POV characters are white.)
I'm personally shocked at this, but I guess I live in a bubble and not the world of what is deemed sellable to mainstream audiences. I have to laugh that cheating on multiple partners is ok, but dating multiple partners consensually isn't.
Tomorrow's article is a more specific and even more egregious case of author bullying, relating to pitfalls of the 'hybrid' author, one who publishes traditionally and using self-published digital services.