Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thoughts from a Plain-Belly Sneetch

Thanks to the tenacity of Ellen Oh along with the entire #WeNeedDiverseBooks team and subsequent panel at BookCon, many agents, publishers, booksellers, and librarians came away from BEA 2014 with a new perspective on the market for diverse books.

And while this is wonderful news, I've been pondering what this will mean for those of us who were out ahead of this movement and ultimately self-published, the ones without "stars upon thars." 

Independent Authors of diverse books continue to deal with a challenging Catch 22. We are the recipients of a double shunning. First, by agents and publishers who could not envision anything past a niche market for our stories, and secondly, by those bloggers, literary reviewers, libraries, and booksellers who refuse to promote independently published books. The irony is that in doing so, they further perpetuate the state of lack when it comes to diverse literature.
This site will make you smile.
I started to address this issue via social media in the week leading up to BEA, but then I stopped. With something as powerful as We Need Diverse Books about to take center stage at BookCon, there should be no dissension amongst the ranks. What this panel and everyone who participated in #WeNeedDiverseBooks made happen was nothing short of amazing. The need for diversity in Children's and YA literature far outweighs the needs of one little saber-rattling author. 

Sure it’s disheartening to think that some of us who were previously told “no” by traditional publishing might actually find a "welcome" mat in this new climate. But the greater message of Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches is that at certain point, after things got a little crazy, none of the Sneetches could tell who initially had stars, and who didn’t.

Dr. Seuss's, The Sneetches and Other Stories
Random House, First Edition, 1961. N
 read it as a child? It's even better as an adult.

Perhaps there’s a silver lining in #WeNeedDiverseBooks for us Indie Sneetches. 
Maybe we'll find a bit more acceptance from those who typically only recognize books by Star-Belly Sneetches. I hope so. Even though I ultimately had to go it alone, I did not publish Delta Legend haphazardly. I knew it would be scrutinized within an inch of its spine by those who look to find fault with independently published books. 

Participating in the We Need Diverse Books campaign was like a gift out of the blue for me and I am so grateful. For years I've felt like I was out here alone. Now I realize that even those with agents and traditional publishers have felt their diverse books are not getting the level of attention and promotion they deserve.

I'm always checking myself when I post about this issue and I often go back in to soften my words—afraid to risk angering the publishing gods. Then I read Ellen Oh's guest post on Angry Asian Man detailing her personal reasons behind #WeNeedDiversBooks. She turned her anger and frustration into unapologetic action and we've all benefited. 

The audio from BookCon's We Need Diverse Books panel is available here. It's about an hour long but so worth the time (or listen in increments as I did). Every author on the panel is positive and inspiring. This was history in the making and has already changed the future of Children's and YA Lit for the better. 

Here's to the upstarts, like Ellen Oh. The ones who say, "I'm not gonna sit around and wait for things to change, I'm gonna go out and make it happen." And for that, this Plain-Belly Sneetch says, thank you.