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OwnVoices Query Question

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#1 eehornburg

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 11:18 AM

So, this is something that's been bugging me for awhile as I query, and I'm unsure how to handle it.

 

I have a physical disability (Osteogenesis Imperfecta - aka - brittle bones disease). The current novel I am querying, my main character does not have a physical disability, but one of my side characters does. However, since she's a side character I have no reason to mention her in my query, or even my synopsis. Do I still bring it up as #ownvoices? (Although I do have a WIP where one of my POV characters does have a disability... but that'll be more obvious of how to pitch it and such.)

 

Or, several of the agents I would LOVE to work with, I've noticed are mentioning how they want to see authors in underrepresented groups. Even if my main character in my book doesn't have a disability, do I mention that I do? If so, how would I bring it up? Does anyone have good examples of how this could be done? 

 

I always feel weird asking because, in other senses, I'm VERY privileged. (White, cisgender, straight, Christian, etc.) But at the same time, my disability is part of who I am, and I don't want to shy away from it either. On the one hand, I want to be known for my writing and don't want to be all I NEED TO BE PUBLISHED BECAUSE I HAVE A DISABILITY! But on the other hand, if it's something that could help me/agents want to see, maybe I should be mentionig it in my query? 



#2 VerKur

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 06:16 PM

I think it depends on how major the side character is.  If she is really peripheral, I don't think it would count, as I think generally ownvoices is referring to either the main character or if it is a significant component of the novel in some sense. That said, I still think you should say something in your query about how they were seeking underrepresented authors and how you fit that bill.

 

I understand where you are coming from in your last paragraph--I think a lot of underrepresented people have this thought.  But agents saying things like this does not mean that they are publishing you because of your disability.  They would be publishing you because there is a large number of good, publishable books, and for centuries certain voices have been underrepresented and now they are trying to get things up to par so they are making a special effort to find those authors. You absolutely should mention it, especially if it is relevant to your work moving forward. good luck



#3 eehornburg

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Posted 04 June 2017 - 07:28 AM

Yeah, I just feel weird bringing it up in my query. I guess I need to find the right wording for it? I don't know. And in this book, she doesn't have a HUGE role. But she is important, but for the query and the synopsis not important enough to mention her name, you know? And what I also find frustrating is that her disability isn't necessarily part of the plot, it's just part of who she is. I feel like so many people want the disability, even if it's a supporting character, to be THIS HUGE DEAL AND PART OF THE STORY when... it's just one element of the character. Does that make sense?



#4 VerKur

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Posted 04 June 2017 - 08:12 AM

I totally know what you mean! but from what I've been reading on agents blogs and twitter, while there are some that want stories where the thing is central (eg, a book about race, a book about disability) plenty of agents are kind of tired of that and want a story where someone just happens to be gay, just happens to have a disability, etc.

If the minor character's disability isn't central, I think you could say something like, "I'm querying you because of your interest in [whatever genre] and in representing underrepresented authors. I have a physical disability [disclose here if you want] and often write from that perspective (one of the minor characters in BOOK has [whatever].)" 

 

i initially felt uncomfortable mentioning that I'm a person of color in my queries, but then stopped feeling uncomfortable about it.  They can't tell from my query letter alone, may not google me, and if they are looking for minority authors to represent, there's no way of them quickly ascertaining that from the hundreds of letters they get unless the minorities make this obvious for them.  Please don't feel weird about it--I have heard several agents in the past few months talk about how they are happy to see that they are getting more queries with underrepresented characters, they are not getting more queries from underrepresented authors. 



#5 eehornburg

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Posted 04 June 2017 - 08:14 AM

Yeah... that's a good point. It's just so funny because I never thought I'd be in a position where I should share that info for my books! lol But yeah, I guess I just need to bite the bullet and squeeze it in there. Thanks!







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