When I heard that we would be blogging about diversity this month my first reaction was to think about the role of editors and agents when it comes to YA. As authors know, and perhaps many readers know as well, a book can take well over a year from the day an editor buys a manuscript and the day it is available for sale. In some cases, seriously well over a year. Which is a bummer for authors, as we would love to have our writing available to readers as soon as we type The End. The wait kind of sucks!
The thing is, lots of stuff happens in those months. Trends rise and fall, sleeper hits create a rush for similar titles, and authors are pretty much left crossing their fingers that by the time their novel comes out, the market will be right.
So what's this have to do with diversity? Well, all you have to do is look at what agents are representing and editors are buying to quickly learn that publishing can be pretty risk averse. If a dystopian novel hits it big, then dystopian is the trend! Agents rep more writers who write the genre, editors buy more, publishers pay more to get in on the next big dystopian hit. And what about authors who don't write dystopian? Well, they are so yesterday and agents/editors are less likely to want to champion an author who is a little different. Risk aversion is a fact of life when publishers are working on thin margins and so few books actually hit it big.
Diversity in YA is important because readers are by their very nature diverse. I loved reality-based books growing up. Give me a girl like me, someone who doesn't have special powers, isn't living in a time in the past or future, who is just navigating the every day trials and tribulations of being a normal teenager. If all I had exposure to was mysteries/historials/science fiction/etc. I would have stopped reading. Not every reader wants to jump on the ________(insert trend here) bandwagon.
We need to have diversity of stories, characters, and genre so we continue to capture the imagination of readers who are a diverse bunch. Trends come and go, but creating life-long readers goes beyond trends. We need to have books that appeal to a wide spectrum of readers. So sometimes it saddens me when I read about all the new books being sold by agents/bought by editors because they're riding the next trendy wave. Trends come and go. Ensuring that there is always a diverse offering of YA stories to read is something that should remain constant.