Discrimination in Publishing?
Question: I'm writing a romance novel right now targeting women in their twenties and I hope that when I am finished it I could get this book published in the US. But I'm concerning about if agents or publishers in US would turn down my novel only because of my nationality, race, or age. I live outside of America, and I'm still a student. English is not my mother language. I'm not white, but my protagonist is a white American.
I'm very glad to find out that quite a few people who had visited this website and had left questions previously are English second language writers like me. But I'm wondering if there's successful cases of people like us getting their books published in the US. I know that probably we wouldn't be able to write like a native speaker who had grown up in the US, but with elaborate research, years of reading English originals, and professional help from native English speaker editors, it is not impossible to write a book which is as appealing to our target readers, although I'm aware of how hard it is.
Will we stand a equal chance to get published comparing to american writers, if assuming that the book is equally good? Will agents or publishers consider about the author's nationality, race, or age? Will using a pen name which looks american helps?Answer:
While I can't speak for the pubishing industry, I can tell you this...
One of the nice things about submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher (apart from the ridiculously stiff competition and slim odds) is that they don't usually meet you face to face until they know they're interested in your book. That means they are less likely
to make a snap judgement based on your appearance, accent, nationality, gender, age, etc.
Publishers and agents make their decision based on the manuscript and query letter alone. If the writing is good, and if you are writing the type of book publishers are currently looking for (which you can't predict), then your chances of success are much better.
In your query letter, you only include facts if they would help sell the book. For instance, let's say a writer were African. If the book were set in Africa, the writer would mention her nationality in the query letter because that would be evidence that the book will contain authentic details of life in Africa.
If your book is set in the US, and you have never lived in the US, you might not draw attention to this fact (though it will be apparent from your address).
If you look around, you can find plenty of examples of successful writers who write about people very different from themselves. Sometimes they use pseudonyms to evade prejudice. (For instance, male romance writers might use a female pseudonym. Female writers sometimes use a male or genderless pseudonym when writing for a male audience.)
If you are writing in a genre where such a bias exists, a publisher might suggest using a pseudonym. But such cases are more rare than they used to be. In fact, many readers like to read works by people from other cultures because of the novelty.
In short, I wouldn't worry about this issue. Just write the best book you can. That's what counts.
(P.S. Being young can be an advantage. Agents like young authors because, if you're successful, they can look forward to having you as a client for many decades.)