This summer, I joined Twitter and followed several agents. I kept seeing the hashtag "we need diverse books" and/or diverse authors. Some advice I read even said to put your ethnicity into your query as a qualification. But I'm confused about what to do in my particular case. I am African-American and live in the rural South, but my book has nothing to do with my experience of being a minority in the South. Heck, my main character is Caucasian, and only one black person appears in the book at all.
But more and more, I'm seeing beta readers say things like "I will only read diverse books and/or diverse authors," and I'm confused about where I would fit into all of this. I am a minority, but I don't write about it in my work. Are agents/beta readers looking for me or not? I know I have to write an exceptional book before this even matters, but I'm curious about your opinion on this
This is a really interesting question and I'm not sure if there is one answer, let alone a right answer.
When agents talk about diverse voices, they're generally talking about story. They're looking for books with characters who aren't all mainstream white.
More than that they're looking for characters who aren't stereotypes: all (or the only) black kids speak urban slang; all (or the only) Asians are computer geeks; all the stoners are skateboarders, all the Southerners are racists. One reason the movie Dope was so fun to watch was everyone seemed real, not two dimensional character paper dolls. Some black kids were nerds. Some were drug dealers. Some were the good guys. Others weren't. It felt real.
If your book has a rich array of characters who aren't two-dimensional, you'll be fine.
The real question here is do you want to tell agents you are African American, and if so, at what stage.
I think right now I'd be more likely to look at something if the author wasn't white, simply because I want publishing to look more like my neighborhood and less like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
But it feels weird to me to tell you to list your ethnicity, because I certainly would not tell a writer to say they are Caucasian. Yet, my own desire to have more writers of color seems to mean you should.
Like I said, I'm not sure there is an answer here.