Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Beep Beep! Were at our last stop @Twinja Book Reviews!- Acquisitions Editor Kymberlyn Reed sits down to discuss diversity in books!

We've had a bit of a schedule change. Hopefully no one has noticed or been upset over the last minute change. But we were made aware that the official site to Parker Publishing had been down. We informed our interviewee of this mishap, and it should be back up shortly. Parker Publishing is our last stop on a great month of interviews showcasing those hard at work promoting diversity.

1. Give everyone reading this, a glimpse of your publishing press "Parker Publishing”, and what your goal in the industry is.
First, I have to say thank you for including Parker Publishing on your blog. It's really exciting!
My name is Kymberlyn Reed and I’m the Acquisitions Editor for Parker Publishing, a company which specializes in quality multicultural fiction. We began in 2005 as mainly a romance publisher and it's still our bread and butter (especially interracial romance, which is a steadily growing market and NOT a fad—author Sharon Cullars penned a wonderful rebuttal in response to that nonsense).  We also publish paranormals, mysteries, a few non-fiction titles and have branched out to include Science-Fiction/Fantasy and YA. We made the conscious choice to depict the best our increasingly diverse world has to offer. This is incredibly important in the case of our romances because the media constantly markets Black and Latino dysfunction as the only reality; that our relationships are damaged and/or doomed to fail, despite having a beautiful and healthy Black family in the White House.
Our YA imprint is called Moxie which basically means “skill or know-how”.  In other words we wanted to showcase young heroes and heroines of color who take charge, lead and save the world. We all know that YA is a huge market but PoC as usual were and are being vastly underserved as main characters and we’re trying to rectify that.  It's also personally important to me that YA of color see themselves reflected positively as heroines and heroes, not necessarily with with super or magical powers, but as leaders or those willing to fight the good fight.  Unfortunately when I was a teen there just weren’t a lot of books like this so I am happily making up for lost time.
It's truly a labor of love (and lots of late nights in front of a computer monitor) for Miriam and all of us associated with Parker. We've been blessed and fortunate enough to have had some amazingly noteworthy authors write for our company including the late L.A. Banks of The Vampire Huntress Legends series, Seressia Glass, Kelley Nyrae and Denise Jeffries to name a few.  Of course there's the Mighty King of All Geekdom (and fervent High Priest of The Church of Gina Torres) Dennis Upkins. We've also published authors from New Zealand and Malaysia.
Besides the primary goal of publishing quality multicultural fiction, our other goal is to expose more readers to the fact that diverse/multicultural books DO exist. Think of how many wonderful stories readers miss out on because they don’t know books like ours exist or they think a book with PoC is going to be depressingly issue-oriented. This last point was driven home to me a year ago in a YA for Adults forum on Goodreads. The forum had at least a hundred multicultural YA novels and I'd say less than ten were of other genres beyond the standard "ghetto/barrio/drugs/gangs/teen pregnancy/dysfunction". To say that I was like "are you people kidding me?" is an understatement and I instantly set out to correct the image of what YA multicultural fiction encompassed. A lot of these readers had no idea that such novels even existed. They saw the covers, read the blurbs and were totally blown away.  Not to be a Pollyanna or anything because there is a place for those kinds of stories, but reading should be an escape and why should PoC be exempt from that?
2. What types of genres do you accept @ Parker Publishing? As an editor, what types of stories are you drawn to?
We’re fairly open genre-wise. We accept multicultural and interracial romance, paranormal, science-fiction and fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, young and new adult.
I'm a fantasy geek and as an editor I’d love to see more of those. I’d also like to see more non-traditional settings, especially for paranormals. Give me stories based on other mythologies or about other cultures beyond the typical Eurocentric ones. Regardless of genre, I need to see strong, positive heroes and heroines. I’d say I’m all about the aspirational. I want adventure and characters who make me say “oh yeah”. I’m an avid reader and there’s not too much out there I haven’t come across so the kinds of stories that grab me are those that have a unique voice or a different take on what’s already out there. I know the conventional wisdom is to write for the market, but the authors who really make me sit up and take notice of their work are the ones who have an authentic voice and/or that they are strongly driven to see characters like them in print.
I'm also drawn to quirky characters. I've said this so many times before, but I want to see more intra-diversity in all of our imprints. I want to see skaters, goths, comic book geeks, nerds, tech-geeks, science nerds, alt-musicians, artists, etc. I don't just see a need for racial diversity, but social diversity as well. We at Parker want to showcase the kinds of characters the media ignores.
3. What are you responsible for @ Parker Publishing?
I read through a LOT of queries. My email in-boxes are full on a daily basis, which is why I’m really a stickler for paying attention to our submission guidelines. A well-written query letter with just enough details to perk my curiosity is a vital first step.  I also handle contracts with the authors and try to help them with generating buzz with their books. Most authors have some type of online presence, be it a Facebook page or their own blog.
The most important job for me is line and content editing.  I’m a perfectionist when it comes to editing, which means I can be pretty slow and incredibly anal.  I feel that I have to be.  Too many naysayers already look for reasons to ignore books featuring PoC and will latch onto any excuse as to why they don’t read them. They especially hold these books to a far higher standard than a mainstream one (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot of basic editing/grammatical mistakes from the big publishers that weren’t there before). Not to mention  e-publishing/self-publishing has an unfair reputation for putting out sub-par books. We are driven to putting out the best books possible and if that means we only publish a few titles every year, so be it.
4. Do you find your position as an Acquisitions Editor stressful? What are some of the perks?
Not stressful really because it's a dream come true. I get to read for a living. I get to make someone who's dreamed of being a published author and who's worked hard to do it, get to the next level. I get to help them realize that dream. It’s those first time writers, the ones who had this idea and they spent countless days writing, polishing and hoping, thinking that maybe they won't get published because the characters are not blonde, blue-eyed and perfect. To tell someone like that "yes" is a feeling I never grow tired of. I guess it’s also a sense of “paying it forward” because someone gave me that chance. 
It's definitely busy and I don't necessarily keep banker's hours, but I enjoy it.
5. What are some major themes you haven't come across, or don't come across as often but would like to when it comes to submissions?
For our regular imprints as well as the Moxie line, I would LOVE some high fantasy along the lines of Lord of the Rings and/or The Song of Ice and Fire series, but instead of a typical European medieval setting (which by the way did have People of Color), I'd like to see stories set in Africa, Asia or even the Americas. We know great civilizations flourished in these places during this era, so why aren't people writing about them? 
As far as romance, it would be great to see older heroines/heroes finding love either for the first time or finding it again after a loss. I’d also like to see more married couple romances, older woman/younger man romances.
My other love-to-see theme is Steampunk. There is so much a PoC author could do with that world that would not need to be centered on Great Britain or America. 
6. What is Parker Publishing's submission policy? Is Parker Publishing always accepting submissions?
They’re pretty detailed so I’m going to attach the link here:  
Parker Publishing Submissions
We are always accepting submissions. You don't need an agent and first-time authors are very welcome.
7. What are some of the challenges that go with being a gatekeeper of multicultural fiction?
"Gatekeeper" *smiles* Reminds me of being a Dungeon Master during my RPG days. 
The biggest challenge and probably the most frustrating is how so many wonderful books, not just those published by us, are overlooked simply because the main character(s) and/or the authors aren't the default. The authors I work with are incredibly talented and it would be super-awesome if more readers discovered that. We have great stories to tell. The other issue is this belief that multicultural equals substandard or that a PoC is somehow 'un-relatable'.  I know Denny mentioned the fail concerning Hollowstone and even now it really makes me shake my head. Seriously? The same readers who swoon over non-existent beings somehow can't envision a nerdy violin-playing Black kid? 
8. What are some ways we as readers, can make diversity in fiction more mainstream and less cliche?
It’s funny you should ask that.  I live in Los Angeles and I’m so used to diversity I don’t really think about it. For me, diversity is mainstream and folks just need to catch up. 
What I truly find cliché are books set in these contemporary and diverse cities, yet are utterly whitewashed when it comes to the characters. Sorry, but writing a futuristic story with no diversity doesn't fly. I don't buy the excuses.
Readers are really driving the change, especially those from marginalized groups, and they’re not being silent about their demands for greater inclusion.
The most important thing is to support authors and publishers who are doing the hard work of diversifying the slow-to-change book world. Many of these authors aren’t writing for the financial gain, but are writing to fill a void. Blogs such as this are also vital to getting the word out. Reviews are also important. I know there's been a lot of discussion about them, but a detailed and honest review really helps authors and readers.
9. We see you're also an accomplished author? Any plans on releasing more of your work in the United States in the near future?
I've got two stories I wrote for National Novel Writing Month. They need to be edited but I definitely plan to have them see the light of day. My recent story Thirty Days, is a New Adult interracial romance and I had a lot of fun writing it.
10. What advice would you give any author hoping to publish their multicultural fiction novel? Where can aspiring authors find out more about "Parker Publishing" and the talent you already represent?
Ignore the naysayers. If you've got a story about a black teenage cosplayer or an IR in which the characters are in their fifties, write it. My other huge piece of advice is pay close attention to a publisher's submission guidelines. I receive a lot of queries and it can get a little maddening when someone sends me a street-lit type book when our guidelines clearly state we don't accept those types of books.
Don't follow trends just because you think that's what publishers want. Some still do want the vampire/werewolf/shifter/slayer/zombie/bad boy billionaires with boundary issues type books, but those subgenres are pretty much at saturation point. Even some established authors in those genres are finding it harder to sell their books because the market is just so glutted.
In short, write the story YOU’D want to read. 
Speaking of which, be a READER as well as a writer. And edit your manuscript to within Speaking of which, be a READER as well as a writer. And edit your manuscript to within an inch of its life. Most importantly, don't give up.


1 comments:

  1. It was wonderful to learn more about Parker Publishing. Thanks for asking such interesting questions and revealing so much to us. I love their advice for authors and it was great to find out what types of books they are looking for.

    Thanks for sharing!
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete

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