Must I Mention Character “Diversity” When Submitting a Manuscript?


Dear Editor…

When submitting my manuscript, I haven’t identified whether there’s diversity in the characters. Is that essential?

Querying Author

Dear Querying Author…

Mentioning diversity is “essential” during querying if the diverse cast is essential to your story. You’ll know it’s essential to your story if removing the diversity would change the plot, concept, or themes in a substantive way. When diversity is essential, then it’s a key feature of your project and thus a key “hook”—and we pitch ALL our hooks! The diversity will notch into your book description organically because you can’t pitch the story without it. Check out this example from the back cover of Ryan La Sala’s YA novel The Honeys: “Mars’s gender fluidity means he’s often excluded from the traditions—and expectations—of his politically-connected family. This includes attendance at the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy where his sister poured so much of her time. But with his grief still fresh, he insists on attending in her place.” Mars is an outsider at home and at the academy because their lack of inclusivity does not make room for him. He must assert himself in both places to complete his goals for the story.

If your inclusive cast is simply a reflection of this diverse world, you don’t need to mention it. You can do so, but don’t jam it in there awkwardly or make more of it than it is. Being clunky or misleading won’t impress agents. If an agent loves the concept and story, they’ll read the manuscript and see your inclusive cast. If they don’t like your concept and story pitch, they won’t care if the cast is inclusive or not. 

Happy writing!
The Editor

The Editor, Deborah Halverson, has been editing books for over 25 years and specializes in Middle Grade/Young Adult fiction and nonfiction, New Adult fiction, and picture books. For her editorial guidance in making your manuscript ready for submission to agents and publishers or for self-publishing, click Editorial services. Learn more in her books: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies and Writing New Adult Fiction.