Rathalla Review

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Open Call

by Kim Callan

 

In this recent political landscape, it’s sometimes easier to see the bad in the humanity than the good. However, a group of agents from a range of agencies have reached out with some good news. In response to President Trump’s Muslim Ban, agents like Laura Biagi of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Melissa Edwards of Stonesong Literary and Celia Gore of Martin Literary Management, have reached out to Muslim writers to share their stories and their voices.

Diversity has been a hot topic in the writing world for a while now and in recent years it has been heating up. There has been a drive to include a larger range of voices and experiences. Many agents, in general, have been asking for diverse writers to submit. Books encourage learning, and learning breeds understanding – books can often reach an audience that words cannot.

This open call is a beacon of hope for a group currently under stress from the government. Through the call, these agents hope to bring more voices into the book world. They want to allow a group currently hushed to share their voices.

“This is our open call for stories that will bring increased understanding, tolerance, empathy and compassion in the world.” (quote from the agents, originally in Publishers Weekly).

The decision spread over social media throughout the week, gaining attention among the many literary groups. On sites like Twitter, people spread the word to writers and agents alike; and friends encouraged both friends and strangers to submit in these times. Others on social media are calling for more agents, like those who represent non-fiction, to join in.

While twelve agents initially started the call, the word spread quickly across social media and many others have joined the group. There are now seventy-five agents involved in the open call. While the agents involved cover a range of genres, many of those who have joined represent young adult, teen and children’s fiction. Genres like these have always been held with a certain regard: entertain as well as educate. It is important to reach out to children and teens to show that there is beautiful diversity in the world. Hopefully, these agents, writers and books can become a beacon of hope in the years to come.

The agents who began the call as listed by Publishers Weekly: Laura Biagi of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency; Melissa Edwards of Stonesong Literary; Caitie Flum and Jennifer Johnson-Blalock of Liza Dawson Associates; Lilly Ghahremani of Full Circle Literary; Clelia Gore of Martin Literary Management; Tricia Lawrence and Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, Carrie Pestritto, Kirsten Carleston, and Becca Stumpf of the Prospect Agency, and Cindy Uh of the Thompson Literary Agency.

Celia Gore of Martin Literary Management has set up a complete list on her website.

Worry Amidst the Loss of New York Times Bestseller Lists

by Kim Callan

 

As of February 5, the New York Times Bestseller List will be getting a little smaller. Major categories – such as Hardcover Nonfiction, Young Adult Hardcover, Children’s Hardcover and Combined Print and E Fiction – will remain on the list. However, categories like Graphic Novels/Manga and Young Adult eBooks will be removed.

This is causing some complaints on social media. Comic artists and Graphic Novel authors are upset at the lack of coverage. The New York Times is the place you want to see your work as an author. A lot of potential readers use the New York Times Bestseller list to decide which books they would be interested in purchasing. By cutting off these categories, the New York Times limits the exposure that these works can get and that can be a huge impact on someone’s career.

I can understand the removal of eBooks as they are keeping the hardcovers. Many Young Adult books that come out in hardcover have eBook as well and, as such, can sometimes end up on the list twice. However, there are some Young Adult books that are only released as eBooks, possibly because of the agreement with the publisher. With this list removed, these books would have no place to be shown off. Other books still have the chance to end up on the Combined Print and E Fiction lists but strictly E Fiction would be left out.

For graphic novels/comics/manga, I worry as well. The decision does make sense – the Times likely wants to focus their lists a bit more – and yet I feel for the artists and authors who may have extremely benefitted from these categories. Graphic Novels especially have always had a hard time selling. For example, when Art Spiegelman’s Maus came out it was first graphic novels to actually catch eyes. Before that, there had been graphic novels on the shelves but people tend to pass them over. Perhaps the adult mind equates graphic novels with children’s picture books. There is a feeling of not wanting to “read down” or waste time on such a book when you could be reading literature. In recent times, people have become more open to comics and their like. In Barnes and Noble, for example, the comics/graphic novels/manga sections have been steadily growing. Despite this, it’s still not quite as big of a market as for fiction. The New York Times provides a way for people who do not usually look at graphic novels to see them.

The New York Times Bestseller List carries so much weight behind it. To be on their lists sometimes feels like the way to make or break someone’s career. To see categories removed from the list is understandable and yet it’s saddening to think of who’s works may not be seen because they are no longer on the list. Time will tell if this proves detrimental to careers or is simply a bump in the road.

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