In 2018 I was in the depths of submission hell. I had this novel about queer Black girls living in the former kingdom of Cinderella 200 years after the fabled princess’s death. It centered Black girls in a fantasy setting and was full of magic, adventure, peril, levity, and sisterhood. I’d been working on it for about two years and after finding an agent, we went on submission.
One of the first things people tell you when you get into publishing is that the industry is highly subjective and that you shouldn’t take the rejections you will ultimately receive when querying, or when you’re on submission, personally. From what I’ve seen I’d say half of the time, that’s true. There are myriad reasons a story may not be the right fit for an agent or editor and those passes don’t sting quite as much. But there is no denying that in publishing, as there is in every other system built on a foundation that has specifically excluded marginalized creators, there is an element of selectivity, of bias—insidiously polite terms for racism and homophobia masquerading as “quality control”. Because I share my main character Sophia’s intersectional identity as a Black queer woman, and because it was very clear that in some cases that was the reason we didn’t get a bite, it was personal at least some of the time. It’s exhausting to constantly be wondering if the most recent pass was because of something I could improve upon or if it was because of something that I can’t—and wouldn’t—change about who I am as a person.