Dear Mister Dayle,

Excellent submission. My assistants and I loved exploring the world of DragonSpire, through both your manuscript and hand-drawn topographic maps. I was particularly gripped by Prince Jerrick Glitterblade’s fraught relationship with his half-brother Wraith Glitterblade. There’s just one issue, which I’m sure you could solve in a revision.

Could you make this a little blacker?

Clearly, your vision of the world involves a number of warlocks. And that’s fine: every black creative faces the specter of oppression differently. Intellectual diversity makes the black literary canon rich. A few small changes will help you fall in line with those diverse voices.

Let’s start with your protagonist. Jerrick Glitterblade’s current background as a HammerMancer from the Valley of Honour is a bit flat. I think he’d work better as a quick-witted arts student from the Boogie-Down Bronx, forced to contend with stiff white academics. Less of a hero’s journey through the underworld, and more of a subaltern’s journey through undergrad. Give it some thought.

I also think we could rethink his name. Instead of Jerrick Glitterblade, how about Jamal Kingston? A little regional flavor would add specificity to his character, and we’ve already done Africa this year. As a Jamaican-American, I’m sure you have delightful observations on the blandness of American cuisine compared to “curried goat.” Use that.

Your principal antagonists, the HexWeavers, could use similar branding tweaks. For one, the name Wraith sounds like a fantasy thing. People are more into drama-comedies (or dramedies, for those of us in the biz) these days. Dramedies take two seemingly disparate things⁠—like water and sawdust⁠—and combine them into a stronger whole. In a good dramedy, Wraith Glitterblade might be called Drake Jackson. Instead of going mad exploring necromancy, Drake could be sad because he’s black. Finally, in the fourth cycle’s climactic duel, a Dallas police officer could kill him instead of Jerrick.

Some of our writers find a point of reference helpful for their revisions. Have you seen Dear White People? I love it. You should make this more like Dear White People. In many ways, Justin Simien is the Tolkein of our era. Just without all the genre-inventing stuff, which I find weighed those books down a bit.

Another instructive example: Americanah. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about the black things from Twitter instead of a bunch of weird stuff. You could learn a lot from her example. In fact, you should just rip her off and call it a day. I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.

Diversity is one of the pillars of my career. Literature has the power to help make racism a memory. To join that fight, you simply have to adopt the style, diction, politics, and topics of other black writers. A little AAVN goes a long way.

Of course, you’re free to go your own way. There are other agents out there, and I’m sure one of them is champing at the bit for an eight-hundred page mythic fantasy. There’s just a small chance of languishing in obscurity until the day you die.

Fiona Blanche
Ivory Literary Agency