A writer asks:
I recently submitted the first three chapters of my manuscript to Tu Books as per your guidelines, and I am a ball of anxiety. My MC is a Muslim girl, and while the story itself is pure historical fantasy, I am worried that you will feel a Muslim protagonist is not relatable enough. Can you share your thoughts? I’ve been told that publishers might not want to take a chance on a Muslim protagonist.
No need to worry! Muslim protagonists (as well as non-Muslim Arab and Arab American protagonists) are welcome here, both historical and contemporary. I’ve been on the lookout for a story set in the Middle East and hadn’t found the right one yet. So please, yes! Send them along.
The biggest concern I’d have about any character being relatable would be on an individual basis, not because they were Muslim. If the main character were unsympathetic, that kind of thing—that’s what makes it hard for me to relate to a character. For me, relatability is based more on emotional connection rather than situational relatability. I can’t directly relate with the situation of being a genetically engineered untouchable/slave, but I completely related to Kayla in Tankborn on an emotional level. Who hasn’t felt as lost and disoriented at some point as she did, needing to discover what was most important to us and where we fit in the world, whether we shared her situation (being Assigned to her first job as a GEN caretaker) or not?
What I look for in something I might like to publish: strong, relatable characters; settings that interest me (whether familiar or unfamiliar); plot lines in which interesting and important things happen, action abounds, and connect closely with character development; worldbuilding that brings a reader into the world (in fantasy, no one knows this world, even if it is closely related to one in the real world; skillful worldbuilding is very important on a number of levels); well crafted voice. This can be done with characters of any background (well, I might not sympathize with a story told completely from Sauron’s point of view; completely evil characters are generally not sympathetic!).
I hope that helps allay some fears. When we say “about everyone, for everyone,” we mean everyone. Except maybe Sauron.