Today, we are starting what we hope will be an ongoing, occasional series that highlights Latinx in the publishing industry. Our first post is a Q&A with Linda Camacho, an agent with the Prospect Agency
LiKL: Please tell us about your background and how you became a literary agent.
Linda: After I graduated from college, I worked at Penguin on the adult side and eventually left to pursue other things. I flirted with the idea of law school, but I missed publishing, so it wasn’t very long before I decided to return to it. Only, the job market had just begun its plummet, so I couldn’t actually land a job. That led to a series of internships in various departments at Dorchester, Simon & Schuster, Random House, and Writers House literary agency. Thankfully, Random House eventually took pity and hired me! I did children’s marketing there, during which time I discovered a passion for kid lit as well—so much so, that I got my MFA in children’s writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Initially, I wanted to be an editor, but my time at Writers House turned me onto the idea of agenting. Until then, I never really understood what agents actually did until I was given the chance to see it for myself. When I was later offered my position at Prospect Agency, I knew the flexibility of the role would be a better fit for me.
LiKL: We’d love for you to shed some light on all you do as a literary agent. What are all the things you handle? Is there such thing as a “typical” day that you can describe?
Linda: There’s so much that an agent does! We handle all our clients’ business affairs, so beyond contract negotiation, we represent their foreign, film/TV, audio and other subsidiary rights. We generally act as the liaison between the author and publisher (particularly when things get sticky) and help in the more mundane matters like payment collection for them as well. That’s on top of reading the queries and manuscripts of potential clients.
There’s really no typical day on the job, really. After answering emails first thing in the morning, I’ll check in on client submissions, nudging any editors who still have a manuscript and noting any passes or interest. I also try to go through queries pretty quickly. I get about 20 a day, so maybe no more than an hour, if that. Additionally, I edit client manuscripts for those I’m getting ready to submit to editors and, if time permits, I try to catch up on reading requested manuscripts from querying writers. That’s between editor lunches, client phone calls, and more emails that come up. It can feel pretty scattered.
LiKL: What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding?
Linda: The most challenging part of the job is managing expectations. Even when my clients have reasonable ones, it can be difficult to keep their spirits buoyed in the face of rejection. I give plenty of pep talks, that’s for sure. Thankfully, I like talking (just ask my family members)! The most rewarding part? Why, making that call to my client to let them know they have an offer. That’s thrilling. Another agent once told me we’re like fairy godmothers that way, helping people’s wishes come true. I like that image!
LiKL: As a Latina in publishing, do you face any particular challenges?
Linda: In terms of challenges, I’m always looking to find more Latinx who are interested in not just writing, but in other areas of publishing as well. The fact is, not enough Latinx know about publishing as a viable career option. I’m part of an group called Latinx in Publishing, whose aim is to recruit and provide mentorship to help diversify our industry.
LiKL: With the brighter spotlight on diverse books, thanks to We Need Diverse Books and other groups, are you seeing a change in the types of manuscripts you’re receiving and/or what publishers want?
Linda: As a result of the diversity conversations occurring now more than ever, I’m seeing more under-represented writers submit to me, so that’s promising! And more editors are asking for diversity, so I remain hopeful that things will continue to evolve. It’s going to take a long time, but there has definitely been a shift. I’m also starting to get more commercial queries, which is exciting, because it can’t be all about “issue” books.
LiKL: What do you want? What’s on your wish list?
Linda: For adult fiction, I’d love to see more diverse romance and women’s fiction romance (please, please!). For kidlit, I do the occasional picture book, but those are very select. I’m focusing more on middle grade and young adult genre fiction across all genres–if it’s great writing coupled with a strong hook, send it my way!
LiKL: Are you open to queries? If so, how can writers submit to you?
Linda: I am! I accept queries via the electronic form on Prospect Agency’s submission page (http://www.prospectagency.com/boathouse.html)
LiKL: What is one of your all-time favorite kid lit books? Why?
Linda: Anne of Green Gables, hands down. Anne (with an e) is that smart, imaginative, short-tempered girl I always longed to be. Plus, I grew up in the Bronx and Anne’s life in the countryside couldn’t have been more different from my city upbringing.
LiKL: Anything else you’d like to add?
Linda: We need diverse writers, so I urge them to not give up. We also desperately need more diverse folks on the other side of the publishing table (i.e., in editorial, marketing, sales), so please apply to those openings and seek people out who can connect you to those jobs. We need you.