Thursday, April 16, 2015

0 Agent Linda Camacho from Prospect Agency On Her Wish List, Diversity, and Querying

Linda Camacho joined Prospect Agency in 2015 after nearly a decade in publishing. After graduating from Cornell University, Linda interned at Simon & Schuster and Writers House literary agency, and worked at Penguin before happily settling into children's marketing at Random House. She has an MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Unofficially, Linda loves chocolate, travel, and far too much TV. In terms of submissions, she's pretty omnivorous. She enjoys a variety of categories and genres, ranging from picture book to adult, from clean and lighthearted contemporary to edgy and dark fantasy.

1. What is it about a manuscript that excites you?

In a query letter, a writer can compel me to read a submission with a plot hook, but it’s the voice of the manuscript that keeps me reading. Voice is that unique fingerprint of a writer and isn't something I know I'm looking for until I find it. That's where the excitement lies.

2. What is on your wish list? 

I'm pretty open in terms of what I like, but I have to say, I tend to skew older—middle grade through adult fiction. I like literary fiction with commercial appeal, like The Book Thief, When You Reach Me, or I’ll Give You the Sun.

And I adore genre fiction (romance, horror, fantasy, sci-fi) like Anna and the French Kiss, A Monster Calls, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and The 5th Wave. I recently re-read Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and I long for a middle grade/young adult story like that. I can’t get enough of fairy tale retellings, either (Cinder, anyone?), or graphic novels.

3. What are some of the worst things you've seen in a query?

There are a few things I've seen that me go hmmm. There are ones that don't address me at all and are clearly mass emails. In others, sometimes the writer will refer to themselves in the third person, which I find curious. Another thing I've seen is people spending the whole query talking about themselves and not about the book. Nothing crazy, really—just things that can be off-putting.

4. Are you an editorial agent?

I am!  The level depends on how much work a particular manuscript needs, really, so it's not the same with everyone. And even then, I'm editorial, but not as insanely editorial as some others. I give broad strokes to whip a manuscript into better shape for submission.

5. Coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, or any other vices?

Chocolate, Starbucks caramel frappuccinos, Boston Cream doughnuts—er, let's just say sweets!  For non-sweets, TV!  I don't get to watch as much of it as I'd like nowadays, but I love binge watching when I can get it. My latest show obsessions are Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, and Parks & Rec.

6. What advice do you have for writers getting ready to query you?

I'd say that writers should do their research and follow submission guidelines. In terms of research, there's so much information out there about agents, query letters, and various publishing aspects that are useful tools as writers figure out what I (and other agents) are looking for. I'm not hung up on the "perfect" query letter, but I certainly do notice a bad one that shows the writer didn't make an effort. As far as submissions guidelines, if the writer gets that part right, it shows me he/she is a professional. It says he's serious about writing not just as a creative endeavor, but as a business. You wouldn't believe how many people have queried by just submitting manuscripts sans query letters. Passion plus professionalism definitely equates to my kind of client.

7. Which is more crucial: emotional connection or current marketability? 

I'm a former marketer, but while current marketability matters, emotional connection is more critical to me. Fads come and go, but a book that resonates with me?  That's forever.

8. Why did you become an agent?

When I graduated from Cornell a decade ago, I wanted to be an editor, so I took any publishing job to attain that goal. I did editorial and marketing internships at Simon & Schuster and Writers House literary agency, and worked at Penguin and Random House. It was my time at Writers House that introduced me to the idea of agenting, an idea I kept in my back pocket while I worked in children’s marketing at Random House the past five years. Agenting allows me to scout and develop talent from the beginning, and I have the freedom to acquire what I want without being tied to a particular imprint. Most of all, as opposed to working with authors on a book-by-book basis, I ideally get to work with my clients over the duration of their careers. Agenting marries the best of both worlds—the editorial and the business manager sides.

9. Is there anything you'd like to add that you think our readers should know?
Three things:
  • I recently graduated with an MFA in children’s writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, so having that experience made me understand that writing is not an easy job. I had always been on the publishing side of the fence critiquing it, but my time there exposed me to the joys and pains of writing and receiving feedback. It’s tough and I applaud everyone who takes the time to finish a manuscript and bravely submit it.
  • I’m a Latina who follows the diversity conversations that are swirling around right now, so I’m definitely on the lookout for writers who include diversity in the work. That applies to all types of diversity out there—ethnicity, disability, sexuality, etc.
  • Writers can follow me on Twitter (@LindaRandom) and they can query me via the submissions form at the Prospect Agency website:

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