Today on ye old blog we have an extra special treat and something that I hope can be a feature that continues with the hosting of other guests speaking on this topic.
First a bit of backstory – if you beta read for me, you know I love my backstory- that said, if you follow me on twitter @kwanawrites, you know that just about daily I tweet the #WeNeedDiverseRomance hashtag in honor of my late Nana and to bring awareness to the need for more equal representation for all, and in my specific case women romance writers of color on the bookshelves.
Well today’s guest, literary agent agent, Linda Camacho from The Prospect Agency, kindly reached out to me about the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseRomance and agreed to be on the blog today answering questions about herself, the industry, diversity and what she’s looking for.
Thank you so much for being with us today Linda!
First can you tell us a bit about your role as an agent at The Prospect Agency
I’m essentially my clients’ business manager, whereby I pitch my clients’ manuscripts to editors at publishing houses and try to get them the best deal possible. I not only handle domestic rights, but all other subsidiary rights (i.e., movie/TV, audio, translation, merchandising, etc.), so it can be quite a lot! I also provide editorial feedback to my clients, career guidance, and a shoulder to cry on. 🙂
Can we get a peek inside your #MSWL Manuscript Wish List? You represent a wide variety of works from middle grade through adult. Please tell us what you’re looking for in YA vs Adult right now?
I try not to limit myself, since it’s really sort of a “surprise me” answer. My tastes are pretty broad, so if in doubt, try me! I love literary stories, though I gravitate more toward higher concept genre fiction, like sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and romance. Scrolling through my recent #MSWL entries, I see some of my call-outs have been for YA fantasy, western, or pirate adventure; for MG, creepy tales, tear-jerkers; for adult, women’s fiction and romance–How I want some adult romance (I’m burning through all of Sarah MacLean’s books and am all about romance these days)! I could use a steamy contemporary or historical romance that turns tropes on their ear (bonus points if they have people of color starring in them, à la Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union).
Where do you see trends going forward in the next year or two in the industry in romance?
There’s been an uptick in historical romance acquisition, which thrills me, since historical romance is my first love. For awhile, editors weren’t really buying much historical, but now with contemporary romance hitting a bit of a saturation point, editors are becoming more open to it. I’m seeing a touch more paranormal as well—not a whole lot, but I’m seeing some shapeshifter stories, so I’m curious to see if paranormal becomes more sought after as well. Lastly, I’m seeing more #ownvoices writers being published within these sub-genres and I hope those numbers continue to climb.
On your twitter profile you proclaim yourself as a “proud Latina” that said what do the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseRomance and #WeNeedDiverseBooks books mean to you as a reader and consumer in the industry.
I cut my teeth on romance when I was a young teen and, honestly, I didn’t realize how unrepresented I was in stories until I found my first Caridad Piñeiro novel. That was when I saw what I’d been missing, really seeing myself in a romance novel. It’s an amazing feeling to see more representation today. I marvel at it.
Now as an agent and an influencer behind the scenes, how do you feel about the state of diversity and inclusiveness in the industry?
Do we have time for this question? I think we need to have a lunch or ten to really talk about it! While I’m over the moon at seeing more diversity, we are still incredibly behind. We have far to go, twofold, between the writers themselves and the folks who work in publishing. I’m seeing more diverse, #ownvoices writers being published, which is heartening. The ones I’m hoping will emulate that increase are my colleagues on the industry side. With a rise in diverse books and writers, we need more diverse editors, agents, book buyers, librarians, etc., to help keep the rise in diverse authorship going in the right direction. Sadly, that’s not really talked about. My agency, for instance, is a boutique one standing at six women, half of whom are people of color. So when I see other agencies, especially the big ones who are known for actively seeking diverse writers, who don’t have diverse people on staff? I have questions. The same goes for imprints that are famous for publishing diverse voices and are succeeding monetarily, when I don’t see diverse staff? I have issues. Because while the hiring managers may not actively be refusing to hire diverse people, they are not making the effort to reach outside their networks when filling open positions. That sort of complacence with the status quo is damaging to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #WeNeedDiverseRomance conversation. What it reads to me is that they’re happy to profit off of diverse writers, but don’t really concern themselves about working with diverse colleagues. I urge writers to challenge that and to support diverse staffing as well as diverse writers. We’re out there in the trenches, too, and it can be tough to keep going. Yet if we all band together, between us AND our allies, we can really do something here.
How do you feel you can help move diversity forward from where you’re working because of course hashtags alone won’t work?
I’m part of a POC in Publishing group where we’re strategizing the best ways of doing that, actually. If you’re working on the industry side, please hire diverse staff. If you’re a writer, buy diverse books, first and foremost, since sales figures do the real talking if we want to see more of those stories out in the world.
How do you feel about the recent changes at Harlequin with the closing of the Kimani line? Do you think it will ultimately be good for diversity in the industry?
It’s so sad to hear about closing of the announced lines–Kimani, in particular. I’m nervous about what’s going to happen to the writers of color. I don’t believe it’s a good move for diversity at this stage. I do like the idea of having those authors be integrated into the other lines, but the fear is that even with that sort of scenario, Harlequin is likely going to take on fewer writers of color because there simply won’t be room to acquire the same amount of authors that Kimani published by itself. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but if we’re operating on the assumption that Kimani wasn’t pulling in the best sales figures, then what incentive does Harlequin have to ensure that more writers of color get published? Publishing is a business, so regardless of why the books aren’t doing well, low numbers will be a barrier. If that’s the case, even the most passionate editors are going to have a harder time proving to the acquisitions board that those stories yield a profit.
Lastly, are you open to queries right now and what’s the best way for writers to query you if you are?
I’m definitely open to queries! We have an electronic submission form at www.prospectagency.com.
Thank you so much for sharing your time and insights. We are so grateful to have had you here!
All the best,