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,
I’ve been holding on to this news for a little while and I’m so happy to now be able to share it far and wide (social media pun totally intended). I’ve been signed on to write a novella called FRIENDING THE FASHIONISTA for Samhain Publishing under the fabulous executive editor Latoya Smith who I adore and have been wanting to work with for so long. FRIENDING will be the first in my Flirty Fashionista series, marrying my love of fashion and romance.
I can’t thank Latoya enough for taking me on and my fantastic agent Rachel Brooks from the L. Perkins Agency for making it all happen. Thank you ladies for helping to make my publishing dreams come true.
Now let me get to writing… after a dance just a little but more.
All the best,
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Those in the know will recognize the nod the Notorious B.I.G. in my blog title. Those who don’t, I’m sorry about that, it’s the lyric that’s been running through my head for the last week or so that along with the probably much more appropriate, gospel lyric, “I’m so glad they prayed for me.” Both are almost equally fitting to my monumental feelings right now.
A little over a week ago, after more years than I’d now care to admit (I’m getting up there ya’ll) I got my first ever CALL. You know the one that all writers dream of and daydream about and make up elaborate stories around. Well, nowadays THE CALL can oftentimes come via email but this one actually did come on the phone.
But before the CALL I did receive an email from my new rock star agent, Rachel Brooks, with the L. Perkins Agency with the subject line: CAN I CALL??? In all caps. And her being the amazing magical intuitive fairy she is, knowing me oh-so-well for the neurotic I am, she put in the email that she had good new and a super fun gif of two women in a lather of excitement because she also knows I love a gif way too much.
I quickly answered her back, yes, and to that Rachel called and let me know that after so many years of trudging my way, I had received an offer from the amazing Selena James for a 3 book deal plus a Novella with Kensington Book’s Dafina imprint. Hold the phone!
What the- Get. Out. Of. Town!
Here is the official announcement from Publishers Marketplace.
I am over the moon right now and so thrilled to be welcomed into this new publishing home. Not to mention, but to mention, being humbled and honored to be in the presence of so many talented writers who have come before me at Dafina. Talk about blown away.
I know my late Nana is smiling wide right now. Her prayers and mine plus those of my mother and all my family and friends have been answered and I hope to make her and the rest of them very proud.
Thank you all, and especially my ever patient Dear DH, so much for all your continued support and love.
I can’t wait to see what the next few years bring us!
All the best with all my heart,
- Today My Fab Agent, Elaine Spencer from The Knight Agency is back with the first round of questions answered from Ask The Agent.Did your question make the cut? Check it out.But please keep tuning in. There will be more questions answered next week. Major thanks to Elaine for taking the time to answer these in between her hectic travel schedule.Here goes:1.What do you look for in query letters when selecting writers to work with?
The number one thing that I look for in query letters is a professional product. I look for someone who has obviously done their homework on the querying process and on our agency. We hope to see that the potential client has a basic understanding of the business and what is expected of them as a potential client.
The query letter acts as a general introduction, think of it as a first interview. If an author can’t follow directions at this preliminary step it sets off warning signs for difficulties that we may encounter at every step down the line.
There is a plethora of information available not only on the internet but at every imaginable writing event across the country on how to write a great query letter. It is really a pretty straight forward piece of the puzzle. We hope to gain a clear idea of the project being presented and of the author who is presenting it. We aren’t looking for bells, whistles or confetti, just the bare-bones facts about the project at hand and a high-concept pitch!
It sounds too good to be true, I know, but really this is a tough business, we need to see in a very simple way that the project has what it takes to stand out from the crowd.
2. What’s the best part of your job?
There are a million great things about my job! I can go on for days and days here. I think that this speaks directly to the favorite part of my: Variety. There is SO MUCH variety. Not only am I working with very wonderful and very different people and projects on a daily basis but I’m working with them in a variety of ways. Some days I’m inquisitively reading, some days I’m evoking my creative muse, some days I am the hard-nosed negotiator, and then others I’m the compassionate shoulder to lean on.
Our job is a million things all rolled into one. Agents act as educators, entrepreneurs, promoters, counselors, planners, you name it, and we do it in some capacity or another.
3.What’s The Knight Agency’s normal response time? How Many queries do you normally get?
The Knight Agency’s typical response time to queries is on average two weeks. Some times (as in right now!) we get a little behind and can lag up to a month, and then sometimes we respond every 2-3 days. This flex’s depending on a variety of things including project loads, travel, etc.
For partial submissions this is more based agent to agent. On average for the agency we are between 3-6 months.
In both of these cases, if it seems that it has been an absurd amount of time more than that between the time when you sent your email off to us and hearing a response SEND A FOLLOW UP!
I can’t tell you how many times messages are blocked by spam filters and such, this sounds like an excuse, but really when our email server is handling as much mail as we receive its unfortunately pretty common. We have tried to combat it but without making ourselves completely susceptible to all spam it seems there is little else we can do to ensure delivery either on our end or yours.
We receive about 300 queries a week and read several hundred partial submissions a year. That makes for a lot of mail.
4.What is the single most important thing an agent and a writer need in order to work well with one another.
Is the answer sand-paper?
Sand Paper? I’m not quite sure I’m following there. The number one thing that an agent and client need to work well together is clear lines of communication. Simple as that. If both parties are communicating what their wants and needs are there shouldn’t be any grey area here.
Now within certain relationships at some point in time it might become apparent that despite clear communication the client/agent just aren’t a good business match. That’s unavoidable due to the ever changing nature that applies to all parts of this business. There is not a one-size fits all agent out there. The best way to find your perfect fit again goes back to communicating clearly up front exactly what you want out of the relationship.
5. Are you still able to read for pleasure? What non-cliented reads have you read lately? And who would you love to represent (besides your current roster, of course)?
Of Course I still read for pleasure. Reading is my passion. Not only is it something that I love in my job, but also its one of the things I love in my life. Sometimes with all of the “work” reading it’s hard to remember what it feels like to just get lost in a great book simply for the joy of it. I try to avoid that though, because at the end of the day there still is nothing better than curling up with a captivating story. The longer I’m in the business the more I realize how important it is to take the time out to remember that feeling.
As a professional it keeps us fresh and reminds us of the most basic purpose of our job, to bring people stories that will have an impact on their life.
Some great reads of late, The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff, The Pact by Jodi Picoult, Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr, A Dangerous Beauty by Sophia Nash, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Rites of Spring by Diana Peterfreund, A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – These are all totally random selections that I have loved, as you can see I’m really I’m all across the board.
6. I have a question for you. How do you feel about sharing a client with another agent–i.e., if the other agent only reps one genre of writing, but the client wants to write in another, too, and needs/wants representation for it. Do you or your agency ever run into this situation? Do you think it can work out okay? If so, any tips on how to make it work and how someone in this situation would go about it?
I think its possible, but not ideal, we try to avoid it at all costs. Here within TKA we share certain clients within the agency, but that’s a whole different topic I suspect. I do know situations where an author has needed separate agents, so again I’m not saying it is impossible, but its just not that common.
Since I’ve never been involved in a situation such as this I really can’t offer much advice on it beyond the obvious. I think it is most important that all involved parties are offering full disclosure up front regarding all business matters. It is going to be important that each agent is aware of the scheduling restrictions and deadlines that are involved with each other.
My advice would be to TRY to find an agent or agency that handles all the genres you are working on. Not only will your agent/s be able to better plan and prepare for your future but this should help prevent confusion on what you heard from one agent in comparison to the other.
7. I realize that you as an agent may handle this in a specific way that renders my question completely irrelevant at your agency, but *in general,* say an agent reads a full, writes a nice long letter about revisions, and tosses the ball back to the author with the option of viewing it again after a revision if the suggestions make sense to the author. All of this is rather open-ended (ie, I don’t know if we’re even as far as if-then statements–just “ifs.”). What, in general, do you and your cohorts view as a reasonable time to do these open-ended revisions in? A few weeks? A few months? Any idea of a generally reasonable timeline would be appreciated. Thanks!
Hmm. Anything that shows you have put detailed thought and consideration into revising the manuscript as a whole. If someone sends the manuscript back to me within 24 hours (don’t laugh, it happens!) or even within the week, I’m going to assume they breezed through these and didn’t REALLY put a lot of thought into making the manuscript stronger.
I would say that it should take a few weeks to make the changes, depending on how detailed the letter is. Its hard to generalize because editorial suggestions can really be across the board in scope. Obviously it will take less time if they are just asking you to bulk some stuff up versus a request to revisit an entire storyline.
I would suggest that you sit on the edits for a few days after receiving the letter to really let the ideas and suggestions sink in. Let them roll around in your end and really form into a fuller picture. Typically an agent isn’t asking for an easy fix, in most instances the suggestions are things that are really making or breaking the story. They shouldn’t be easy, and they should take a bit to come to fruition.
Plus, remember, this is most likely your last shot, you want to make sure you get it right! I would suggest when you respond to the agent that you outline their suggestions in your email/letter and let them know how you tackled them. This in itself can save both parties some time, it can help identify if the edits are heading in the envisioned direction.Wow! That’s it for round one. Great questions folks and Great answers, Elaine. Don’t forget to tune back in for the next round. Thanks again to, Elaine and thank to all of you for stopping by.Best,Kwana
What’s Jack up to? Ugh! The wild dog tried to give the DH a heart attack this morning on his walk by dashing out into the street towards a car. Thankfully he’s fine. Not so sure about the DH.
Thanks to all of you who submitted questions on Ask The Agent yesterday. There’s still time to chime in. If you want to ask submit here. I’ll be writing up the interview soon and submitting it to Elaine. I’ll give a shout out as to when it will be posted. Great Fun! Thanks again.
Speaking of fun…
Happy Birthday to my dear DH! My own sweet knight in not so shining armor (not his fault. I’m just a poor armor shiner). No this is not my DH in this photo, but this is me at about the time I met my DH about 20 years ago with my big time forever crush, Prince.
Then my DH came along. He was my total opposite with his southern charm and cool demeanor, but he and give me the same type of chills as the very best Prince song. I was a lost from the start.
He really is my true BFF, my toughest critic and greatest supporter. Sticking by me at my best and worst and understanding me when no one else does.
Happy Birthday DH!
I Love you. But you already know that.
What’s Jack up to? Well, he’s really bummed today. We can no longer hold Nana hostage and she’s going home today, so no more clandestine treats for Jack. Sad days ahead. Waaa….This weekend while having lunch with my Fab Agent, Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency , Elaine agreed to be interviewed on my humble little blog here. So we were brainstorming on what she would be interviewed about and she came up with the idea of Ask the Agent. That means the interview is up to you!Please feel free to post your burning (not too burning-this is a family show!) questions in the comments section and I’ll pose a bunch for Elaine to answer here. So what do you want to know? Don’t be shy. This should be fun!Best,Kwana