Monday, February 23, 2015

Have You Met Linda?

Wow, so apparently you guys are as excited about me doing romance as I am! I've already gotten a bunch of submissions in various romance genres that I am looking forward to digging through when I have time...hopefully later this week.  BIG thanks to my wonderful author Kim Graff, who spread the word on Twitter and is the reason that the majority of these authors queried me.  You're the best, Kim!

As promised, I am introducing our newest agent, Linda Camacho in an interview I did with her this week.  We are very happy to have her be a part of the agency and I hope that you all enjoy getting to know her and will send her submissions :)

So tell us a little bit about your background!

I've been in publishing about ten years now. Right after I graduated Cornell, 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 get 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 took pity and hired me. I've been in children’s marketing for the last five years, 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.

What made you decide to switch to agenting?

For the longest time, I wanted to be an editor.  Then I landed the internship at Writers House and my time there turned me on to the idea of agenting. Honestly, I never really understood what agents actually did until I was given the chance to see it for myself.  Editors have more stability in a corporate job, but an agent is not tied to an imprint the way an editor is.  The freedom to acquire anything I want and to foster talent from the ground up is exhilarating. You just can’t beat it.

What genres are you looking to build your list with, and are there any dream projects that you hope to see?

Hm, that’s a tough one, since I like so many things. I enjoy select literary fiction, so that’s more of an I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it scenario.  A couple of favorites are She’s Come Undone and The Kite Runner.  I also like upmarket fiction—that crossbreed between literary and commercial—like The Night Circus or The Time Traveler’s Wife.  In terms of genre fiction, I just love romance, horror, and fantasy—like Outlander, Rosemary’s Baby, Coraline, and Graceling. While I do certainly enjoy lighter fare, I could use some of the following in YA, since I don’t see a ton of it: horror, dark fantasy, and thriller. I can’t get enough of fairy tale retellings, either. And if the manuscript has diverse characters, all the better! 

As a new agent, I remember how excited I was when I first started working with my own clients.  What do you most enjoy about agenting and what kind of agent would you describe yourself as, i.e. hands-on, editorial?

In addition to the flexibility of agenting, I love to nurture talent and act as the author’s advocate 100%.  There’s no divided loyalty as an editor has with a publishing house and I’m there (ideally) for the duration of my clients’ careers, leading them every step of the way through the wilds of publishing.

Since you've worked at Random House in their marketing department, do you think this will affect the way you work with your clients?

With my background, I have a pretty well-rounded view of the whole publication process. It’s that understanding that I can bring to the table when helping to guide my clients in their decision-making.  As far as marketing specifically, I definitely have a close eye on the marketplace and am keenly aware of how a publishing house will present a project to yield the best sales possible. It will be of particular use if I need to help brainstorm with clients who might be stuck on their next project.

Do you have any insider marketing/promotion advice for authors?

I do!  Authors should keep in mind that the key to marketing is building relationships.  I've seen authors (particularly on social media) plug their work without having invested the time in engaging with others on a genuine level and it can come off as spam advertising of sorts.  Readers won’t be impressed if they’re bombarded with messages to buy your book—they’ll they feel like they’re being marketed to on an impersonal level.  Authors should give of themselves to their readers and fellow writing community before asking for anything of them.

Is there anything else you'd like authors to know about you?

I love musicals and gory horror movies. On reflection, Sweeney Todd just might be the perfect mash up of the two.  If that doesn't speak to my widely diverging tastes, I don’t know what does!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

I've Changed My Mind (Just in Time to Semi-Coincide With Valentine's Day)

I am pushing aside anxieties (and vague annoyances) on the yet-to-be-landed deals that I am waiting to hear back about to announce something fun instead.  I think this has been in the works for awhile now and I just haven't realized it, but having Emily as my mentor, and going to RWA this past summer made me realize something...
I do want to represent romance!

This really hit me over the head when an author that I was interested (who wrote romance) asked me why I was requesting her book when she had discovered in a very quick amount of time that I state that I am not interesting in representing it.

In the past, I stated that it wasn't a genre that I wanted, mainly because when I thought of romance I thought of formulaic, downmarket romances that had Fabio on the cover.  Now, having been around romance authors and novels a bit more, I've discovered that there are plenty of smart stories that I really enjoy.  After subconsciously letting all these realizations simmer, I now know that I favor novels about strong heroines (I DO NOT want to read about naive wallflowers who meet confident, dominant men and are swept off their feet) and that also have plots that aren't purely romance-driven but have a story line involving transformation for the main character outside of her relationship.

Not to mention that the romance industry is a thriving, ever-growing one with prolific authors and dedicated readers...definitely a great environment to be a part of!  Our newest agent, Linda Camacho, is also interested in acquiring romance, and she and I had an interesting conversation about it the last night.  I will be posting an interview with her soon so that you can all get to know the newest member of Prospect Agency :)

So yeah, romance authors: send your manuscripts my way.  I'm officially looking to build my list!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Query Critique Winner

Congrats to Amber, who was lucky #8 this time around!

Dear Ms. Pestritto, Hell shouldn’t terrify a demon, but Jay Adams can’t think of a worse fate. Life in a sweltering abyss is enough to drive anyone insane. But, unless he can tempt a final human to sin, Hell is exactly where he will end up. Manipulating one girl shouldn’t be a problem but things aren’t as simple as he expects. His assignment, Devon, wants nothing to do with him. She has more important things to deal with – like graduating high school and getting away from her alcoholic father. But the harder Jay tries to get close to her, the more his feelings grow. Loving his assignment can’t end well. Not when it means dragging her down a path to damnation. When Jay fails to complete the mission, Hell doesn’t just come for him. They want Devon, too. By telling her the truth about demons, Jay unknowingly played into his boss’s hands. Devon wasn’t assigned by chance and, now that she’s a liability, Jay’s boss has the justification needed for revenge. Jay is left facing the hardest decision imaginable. He can stay and protect the girl he loves, or run and save himself. At 85,000 words, DARKNESS WHISPERED is a YA Fantasy with series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely,Amber Riley

And here is my critique:

Dear Ms. Pestritto, 
An eternity in Hell shouldn’t terrify a demon, but Jay Adams can’t think of a worse fate. [Does this mean Jay is a demon?  Or he can't imagine a worse fate for demons?] Life in a sweltering abyss is enough to drive anyone insane. [The idea of sweating eternally doesn't make me think "road to insanity."  Can you put a better depiction of the agonies of Hell here?] But, unless he can tempt a final human to sin, [What do you mean "final"?] Hell is exactly where he will end up. [So he's not in Hell yet?] 
Manipulating one girl shouldn’t be a problem but things aren’t as simple as he expects. His assignment, Devon, wants nothing to do with him isn’t so easily lead astray. She has more important things to deal with – like graduating high school and getting away from her alcoholic father. But the harder Jay tries to get close to her, the more his feelings grow. [I’m a little confused about what Jay is doing here.  Is he posing as a human and going to Devon’s high school?  Is he invading her dreams?  Let us know more about the plot here.] Loving his assignment can’t end well. Not when it means dragging her down a path to damnation. 
When Jay fails to complete the mission tempt Devon, Hell doesn’t just come for to punish him. They want Devon, too. By telling her the truth about demons, [When did he do this?] Jay unknowingly played into his boss’s [i.e. the Devil?] hands. Devon wasn’t assigned to Jay by chance and, now that she’s a liability [How is she a liability and what about her is so special to Hell?], Jay’s boss has the justification needed for revenge [Revenge on whom?]. Jay is left facing the hardest decision imaginable.: He can stay and protect the girl he loves, or run and save himself. 
At 85,000 words, DARKNESS WHISPERED is a YA Fantasy with series potential. 
Thank you for your time and consideration. 
Amber Riley

This is a good start, but there were a lot of things about this query that left me confused.  There are  holes in the way the story is shared, and I was left uncertain as to what this is about.  There are some intriguing ideas here, but overall, this pitch isn't accurately getting the heart of DARKNESS WHISPERED across.  Clarify who Jay is and his role as a demon, as well as what happens when he is sent to make Devon sin.  We also need to have a better idea of what is at stake here: why is Devon special to Hell and what unleashed on the two of them once Jay fails his mission?

What are your thoughts, everyone?  Do you have any suggestions or comments to help Amber with her query?  I think she may really benefit from your thoughts, since I will be the first to admit that heavy sci-fi/fantasy is not my area of expertise!

Monday, February 2, 2015


I have been a reading machine these past few days, helped along by the fact that I stayed home Monday and Tuesday because of the the blizzard.  There was something so cozy about reading on the couch in my pajamas and watching the snow fall outside my looks like today is going to be the same deal, because it is snowing again!

Even though I am pretty caught up on my reading now, there are plenty of other things I have to tackle.  I hate doing it, but I have to get more aggressive with my follow-ups with editors...there are some I haven't heard from in several months and some whom I really want to make deals with soon.

I had a bit of a meltdown on the phone with my best friend about wanting more time to be a deal-making superagent, and in a lovely, cosmic situation that might actually be the case for me soon!  

I've been talking with Emily and also with John about quitting the restaurant entirely, which would be both scary and cool.  There will be spurts of strategizing here and there to see when the timing will be right, but it is for sure in the cards...I will eventually be a one-job woman!  The restaurant is bit of a security blanket for me; the work is easy and the paycheck is steady and I like everyone there a lot.  But not having all my time to focus on my career has definitely put some things on the back burner for me, like updating our website, which I've been dying to do.  

I wouldn't say no to having a bit more time to spend with John either.  Working every day of the week hasn't left me a lot of time to hang out with him and I know he's getting a little lonely.  Oh yeah, and wedding planning.  Ideally I would also eventually like to do that :)

P.S. Query Critique results next week!