A Cafe Chat with Literary Agent Linda Camacho, by Kristen Strocchia

Our Query Grind webinar series is back by popular demand! This four-part series will dive deep into the query process and the ins and outs of working with an agent. To kick off the series on January 27, our first webinar will be led by literary agent Linda Camacho, who will present “Things To Know About Literary Agents.” You can learn more about it and register here. In preparation for the event, our assistant regional advisor, Kristen Strocchia, had a virtual chat with Linda Camacho at the EasternPennPoints Café. Let’s hear what they had to say!

A Café Chat with Literary Agent Linda Camacho

Kristen: Welcome to our virtual café in the land of chocolate. Before we get down to business, how about a nibble? We have Hershey’s from Hershey, Gertrude Hawk from Scranton, killer chocolate ice cream from Turkey Hill down by Philly, and any other chocolate you might wish for. What’s your pleasure?

Linda: Ooh, I do love chocolate! I could always go for a classic Hershey’s chocolate bar with almonds.

Kristen: Great choice! I think I’ll have a Scranton classic, the Gertrude Hawk smidgen, peanut butter all the way. We’re so excited for your upcoming webinar, “Things To Know About Literary Agents.” There’s so much to research when deciding who to query, it’s not always easy to know which things to focus on. What kinds of expectations or misperceptions do you find that authors bring to the relationship?

Linda: The main misperception is that agents are haughty, powerful beings who deign to look at writers’ work. But really, agents are book-loving nerds who are eager to fall in love with new stories. When an agent offers rep, they’re excited to get to know the writer, so writers shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves and interview the agent. The writer has more power than they know. 

Kristen: That’s super encouraging! I’ve heard that following an agent’s submission guidelines helps lay the foundation for a good working relationship. But some guidelines can be subjective, like the request for a polished manuscript. What does polished mean to you personally? And what kinds of revision needs might be an automatic pass for you?

Linda: Polished means that the manuscript is as tight and clean as possible. It shouldn’t be an early draft (like a NaNoWriMo first draft), but one that has had beta readers and has really been worked on as much as possible. I don’t really have automatic turnoffs, though if a manuscript is riddled with grammatical errors, I’d likely pass.

Kristen: I noticed on Twitter that you are currently closed to queries. When an agent closes to queries, what does that look like for existing clients? (i.e., Can they still submit new projects? What kind of communication expectations are realistic during this time? Any workflow courtesies to observe?)

Linda: Nothing changes for existing clients. My focus remains on them, as they’re the priority. I tend to close to submissions when I’m feeling a bit busier than average with my clients, like if I had many manuscripts to get in shape for pitching editors. That means I’ll have even less time to read outside submissions, so I close up shop for a bit.

Kristen: Authors can learn about your personality and literary tastes through Manuscript Wish List, your agency bio, social media feeds like Twitter, online interviews, and attending events where you are speaking. But as an agent, you are also looking for a good client relationship fit. Of all the material and communication you gather, what insight helps you to know “This is a person I can really work with”?

Linda: It really is a gut instinct that starts with the first conversation when I’m deciding to offer representation. I always have a talk with the potential client first and ask many questions (and answer many, in turn) to see if it could be a good collaborative fit. Then we get to know each other over time and, hopefully, that initial instinct is confirmed. Open communication is key, so a client should always be up-front about what they need from me since I really do want our relationship to be a solid one built on trust.

Kristen: Thank you for such open and honest insight. We’re looking forward to taking a deeper dive into the agent-writer relationship with you during the webinar. But before we let you go today, how about a couple of get-to-know-you questions, lightning-round style? 

  1. TV show you’d love to see as a book/book seriesPose
  2. Favorite TV character—Blanca from Pose
  3. Travel destination/s on the top of your TBV (To Be Visited) list—Egypt
  4. Best unsolicited advice you’ve ever received—Don’t forget to take a break every now and again!
  5. Favorite piece of unsolicited advice for authors in general—Don’t give up! The last person standing is usually the one that gets published.

Kristen: How great would it be to visit Egypt while taking that every-now-and-again break? That would definitely recharge the creative batteries to keep going. But on this frigid Eastern PA day, a chocolate break will have to do. And I’m glad I got to spend it getting to know you and your agenting style a little better. 

We hope everyone will join us for the webinar on January 27 @7pm Eastern time and get to know both Linda and the agenting process a little better. We will also be giving away a book by one of Linda’s clients at the end of the night. To register, go to https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-series-query-grind-2022/.

Linda Camacho graduated from Cornell with a B.S. in Communication and has held various positions at Penguin Random House, Dorchester, Simon and Schuster, Writers House, and Prospect Agency. She’s done everything from foreign rights to editorial to marketing to operations, and received her MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Now at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, Linda is looking for MG, YA, and adult fiction across all genres (especially upmarket, women’s fiction/romance, and literary horror).

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