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Agent Interview: Linda Camacho

1. What was your path to becoming an agent? 

If only that were a question I could answer quickly! My journey in publishing has been a little backwards, if you want to know the truth. There are two kinds of people in publishing: Those who struggled to get in and those who were lucky to fall into it. I straddle both categories. I graduated from Cornell in 2005 with no clear idea of what I wanted to do, and it was over lunch with an alum (a person of color) that the idea of book publishing came up.  I loved to read, she said, so that might be a place to start. The alum connected me to a human resources woman (POC) she'd met, who was in charge of diversity recruitment. HR got in touch with me and I submitted my resume for an editorial opening  that didn't pan out. HR lady then asked if I might be interested in a job in reprints, and though I had no idea what that was, I said yes. I went in for an interview (with a POC manager) and was thrilled to get the offer shortly after.

I'd landed my first job. Only, I didn't love it. I loved Penguin, don't get me wrong.  But what I was doing wasn't quite right for me. Between that and the fact that it was my first job, I wondered if maybe I was supposed to be doing something else with my life. My supervisor, who'd been there since she'd graduated from college, mused aloud every now and again how she'd always been interested in law school herself. If she didn't have a family, she'd say, she'd have gone to law school or travelled. Done something else entirely.  I was shelving books one day when Susan Estrich's How to Get into Law School fell on my head. A sign, I thought. I read the book from cover to cover and handed in my resignation.

I did not go to law school. Luckily, about a year after I left, I realized I missed publishing. I definitely did not miss reprint production, so I figured on getting into another department, though I wasn't sure which. Publicity? Marketing? Editorial? Either way, I figured it would be a piece of cake to land another publishing job, seeing as how it had been so easy the first time. 

Silly me. 

I had to take a bunch of internships to get back in. I interned in various departments at Dorchester Publishing, Simon and Schuster, Random House, and Writers House literary agency.

Eventually, Random House children’s eventually took pity and hired me to work on marketing picture books all the way through young adult titles. It was a fantastic learning experience, but I still wasn'tquite where I wanted to be. After five years there, I then did informational interviews and was able to move into agenting. And I love it!

2. Why agenting, specifically? 

It was my internship at Writers House that planted the seed. Before that, I had only been interested in editorial (like many people trying to break into the industry).

I didn’t know much about agenting at the time, but I learned a lot there. It was a rigorous, structured program that taught me about all the different aspects of the job. Before Writers House, I wanted to become an editor, but after that? Agenting was a better fit. There's more flexibility, as I’m not tied to an imprint like editors are. I can acquire anything that catches my eye and then advocate for it to my heart's content.

3. What's at the top of your wishlist right now? 

I represent picture books up through adult fiction. For picture books and graphic novels, I prefer writer-illustrators. I've been looking for more high concept middle grade and young adult fiction (I'd love a great fantasy or western, for instance). For adult fiction, I'm especially looking to expand in romance/women's fiction and upmarket/bookclub fiction (the next Sarah MacLean or Liane Moriarty, please!). Oh, and I'd LOVE a story featuring fat characters whose character arc is independent of weight loss (like Sarai Walker's Dietland).

Honestly, though? What I really want to be is surprised. I want something fresh and original, and if you can make me laugh and cry, you've got me.

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