The 2015 Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference will take place on Saturday, October 3 at The New School in New York City. A series of presentations and panels, this yearly convergence of Latino literature professionals fosters the cultivation and publication of future Latino literature by linking aspiring authors to agents and editors who can help them take their manuscripts to the next level.
Latino Rebels was fortunate to be able to ask the three main organizers — Nora Comstock, Adriana Domínguez and Marcela Landres — some questions about the future of Latino literature and this year’s conference.
LR: Tell us a little bit about why Las Comadres was formed, what the objective was and is, and your role in the organization.
Nora: Las Comadres was created because so many Latinas were hungry for connection to each other. The organization was formed in 2000 at a time when social media was just emerging as a force to be reckoned with. There were not many people knowledgeable about how to use the Internet and email, and Las Comadres was the first Latina organization to fully utilize the power of the Internet for connecting us. The organization grew like wildfire. Today nearly everyone utilizes social media and there are many organizations that connect us.
In 2006 I started Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club and Teleconference Series as an informal set of interviews, originally conducted by Marcela Landres. The physical book clubs began in 2008 with the Association of American Publishers as a collaborator.
The Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference is a natural outgrowth of the three founders’ interest in reading, writing and promoting Latino writers. Our joint passion drives our efforts to provide Latino writers with guidance, access and community through our writers
LR: Why is attending an event such as the Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference crucial for any Latino authors who aspire to be published as opposed to self-published?
Marcela: Connection creates opportunity. Our conference is designed to provide attendees with ample opportunities to connect face-to-face with agents and editors who are actively seeking Latino writers. For example, we offer attendees one-on-ones during which they receive feedback on their writing from agents and editors, lunchtime seating with agents and editors for informal conversation, and a cocktail reception for mingling with all conference participants. In addition, our panelists are Latino authors who will share their stories of how they got published so attendees will learn what may lay ahead for them in their own writing careers.
LR: The publishing industry has been through major changes in the last few years. Would you say that the playing field has opened for Latino authors or are there still major obstacles to overcome?
Marcela: Any aspiring writer, Latino or non-Latino, faces challenges to being published. That said, one of the challenges to Latino writers is that there seem to be fewer Latino acquisitions editors at the larger [publishing] houses now than there were in the past. The single most important contribution Latinos can make to the literary community is to become acquisitions editors inside publishing companies and then actively seek out and publish Latino writers. The second most important contribution Latinos can make is to buy books written by Latinos.
LR: What are some of the challenges that you face as Latino literature publishing professionals, in the greater publishing arena?
Marcela: There is much to be done to help Latinos get published, and too few Latino publishing professionals to do it. We need more Latinos — and honorary Latinos — to work in every area of publishing, especially in gatekeeper positions such as acquisitions editors.
LR: Any pointers or advice for emerging Latino authors on getting an agent?
Adriana: This advice is for all writers, especially those who are just getting started: Do your homework before submitting anything to an agent. Visit the agency’s website to find out if they are interested in the type of work that you are submitting (you would not want to submit a thriller to an agent who is only interested in romance, for example). Latino authors know that I am especially receptive to their work, and if they don’t, they’d find out from looking at my client list and bio on our site.
Also, look through the agency’s submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. Although you can write an original query to catch an agent’s eye (as long as you include all of the necessary information). Avoid getting too creative when you put together your proposal. If the guidelines call for the first 10 pages of a manuscript with your query, don’t submit five, or the entire thing (and note that most agencies don’t accept attachments). This will not endear you to the person you are trying your best to impress. Instead, you may upset the agent, and in the worst of cases, land your proposal in their virtual trash bin. Remember that agents receive a very large amount of queries; you want to make their job of finding you as easy as possible. Courtesy and consideration for another’s time is always appreciated.
And last (but not least), be professional and respectful at all times when approaching an agent. You may be surprised how much better your submission will be received for it, and how helpful and receptive most agents are, especially when we see potential in your work!
For more information or to register, please visit Los Comadres’ website.
Author Charlie Vázquez is a founder of Latino Rebels and the director of the Bronx Writers Center. You can follow him @charlievazquez.