October 3, 2008

Networking: A Smart Step for Latino Writers

Q & A with senior book editor Johanna Castillo

By Marcela Landres

Johanna Castillo joined Simon & Schuster in 2005 and has been instrumental in building a formidable Latino publishing program. Johanna is one of those rare commodities that the book business sorely needs: an astute businessperson who is also a staunch bibliophile. Hailing from Ecuador, she brings a much-needed international perspective to an industry that is not receptive enough to talent beyond our borders.

Johanna is a Senior Editor at Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, developing a list of authors for the Latino-Hispanic market. Johanna specializes in bringing the Latino culture together and representing the voices of all those Latinos who have a success story to share. Her passion for this area of the market originates from her firm belief in the great impact Latinos have on the U.S. Atria books launched the line with Laura Esquivel’s novel Malinche and The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra, which became an instant New York Times bestseller.

Prior to joining Atria Books she was a literary agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, Inc. where she developed a list of Latino clients. Johanna is a graduate from The City University of New York, Baruch College. She is interested in publishing Latino literary fiction and commercial fiction in both Spanish and English.

Q: Why is Atria a great home for Latino writers?

A: One of Atria’s goals is to create an environment where our authors can flourish. We also publish our Latino authors under the same umbrella as all of our other authors because we believe that Latino voices should be read by everyone. We are very dedicated to our authors and always look at their long term writing careers. But what makes Atria even more special is that we are committed to transmitting messages from national and international voices that will entertain and also enlighten the lives of our readers by celebrating different cultures.

Q: Which Latino authors have you published?

A: Laura Esquivel, Javier Sierra, Fabiola Santiago, Michelle Herrera Mulligan, Anjanette Delgado and many other wonderful Latino writers.

Q: What kinds of manuscripts do you seek?

A: In fiction, I am interested in historical fiction and smart commercial women’s fiction. In non-fiction, I’m seeking self-help and inspirational memoirs.

Q: How can writers avoid your “Reject” pile and get into your “Pursue” pile?

A: I used to be an agent and a great pitch letter and a well-done proposal always makes me want to read the entire manuscript. When I receive fiction under submission it really helps if the manuscript comes with praise from a well-known author. My best advice, though, is to make sure that the manuscript is in perfect shape before it’s submitted to publishers. The writer should also try to get feedback about their manuscript from other writers, or participate in a writing class where the other attendees will critique their manuscript.

Q: Other than honing their craft, what is the smartest step writers can take to become successfully published?

A: Networking is a key factor. They should try to meet other writers, blog, have a great website. If the person writes fiction, he or she should try to write a short story and submit it to different publications. If he or she is writing non-fiction, it’s important to have an established media platform before submitting the proposal. I strongly suggest taking a writing class. Most of the time, the instructors are editors or know editors. I have received recommendations from instructors about new writers.

Q: To what address should authors forward queries to you?

A: Atria Books
1230 Avenue of the
Americas, 13th floor
NY, NY 10020
Attention: Johanna Castillo

About Marcela Landres: Marcela Landres is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published. She was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster and is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. Reprinted from LatinoLa.com

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