Wind Up for The Pitch: Meet Kurestin Armada
As we get ready for the 2018 Pitch Conference (April 20-21) here at the Loft, we're getting to know some of the agents and editors who will be in attendance. They can't wait to hear your pitches and read your work. If you have a finished manuscript to pitch, here's your chance—register now!
Kurestin Armada began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city’s thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books that recognize and subvert typical tropes of genre fiction.
We asked Kurestin a few questions about books, reading, and her perspective on publishing.
What's the best book (or books) you've read this year?
What a tough question! The two most recent that come to mind are: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, and Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone.
Holly Black is an established, practiced talent and that absolutely shows through in her latest book. The Cruel Prince is a writer at the top of her game writing the kind of book she does best, and the pure joy coming through makes such a difference from a reader’s perspective. It’s everything I think commercial YA fantasy should be, with a fast page-turning pace, vibrant characters, and lush writing that doesn’t get too bogged down in the weeds of world-building.
Three Parts Dead, on the other hand, is an excellent example of how debut talent shines through. It’s the first in a series and came out a few years ago, but I don’t think it got the attention (or publisher support) it deserved back then. It’s a fun, inventive twist on urban fantasy (by bringing the urban fantasy staples to a purely secondary world) and isn’t afraid to hint at lots of rich, twisty worldbuilding details. It’s a world that really feels like it has some history, while still doing new and creative things with magic. It’s not as polished as I would expect from a writer with more history behind them, but that’s part of the fun of debuts sometimes!
What's the most common misconception about agents?
There are a few that are pretty common: that agents read all day, that most queries never get actually read, that agents can shoot off in-depth editorial advice on query letters and pages in their sleep, etc. But I think a lot of them boil down to thinking agents want to reject authors or want to make things difficult for them, when really we all just want to find projects we love and authors that we can build successful careers with! Every dive through queries is fueled by the feeling that treasure is right around the corner, and every guideline is there to 1. Help those treasures get seen and 2. Let authors know what kind of agent we are, so they can choose accordingly.
What's the most rewarding part of your job? What's the most difficult part?
The most rewarding part of my job is absolutely working on client manuscripts. Every time I reread their work or brainstorm ideas, I’m reminded of the enormous trust that has been placed in me. Even for my most business-oriented authors, their books (particularly fiction) are always going to be deeply personal, so to know that they trust me with their passion projects and career dreams is very meaningful and rewarding for me.
The most difficult part is when I’m burned out on reading and don’t want to look at text ever again. Like everyone else in publishing, I grew up reading and loving books, and my relationship with them changed a lot when it became my job to work with words. It’s very hard to get back to that place of pure discovery and joy, without worrying about what reviews I’ve heard (or that not hearing any reviews is a bad sign!), how I might comp this or that book, how I would have edited it differently, etc. But somehow I always take a break, find a new book that surprises me, and rediscover my love all over again.
If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?
I would make it more accessible from a financial standpoint. It’s incredibly hard to get started working in this industry without financial support from family, a spouse, or years working another job. And it’s not because publishing houses aren’t making any money, let’s be clear. The salaries getting cut aren’t usually the ones at the top. Without paying internships, travel/lunch stipends, remote opportunities, open houses, wider candidate pools, acceptance of mid- to late-career changes, and higher starting salaries, we can’t widen the demographics of people working here. And without widening those demographics, we can’t change the landscape of what actually gets published.
Luckily, groups like WNDB, POC in Pub, Latinx in Pub, and Literary Agents of Color are trying to shift some of those things!
When you aren't out finding the next literary superstar, what keeps you busy?
I have a battalion of activities I’m always switching between, it seems. Lately I’ve been getting more into cooking (I’m obsessed with Chef’s Table!), knitting, learning another language, and drawing. I’m really invested in process, and reconnecting with how things happen/grow/are created (I dream of trying to garden one day!). And of course, anything that uses another part of my brain is incredibly refreshing. Disclaimer: I’m not very good at most of those things, but that’s not the point of it all. Who knows, maybe 10 years from now I’ll have a skill worth talking about!