Opening for Queries Again, Here's What I'm Looking for in 2018

Happy New Year, bookish friends!

I'm open for queries again on January 8th, and these are the kind of books I'm looking for... as well as the sort I'm not.

If you're new here (hi!), it's a good idea to check out some of the books I've already been lucky enough to work on. Here's a running list, and there are a few on the homepage. I also keep a manuscript wishlist here, that I update now and again. This post is basically a condensed version of that, paired with some of my favorite reads of 2017, to give you an idea of what I love.

Now then, let's dig in!

Young Adult: These books hold the biggest piece of my heart. I'm eager to find diverse stories (especially in sci-fi and fantasy), YA that does a bit of genre blending, LGBTQ+ stories, and heartfelt contemporary stories that'll make me laugh and/or cry.

What sort of reads do I dig? My favorite YA novels of 2017 were Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert, Want by Cindy Pon, Starfish by Akemi Bowman, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana, They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. That should give you an idea of the books I adore.

Science Fiction & Fantasy: I love accessible fantasy and sci-fi. John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow,  Fran Wilde, Chuck Wendig, Kat Howard, and Cherie Priest are among my favorites. My author Mike Chen's Here & Now & Then is a good example of what I like in genre.

S.A. Chakraborty's City of Brass and Sleeping Giants (as well as the sequel Waking Gods) by Sylvain Neuvel were my favorite SFF reads of 2017.

Cookbooks: I love platformed cookbook projects, from writers who know how to use a camera, or have a partner in food-writing-crime that can. And if you have an idea that isn't quite there yet, let's brainstorm!

I'm hard pressed to think of examples from last year, but my own author Lindsey Smith's book Eat Your Feelings is a good one.

Non-Fiction: I really like books that focus on pop culture, geekery, or teach readers about the odd and the unique... and I love it when all of that collides at once. Mary Roach's work is a great example, as is my own author Alex Ruben's book on Missile Command.

I'm also very interested in essay collections and memoir, from people who are writing and publishing pieces actively. My client Bassey Ikpi, whose memoir is due out in 2019, is a great example. You can spot her writing for Vice, The Root, Catapult, and numerous other outlets.

Some of my favorite essayists lately are Michele Filgate, Brandon Taylor, Mira Jacob, Morgan Jerkins, Nicole Chung, R. Eric Thomas, and Ilana Masad. They wrote pieces that made me cry, laugh, and think about my life last year. Morgan Jerkins' and Nicole Chung's books are two of my most anticipated reads of 2018.

Literary & Commercial Fiction: This year I really want to discover some unique voices in literary and commercial fiction. The sweet spot there, is work that does a bit of genre mashing. Think Station Eleven, The Last Policeman (one of my favorite books ever), The Night Circus, and novels by Tom Perrotta, especially like The Leftovers. I like literary novels with a splash of quirk.

My favorite adult novels that I read last year were The Last One by Alexandra Oliva and Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Yes, I know they came out in 2016, but I read the 2017 paperbacks thanks. These were brilliant and the perfect examples of what I'm looking for.

I recently sold a literary novel that's in line with these, that I can hopefully announce soon.

What I'm Not Looking For & Dislike:

And now, a roundup of the kind of books I'm not looking for, as well as story lines I dislike. If you're working on something in any of these genres / categories, or something that tells this kind of story, I'm not right, sorry.

And there we have it. Send me your books. Have a pitch? Here's how to query me.

A Bookish Year in Review: What I Learned About Agenting (And Life) in 2017

It's been an interesting year.

I started 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. My darling wife and I had moved to Richmond from Philadelphia to hit reset, and see what a new place could offer us. We ended the year halfway across the country, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and now have a three month old, Langston.

Amazing, what can happen in the span of a year.

I was lucky enough to see two new books published in my author life, Branded with Bloomsbury (the sequel to Inked) back in May, and the adoption-themed anthology I curated, Welcome Home with Flux in September. I went on a mini book tour, and I'm just so thankful for everyone who contributed to the scrappy little book and helped support it. Truly.

And the agent life? It has been a rollercoaster.

P.S. Literary decided to promote me from associate agent to agent this year (thank you!). I was lucky enough to see a dozen of my projects get picked up, and three of my authors had books publish this year. Rebecca Phillips' These Things I've Done,  Dave Connis' The Temptation of Adam, and Lindsey Smith's Eat Your Feelings.

Next year brings more surprises. The week Langston was born, several of my authors received offers on their books, including one offer the DAY he was born, and I've yet to announce a number of them. There's been a running joke about him being a good luck baby, and I couldn't agree more.

But much like last year, this year came with some big lessons. Even if you're not an agent, I'm hoping you can learn from some of these.

Let's go.

The PoC Pub meetup at BEA 2017

Importance of Community: One thing that agents and editors and just about everyone in publishing will stress to writers, is the importance of being involved in the bookish community. Whether you're establishing a network with booksellers, librarians, fellow authors, or behind-the-scenes industry folks, that community is so key in helping boost yourself up.

And it isn't just because you're trying to sell your book. That boost can be emotional, as well as eventually be financial.

For me, the emotional boost was so key this year. Having moved from Philadelphia in 2016 to Richmond, and then leaving Richmond just as I was getting settled to Ann Arbor... well, that's not easy. I hide it well, but being far from friends, whether they were old or new, takes a toll. Starting over, especially as you get older, isn't easy.

This year, I was endlessly grateful for the work publishing friends did with PoC in Pub (hi Patrice!), events like #DVPit (hello Beth!), and Facebook communities, like the Kidlit Alliance (hi Heidi!). Through these, I ended up meeting so many people, some in-person, most online.

My Google Chat these days, as well as my DMs on Twitter and Facebook, tend to be pretty full. And it keeps my heart afloat on days I'm feeling a bit lonely.

-#-

It me.

Burning the Candle at Both Ends Sucks: Edna St. Vincent Millay is great, and so is that poem, but my goodness, pushing yourself until you crash is a bad idea. I talked a bit about that last year, but I didn't really learn my lesson. I'm still that agent who responds to emails within minutes. I don't take my time. I push like books are suddenly going to stop being published next week.

Whether you're working on other peoples books or your own, it's okay to take a breath. Relax. You can say no to a conference, you can pass on something you simply don't have time for.

This year, I took paternity leave when Langston was just about here, from September until, well, now. I closed for queries for all that time, and I open back up come January.

But still. Over the course of my paternity leave I was still working. I sold some books. I tweeted jokes about it. Lots of my industry friends saw through it though and dove into my private messages to tell me to relax.

Remember what I said about community?

It's a lesson I'm still trying to learn. And now that Langston is here, and feeling so present as he gets older day by day... the way he smiles at me, how he laughs, the way he stops crying when he hears my footsteps coming...

Sorry guys. I'm going to say no to lots of things, and yes to him. <3

-#-

Stick the landing

Persistence Pays Off, But It's Also Okay to Let Go & Refocus: I'm a believer in running projects into the ground. I tell all my authors this when we decide to work together. I don't like to let go of things. And I think it shows, especially when I have projects I've been pitching around for years that go on to sell.

Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan was acquired by Harlequin Teen after nearly two years on sub, and Mike Chen's Here & Now & Then got scooped up by Mira in a two book deal after the same.

But it's also okay to step back, and do some thinking about why something isn't landing. What's missing? Why isn't it clicking with editors? There's a difference between pushing until you stick a landing, and pushing until you crash and burn.

I feel like this a huge lesson I learned, particularly with Mike's amazing project. It's a book that straddles family-drama and sci-fi-thriller really carefully, and that balance was a really hard one to pitch and maintain. He edited a lot. He worked with legends like Kat Howard (hire her, writers!), and eventually, it paid off.

But if it wasn't for taking those breaths, hitting the pause (hey Mike that's a joke about your next book) button, we might not have gotten here.

Refocus so you soar. Don't crash.

-#-

How about it? Via We Heart It

"No" is a Complete Sentence: I've heard this a number of times from friends in tech world, oddly enough. And I've seen it on t-shirts and coffee mugs. And it's one of the tougher lessons I've been grappling with. I get a lot of brain-pick requests. Sometimes it's to scope out a query letter or maybe read an entire book, from people that maybe don't talk to me as much as they used to... but now need something.

It's okay to say no.

Let me repeat that. Mostly for myself. It's okay to say no.

Look. I genuinely don't mind when a friend asks me for advice. I don't. I've helped polish up plenty of query letters for pals, sometimes volunteering myself when I notice them talking about it on social media. I've even read sample pages for buddies. I like helping good friends. But it's those out-of-nowhere ones that kill me.

Remember, you don't owe anyone anything. Your time is valuable. YOU are valuable. People who don't respect your time or you, are simply not worth it. If you can easily replace a "hey how's it going" with a "hey can I use you?" in a conversation, there's a problem.

Send them a link to Writers Digest or Manuscript Wishlist, and leave it at that.

-#-

Bring it on 2018.

I'm ready for you. All your books, and all your moments.

Here's How to Request Review Copies of Books by Rebecca Phillips, Samira Ahmed, & Dave Connis

three books

So, over the next few months, a few of the first books I've sold as an agent will be rolling out, and I'm so very proud of each and every one of them.

And guess what? You can request free review copies! NetGalley! Edelweiss! Physical copies that I want to re-home! Here's how.

THESE THINGS I'VE DONE by Rebecca Phillips: This beautifully devastating book will be out with HarperTeen in... gasp, two weeks! And you can still request free review copies via Edelweiss, here. https://www.edelweiss.plus/#sku=0062570900

Word on the street my agent copies are on their way, and I will want to re-home a few of them to bloggers who will post about and review them. Want a physical hardcover copy of the book? You are more than welcome to email me with details about your blog. I've only got ten though, so supplies are limited. I'll cross this out when they are all claimed.

THE TEMPTATION OF ADAM by Dave Connis: Fun fact, Dave's debut was actually the very first book I got to sell in my first months as a Baby Agent™ in 2015, and now it's here!  You can request a copy on Edelweiss, here. https://www.edelweiss.plus/#sku=1510707301.

For those of you who prefer NetGalley, you can request it here. https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/118159

I'll be getting a few agent copies in August, but don't have any agent ARCs to send out. If you want to request a physical ARC, you can email the rockstar publicity team at Sky Horse via their website.

LOVE HATE AND OTHER FILTERS by Samira Ahmed: You can currently request Samira's debut on NetGalley and Edelweiss, here.

Now, if you're interested in a physical review copy of any of these, feel free to email me (ericsmithrocks@gmail.com), and I'll forward you on to the respective publicity team. Can't make any promises, but I'm happy to send your request forward.

Deals: Making Friends With Giants by Bassey Ikpi Acquired by Harper Perennial

bassey harper

Sometimes, books start in the quirkiest of places.

Like in a Facebook conversation with a friend from back home.

Steve Clark, a storyteller from back in Philadelphia who I've seen numerous time at various First Person Arts events, sent me a message one fateful day. He's one incredibly gifted guy, and my goodness, I look forward to seeing his book in stores one day. And when he brought up his friend, I was happy to take a look at the project, and recommend other agents for it, in the event it wasn't for me.

Turns out, it was definitely for me.

Some of you might recognize Bassey Ikpi. And you should. Here's her Twitter. Her Wikipedia. You probably saw her on Def Poetry Jam, or read one of her many essays or articles around the Internet. I highly suggest checking out her gorgeous, recent essays on Catapult. She's a rockstar, and I'm so happy Steve connected us.

Bassey and I exchanged really long emails discussing her work. The essays she'd written. Her poetry and time with Def Poetry Jam. The articles for places like The Root, Essence, XO Jane, and more. She wanted to put together a book that would help push her mission... erasing the stigma around mental health for women of color.

My wife often writes about mental health, on her blog Down to Utopia, so this was something really close to me. I absolutely had to be the agent who worked on this project with Bassey.

We spent a lot of time pouring over this project together. And the resulting book, Making Friends With Giants, is a memoir about living with mental illness, and my goodness, I can't wait for it to be out there in the world, making a difference. It's my hope people will pick up Bassey's story, and feel less alone.

And I'm thrilled to say Making Friends With Giants will be published by Harper Perennial in 2018. Here are the details, from Publisher's Marketplace:

bassey

Go ahead and follow Bassey, her editrix Erin Wicks, and Harper Perennial on Twitter, and wish them all the congrats. And here's to making books that help make the world a better place.

How to Nail an In-Person Pitch: Some Questions You Should Be Ready For

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I love taking in-person pitches at publishing conferences.

It's how I found Lindsey Smith (her book, Eat Your Feelings, comes out with St. Martin's Press next year!), and I've had the wonderful opportunity to talk with numerous writers around the country. About their books, about their platforms, all kinds of good stuff, sharing advice as well as dishing out suggestions for their projects.

But without fail, at every conference I attend, there are certain questions I ask that seem to trip writers up. And sometimes, not having answers to those questions sends up serious red flags.

So I thought I'd do a little post, to dish out some tips for those of you pitching agents and editors in-person. Because while you may have polished that pitch to perfection, you're going to need to answer these kind of questions. (more…)