Book Expo & Book Con 2017: First Signings, Accessible Conferences, & POC in Publishing

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I’ve been going to BEA for the past eight years, and Book Con for every year it’s existed… but this year’s Book Expo America and Book Con was extra special. I feel like a little recap is required this time around.

So. Here we go.

The great thing about conferences like these, is you’re able to sit down and talk to industry people in-real-life. Publishing is a personal business. Books and reading taste, it’s all subjective. Being able to talk about what you’re reading, what you love… that in-person experience doing that is so valuable. And I’m so thankful for all the editors who wanted to hangout while I was in town.

But the most emotional part of the entire event, was watching one of my authors do a signing at the convention, and get a copy of her book for the first time.

First up, Wednesday. Read more

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

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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:

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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. Read more

Deals: Suggested Reading by Dave Connis Acquired by Katherine Tegen Books

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When I offered to represent Dave Connis, his debut novel sold ten days later.

But that’s not what this post is about.

When Dave first queried me, I asked to read his book immediately. I devoured his hilarious and heartwrenching YA contemporary novel, Suggested Reading, in just a few days. The story of a teen that starts a black market library in her locker after her school bans classic books… well, it was one I couldn’t put down. I laughed. I cried. And the emails that Dave and I had already swapped told me we were a perfect match.

However, Suggested Reading would have to wait.

The first book of his to get acquired was The Temptation of Adam, which will be out in the Fall of 2017 with Sky Pony Press. You can add it to your Goodreads here, btw. He’s been busy editing that beautiful book with his rockstar editrix, Nicole Frail, while I’ve been off pitching his second novel.

And I’m thrilled to say that Suggested Reading will be published by Katherine Tegen Books in 2019, acquired by Claudia Gabel.

I’m psyched to see Dave joining this fantastic HarperCollins imprint. They publish stunning books by authors I’m a massive fan of, like Mindy McGinnis, Mackenzi Lee, Brittany Cavallaro, and Stacey Lee. They published the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, which launched an epic YA franchise. And I’m beyond thrilled that Dave will be alongside them.

Here’s the announcement, from Publisher’s Marketplace.

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Be sure to follow Dave, his editor Claudia Gabel, and Katherine Tegen Books on Twitter, and wish all of them congrats.

I knew you could do it Dave. Proud of you.

My First Full Year as a Literary Agent: Six Lessons I Learned

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So last year was my first full year working as a literary agent.

I had a lot of awesome victories that I shouted to the social media winds and posted about here. I signed a number of rockstar authors, from well-established authors to debuts. You can check out my team in this handy Twitter list. They are all wonderful. I went to a bundle of conferences all around the country, so many that I can’t remember all the places. I even sold some books I can’t quite announce just yet.

And the ones I did announce? I’m so proud of them.

And while all of that sounds awesome, there were some big hurdles in the mix, and some major lessons I took away. Because for every author I picked up, there was another I didn’t get to work with. There were conferences that were, sadly, not a good use of my time. And I’m going to try to get better at handling all of these things.

Here are some of the lessons I learned, that I hope you can learn from too. Read more