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.
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.
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.
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.