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.

Win a Bundle of My 2017 Authors Books!

Ah, the end of the year is here.

It was a pretty lovely year agent-wise. A bunch of (announced!) deals, including seven new YA novels, a memoir, a cookbook, and two adult sci-fi and fantasy books, which is making 2018 and 2019 shape up to be really busy. And I'm so proud of my author children.

This year, I had my first three books as an agent come out, and I want to give you a chance to win a bundle of them to read at home!

These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips: Came out with HarperTeen in August, and is the story of a teen girl who accidentally kills (!!!) her best friend... and subsequently falls for her best friend's younger brother. It's a story about love and loss, and learning to forgive yourself. Rebecca's second book, The Girl You Thought I Was, comes out with HarperTeen next year.

The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis: The very first project I sold and published by Sky Pony back in November, it's the story of a teen boy who wrestles with porn addiction, and finds himself discovering new friends in his addiction recovery group, and a chance at redeeming himself on a music-filled roadtrip of self discovery. Dave's second novel, Suggested Reading, will be out in 2019 with Katherine Tegen Books.

Eat Your Feelings by Lindsey Smith: Agent's first cookbook! A gorgeous book that will come out on December 26th with Wednesday Books / St Martin's Press, Lindsey's latest book teaches you how to pair healthy food with heightened emotions. It's a mental health cookbook, and I really think it's going to help a lot of people. You can catch Lindsey on tour all next year.

Love Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed: This book doesn't come out for another four weeks, but here's your chance to win a pre-order (!!!). The story of a teen girl swept up in a wave of Islamophobia when a terrorist attack strikes a nearby city, and the alleged terrorist shares a last name with her family. It's a book full of first love and heartache, and the buzz around it is fierce. Her next book, Mad Bad & Dangerous to Know, will be out with Soho Teen in 2019.

You can enter the Rafflecopter below, and enter by following the authors (and me!), or signing up for my newsletter.

Thanks for a great 2017, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Paternity Leave: Closed for Submissions Until 2018

closed

Hey everyone!

If you follow me on the ol' social media, this shouldn't be much of a surprise. But just in case you stumble across this lil' website while looking for agents, here it is. I'm closed for queries for the rest of 2017, with the exception of referrals and conference or contest requests.

Why?

I'm on paternity leave! It's baby time in the Smith household. And with a mini book tour in October, all while the baby is around... well, I'm going to need to take a breather, and dedicate my time to my family and current roster of clients, who are also much like my family. *hearts*

Book wise, things look good for the last half of the year though.

banner books fall spring

So yes! It's a busy last half of the year, and an awesome launch in 2018, especially with covers and release dates for Laurel Amberdine's Luminator (REUTS), Kati Gardner's Brave Enough (Flux), and Anna Hecker's When the Beat Drops (Sky Pony), all due out in the Spring of 2018, relatively soon-ish.

And there are a few book babies that are just about ready to be announced, which I'll be updating ya'll on here in between naps.

I'll still be looking at projects through Twitter pitch events like #PitMad #DVPit and the like when they are live, and conferences (I'm still attending these conferences through the fall!). I'm also happily taking referrals from colleagues and clients. But otherwise, I'm on a break, and won't be digging through the query box.

You can keep up to date with all my wonderful authors via this Twitter list, as they are all going to be up to awesome things over the next year or two.

I'll open back up to submissions in mid-January. Thanks!

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.

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

bea header

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. (more…)