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.

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!

Happy Book Birthday to Rebecca Phillips & These Things I've Done!

THESE THINGS I'VE DONE Rebecca Phillips

Oh wow. Today is the day.

Rebecca Phillips' THESE THINGS I'VE DONE is in our stores everywhere today with HarperTeen! It's a beautiful contemporary story about friendship, loss, and trauma. Readers meet Dara, a teen girl living with the crushing guilt of accidentally killing her best friend, as she returns to her old high school to answer for what she's done.

She's punishing herself, even though she doesn't have to. She feels like she deserves it. And while sure, not all of us have accidentally killed a friend (at least, I'd hope not!), the feeling of thinking you deserve to be treated poorly and deserve to suffer for something... that's universal. And the message that you don't have to feel that way, is just so important.

That it's okay to let go, and it's okay to try to forgive yourself... it's a story I'm so proud of Rebecca for writing.

From amazing blurbs from Lauren Gibaldi, Gina Ciocca, and Charlotte Huang, to the lovely reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal (not online yet, but you can see it on B&N!), Rebecca's book has had quite the journey, and I'm so excited for you to see what she does next.

I'm lucky enough to already know, and hopefully we can share soon.

You can order Rebecca's book wherever books are sold; Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local indie bookseller... you name it. And if you're a blogger, bookseller, and/or librarian, you can still request a review copy off Edelweiss.

I got sent a bundle of agent copies, and while most of them have already gone out to bloggers who wanted to read the book (thank you!), I've put a few up for giveaway on Goodreads. You can enter here.

Rebecca's also got a blog tour going on. Check out some of the stops for chances to win cool prizes and learn fun facts about the book and Rebecca's writing process.

I met Rebecca through Carly Watters, my superstar colleague and friend at P.S. Literary, and I'm just happy she brought us together. It's wild to think how I was still living in Philadelphia, and now, two states later, the book is here.

I cried pretty openly in a little cafe in South Philadelphia the day I got the email with her offer, right in front of my dear Allie Ilagan. I'm so happy someone was there to share that moment with me. Allie, there's a copy of Rebecca's book in the mail for you right now.

Huge thank you to P.S. Literary, Carly Watters, Catherine Wallace at HarperTeen and the entire Harper / EpicReads team, for this lovely moment.

And of course, to Rebecca. Thanks for letting me play a little part in your amazing writing career. Let's get to work on that next big thing.

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.

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

auggie

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. (more…)