Fizzy Fangirling – An Interview with Eric Smith

Hello, my darlings!

Welcome to another Fizzy Fangirling post! It’s been an age and a half, amirite?

Today I am thrilled to bring you a chat with one of my absolute most favorite folk in all of publishing, literary agent/author/White Castle enthusiast Eric Smith!

Eric is an agent at P.S. Literary Agency, and author of several books, including the upcoming anthology WELCOME HOME. (As an adopted kid myself, I am so, so unspeakably excited for this book, you guys.)

He is also the human of Auggie, Super Corgie.

In addition to his writing, agenting, pup wrangling, and being one of the most genuinely kind people I know, Eric will also being gracing Indiana with his presence in July as faculty at the Midwest Writers Workshop!

And away we go!

1. First off, how long have you been an agent? What made you want to dive into this wacky business in the first place?

I’ve been at it for two years as of… wow, as of just a week ago or so.

I’d spent a solid few years working at a publishing house in Philadelphia (hi Quirk Books!), and while I adored every single minute of it, I wanted to really work on my own projects. When the opportunity to agent surfaced, with an agency that was on board for me to take on any wild idea and just let me run with it, I jumped at the chance.

It’s definitely a wacky business, but so extremely fulfilling. I love the book community.

2. What genres do you represent? How important is the genre, or will you take on something different just because it gives you the feelings?

I’m a little all over the place? Young Adult across all genres… that’s where my heart is, absolutely. I’ve sold more YA than anything else. But I also really love quirky and hard hitting non-fiction, voice-driven sci-fi and fantasy, and cookbooks.

Genre is pretty important. Some stuff I just don’t quite get, because I don’t read enough of it. For example, I don’t work on Middle Grade books, because I simply haven’t read enough of it to feel confident that I’d know what’s good. Same with say, commercial horror novels.

3. Tell us a little bit about how writers go about snagging a magnificent agent such as yourself?

Aw, you! It’s really all about that query letter? That’s how most of my clients have snagged me. A great query with a solid hook is the best way to get my attention. And show that you’re well read in your genre. If you don’t read YA, don’t query me with a YA novel. I’ll be able to tell.

I also lurk really hard on pitch contests like DVpit and PitMad. I’ve signed an author, and consequently sold her book, thanks to one of those contests. Same with conferences, really. I go to a lot of them, always looking for unique projects and talented writers.

Though remember, even though social media explodes around those digital pitch sessions and conferences attract plenty of agents… you can always nudge someone via email the traditional way. All that public stuff isn’t for everyone.

4. What’s your favorite part of your job? For balance, what makes you cry sad, agenty tears now and then?

I think the feeling of finding something magical in my inbox. That gasp moment, when you’re reading a manuscript you’ve requested, and you just KNOW this is THE NEXT ONE. That feeling is amazing, and then all the stuff that quickly follows. The phone calls and the screaming.

And the sad feelings, ah, those sad feelings. Probably the worst is when a project doesn’t sell. Because as an agent there’s this huge responsibility on your shoulders, you know? It’s not just someone’s book. It’s their dream. And when you can’t make it happen, it hurts.

But, there’s always the next project. And you push on!

5. Do you have any stories that are now, “The one that got away?” If so, did it change the way you looked at submissions from then on?

Oh goodness yes. Just last month I lost out on two projects I really wanted. And now and again, I search for those older projects I didn’t get, to see if they’ve been picked up and sold.

At first it made me feel like I had to get to stuff way faster. But now… well, here’s the thing about the bookish community. It’s a supportive, lovely bunch of people. Sometimes the folks who pitch me end up following me on Twitter, and we talk a bit. And when you see them get picked up by someone else, it’s your job as someone in the book world to do a little shifting.

You, to use a terrible startup buzzword, “pivot” from the business side of things, to the fan side of things.

Didn’t get the book you adored? That’s okay. Become a fan. Support that voice. You loved it for a reason.

6. You’re an author as well as an agent. How do you maintain that balance?

I don’t? Hahah. Honestly, I only focus on my stuff when all my authors are taken care of. If I have a project that hasn’t been quite put out on submission enough, or an R&R to read, or a new manuscript from one of my authors who isn’t currently being pitched… then I can’t work on my own writing. It’s not my turn. It’s as easy as that.

I feel this like, crushing guilt if I try to work on my own projects when I know I have work to do. So that certainly helps.

7. What’s something you’re working on right now that has you all aflutter?

Things are really revving up for the release of Samira Ahmed’s debut, Love, Hate & Other Filters. I saw the cover the other day, and it’ll probably be revealed by the time this post goes up. And this month I get to see her at her first signing at Book Expo America. It’s a real joy, considering we were just pitching that book around a year ago.

8. You’ll be attending the Midwest Writers Workshop this summer as faculty! For those on the fence about attending, woo them with some details on what you’ll be offering up in your panels/sessions/critiques.

It’s true! I’ll be dishing out plenty of advice about querying, listening to pitches from authors, and giving lots of one-on-one tutorials during those little sessions. Also, I’m not a stand-off-ish guy! If you see me wandering the conference and want to pick my brain, come say hi! As long as I’m not in the bathroom, I am up for a brain pick session.

I try to be as encouraging and honest as possible, and even if a project isn’t for me, I share everything with my colleagues at P.S. Literary. So you aren’t just pitching me. You’re talking to the whole agency.

9. You recently announced you will be forgoing any agent fees or honorariums at conferences and instead wish the money to go to funding scholarships for marginalized writers. What motivated you to make this decision, and how do writers go about applying for said scholarships?

It’s true! At least, that’s what I’m trying to do. A lot of these conferences, even the smaller workshop ones, tend to be a bit expensive, and that pushes out people who might not be able to afford them, and could truly benefit from this kind of event. Publishing and all of the advice at these conferences should be accessible.

Growing up, there’s no way I would have been able to afford a lot of these conferences and workshops I currently attend. In college, in graduate school… still no. So I’m trying to do a little bit, for people like me that didn’t have the access.

10. I would like to use this opportunity to share more Auggie with the world. Throw us a pic of puppy cuteness?

Done. ❤

11. As is customary on my blog, it is here I require an embarrassing or hilarious moment. Bonus points if industry related. Double bonus points for accidental nudity.

My wife and I just finished moving to a new city, and right in plain view of my computer right now, is our tandem bike sitting in the yard. I bought it for her as an anniversary present, back when I still worked at that publishing house.

I had it shipped there so she wouldn’t know about it, put it together with one of my friends, and then rode it home to surprise her as I rode by the house.

However… have you ever rode a tandem bike ALONE?

I’ll never forget the stares of people as I pedaled a tandem bike from my old publishing house to my home, alone. They looked at me like “aw… does he know?” as I rode by. As though maybe I wasn’t aware that I was alone.

It was one of the funniest and most embarrassing moments ever, and I think about it every time I see that bike.

Fizzy again. I am dyyyyyying at the mental imagery of this bike, omg.

That’s Mr. Smith, dear loves!

Find Eric on Twitter HERE

Frolic on his website HERE

Check out and buy his awesome books HERE

And most importantly, register to see him live at MWW HERE

As always, if you have any questions or comments, throw them in the comments below!

I hope you all are delightful and grand!

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and That Bike Tho…

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