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Into YA Interview: Eric Smith

Today I have an extra awesome post for all of you! As part of my new series, Into YA focused on giving you a look into what goes on before the book gets into your hands, I'm talking to rockstar agent Eric Smith (who is also an author himself)! If you don't follow him on Twitter over at @ericsmithrocks, then you should be. He has one of the best Twitter accounts.

1. How did you decide to become a literary agent?

I'd been working in publishing for a number of years, at Quirk Books, an indie publisher in Philadelphia known for books like Pride & Prejudice & Zombiesand Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, when I decided it was time to really focus on books that I wanted to work on. I loved everything we did at Quirk, but I wanted to focus on more Young Adult books, as well as the kind of literary fiction I loved. So... along came my colleagues at P.S. Literary, and it's been a happy place for the past three years. 

2. Like me, many of my readers are authors who hope to get published soon. Is there anything that you specifically look for in a query letter? Any pet peeves? 

Good question! At the end of the day, it's really just about having a good story tell, and getting that across as clearly as possible. One of my agent pals, Gordon Warnock, once told me at a conference that his favorite queries feature the "hook, book, cook." That is, a quick blip that explains the book (hook), the book itself (think jacket copy on your favorite novels, what you see on the back), and a quick bio about the author, or, the cook. Keep it simple. If it's long and rambling and not looking at all like what you would see on the back of your favorite book... you're doing something very wrong.

My biggest pet peeve is when a writer makes it clear they don't read in the category or genre they are pitching a book in. Maybe the word count is outrageously long or short for whatever they are writing. Maybe it's a Young Adult novel but the characters are all 37. Maybe their comp titles are all books that came out 20 years ago, thus telling me they haven't read something new in a long time. Little hints like that can really send me running.

3. What advice do you have for readers who want to become an agent?

Read as much as possible, and try to secure an internship. There are a lot of routes into agenting, from doing beta reading work to working as an assistant at an agency (and eventually working your way into an agenting position). Internships are a great foot in, and there are a lot of agents working with eager interns remotely. Look for those opportunities. 

4. Because you’re also an author, how do you manage working on your client’s manuscripts and your own? Does so much reading ever get overwhelming? 

Hahah, I don't. :-) Honestly, my latest novel that's coming out in 2020, I wrote two years ago, before my agenting really took off. I haven't written something new in a while. Ask me this question again when I have to write a brand new book two years from now. I will likely be in a corner someplace, sobbing. 

The reading does get overwhelming sometimes, but that's why agents request so little. I have books from four months ago that I still haven't been able to dive into, and it's not due to my own writing. It's due to my current clients keeping me busy, or you know, my life as a work-at-home dad. 

5. You’re very immersed in the literary world between being an author, agent, and YA podcaster, so you must have so many exciting projects coming up! Are there any you can tell us about? 

Just the new book! My next novel, Reclaim the Sun, comes out with Inkyard Press (also known as Harlequin Teen) in 2020! It's a YA novel about a teen girl YouTube star who gets doxed, and a video-game-loving boy who wants to help her, after they meet in a massively popular video game. I also have a short story in Sangu Mandanna's anthology, Color Outside the Lines, being published with Soho Teen in 2019. Keep an eye out for those! :-) 


Links of Interest:
Warcross: Review Here
Why I Write Positive Reviews: Essay Here
500 Words or Less: Review Here
Radio Silence: Review Here

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