Eric Smith is an author, blogger, and literary agent currently based in Richmond, Virginia. He began his publishing career at Quirk Books, working on marketing for bestsellers like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. By day, he can be found working as an associate literary agent with P.S. Literary, mostly focusing on YA with a smattering of genre-fiction and non-fiction in the mix. At night, he works on his own books. His writing includes his debut non-fiction book, The Geek’s Guide to Dating, his YA novels, Inked and Branded, out now with Bloomsbury, and his upcoming adoption-themed anthology, Welcome Home, forthcoming with Flux Books. You can find him on the web at ericsmithrocks.com and on Twitter posting pictures of his corgi at @ericsmithrocks.
Hi Eric! You’ve worn so many hats in the publishing industry—author, agent, and marketing—can you tell us a bit about how to you got started? Your journey, as it were. 😉
So I had a pretty unconventional entrance into the world of publishing, but I feel like my way in is starting to happen a lot more these days. Which is great. Please, publishing. Please. Find talent in different ways other than through resumes on your corporate websites.
Anyhow. Back in Philadelphia I launched a popular local blog that ran events, reviewed things, did interviews, and the like. And it caught the notice of a local publisher, Quirk Books. I’d done some giveaways for their titles at our events and on the site, and they were looking for a social media/blogging person for the publishing house. They wanted to see if I could do what I did for my blog, for them. I’d also been working as a blog editor full-time for another company, so the interests certainly melded.
Fast forward five years, and I’d had an awesome experience working on titles like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, and so many more. I produced book trailers, social media campaigns, worked on blogger marketing, all kinds of fun stuff. And I loved it all.
But, I did want to work on some of my own passion projects, so after those glorious five years with some really brilliant people, I went to work with P.S. Literary. Quirk was putting out a title by one of the authors represented there, and I really loved a lot of the work my now-colleagues had done (and continue to do). And now, that’s where I am, working on lots of YA, genre-fiction, and select non-fiction projects.
Author-wise, that’s another unconventional route. My colleague and publisher at Quirk, Jason Rekulak, came to me with the idea for The Geek’s Guide to Dating. Like, literally came downstairs to talk about it. I was thrilled, and I wrote it while working on my YA projects. Inked (and soon Branded) came a bit later, but my author career definitely took off thanks to the team at Quirk.
I also worked in a publishing as an acquiring editor, but unlike you, I left that side of the business before becoming an author. How do you juggle all your responsibilities? How do you manage your time? DO YOU HAVE A TIME TURNER? Tell us a little bit about what a typical day is like for you.
It’s tough sometimes. I do have this rule for myself that I won’t work on my own stuff if my author children have anything in the to-be-read or to-be-subbed list. And I think that’s what keeps me the most organized. I feel this immense guilt if one of them is left waiting on me, which makes it hard to focus.
Because really, you’re not just managing someone’s expectations or their career here. You’re helping them manage a dream. How do you press pause on that? I can’t. Maybe it comes from the fact that I write myself, I don’t know. But my authors never have to wait long to hear from me.
Most days I wake up, read through all the queries in my inbox, mark off ones I want to dive into a bit more / request pages, and then I spend a bit of time catching up on publishing news, reading book blogs I love, and checking my submissions spreadsheets. Is everyone up to date? If not, who can I work on today? And then if there’s a book to work on, that’s the next thing.
Some days there isn’t much to do, and on those days I like to read whatever is on my bookshelf, or scour social media for potential new clients. I write for a few blogs about books too, so I like to kick back and make sure I’m keeping up to date with recent titles. I recently read Want by Cindy Pon, and subsequently lit all of my own writing on fire . It is glorious.
So yeah! Typical day is a lot of reading (queries, news, blogs, books about to be released), lots of emailing (submissions, responding to queries and authors), and plenty of editing (in-progress manuscripts).
I am in awe. Sometimes the fact that I’ve showered this week is an achievement. Is there any advice you can give aspiring authors as someone who has quite literally seen it all?
Be persistent, as the cool kids on the Internet like to say, “A.F.” You seriously never know when you’re going to find that right agent, or your agent is going to find that right editor. My agent, Dawn Frederick, was the first one I pitched for my YA. And the only one. She’s awesome and the best. It took a year and a half to sell the book, and she refused to give up despite how badly I kind of wanted to.
Keep on pushing. The universe might just surprise you. And in the meantime, keep pushing ahead and working on the next thing.
That’s some excellent advice. As we used to say, “Publishing is a marathon, not a spring.” Right, so moving on from the serious to the silly: you’re on a pub crawl with your fictional friend crew. Who’s in it?
Oooh, this is a good one. I think I’d love to go wandering with Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (my favorite book as a kid, and subsequent tattoo on my arm) and Rob Gordon from High Fidelity? Those are two of my favorite books, and ‘m sure the conversations would be ridiculous. A discussion about the open sea and life on the run, combined with complaining about failed relationships and music… I’m sure a lot of perspective would be gained in these talks.
If not them, then maybe Celia Bowen and Marco Alistair from The Night Circus. Teach me some magic tricks, please. And then let me hug both of you.
Uh-oh, your pub crawl has suddenly turned into a pub BRAWL. What fictional weapon are you wielding?
Am I allowed to say the sword from Adventure Time? I mean, those are comics, right? That.
It’s fictional, so it counts! Everyone please give Eric a warm welcome, and thanks so much to him for granting this interview!