“Focus on what you can control. Focus on your journey.” –Eric Smith, P.S. Literary
The 2023 Agents Symposium is a year-long program of monthly events with literary agents – taking writers step by step along the journey to publication. We’re happy to share Q&As with some of our featured agents here. To register for Eric Smith’s presentation on March 25 on “The Ins and Outs of Approaching Agents,” click here.
An Interview with Eric Smith
Eric Smith is a literary agent and Young Adult author from Elizabeth, New Jersey. As an agent with P.S. Literary, he’s worked on New York Times bestselling and award-winning books. His recent novels include the YALSA Best Books for Young Readers selection Don’t Read the Comments (Inkyard Press, 2020), You Can Go Your Own Way (Inkyard Press, 2021), and the anthology Battle of the Bands (Candlewick, 2021), co-edited with award-winning author Lauren Gibaldi. His latest book, Jagged Little Pill: The Novel, was written with Alanis Morissette, Academy award-winner Diablo Cody, and Glen Ballard, and is an adaptation of the Grammy and Tony award winning musical.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?
Eric Smith: Honestly, it depends on the author! Some writers like constant communication and updates, some only like to hear from me when there is news to dish. Some writers have big picture edits on their manuscripts, others send in books that are practically perfect out of the gate (HOW do they do that?!). So there’s no one real answer to this, save for the fact that my personal approach changes based on what the author needs. And that’s how most agents operate.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
ES: Someone who is just excited to get to work on their story. I don’t really care about platform, social media, any of that stuff, though sure, it’s nice when that is there. All I look for is a good story and an author who I get along with, who is excited to get their work out there.
Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again?
ES: To keep your eyes on your own paper, I suppose? It’s really hard to resist the urge to compare your journey as an author with others. REALLY hard. I should know, I write books too. But if you’re constantly hoping to have what someone else has, if you’re wondering why they’ve got this press or this placement or this attention and you don’t… you’re going to drive yourself up the wall. Focus on what you can control. Focus on your journey. LEARN from what other people are doing, but don’t roll around in jealousy.
Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today?
ES: All the ways the industry has become more diverse and inclusive since I started working and writing in it. There’s still a long way to go, that’s for sure, but the movement gives me so much hope.
Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and you want everyone to know about?
ES: I’ve got a lot of lovely books out this year, but this spring I really hope folks keep an eye out for The Sound of Us by Kate Fussner. It’s a wildly moving, in-verse Middle Grade about two girls who fall for one another over a mutual love of poetry and goodness, it captured my whole heart. And it’s a retelling of orpheus and eurydice!
Click here for more information on the 2023 Agents Symposium, an event that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.