One of the many reasons why I love the University of Arizona is that it has opened my eyes to all of the different realities of an English major after graduation. The path that I found most interesting was a career in publishing. Reading books all the time…sounds like a great job, right?
I soon learned the reality of what it takes to work in this industry from my publishing professor and director of Pine Reads Review, Stephanie Pearmain. A career in publishing is nowhere near as glamorous as Anna Steele’s life in 50 Shades of Grey, especially when you don’t have a rich boyfriend to cover the cost of housing in a huge city. While it may seem slightly insane, hearing this made me want to pursue a career in this industry even more.
However, I still had a million questions regarding pretty much everything in publishing. Thankfully, my wonderful professor (did I mention she’s the director of this publication?) was able to connect with author and literary agent Eric Smith, whom our class had the opportunity to interview about all things publishing.
Eric Smith is a literary agent with P.S. Literary who mostly works from home, and occasionally in a coworking space. When not balancing life as a father, he generally spends his workdays going through his emails and queries, reading manuscripts, checking in with his current authors, as well as reaching out to new ones. He goes through around 12-24 queries a day and requests the ones he finds interesting. When looking through his queries, he watches out for red flags such as the word count. He says that he generally reads about three chapters in order to form an opinion on the manuscript. One warning he gives, which comes from a personal preference, is to not send him angel and demon stories. They’re not his thing.
When asked how he broke into the publishing industry, he claims that he was discovered slightly untraditionally through social media. This helped him to secure jobs at publishing houses not only book related, but also working on things such as social media. Since then, he has seen many changes in the industry, which he commented on in the interview. The publishing industry is constantly changing, although recently, he reports that mergers and publishers have been coming together to save cost, more agents are beginning to work remotely, and more money has been invested into the publication and recording of audio books.
Not only is he well versed in the world of agenting, Eric Smith is also a published author. His first book came out in 2013 and since then he has published four other novels, with two more on the way. He speaks about the dichotomy of his two jobs, agenting and writing and how he prioritizes his own clients over his writing. He has his own agent, which is rather ironic, as well as editors and publicists. His own agenting style is very editorial as he likes to dig into the work.
When asked how to break into the publishing industry, he gave a few tips to us aspiring students. He says that internships are one of the most crucial things to help anyone break into the industry. As well as this, following agents and editors on twitter, and working in bookstores can be helpful.
Hearing all of this in the span of an hour gave me a lot to think about, but also a lot to be excited for. Eric Smith was wonderful to talk to, and can be found at his website: ericsmithrocks.com
PRR Writer, Leah Kist