Name: Emily Smith
What you Write: Upmarket Fiction, Thrillers
Agent: James McGowan
When I began my initial querying process and scoured the internet for querying advice, I found BookEnds’ YouTube channel. In an industry that feels shrouded in mystery for an unpublished writer, it was refreshing to come across a literary agency that was so transparent. That seems to be BookEnds’ approach to everything – transparency, honesty, and author advocacy. I didn’t want to feel like another name on someone’s long list. As writers, published and unpublished, we spend years honing our manuscripts. We want someone to believe in and advocate for them as much as we do.
I am thrilled to welcome Emily Smith to BookEnds. Her debut novel absorbed the better part of my weekend and I am so thrilled to be a part of the team bringing it to shelves. Enjoy her interview! -JM
What book do you wish you had written, and why?
There are two answers to this. Beach Music by Pat Conroy and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Beach Music was passed down through the generations of my family. That book just perfectly nails the intricacies of complicated family dynamics, breathtaking prose, and settings as characters. I love The Great Alone for similar reasons. Hannah also has such an honest way of writing women that I hope to emulate.
If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing?
Walking my loveable but slightly neurotic Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, binging TV shows, gardening, and hanging out with my friends and family.
Where can readers find you on the web and social media?
My Instagram is @emilysmithwrites and my Twitter is @emsmithwrites.
What’s the last book you read?
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
A cabin on a lake, preferably in the Adirondack Mountains. I’d also settle for a house on a marsh along the Carolinas or Georgia coast. I’m not picky when it comes to my dream waterside writing locations.
What’s your favorite quote about reading or writing?
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” – Stephen King.
Makes me laugh every time. I also still use too many adverbs.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice you’ve received?
My first semester of grad school, one of my mentors, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, sat me down and told me that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to be a voracious reader first. Best writing advice I ever received.
What excites you most about joining the BookEnds family?
Not to quote the question, but the family aspect to it. This agency doesn’t feel like just a business. You can tell how passionate all of the agents are and how much they respect their authors. I’m also unbelievably excited to be working with James McGowan. His enthusiasm is contagious and he had me ready to partner about five minutes into our first phone call.
What advice would you give to other authors in the query trenches?
Don’t get hung up on one project. I think it’s easy to when you’ve put this one piece of work out into the world, praying someone will like it, to get discouraged when the rejections start rolling in. The first manuscript might not land you the agent. It might be the second or the third, and I think as writers we need to allow ourselves that room to throw writing at the wall and see what sticks. I think it’s also important to remember that just because this might not be this particular manuscript’s moment, doesn’t mean it won’t ever be. In the meantime, keep writing.
What was the most important question you asked when interviewing agents?
How do you envision my career?
So much of this industry is about branding yourself within the parameters of one or two genres, and although that benefits your career and builds a loyal audience, I think it can also hinder a newer writer’s creativity. I admire those writers who know from the moment they first pick up a pen that they’re fantasy or romance writers. I am not one of those people, and while my work tends to have central themes, my genres can vary. I made it a point to ask agents, within realistic parameters of building a brand, how we could potentially accommodate that growth or pivot down the line as I evolve as a writer.
How did you know your book was ready to submit?
I don’t know if you ever really know. I think I got to the point where after around draft #4, I knew it was in good enough shape that it was ready to go out. Either that, or I just couldn’t stand to stare at it any longer. Sending it out is helpful in itself. The feedback you receive from submissions often gives you these “ah-hah!” moments that make you want to go back and revise more.