This week, we’re focusing on the London Book Fair, one of Europe’s most prestigious book-publishing trade events. Joining Joe is none other than Byrd Leavell, a powerhouse in the publishing industry and co-head of Publishing at UTA (United Talent Agency). Byrd is known for representing a diverse roster of clients and has a remarkable track record of overseeing dozens of bestsellers. In this episode, Joe and Byrd will delve into the challenges and opportunities facing the publishing industry in today’s ever-evolving landscape. From navigating the changing dynamics of the global marketplace to negotiating rights and distributing content across various channels, Byrd’s insights and experiences will surely provide invaluable perspectives for aspiring authors and industry professionals alike. Listeners can also look forward to learning more about Byrd’s career as a literary agent and his work at UTA, a leading talent agency that represents some of the most prominent names in the entertainment and media industries. Plus, with a special focus on the London Book Fair, Joe and Byrd will provide an inside look at what’s happening at this renowned event and shed light on the latest trends and innovations shaping the publishing world. Get ready for an inspiring and informative episode as Joe and Byrd engage in an enlightening conversation about the publishing industry, sharing their expertise, experiences, and insights. Whether you’re an aspiring author, a publishing professional, or simply a book enthusiast, this episode is sure to be a must-listen for anyone interested in the world of books and publishing.
About Byrd Leavell: Byrd the Co-head of Publishing at UTA. He graduated from the University of Virginia and the Radcliffe Publishing Program. In 2012, he partnered with Scott Waxman to form the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. Over his 20-year career he has overseen multiple New York Times #1 bestsellers and represents clients such as Chip and Joanna Gaines, Steph Curry, Tiffany Haddish, Don Lemon, Constance Wu, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ali Velshi, Bret Baier, Rich Roll, Justin Halpern, Santigold, Cat Marnell, Tinx, Emma Lovewell, Guy Raz, Kim and Penn Holderness, Rob Elliott, Neil Strauss, James Rebanks, Christine Pride and Jo Piazza, and many others.
Transcript (*Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors.)
Joe: This is the Forbes Books podcast where we inspire you to achieve your dreams by sharing the stories of successful leaders and visionaries. I’m Joe Pardavila, and this week the London Book Fair, one of Europe’s premier book publishing trade events is taking place. And joining me to discuss it is Byrd Leavell, a powerhouse in the publishing industry who’s co-head of publishing at UTA. Bird represents a diverse roster of clients and has a track record of overseeing dozens of bestsellers.
Now the London Book Fair is a global marketplace that connects publishers and deal makers from all over the world to negotiate rights and distribute content across various channels. In this episode, Byrd and I will explore the challenges and opportunities facing the publishing industry today. We’ll also talk about his career as a literary agent, his work at UTA and what’s happening at the book fair. Byrd, how are you?
Byrd: Everything copasetic. Thanks for having me.
Joe: You’re very welcome. So we have a lot to discuss, uh, London Book Fair going on. But before we get there, I was fortunate enough to write a book last year and. I didn’t realize the power of books until I actually did one. So if you don’t mind if we get a little esoteric ephemeral here and talk about the power of books and why there is so much power from the page, because I’m a longtime radio guy, dabble in film and tv, but there’s something about reading a book. What is it to you, because you’ve been doing this for a long time. Talk to me about the power of books.
Byrd: I love that question. I feel like it’s something that you see again and again and again. That that books are a real kind of cultural kind of load stone, right? Like really shape the conversation. So why is that? Well, I think now in the year 2023 where we are all have so much coming at us, right? And what happens because of that Is it actually, people become kind of chicken little, it’s like, how’s book publishing doing and all these things going on. But here’s the thing, we’re doing great, right? And one of the reasons we’re doing great is the more you have coming at you, the more enjoyable it is to really get lost in a book. And the power of fiction is for all of you know, all of us that read fiction. No, it’s like, it’s just about one of the best experiences you can have being in a great novel. And then the power of great non-fiction is that it can really more than. I would say most other things really give you a lot to take away from it. Right. I can give you, like you can tell someone when they’re really into a book and they’re in that con and they’re talking to you about it and they’re talking about all their takeaways and that how much they got out of that experience. Right? And so I just think that it is, it’s a wonderful question, but I think it is. We were lucky enough, You know when we, whenever they invented the first book, when God Bless Gutenberg, right. When we got there like that, that we haven’t need to really improve on it since.
Joe: Yeah, no, no doubt about it. And I wanna pull in the thread there about the question of how’s books doing? And I’m sure there’s probably surveys out there that say fewer and fewer people are reading books. But man, I’m sure Amazon is still, I’m sure they’re still selling a couple copies of books every day. And Barnes and Noble and all these independent bookstores, they’re doing well. So could you gimme kind of an overviewa about the, the current state of publishing it, you know, whether it’s in the states or worldwide. Uh, you coming from the agent side.
Byrd: Well, I love this question. Books sold in the US in 2022. 789 million print books. All right. I mean, think about, just take, take a minute with that number. All right. And really just cuz it’s incredible. All right. The gross revenue of this book, you’re in about $14 billion, all right. Books sold in the world, 2.2 billion last year. Gross revenue, 8$1 billion. So I could keep going and breaking that down but the larger picture about this is, this goes back to my chicken Little point. The, the book publishing is thriving. It speaks to so many good things, both in the creation side and on the people who are buying these books and, and, and making it part of their life.
Joe: And so now let’s get into the businesses side of things, because that’s what you do. That’s your business. You’re on the agent side. So, uh, for the uninitiated, talk about this relationship of being a literary agent and how you go from getting a writer to connecting them with a publisher. Is it as easy as you’d like a manuscript falling on your desk and then you reaching out to a publisher is as easy as that? Is it more complicated? Break it down for me, Byrd.
Byrd: Interesting. So that is, I’m, I have to keep myself giving you too long an answer on that. So from agent to editor. Right. So I think that, you know, you could say that it is every literary agent’s job to have the right manuscript on the right editor’s desk at the right time. Right. Our job in many ways is to know, the editors at the publishing houses know what they’re looking for and get them the right projects. But that’s just one aspect of a very long curve. Right? And that curve starts with connecting with the client, right? And there’s so many different ways that happens. Like a lot of times, like, cuz there’s so many different ways to do this job. You could be an agent who just specializes purely in fiction all day long you’re going through novels and reading and you’re, and you’re doing all of that, and then you’re, you’re picking out the ones that you believe in and maybe you’re editing for multiple times. And then submitting and, and, and that’s your process, right? Or you could be an agent who is going out and really, cuz the thing about an agent is there’s an element of it where you really have to go out there and find your clients. Right? There is a lot of incoming, but the great clients are, are not out there, you know, in non-fiction sending out queries. Right. They’re usually established, and you have to get to them and essentially make your case. Right. And I will tell you now, as I co-run the department at UTA is I spent a long time knocking on doors and I don’t miss it. All right? I don’t miss it. All right. And Lord knows we still go out and sign clients into UTA, but now within UTA, I’m in this like magical wonderland where I get to, I have access to this incredible roster of clients, and that is it’s, and so that is a gift that is really, after doing this job for over 20 years has become this like, it’s a never-ending, enjoyable thing.
Joe: That’s so cool. And, and I want to dig into something that you alluded to there. You had your own literary agency, but a few years ago you made the jump to UTA. Can you talk to me about starting your own agency from the ground up to working with one of the biggest agencies on the planet?
Byrd: Well, I was very proud of what Scott Waxman, and I did for the five years that we had Waxman Leavell. Right. Because I worked for Scott at the Waxman Agency for six years, and then we had a great five year run and had a lot of books that are still a lot of wonderful agents who work there and a lot of books that are still selling to this day. So that’s something I’m, I’m very proud of, but I do, I distinctly remember walking into Scott’s office and there was a lit agent who was in UTA, and he started to do deals for those clients. And I walked into Scott’s office, and I was like, what? I wouldn’t give to be over there. And Scott, you know, I had kind of started a publishing company and our lease was up, and I was trying to figure out like the next kind of, step for me. Right. And what it is ironic is, is the wonderful agent and friend who is now my partner, Christie Fletcher, she, I touched base with her and she’s like, you know, you should probably touch base with David Kramer, who, who was the president of UTA. So, we had a cup of coffee. Talked it over two months later I was starting at UTA September of 2017. All right. So, I came in. I’d never worked at a large company. I’d always kind of avoided large company because I never maybe was reading Bartleby descriptor in college, but I was like, I didn’t. I didn’t know how I would feel about it. And what was funny is I put my suit on, I walked, and I walked in UTA and I walked around and I was like, at the end of the first day I was like, I’m gonna, I’m made for this. Like, I love this. You know what I mean? Because I’m like, you have all these wonderful colleagues. And like, and I just, and I knew there were so much potential. Right? Example, I, uh, kind of, you know, in, um, Castaway, so, and Tom Hanks and there’s the cutback and he’s standing there and he. Chucked the spear at the fish and he’s in the LOINC cloth. Like that was kind of how I came out of being a literary agent on my own for, you know, 20 years. All right. I was like, and so, but I had the skills. I could catch food in the wilderness. So, then you plug me into UTA and I was just like, this is incredible. So, I like, and I knew I had the potential to build a department, right? Because it was the only Hollywood agency that didn’t have a big, vibrant publishing department. So, fast forward six years and it’s been so incredible, and it really has. And the people that I’ve hired and, and, and, and, and the culture that we’ve built and it all, and it, it has been both me and with, you know, David Kramer. Like he’s been a part of every decision, like we’ve done it together. And now with, with Curtis Brown, which I’m sure we’ll talk about and with, and with Christie Fletcher, we have this like, incredible thing that is just starting to kind of come together. And it’s something that is, is truly special.
Joe: And part of your job there at UTA is dealing with some heavy hitters, like your lineup of people that you’ve worked with is pretty stellar. Is that just sort of like this UTA’s secret sauce where it’s like these people seek you out because they know that you will take care of them to the very, I mean, the list is just impressive. You, the Guy Raz’s of the world, the, uh, Rob Elliot’s, Neil Strauss, like all these rock stars. What’s it like dealing with, with all these amazing people?
Byrd: Well, A it’s great. All right. And I can tell you a story about sitting outside with Arm Schwarzenegger by his fire while we worked on the book for two, two days. And just looking around like, is, is this, is this really happening? And it is, and it’s every bit as amazing as you want it to be. But I think to take a step back, what I would say is that, um, as I, in let’s say 2017, I started at UTA and I start going out to LA and I think one of the great things about UTA and I’m sorry, I’m gonna like prophesize about UTA cuz I love it and it’s, it’s so just forgive me for that.. But I think when I went, when I went out to LA what was remarkable is you would go into these like very high-level agents’ offices, right? And they would welcome you in and they would sit you down and they would say, what’s your story? Like, what can we work on together? Like, there was such an openness and a level of trust placed in me to handle these clients who their entire careers were founded upon.
Right. And I really valued that trust, and it was really important to me that if, if anyone who engaged with our department had had an incredibly positive experience, right? Which I will say also with publishing is not always a given, right? A lot of things can go wrong in all these different ways, and our job as agents is to make sure that they don’t. So that dynamic, that kind of level of, of, of welcoming was what we could build the whole department on. You know, we could go out and then you could get. You know, a lot of times it’s us going to them being like this, you have this client, they, they’re fabulous. You know, they’re Seth Rogan. Seth Rogan has to do a book, right? So, you get on the phone with Seth Rogan and you introduce yourself and, and then you, and you talk it through and you kind of find an idea that he’s excited about and then he starts writing it. And then he, you know, and he sends the first story and it’s hilarious. And then you call him, and he sends another, and then you send the pages out to editors, the publishing houses, and set the meeting up, and then Seth’s in the room and he’s talking about the book and everyone’s vibing about it. And it’s like, you find the perfect publisher in Crown, and you oversee the process. So that’s what we do.
Joe: I never realized that a literary agent was so hands-on or just maybe just something, an outlier in your industry, because I feel like in other industries, agents are very much, they’re sort of like the connective tissue putting the two plus two together, but you seem very hands-on from the jump when it comes to these books. Is that, is that normal for your industry? Or maybe I just misread how the whole industry works>
Byrd: I think it is normal. I think that the thing about literary agents is that they, I mean there’s some who do the, the job and I mean everyone does the job in different ways, but I think across, you know, the lion shared literary agents you interact with are really intrinsically involved in the creative process. Right. Not fiction or fiction, cuz I think it is cuz the thing with these editors at these publishing houses, Is, is, you gotta think about it in terms of like risk mitigation, right? Like most books don’t work. You have to just be pragmatic about that. You understand it. A, the way the business is set up is they put the books in the market, everyone tries to make it work. Some of them catch some a lot, a lot of them don’t. And the winners pay for everything else, right? So what we need to do for these editors in these publishing houses is, is try and remove a, as much of that feeling of risk as. Right. So the um, cuz I could just like, I could have just called up editors and be like, what do you wanna give me for Seth Rogan? The whole process would’ve been doomed from the start, right? Because they would know how good the book was gonna be. Seth wouldn’t have really had to commit early and kind of really find his voice in terms of being an author of his first book. So we really invest a lot in trying to get the voice. On the page for the, for the client and also for the editors. So everyone knows what the book’s gonna be, right? And then to oversee every aspect of the process.
Joe; That’s fascinating. Wow. So, I mean, I hate to say this about editors, man, but it seems like you do all the work for them.
Byrd: Yeah, no, I mean, we do. We’re getting, we’re, we’re, we’re pushing the, that snowball. At the top of the mountain. Right? And then, but that snowballs to keep building up into that publication day and what those editors do. Cuz one of the great things about publishing is the people who work within it, right? These editors are, are very committed to their jobs and, and what they need to do then is, Is, take that, you know, that book and like really shepherd it so that it is the, the manuscript is the best possible version of itself when it comes to the printer. Right? And then they need to get their colleagues on board, and they need, need to get their entire, entire sales team on board. And they need to get their, the publicist and the marketing director on board to really help with the launch. You know what I mean? There’s so much that they have to do. You know, the covers and the packaging and all those things, and figuring out the printing and, and then to keep buying books on the other, you know, while they’re working on yours. Like they, you know what I mean? There’s so much they have to do in, in order to really get that book to market in the way it needs to be.
Joe: Sweet. Um, you mentioned Schwartzenegger. Uh, the London Book show is going on. I wanna ask you about this, because from what I understand, this thing is ginormous. Like it, every, everyone who is anyone is in publishing is involved with the London Book Fair. What’s it all about for folks? Not familiar with it.
Byrd: You know, what is, I’m sorry. I’m so positive about everything, but I am, it’s both how I’m wired, and I really enjoy my job, so I’m just gonna stay in this space, Joe. You understand? But I think it’s like, the great thing about the book Fair is one of the agents in our, um, department said to me is, you know, people have this and they’re selling like aluminum siding, right? There’s some sort of, there are all these other fairs, right, that people show up for. And what you have to imagine at the London Book Fair, the Frankfurt book Fair, a lot of the really big ones is the heads of publishing houses come from all over the world, right? From that 80 billion that I told you about. And they all show up in these, uh, huge convention centers and they have their stands. And like Arnold will have a huge poster of, of his book “Be Useful” at, at, at, you know, this. I can’t wait to see. Right. But then there’s, there’s another thing called the. The rights center and what the rights center is when you look at it, is it, it gets into this, uh, this aspect of what we do where you’re either, when you do a deal with the US publisher, you can do a deal for North American Rights, right? Or for world rights or world English rights. And what that means is, If it’s North American, then you’re giving that American publisher the right to publish that book in English in America and Canada. And if you’re doing world English, you’re giving them the English rights to publish it in America and England. And if you’re selling them world, you’re giving them translation rights all over the world. But if we’re doing a North American deal, then our foreign rights team. It’s going with this glorious packet of all the books that we have, fiction and nonfiction, the translation rights for. Hmm. Right. And they will sit there, and I’ll do a lot of these meetings myself, and they’re every 30 minutes and the head of a publishing house from Brazil will sit down and they’ll be like, we like this, or we don’t like this. And you’re like, well, if I got the book for you and then you, and then you’re really pitching your books, right? So, you’re pitching this art, you’re pitching this commerce, you’re pitching this business of ideas. You’re not pitching aluminum siding.. And so, it’s this kind of fabulous thing when you hear this hubbub of commerce and it’s gonna be so great this year, like post pandemic finally with everybody going and the parties and all the stuff. But that, that the, the vibe within the right center, its own very special thing cuz this, this hum of these people. Hanging out and pitching each other books.
Joe: So Cool. Uh, to me, the way you describe it, it’s like a convention meets a film festival because there is like the convention earring of like glad handling and all that stuff, but then the film festival deal making, is that a pretty good way to describe it?
Byrd: That’s exactly right.
Joe: Interesting. Wow. Wow. All right. So, you name dropped Schwarzenegger there, that was very smoothly you earlier, before Bird. I, like I did, I’m sitting around doing Schwarzenegger. You’re so Hollywood, man. Well, let’s talk about it, well you mentioned it’s called Be Useful. Uh, you’ll be rolling that at the, at the London Book Fair. What’s, what’s that, what’s the gist of that one?
Byrd: So that’s, this is one where I reached out to Arnold’s agent, who is him. A bit of a legend. He also represents Harrison Ford and his name’s Jim Burkus. And I said, Jim, we have gotta get Arnold to do a book. It’s been over 10 years since he did his memoir, and it should be something kind of short and small that really takes all this life advice. He’s been giving people since then, since, since forever. And I compared it to the, the huge book Make Your Bed…Right, because I’m, I’m fascinated by Make Your Bed. Make Your Bed, I think is 17,000 words sold millions of copies. And it just kind of really occupies that space perfectly. So, lo and behold, eventually Arnold comes back and he’s super into the idea and he even has, he even has yet title cuz it’s something his dad used to always say to him, which was “Be Useful.” And so what we’ve done then is we’ve taken seven rules. This is his process, right? This is how, whether it was body building, being the biggest actor on the planet, running one of the biggest economies, you know, in the country slash world in California. This is what got him through, through each of those places. I cannot, it publishes October 10th, and I just cannot wait for people to start to engage with that.
Joe: Awesome. Well, I’m sure that’ll be an easy sell at the Book Fair. Um, another one I saw that, that you guys are gonna be rolling is Sahil Blooms’ The Wealth Lie. Uh, you gotta make sure you send me a copy of that, but also can you just gimme a quick little thumbnail about that one?
Byrd: For sure. So, he is remarkable, and I think with that it, the Wealth Lie rejects the notion that money is the only form of wealth and should be our ultimate. Right. This is done by the, my incredible agent in my department, who’s one of my close friends, Pilar Queen, right? One of my, one of the best hires I made. Right? And so, she, so Sahil gets and know we’re all, so many of us are just wired, living these lives of quiet desperation, trying to make money and thinking that’s where our happiness is, right? And then what he breaks down in this book is, is why that is not true. Right. And, and how to live a life of fulfillment that is not oriented in that direction.
Joe: All right. So, make sure you make, make a note to send that one to me, Byrd, when you get a chance. Uh, d do you have, uh, any other book you can, uh, throw in before, without, without giving away too many company secrets?
Byrd: For sure. I mean, I think, uh, this is breaking news, but we’ll be selling, uh, the next book by Malala, which is very exciting, so that that will get a lot of attention. And I’m just flipping through the guide I told you about before. There’s so many great books in here. Gretchen Rubin is someone we represent. Of course, she did The Happiness Project, her book Life and Five Senses. We have an unbelievable, relationship guide by a woman named Tinx. Right called The Shift, which is about kind of empowerment. And I think that book is, could really be one of the kinds of defining books in that space. And you know, I could keep going. I won’t make you go, go, go through it all. But there’s, you get the idea. There’s just one of the great things about the department where we are now, we have so much to pitch, right? We have all these great projects.
Joe: Yeah. And now you mentioned, uh, a little while ago when you’re talking about Schwarzenegger, about Harrison Ford. Can we get a Harrison Ford book, like Byrd? Can you, can you work on that please?
Byrd: I mean, can we, I mean, believe me, I have the man needs to do a book and it’ll, we will get him eventually, but it is, um, we haven’t gotten there yet.
Joe: Yeah, man. Oh man. Is it eighties kids? Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Man.
Byrd: I will tell you; I have zoomed with him, and it is just like I’ve gotten to a place in my career. I can play it. Cool. With almost anyone, but when, when he hops onto Zoom, you’re just like, it really takes you a minute to kind of find your voice.
Joe: Let me ask you, without getting into the specifics of the conversation, what’s it like to have a Zoom call with Han Solo? I mean, what is he like virtually?
Byrd: He is, he’s, he, I, I would say that he’s fun, you know what I mean? Like, this is a man who’s, who’s been at the top of the game for so long. And it was such an enjoyable conversation to start to figure out what the book could be and what his thoughts were and what he didn’t want. So, like once we got started and once you got over your own shock of talking to Harrison Ford, it was, he was just fun. He was just totally into it.
Joe: Oh my God, that sounds so awesome, man. Well, good luck, but if you do me a favor, uh, shoot me a text when you get that book deal done, because I am gonna be first in line to get that mother that I cannot wait for that.
Byrd: I hope it happens.
Joe: So, uh, you know, let’s, let’s wrap things up by talking about books in terms of why, for an entrepreneur out here listening, you know, my company publishes books for entrepreneurs, CEOs. Can you talk about the impact of what a book means to someone who’s a high net worth, high leverage individual? Like we’ve talked about, you have a lot of celebrities in your stable. What does a book do for these people? What’s the why for the book? And I know obviously there’s probably, everyone has their own different why, but is there like an overarching why as to why someone who’s incredibly successful uber wealthy, why they would want to write a book?
Byrd: There are a bunch of answers to that. That’s a good question. I think like it gets back to what we were discussing, like, yeah, hey, why it’s great to work in publishing, I think, which is that like for someone in that position or, okay, one key point that your book is something you have complete control of, right? Like if you go out and you do interviews or whatever the case may be, you’re giving over control. But in a book that is yet is you control every sentence in it. You control how it is packaged, you put it out into. And it becomes this like sacrosanct thing that you created that you could refer to again and again. And also, it’s a great way fundamentally to help people, like if you want to help people and you feel like you’ve learned a lot along the way and you feel like you have a lot to share, people are looking for books to answer questions and to help them. There’s so many unhappy people. There are people looking for guidance to get out, to get unstuck, and I feel like a, a great book does that right? And you can go, and you can find authors who have really sold a lot of copies in the space. You look at the Amazon reviews and the people just, they use that phrase, life-changing all the time. Cause a book can still do that. And then to continue it, I think what I say is that A New York Times bestseller is the rising tide that raises all boats. Like that’s the thing. It was, it was to your point about, uh, the cultural resonance of, of, of a book, right? Is if you approach the process and you can support it and you can find the right publisher and you can find a way to overcome those odds and make that book work. And so, it becomes a self-fulfilling thing through the conversations like, I mean, good lord we could spend an hour talking about Atomic Habits. It’s fascinating and I think that is, you see again and again, the power that book can have to help everything else that you’re doing.
Joe: Hmm. All right. And you personally, what’s your book radar like when you see a manuscript or when you’re pitched by someone or someone’s asking you about a book? When you are walking around Hollywood. You know, you’re walking around everyone, everyone’s got a script. Everyone’s got a script. Everyone’s got a book. What’s that thing that says, this is something I wanna be involved? Because at the end of the day, it’s not just money, it’s time. And we as, as much as we can buy everything, we can’t buy more time. So your time, I’m sure is incredibly important to you. So, what is it that sets off that like book Radar and Bird’s Brain that says, I wanna be involved in that project. Is there something is, or is it just too kind of magical to put into words?
Byrd: No, I can answer that. I feel like you, how do you, how do you feel that kind of magic fairy dust when you engage with something good? One way I think about it is that you can tell it when, again, with, with non-fiction if cuz fiction is art, right? With fiction is like, you can tell like if someone has it within the first one page to 50. You know what I mean? I really think you can, and with non-fiction, if you’re talking about a book proposal, one thing I look for is like, is that person doing that book out of ego? Right? Is it, is it just purely like I’ve achieved and now I will do this book? Because that’s not a good reason at all to approach the process. Right? But it instead, if you, if you see within their description of the book or in the book proposal or whatever it is presented to you, that there is a real desire to reach a lot of people. Right. That’s the key thing. The book publishing is a business as well. Right. So, if you could, if people have put the thought, if they’ve read books that their book would be compared to, that’s one of the first things I look for. Is this person a reader? Do they understand the market that they’re trying to enter or, or is it again, just coming back to a kind of reflexive, like now I will do a book. Like, no, you have to put the thought into it to understand why other books have worked and is there something new and different about your book. I think that’s a really key thing, like is it. What are you trying to impart? You know, why, why is someone gonna pay $28 for this book and spend X hours of their life with it? Like, what are your answers to those questions? And if you, someone’s put the thought into it, and they have good answers to those questions. Then that’s the pixie dust. You’re like, okay, we can work with this. This is someone who is approaching this for the right reasons, and I can play my part to help them through this process to make it happen.
Joe: Hmm. So in other words, if a former radio personality wrote a book about his years working in radio and talking about the importance of conversation and connecting with other humans, that’s, that’s, that’s the kind of magic you’re talking about, right?
Byrd: That is a great book, and someone should do that book and whoever is listening to this should go buy 10 copies of that book.
Joe: I, I think what I think it’s called Good Listen, but I’m just saying hypothetically, if it was called good listen.
Byrd: That was sounds fabulous. That sounds it does that the best idea I’ve heard in months.
Joe: Cool, cool, cool. And, and on a lighter note, what is the most random pitch you ever got? Because I’m sure you get a random email or running into someone one on the, on the street or maybe a family gathering when they find out, oh, there, that guy was there. That’s bird. He, he’s, he’s a, he’s literary. You should tell ’em about your book. What’s the most random one you got?
Byrd: Well, I’ll tell you something that happened to me two weeks ago is I, I texted someone and I texted the wrong number and that person replied, and they said, I’m sorry, you think you have the wrong number? And then there’s a minute. And then, and then she was like, Listen, I can’t help myself, but your name showed up in the text and I see that you’re a literary agent and I actually have a book. Can I send it to you? So that was like, I either, this is gonna be the best story ever about how, how I found a novelist, right? Or this is just a testament to how many people out there have books, which I also will say this, and this is a key point. Anyone who has put their phone down and turned off TikTok and, and turned off their TV and has spent time creating a book, it, that is something to be admired. I mean, it’s very easy to do a place of critique of the quality of that book, but like to believe in yourself and to, and to give it a shot, like even after doing this job for as long as I’ve been doing it, I have never lost that appreciation for that. I really believe that.
Joe: I love that. No, that’s great. Now, I believe isn’t that Malcolm Gladwell got discovered. He, he texted someone in the middle of the night. It was like a literary agent.
Byrd: Why couldn’t it be me? Why couldn’t it be me?
Joe: Well, Byrd, it’s been a blast talking to you. It sounds like you got some great things going over there at UTA, London Book Fair, thanks so much for the time. Thank you. Taking all my random questions and being able to answer them, uh, wholeheartedly. And you cannot think that I’m a psychopath with these random questions, so I really appreciate it. Byrd.
Byrd: Joe, this was such a pleasure. I really enjoy, uh, the fact you took the time and I look forward to keeping the conversation going.
Hosted By: Joe Pardavila