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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


I haven't blogged in a while, but I thought I would do a post about my Barcelona trip, rather than 58 tweets.

Why Barcelona?

I discovered two years ago when I did the Eurocon in Dublin the week after LonCon that Eurocon isn't a great professional convention.  In Dublin, so much so that I decided to just put the bill for the whole stay as a personal expense so I could enjoy Dublin guilt free.  But, Barcelona is the heart of the Spanish publishing business, so when I saw the next Eurocon would be in Barcelona, I eyed it as a chance to see Spanish publishers on their home turf with more time to talk and learn than in the 30 minute appointments that we have in endless succession at London Book Fair.  And to visit Spanish bookstores, and with our agents for the Spanish market.  Any bar-con or schmoozing that Eurocon presented would be an add-on.  And then it turned out that Eurocon dovetailed nicely with a European tour that Brandon Sanderson had on his schedule, so we worked the itinerary that Brandon could be in Barcdlona for Eurocon, an opportunity that the convention and his publishers, Ediciones B, we're happy to take advantage of. It all worked out very nicely.

Now that I have employees and an iPad, I do a lot less personal preparation for a trip like this than I used to.  Krystyna Lopez, the head of foreign rights for the agency, was joining me, so she and her assistant Rebecca took care of slotting the publishers and arranging the schedule. I just kind of show up and go where I'm told.  I ended up buying a couple guide books a few days before the trip, but hardly looked at them.

So Krystyna and I get to Barcelona at 6:30 AM, and...

For one, the US is not a very welcoming country.  Getting into the US is an ordeal even for citizens with forms and lines and a general belief everyone is a criminal.  Getting into Spain, Italy, the U.K -- much smoother.  They put out a welcome mat, we put out a "Beware of Dog" sign.  

We decided to aim for the Aerobus. It was waiting and ready, and it wasn't yet 7AM, so why pay for a cab.  Good call. The bus runs often, gets into town quickly, had good free WiFi.   In a bit, the subway will also go out to the airport, but for now, the bus is a good choice if you've packed light and aren't too far from where the bus stops downtown.

And the four days I've had in Barcelona? I had no idea what to expect, and the first four of our seven days in the city have been amazing.

General impressions

Walking: it's both a great walking city and an awful one.  The awful last -- by the time you get the yellow signal as a pedestrian, you're already dead.  New York, it means most people can start at the yellow and have time to cross the street. Here, three quick flashes, time to cross one lane, and the cars are ready to bear down.  Almost all the intersections, the crosswalk is set back from the corner, which is fine if you're going on a diagonal route and awful if going in a straight line because every corner means adding time. Street signs are often hard to find, like London usually on the buildings, but with less consistency and visibility. And because most of the corners are rounded and the buildings set back in a circle, it's harder to see what's at any given corner, including the street sign.  Also, very few of the buildings have numbers on them.  And traffic moves. You can't jaywalk because it's rare to have cars backed up and not going anywhere.  So you detour to the crosswalk, and patiently wait for the light. Amd yet, it's also a city with lots of wide thoroughfares with pedestrian promenades and benches and bikeways.

Dining: Most restaurants have lunch hours that may not start before 13:00 and dinner hours that may begin at 20:00.  But there are also all sorts of cafes and patisseries and convenience stores and the like that are open. Meal hours are regimented, but you will rarely need to go far in the downtown areas to find someplace to get something to eat. And there is a variety of food today. This is the biggest thing for me in comparing with Paris. There, after a late movie in bustling Montparnasse, actual dining options were about non-existent, bistros that were open only for drinks after 9:30. My late night dining was from a train station vending machine.  And all the bistros had similar menus, the patisseries the same baked goods.  Barcelona, coming back from movie after midnight, I could find a few places still serving food and some 24 hour stores, even though I wasn't walking through the central part of downtown. There are some ubiquitous food items, but variety as well. And while there is no lack of paella, I can go not too far afield from my hotel and find Indian, Thai, Asian, Russian, Italian, and more.  Bottom line, I've had many dishes that I've never had at the fancy meals required by the business engagements, but also gone to a burger place, Indian, and had grab and go pizza.  I chose to come to Barcelona, which didn't require having one type of food for an entire week.


Day one, I walked down to the inner harbor area and Las Ramblas, the major tourist shopping thoroughfare, and then up to Parc Gaudie with views down on the city.  Wonderful dinner hosted by Ediciones B, the Spanish publishers for Brandon Sanderson.

Day two, publisher meetings during the day, and Brandon Sanderson signing at Gigamesh, a giant specialty shop for all things nerd, with 350+ people on line to meet Brandon.  I stayed til 9:30, then went to see a British film, Ken Loach's I Daniel Blake, on the large screen of an art house.  I don't consider any trip complete without seeing a movie!

Day three, another wonderful meal at lunch time, with the agent I've worked with in Spain for thirty years, dating to the start of my career at Scott Meredith. Preceded by publisher meetings, followed by a Brandon Sanderson signing at the major FNAC downtown, and then our taking Brandon out for dinner. Another excellent meal, location recommended by the editor of Planeta's Minotauro imprint. That signing had an attendance cap, and was lower key than the event at Gigamesh.

Day four, I took advantage of a free morning to walk around the parks near parliament, then along the actual beach, before heading inland for lunch with Aliette de Bodard, whose work we have in our ebook program via John Berlyne and Zeno Agency. Another nice meal. Then over to Eurocon to see two Q&A sessions with Brandon Sanderson. 

More I could say, but an early wake up call to day trip to Valencia to see our client Mark Hodder.