I hung up the phone with Simon & Schuster at 9am on June 8th and from there, I quietly promised my mind 26 full minutes to collect herself, settle in beside my sanity, and then I whispered to them both,
‘please, you two sit tight.’
I walked to work.
I did that thing I do between 10am and 6pm, that much loved Foodista thing. I edited articles, engaged through social media, and planned two International Food Blogger Conferences.
And by 6pm, when I checked my personal email to see if
God had sent me that half birthday present,
you just never know,
I found an email from the literary agent that my new editor friend at Simon & Schuster had recommended I contact.
I’m so happy that [she] put me in touch with you. I haven’t been this excited about a writer’s voice in ages, and honestly I’ve been reading your blog all day long. Would love to discuss your interest in writing a book.
Folio Literary Management”
I smiled. Beamed. Considered.
His name, Steve Troha.
His agency, Folio.
His resume, quite impressive.
His energy, as boisterous as mine.
We made a date to speak that next morning at 8am. I felt what I can only imagine is the precise definition of exhilaration. Fizzy insides just bubbling away. Tingling and butterfly-filled. I had the fingers and toes of my family and pug crossed tightly. Goodness, let it go well.
Our conversation that next morning went,
as unlikely as unlikely goes,
even better than the conversation I’d had the day before with the editor.
It flowed. We spoke the same language, laughed at the same time, and I felt,
as sure as sure can be,
He’s right for me.
For my book.
I went so far as to tell him of my prior skepticism. I said, “You know Steve, I hadn’t quite considered a literary agent until yesterday, but once I imagined finding one…honestly, I hoped it would be a woman. I just adore the company of women. I jive with them. But…
you’re the one for me. I didn’t expect to hit it off so sincerely, so well.”
I meant it.
And he thought. He said, through what I imagine was a smile,
“I’m so happy to hear that. I hope we do this together.”
We hung up and I felt brave and confident and supported in a way I hadn’t before.
For the rest of that day, though, I tight roped certain and uncertain. I wondered,
Am I rushing this?
Should I be shopping around for different agents?
Are they all so charming and enthusiastic?
Is it really my work that he’s fallen in love with? Or is it just that one of his favorite editors saw something worthwhile in my writing?
Do I need an agent if I already have interest from one large, oh so very in charge, editor at one of the top publishing houses?
I spent days playing a tiresome game of back and forth with myself. I sought the advice of my mom, my dad, my pug, and my two best friends.
They all echoed the same: “I can’t tell you that. You have to make this decision on your own.”
More days passed. I reviewed our contract, the one written up by Folio. Steve would take a total of 15% of the money I’d get in any book deal, an industry standard. For their part, Folio would engage with and shop my proposal around to major publishing houses, negotiate any and all contracts, set up future speaking engagements, worldwide distribution, handle legal formalities, and all that I had no idea about. Everything.
I researched. Is this a good deal? Is this the best deal?
I thought and thought and then, a week later, in between bites of a perhaps-premature-celebration cake, I realized my gut had decided.
One more piece.
Gosh I like the corner pieces of sheet cake.
He’s it. Let’s do this.
I signed the contract and faxed it back the next morning, June 15th.
Ultimately, I chose to work with with an agent because: an agent would act on my behalf. They’d know the standard practices in and around publishing, they’d liaise most effectively with different editors and publishing houses, secure the most lucrative and sound deal, and at a very basic level, I knew:
They get a piece of that book deal, they become a part of the overall success of the book, so naturally,
they’d like the best deal, and the absolute best book possible.
And as a first time author, I had to accept that I do not know all the things that Steve will know for me. He’s my wiser, better-dressed, and infinitely more likeable partner and mentor in this whole process. And that’s beyond valuable.
For all of these reasons, I recommend working with a literary agent at a reputable agency. Google them, the company they represent, review their LinkedIn profile. Talk to them multiple times to be sure you mesh well, because that’s also vital: your relationship.
Yes, they take a percentage (typically 15%), but you’d likely get a larger deal overall. They are cautious for you. They ensure that your newbie writer naiveté does not land you a less than ideal contract, because remember, this book is your heart and soul.
Steve and I spoke on the phone several times during the remaining days of that week. He guided me through the proposal writing process. He emailed me samples of what solid outlines and overviews look like. There’s a formatting to follow, a whole set of inclusions and insights that must be contained within that twenty to thirty page piece.
Once I felt comfortable with the formatting, I set about writing. I aimed for 25 pages of passionate concept and content. I hoped and perspired all the way through thirty typed pages of the best writing I could muster and I ended, a tired two weeks later, with forty.
I had worried and grayed strands of my hair. How can you put all that you want and love and believe in 12 point Times New Roman?
I doubted and deleted.
Rewrote and revised.
And when it was all over, I realized,
No matter how perfectly this proposal flows,
how boldly I think this book will stand beside others on a bookshelf,
how broad my potential audience,
what sets this work apart
wild and unruly,
is that all of me is in each page, as complete and precise as every word, every punctuation.
part 3 to come…topic: how to write a book proposal