On writing a book: Part 2

by Andie Mitchell on September 12, 2011

read part 1 here

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,


I mean,

you just never know,

I found an email from the literary agent that my new editor friend at Simon & Schuster had recommended I contact.

It read,


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.


Steve Troha
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 matters,

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

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Lara @TresLaLa September 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm

I find it hard to believe that you don’t mesh well with *everyone* you meet – maybe it’s just your “voice”, but that’s what I think anyway… This is such an interesting series – thanks for letting us in to take a peek.


Patricia September 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm

What a wonderful predicament to stress over: Angent or No Agent? Your book is going to be amazing! Can’t wait for the next installment of this series.


Debra September 13, 2011 at 2:19 am

Even your pre-book words are a fascinating read! Thanks for allowing us on the exciting vicarious ride!


Johnny September 13, 2011 at 2:28 am

If your book is half as zany as this blog post it will be a great hit! I can only imagine how exciting, stressful, heart pounding this must all be! But don’t forget to stay grounded. You’re beutiful and THAT’S what people love! :)


Heather (Heather's Dish) September 13, 2011 at 5:00 am

perfectly put! i can’t even imagine the stress, but it’s going to be 100% worth it all ~ in fact, it probably already is :)


Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat September 13, 2011 at 5:11 am

Wow, thanks so much for sharing this story Andie!! I am loving reading about your book writing adventures so far and I’m so happy that you found such a perfect agent – sounds like you two will make a great pair!!


Julie @SavvyEats September 13, 2011 at 5:24 am

You are my favorite, and I can’t wait to read everything you write. xoxo


Melissa September 13, 2011 at 5:48 am

You.are.FANTASTIC. The end.


The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh September 13, 2011 at 6:03 am

The info you are providing is so insightful and has me hanging on your every word. (Like that’s different from anything else you write? Pssht!)


Wendy September 13, 2011 at 6:07 am

Best of luck for your book Andie – I hope we get it in South Africa one day!!


Carole September 13, 2011 at 6:32 am

Thank you so much for taking us along on your amazing ride.


Liz @ Tip Top Shape September 13, 2011 at 7:22 am

I am so ridiculously happy for you. As a fellow aspiring author (well, you are no longer aspiring!) I can literally feel your excitement in this. Very much looking forward to your next installment!


Kelly @foodiefresh September 13, 2011 at 8:35 am

I love that you’re doing this! So excited to read more. :)


Stacy September 13, 2011 at 9:34 am

You have me on the edge of my seat.


Gina September 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

This is all so exciting!!!


Nicole September 13, 2011 at 9:57 am

So exciting! I love that you are sharing this with us!


Frieda September 13, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Please make sure I can order it somewhere that delivers to Germany :D


pamela September 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Oooo, this is going to be a great ride. Thanks for taking us along. Can’t wait for part 3!


Andrea September 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Gahhh. So exciting!! Can’t wait for your book. Can’t wait.


Lisa September 13, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Is it done yet? :-) Just kidding. I’m excited to read your book.


JaNelle September 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Thank you for sharing your journey with your “heart and soul” with us!


Anneliesz September 13, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Very interesting to hear about the process, to hear about the dance with agents. So excited to see you in your printed words. Fueled by Americanos. :)


Lauren September 14, 2011 at 6:08 am

I actually work for a fairly prolific writer, and 15% is standard. Agents are awesome, and I think that as you get further into this process, you will come to find Steve a remarkable resource and friend. So excited about your book!!!!


Biz September 14, 2011 at 9:43 am

Eeek – still so excited for you Andie! Your book is going to be great, I just know it – and I’ll be the first in line to buy it. :D


Marla @ Your Full Plate September 14, 2011 at 10:51 am

Hi Andie, I’m a long time silent reader and I just have to tell you that I’m jumping out of my skin with excitement for you. Your book is going to be absolutely fabulous, and I appreciate being able to peek in on the process! Thanks for all the love and intention you put into every single post and recipe.


Christine September 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Best of luck and hard work! That is fantastic. :)


Jennifer September 14, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I just found your blog through Pinterest, and I’ve now spent the last hour absorbed in your story. I never imagined there was someone out there with my story, who could put it into words that my brain could wrap itself around.

All I can say is thank you. For being vulnerable and speaking your heart.

It is helping me. It truly is.

And your writing freaking rocks. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of your book!


Winnie September 14, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I love your writing and I am quite sure your book will be terrific. Congrats!


Stacie A September 15, 2011 at 11:57 pm

I.am.so.excited.for.you!!! (AND US!!!) Thanks again for sharing your heart and soul with us and letting us see your journey. Your vulnerability continues to be so inspiring!!! I seriously can’t wait! :). Happy writing!!!!


Jen @ keepitsimplefoods September 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Love this series! I’m currently in the process of doing some writing and hope to be published one day. This is so inspiring to me. Thanks!


Caitlin September 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm

This is so beautifully written. I love reading about this process, just fascinating. congrats to you for living out your dreams – it’s so inspirational!


Ashley September 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm

THIS is amazing. YOU are amazing. CONGRATS!!!!!!!! <3 Your writing is like art.


SallyBR September 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Absolutely wonderful! I knew you were going to find an agent that would be like a dream come true…

looking forward to your next “chapter” ;-)


Nicole September 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Oh, wow, I am eating this up… All I can think is, “I hope this is me someday.” And, “Oh, I must learn from this.” And ultimately, “Wow, I am SO happy for Andrea!” :)


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