I hung up the phone with Simon & Schuster at 9am on June 8th walked to work. And by 6pm, when I checked my personal email to see if perhaps God had sent me that half birthday present, because, 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.
Folio Literary Management
I smiled. Beamed. Considered.
We made a date to speak the next morning at 8am, and when we spoke it went, as unlikely as this can be, even better than the conversation I’d had the day before with the editor. It just flowed. We spoke the same language, laughed at the same time, and I felt so sure of him. It was as if we’d be friends for years.
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 walked a tightrope between 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 Daniel, my mom, my dad, 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. I thought and thought and then, a week later, in between bites of a perhaps-premature-celebration cake, I realized my gut had decided. Steve was it.
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.
part 3 to come…topic: how to write a book proposal