The long and winding road of writing always leads me back to the Beatles.
The long and winding road of writing always leads me back to the Beatles.
Most publishing professionals have been asked a slew of questions about the process, one of the most common questions we get is about whether or not you need a literary agent to get published. So, as an agent, I thought I would address the definition of a literary agent and what we can and cannot do for writers.
A literary agent is a person who represents the business interests of writers and their written works. We work with both new and established writers. Agents work with the Big Four Publishers, (Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, and Macmillan) Simon and Schuster were a part of the Big Five. It’s been acquired by Bertelsmann, which also owns Random House and Penguin. In addition to staying abreast of all the changes within the industry, we’ve cultivated relationships with independent publishers, boutique presses, and small presses. Agents negotiate with publishers for the rights to publish their written works. This also includes subsidiary rights such as options from film producers, and theatrical or film producers for the rights to bring a writer’s written works to the big or small screen, as well as the stage. The fee agents charge generally ranges between 15 to 20%.
A literary agent allows writers to concentrate on writing. The agent will focus on procuring the best and most lucrative offers they can on behalf of their clients. There are great benefits to having an agent land a deal with a traditional publisher, be it the Big Four or an independent press. First and foremost, nearly all the high-profile publishing companies don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, whether it’s the next Harry Potter or War and Peace. Agents are the gatekeepers of sorts. They have vetted the authors they represent and editors know they can trust the agent’s client list. This is the difference between getting a read or sitting in an enormous slush pile.
You can use a guidebook to help you find a literary agent. One of the top resources you can use is The Writer’s Market Guide to Literary Agents 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published (2020). The Writer’s Market has been around for a long time and is pretty accurate. The listings are exhaustive and contain each agent’s specific specialties. Moreover, it lets you know if they are taking on new clients and what their submissions requirements are to be considered. It’s important to pay attention to those details and follow them to the letter.
You may also be able to get more information online through Reedsy, a website for writers and writing professionals. There is also literaryagencies.com which has a list of agents from around the country.
Once you’ve completed your research, make sure your manuscript is in the best shape it can be when you query and submit it to an agent. With the exception of large firms, most agencies aren’t that large and it may take some time for them to get back to anyone who queries them. Try to query during their submissions period. Even then, it may take time before you hear back. Most agencies’ email servers will send an email to let you know your query was received. However, if you haven’t heard anything back in two weeks, send a follow-up email to see if your query was received. Most agents are happy to check their queue.
On average it may take anywhere from six to ten weeks for most agents to get back to you. Don’t take it personally. Agents have clients they are already actively representing, which is a good thing.
It’s important to remember that getting a book published is an exercise in patience, and with an agent, it will take more time. From your submission for representation to signing with an agent, to the agent actively pitching your book to publishers. It’s a lot to consider. Writers must weigh the pros and cons of working with an agent and make the best decision for yourself and your writing career.
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If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.President Harry S. Truman
President Truman seemed like the kind of man who liked to take charge. He believed the buck stopped with him. While it might seem like a bit of a stretch to relate this philosophy with creativity, it’s worked for me, in the reverse. When I find my brain is short-circuiting while I’m in the midst of writing, I go into the kitchen to re-wire my thinking, and my first inclination is to bake.
For many people, baking is mysterious and difficult. Cooking allows chefs and home chefs to think outside of the box and add a little of this, or a pinch of that. Whereas baking is a science. The formula is set in the recipe. There is no deviating. It’s that sense of order that calms me. Artists tend to live in their heads, and that’s truly seen in writers. The thought process involved in creating characters, plots, and dialogue, mixed with outside research, could drive anyone bonkers. So, it’s important to find something that aids you in this process. It doesn’t have to be cooking, baking, or anything in the kitchen. Just do something that works for you. It also works wonders if you have a presentation or report due for school or work.
I’m currently working on a novel and a couple of cookbooks. I have a few other fictional works in my queue, but I only work on one novel at a time. Doing more than that, is a recipe for disaster and it’s biting off way more than I can chew. I have begun the process of putting slides together for the cookbook and I hope to have another test kitchen to take photos for the illustrations. It’s why lamination was the way to go for me. The busy work of all the components for puff pastry keeps my hands busy and my mind focused. I figured out the layout I wanted and my family had fresh turnovers for breakfast. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Puff Pastry recipe by Dessert for Two adapted by me
2 cups (125 grams) all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend)
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
20 tablespoons high-quality unsalted butter (5 ounces), cold (vegan butter)
2/3 cup ice cold water
In a medium bowl, add the flour and salt. Stir to mix.
Next, cube the butter and then add it to the flour bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the dough. It will be very crumbly, and you’re done when the butter is in uniform pieces all about the size of peas.
Next, make a hole in the center of the dough and pour in all of the water. Using a fork, stir to combine the dough.
Flour a cutting board, and add the dough. Pat it into a rough square. You will still see chunks of butter and it will seem too dry, but do not add extra water. The dough will come together with each roll.
Flour the rolling pin, and roll the dough out in front of you into a rectangle about 10″ long. No need to be too precise here.
Fold the bottom third of the dough over the middle of the dough. Fold the upper third of the dough on top of the middle too. Rotate the dough one-quarter turn, and repeat. Use additional flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
Roll out, fold, and turn the dough at least 6 or 7 times.
When done, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour, or overnight. Dough may be frozen, too.
Roll out with flour for desired puff pastry use.