It's come to the attention of many a John Grisham fan that there is a rather large mistake in his novel The Guardians about Morehouse College.
Interning at a literary agency was like being paid to eat candy all day. Except that I wasn’t paid and the books I read usually weren’t sweet. The internship entailed reading and reviewing manuscript submissions, working the front desk (aka awkwardly offering visitors coffee/tea and then just getting them water), and sending out mail.
Over the course of those four months, I read tons of books and it’s likely only one or two of them will ever make it to publication. It was a time of ‘business casual’ clothing and free Nespresso coffees that taught me a lot about how the publishing industry works.
1. No, the literary agency doesn’t publish books
The different facets of the publishing industry can be confusing because there are so many of them. There’s the publishing company, the editors, the lawyers, the agents, and more. The job of the agent is to get a book to publishers. Usually, agents have relationships with companies and they will take a client and their work to the company to get published. Jericho Writers reported that the odds of sale with an agent are around 67%. Chances are much lower if an author just cold submits their manuscript to a publishing company.
2. there’s a method to all the career madness
If you were wondering how someone manages to make it in the industry, there’s actually a system in place that allows you to rise up. After getting hired as an agent’s assistant, you can work under them learning for about two years, before starting to take on clients of your own. Another year or two after that, once you’ve established yourself with a couple of works, you can break away and become an agent. Generally, the agency that you’ve been working for will hire you, but you can take your clients elsewhere or start up your own agency as well. Over the years you will work your way up by gaining more clients and (hopefully) representing some bestsellers.
3. There really are a ton of white women
In my agency alone there were 9 that I was aware of. Granted, there were a bunch of male agents, but no male assistants and no males of color. But yes, the stereotype is alive and thriving.
4. it’s worth submitting a proposal before writing your manuscript
There’s nothing quite as disappointing as pouring hours into your work only to have it rejected. Agents will only accept clients that they can sell, otherwise they won’t make any money. They get paid only when their client does, and do not run on a set salary. So, before sitting down and throwing your whole life into an idea, send some proposals around to agencies first to see if someone will represent it. This will also force you into a deadline for your writing (which some of us NEED) and will allow for better feedback throughout the process.
5. submit your work with normal formatting
Times New Roman. 12pt. font. Double spaced. It’s so easy to do. No agent is going to be impressed if you decide to write in Courier Neue because you think it looks nicer. In fact, most won’t even read the manuscript if it isn’t formatted correctly. It’s worth just sticking to the standard so there will be nothing distracting your reader from the actual work.
feature image via masterclass.com
In this edition of the 5x5 series, we asked 5 female literary agents 5 questions. Who better to speak about books than the people that get them published?
Authors are human, ergo, mistakes will happen. And, let’s be honest, some are just a result of poor editing. But this one? This one is hilarious.
With the month of November drawn to a close, so too does NaNoWriMo end. NaNoWriMo, for those who might not be familiar, is the month-long writing challenge that pushes writers to write 50,000 words in thirty days. For some, this is a good way to help crank out first drafts of projects. For others, the act of writing so much is exhausting and it will only end in burnout. This challenge is not made simpler by the fact that November is by no means an easy month. For students, this month means working on final papers for class or preparing for exams. For folks working in retail or any position that is holiday sensitive, this is an extremely stressful time of year as well. If you are both a student and an employee, it gets even more difficult. If you happen to be a parent, a student, an employee, and anything else, NaNoWriMo becomes a serious task and commitment to take on.
All the same, that doesn’t mean that NaNos can’t keep pushing onward and continue working on their projects.
So where do NaNos go from here?
Well, there are several directions that NaNos can take after November ends. NaNoWriMo was originally meant to help writers create first drafts for projects that they would like to pursue for the remainder of the year. For the writers who completed their drafts, the months following NaNoWriMo are meant typically intended for rewriting, revising, and reworking their current projects. The hardest part for some writers, after all, is getting words onto the page, and that is why NaNoWriMo encourages the idea of writing with abandon. So now that these writers have made it to 50,000 and completed their stories, now is the time to review and revise and decide where to go from there.
BUt what about the writers who didn’t finish their drafts?
Image via yale herald
Just because a NaNo didn’t complete her project doesn’t mean that she can’t opt to start a new draft or begin to edit what she already has. It isn’t uncommon for a draft to not be completed prior to a writer beginning another. It also isn’t uncommon to edit as one works on their story either. Writer Zadie Smith edits as she works on her stories, so it isn’t unheard of to take what one currently has and edit it as it is. For some NaNos, that might be exactly what they need to do. One of my dear friends started a project this past November, and she decided that she didn’t like the direction that the story was going. She knows that now, and she can now begin the process of reworking her draft when she feels ready. She can either edit what she has, or she can start anew. Regardless, she knows what things to avoid when she begins her new draft.
Regardless, this is a time to consider where your story is going and if any changes need to take place
Image via hbs digital initiative – harvard business school
The end of November is the prime time to review what one has written and consider the direction that one would like to take from there. Do you like where your story went? Or would you rather the plot go another way? Maybe you found out that a character that you thought would be extremely insignificant would make an amazing protagonist and a new point of view to follow. Based on that, you can choose to restructure your story in a way that appeals to you more than it may have originally. Perhaps these decisions will lend a new level of complexity to your narrative, and in doing so, it will help you craft a story that is more well-rounded. This is the ideal time to sit back and ruminate on your story and make a plan of action (if you are a planner when it comes to writing).
Remember: it is okay to set a story aside
image via youworkforthem
NaNoWriMo is really good for writers (like me) who have a hard time finishing the projects that they start. We have a clear goal in mind and a month-long window set to complete it. However, I will be the person to say that you, as a writer, will probably not finish every story you start. And that is okay. You might get halfway through your idea and realize that it has no foreseeable end. You might realize that this project doesn’t make you happy. You might have another more promising idea grab you by the wrists.
Just because you opt to not complete a project doesn’t mean that you have failed. In her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, writer Elizabeth Gilbert tells her readers that there are going to be stories and projects that they start that will never be finished, and that is okay.
Does this mean that you, as a writer, should abandon every project you start? Absolutely not. This also doesn’t mean that you can’t take these early ideas and incorporate them into another story later on. What it does mean is that you have permission to put an idea on hold or, again, recognize when a story isn’t going anywhere.
The most important thing is to keep writing
image via Scripps college
Your work is important. Your ideas are important. You may have no plans of ever sharing either with another soul. You might want to get it published. What matters is that you keep writing. The NaNoWriMo website isn’t only available during November, after all: you can create a new goal and use the same interface to work towards it in the coming months. Ultimately, you should take what you learned from this last month and make something of it. That doesn’t mean take the same project that you had for this year and run with it, especially if you realized that you didn’t enjoy working on it, but it does mean sit back and consider what you liked about the process and what you disliked. What would you change? What worked best for you? Now that you have a better feel of things: keep writing.
And don’t forget: Camp NaNo takes place twice a year (during the months of April and July). So if your November was hectic, maybe Camp NaNo will be a better alternative? After all, you get to choose your writing goal during these months, so you aren’t beholden to the 50,000 words that NaNoWriMo challenges you to reach.
It doesn’t matter if you another month or if you another five years to complete a project: keep writing.
Featured Image Via the Irish Times
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