A gracious volunteer escorted me into a makeshift office. The only prominent features of the sparse cubicle were two chairs, a small table, and a timer set for ten minutes. She introduced me to a twenty-something literary agent and checked off my name from a long list of aspiring authors pitching their manuscripts at a writing conference. The agent was a gatekeeper and held the keys to the published writers’ kingdom. He leaned back and asked about my book. I leaned forward, smiled, and gave all I had to pry open those gargantuan invisible gates that fortified the world of traditional publishing.
I thought my pitch was going well until I paused to catch my breath. That’s when the agent said, “Hmmm, interesting perspective for a travel memoir considering your background and all …” but then paused before asking, “What about your business plan?”
All my day-dreams of a reclusive and eccentric writer lifestyle began to drift away from that one question. The only topic that I’d not rambled upon was the only one he focused on. Every word the agent spoke after a brief silence pushed my dreams further away until they vanished. The travel, displacement, assimilation, and cultural perspectives from across three continents raised an eyebrow, but he wanted know about my platform, the audience for the book, and a written business plan to attract that market. I remained quiet, listened politely, and tried not to act surprised. Apparently, my twenty-dollar investment to talk with him for ten minutes was not a solid business plan.
I thought time stopped only for science-fiction writers, or when you fell in love, but it also stops for new writers when asked about a business plan. The sound of male crickets chirping inside my head kept me from thinking of a business plan that would engage the agent. I was stuck in stasis, but when I glanced at the timer, the second hand raced along without a care in the world. It went faster in that one meeting than all the others that I attended, especially the project meetings at work where it had to be nudged to keep it moving along.
When I got up to leave, the agent advised me to complete a book proposal with a business plan. I smiled, shook hands, and walked away. He’d guessed correctly at the only twenty-dollar plan I’d walked in with. I hadn’t thought of writing as a business, and fifteen percent of my twenty-dollar investment would hardly cover the bar tip later on, much less buy a strong drink to recover from talking to writers like me all day.
Another year of micro-managing commas and the dreaded semicolon on book proposals flashed through my mind when I left the conference and thought of heading back to work. Thankfully, the best advice given to aspiring authors is not to give up their day jobs just yet, anytime soon, or if at all. I had a nice job, apart from the project meetings of course, but it didn’t call for any reclusive, or eccentric mannerisms whatsoever. On the contrary, I had to be nice and friendly to the point of being liked. How awful was that?
Prior to meeting with the agent, I’d entertained ideas of gazing out the window all morning, typing a few sentences, and then walking a golf course all afternoon. And if that didn’t fill up my day, I planned to research and plant native varieties of milkweed seeds for the Monarch butterflies epic journey south, and back north again. Anything, but another meeting on how to hold more productive meetings, but no such luck. I thought I was done when I typed the last sentence in the manuscript, but it was only a new beginning. The personal and self-indulgent writing phase was over. The public scrutiny and business phase was about to begin.
Hence – here we are. If you’re an avid reader, please glance at the rest of the site and subscribe if you want to be notified of future posts. If you’re an aspiring author, and who isn’t these days, then please join me on this journey to explore the business side of writing, marketing, and publishing a book through this shop, sorry, blog.
Thank you for visiting. It’s appreciated considering all the tasks and diversions that compete for our limited time and resources. Please visit again when I share my on-going struggle with applying old English grammar in a new American world, and the ever-present danger of using the semi-colon incorrectly; oh, the horror, the horror …
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