Literary Agents, Do You Consider ‘Good News’ Stories Passe’?
For three months I’ve been pitching my book proposal to literary agents across this country about the gains made by women chefs as evidenced by the sheer number of them now starring on or appearing in cable TV shows and streaming platforms that include on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
No takers so far. I’ve gotten feedback from five that I take as a good sign because when an agent isn’t interested, in my years of experience in pitching, few bother to reply despite what they say on their websites. Two offered encouraging comments about my proposal spotlighting ‘celebrity’ women chefs and their mentors but ended with variations of “It’s not quite right for my list.”
Another agent told me that while the proposal had merit, she wasn’t interested in stories about ‘celebrity chefs’ and specifically named Chef Nancy Silverton as example of the chefs she believed made better copy than ‘celebrity chefs.’
Nancy Silverton? As in THE Nancy Silverton whose entrepreneurship WAY back in the early 1990’s put her company, La Brea, and all its offshoots on the culinary map? Nancy Silverton who I hope will be one of the mentor chefs featured in my collection about today’s celebrity women chefs. that Nancy Silverton? In my reply to this agent, after thanking her for taking the time to read my twenty-five page proposal was this: Don’t tell Chef Silverton she’s not a celebrity because I don’t think she’d like it. As it happened, just days after receiving that rejection email, Chef Silverton announced on her Instagram page an event she was hosting in Mexico. Her title of this post? ‘Celebrity Chefs’ and yes, I tagged that literary agent when I posted this (below) on my Instagram page and no, I couldn’t help myself.
Literary agents are not always right. They look for books that they might be able to pitch to their network of editors they have easy access to and why do they have access? Because together, this agent and that editor made money for their bosses.
It’s just business, writers, and successful businesses make money.
The last rejection I received days ago, while confirming the merits of this kind of book, wanted this collection to be infused with statistics concerning the hard climb it takes to become a ‘visible’ celebrity chef. Already there are many stories chronicling the difficulties women in culinary have faced since Julia Child became the poster child for what women in culinary profession can do. My collection of stories featuring women chefs and their mentors leans toward good news that includes those seasoned chefs, male and female, who offered a helping hand during their formative years of cooking professionally. Within each story, each chef details struggles she met along the way and includes those elder chefs who made their struggles a bit easier.
But is this collection filled with the horror stories that have made headline news over the last decade that helped coin the term ‘toxic masculinity.’ No and purposely so. The Competition section of my proposal lists the many books that have told those stories, important stories about women who historically had no access to professional kitchens and/or had to tolerate unseemly behavior in the workplace. I encourage readers who love reading all things culinary to add those books to your reading list. My book will be read by those looking for inspiration, looking for roadmaps to culinary success in the 21st century told to them by chefs who made that climb and sure, for many it was against all odds, but they made it! That’s the literary agent I’m looking for, a literary agent who believes good news stories are not passe’.