I’ve always been fascinated with the life of Emily Dickinson. A virtual recluse, she wrote almost 2,000 poems, and published only about a dozen during her lifetime. The rest ended up in folios, and she left instructions for her family to burn them when she died.
Instead of a trunk, I have flash drives for my short stories and novels. While I’ve been tempted to have my work destroyed when I’m gone, I began submitting for publication last year. And had unexpected success thanks to a lot of support from Write Stories that Sell and Anna Yeatts.
Last month, I finished what I’m going to call my first novel. It’s probably closer to my fifth, but it’s the first one I think is publishable. Followed by the decision point. Look into indie publishing? Find an agent? Go the vanity publishing route?
I’d already had a year of rejections under my belt from sending out short stories, so why not query a few agents? All I had to do was overcome my Dickinson-like reluctance to put myself out there. And I’d already done that once.
So how did I do it? Here’s what worked for me.
Stern with myself, I refused to wallow in prediction. I banned any question or self-talk that started with “what if,” including the positives.
Example: what if the very first agent I queried picked up the book and sold it right off? Banned.
Also banned was the more likely scenario. What if I received a zero-day rejection?
Querying is nothing like writing. It’s more like proposal writing, and to my advantage, I wrote proposals for two decades.
I already had honed the skills of careful reading and adherence to the instructions. And I already knew how much effort and attention it takes.
For me, the question was how many times each day did I want to devote to sending out a proposal? Answer: I’d send out three queries a week, one a day on Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
I like to believe I’m not much of a procrastinator. Twenty plus years of writing to deadlines cured me of that. But I tend to do what I like and leave the rest for later. So no kidding myself—that’s procrastination.
To surmount it, I use trigger activities and a bargaining brand of self-talk.
- Just turn on the computer.
- Just look up one agent.
- Just bullet point the query letter.
- Just brainstorm the synopsis
Once I get started, I usually keep going until I’m into the next activity. Finding one agent’s name includes reading the submission guidelines. Bullet pointing the query letter means filling in the sentences.
You get the picture.
Results So Far
Today is Thursday. This week, I’ve sent out two queries.
I received my first zero-day rejection. I lived.
Tomorrow I’ll send out a third query, Monday a fourth, and so on.
I’ll keep you posted.