Learning 2 B Lucky

I started submitting short stories and flash fiction about the same time I became a slush reader for an online zine. The combination brought me to a luck-is-needed realization. Getting noticed among the clamor—hundreds upon thousands of stories submitted each month—takes more than talent, smarts, and hard work. It takes luck.  

And while I’ve never considered myself to be an unlucky person, I found myself asking the universe for an inordinate amount of luck.

Now that I’m querying a novel, I’ve decided that learning to be lucky is essential.   My go-to has always been research. Heading straight for Google, I entered “learning to be lucky” and found Richard Wiseman.  

Wiseman is a British psychologist investigating the lucky and the unlucky. Based on his research, it is possible to #Learn2bLucky—or at least, luckier.

While I haven’t completed my research, I have learned that lucky people are more open to opportunity than the unlucky. According to what I’ve read, unlucky people tend not to notice opportunity when it presents itself—possibly due to anxiety or worry. When opportunity arises, lucky people, on the other hand, charge ahead and take risks.

Calls for submission, writing contests, and the like cross my computer every month. In the past, I’ve looked for prompts rather than submission opportunities. This month, I looked for matches between the calls and stories I’ve already written. Found two. Submitted two. We’ll see what happens next.

Still waiting on outstanding queries and planning to look at #pitchwars in June. Meanwhile, I’m focused on #Learning2BLucky.

The Basics: Querying Literary Agents

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The adventure begins. After 18 months and five rewrites, I have a finished, polished novel manuscript. Now, to sell it.

Here are the essentials according to every book on selling a novel I’ve ever read and my mentor/editor Anna Yeatts.

  • The manuscript itself
  • A one-page synopsis
  • A query letter

I put together all three with a lot of help from Anna, an editor friend of hers, and a novelist friend.   

The rest has been research to find the right agents. How to search? Look for agents who want to represent your genre. Or check #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) on Twitter or Pinterest.

And now the fun begins. I started with a list of 13 agents (yes, I also planted 13 trees in my backyard) and started researching. Not just the literary agency website, but also all social media, including podcasts. And found a wealth of helpful information.

What worked for me was to send one query three days a week. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I narrow my sights on a single agent and end by hitting SEND on the email or SUBMIT on the query submission manager. Different agents want different items. A query letter only. A query letter, a synopsis, and the first—five pages, ten pages, three chapters—of the novel.

So far, I’ve received four rejections that say my submission—a paranormal romance—does not line up with the agent’s MSWL

I’m waiting for the email that says, “Please send the entire manuscript.”

Wish me luck. Stay tuned.

Querying Agents

 

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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.

Self-Talk

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?

Small Steps

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.

Procrastination

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.