query letter agent publishing book

The terror of pressing “Send” on your query letter

I follow Weaver Reborn, who is on the scary edge of contacting an agent.  In her recent post, she was so honest in her angst about sending an email query it prompted me to think of many things in my comment. If any of you benefit from her remarks and my responses, good.

WB: “Have I picked at least ONE agent that I want to send my book query to? Yes. Have I sent it out yet? No. Why not? BECAUSE I’M A BLOODY COWARD!”

Oh bollocks. You’re not a coward; you’re nervous. We all feel this way.

WB: “It’s just a few short paragraphs.”

Bollocks again. Your unsent query letter is EVERYthing, the way you’re thinking of it. But it is actually what YOU SAY it is. For example: “It’s my first agent query;” “It’s my first interaction with this agent;” “It’s an excellent chance to get some feedback so I can proceed with more confidence;” “It’s a great way to find out if this is the agent I actually want, or if there’s another who’s better.”

WB: “I’m never going to get anything accomplished if I don’t open up an email and SEND a query.”

Actually, you don’t need an agent or a publisher. You would prefer to have them. And of course you’ll get something accomplished, if you send the email or if you don’t. Nothing can stop you. You can’t do nothing; you can only do the next thing.

WB: “I keep thinking of all the bad. OMG what if I’m not good enough?”

You wouldn’t be trying if you didn’t think you were good enough. Your greatest fear, perhaps, is finding no one who agrees with you. The stories are legion of famous, successful people who were told they weren’t good enough until they either found someone who affirmed that they were, or they did it on their own terms and proved everyone wrong. Quit giving away your power, your self-estimation. And all right, what if you’re not good enough? This is the first step to getting feedback on getting good enough! You’re on a road, on a staircase. You’re not at the edge of an eternal abyss.

WB: “What if I don’t get the publisher I want?”

When you’re published and the book is selling, how much will you care that it wasn’t the publisher you originally wanted?

WB: “What if I can’t make the book marketing thing work?”

The book marketing always works. I know what you mean, reading through all these books on how to excel in the world of social media, go on library tours, find rare market niches. It’s new. It’s overwhelming. If so much didn’t depend on it, if it wasn’t so emotionally charged, how would you approach doing something you can’t do now, but know you can do if you work at it? Apply your wisdom.

WB: “What if I fail dramatically at this?”

When I give something all I’ve got and it still doesn’t work (try for a certain job, for example), I feel good about my work and my effort, and take the cue to go in another direction. It’s actually a good, informative, supportive place to be. As the sages say, within every failure are the keys to the success of the next attempt. A degree in failure has led to some lucrative post-graduate careers. And – what if you succeed dramatically at this? I notice you didn’t ask that question.

WB: “I seriously woke up after having nightmares the other night. I keep fighting with myself.”

Actually, this means you are decided. And your decision is to press “send.” There would be no conflict if your decision was wait (“the book’s not ready yet) or quit (“Let’s just go back to doing this as my own personal thing” … “maybe I really should JUST self-publish…”). There would be wonderful peace, as if you had dodged a bullet. You want to press “send.” So press “send.”

WB: “In the end I’m just on my own with this one.”

Sorry – bollocks again. You have us – an army of fellow soldiers marching beside you, some a little behind you, and some in front. You have your family. You have your book. You couldn’t be LESS alone. In fact, to be alone, you’d have to pour a soft drink over your computer and leave the online world, and announce to your family that you are retiring to a mountain peak in Tibet.

WB: “I’m going to have to find the courage somewhere.”

Let’s substitute “strength” for courage, shall we? It takes strength to stall a creative endeavor in its course, just before it surges over the falls and releases all its energies: You’re doing that. You have TREMENDOUS strength. Invest it all in pushing forward. The stress and nightmares are probably coming from the discomfort of standing still when you’re just dying to move forward. So move. Let yourself move. True, it’s safer in the car wearing the seatbelt, but when you arrive at your destination… staying seat-belted in the car is claustrophobic and frustrating, sitting there restrained and gazing out the windows at all those possibilities. Unclick. Open the door. Go. Whatever happens will be better than staying in the car.

You’re not a coward. A hero is someone who feels afraid and acts anyway. Be our hero. Be your hero. Press send.