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When Fear Controls Your Destiny

I recently started a discussion about the frustration I feel when I request material–either via a query or a conference–and the author never submits it. I never request anything I don’t want to see. Okay, that’s a lie. I am pretty good about saying no at conferences, but every once in a while I get that author I personally like and can’t say no to, or the one who is so insistent that I finally say yes to get her to leave. It happens.

For the most part though, I will only request material that sounds intriguing. I know other agents and editors are different. Many will confess to me that they simply request everything because they struggle with saying no. I get that, authors should know that, no one should care.

Listen, when you pitch a book to an agent or editor your goal is get her to say yes. Well, your goal should really be to spend some time getting to know her so you can see if you’d be a good fit, but I know that no matter how often I preach that the only thing anyone really cares about is that yes.

So who cares why she requested it? If you are telling yourself you didn’t send the book because she requests everything, or you’re not sending the book because her website says she’s not looking for that genre, or you didn’t send the book because you need to do two years more of revisions you are letting your fear get in the way of your future. These are all excuses and nothing but excuses. You can tell me a million reasons why you believe otherwise, but I’m not going to hear it. I’m also not going to listen to any of you say you won’t pitch to me because I might say no.

No is just a word and before you get to the point where you have true success you will hear no millions of times. Look, I didn’t get here because every editor I ever sent to said yes or because every book I ever submitted sold. Nope, I have heard no far more than I’ve ever heard yes. How do you think my clients would feel if I told them that I wouldn’t submit to entire houses because the editors might say no? I’m pretty sure they’d fire me. That no would be worse.

Next time you decide you’re not going to do something sit down and put pen to paper and list every reason why you’re not doing it. If it all comes down to the same thing, you’re afraid of no, you need to pull up your big girl panties and hit send.

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7 comments

  1. Must drive you mad.
    But something that upsets this children’s author is when 2 different agents say they love your book but request 2 different changes to your mss, you comply and then they reject it! Sob..

    1. You should only comply if you feel, deep down in heart feel, that the changes suggested are right for the book. If you make changes simply because an agent told you to, but not because you feel it’s right, they aren’t the right changes and, more importantly, you won’t get them right.

  2. Thank you Jessica. I changed one ending as one agent said that it was frightening. Just accepted that she is the professional. ..

  3. I must be the poster child for persistence–400 rejections (I kept track) submitting multiple projects over the course of several years (and no, I didn’t take a scattershot approach and send to every agent in the book–I made sure they were looking for what I had) before getting to a yes! The experience changed me–I’m far less timid and I don’t take the word “no” personally. I’m often still “afraid” but as they say, I do it anyway.

  4. Personally, I think the most disheartening thing is spending hours on #mswl researching the agents who clearly want this or that specific type of submission and the response you get back is a for letter stating, “this just isn’t right for my list at this time…” *sigh*

  5. Wow to Peg! I seldom comment and I’ve never replied directly to a fellow author–but you, Peg Cochran, have character qualities I truly admire. Keep going; you’re a light to everyone. ( And don’t let the you-know-whos get you down.) Fantastic!

  6. Thank you for this! I’m headed to a conference tomorrow, and I think I’ll die (in a good way?) if an agent requests my work. I can’t imagine not following up on that! Thanks for being an agent who means what she says. We authors appreciate that!

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