Today I’m going to help you make an important decision about your writing. In fact, it might be the most important decision you’ll ever make, because your success depends on it completely.
But first, a little back story…
When I founded my author consulting company Literary Agent Undercover, I couldn’t really see the big picture.
I thought my mission was to give authors lots of information… help them on their quest to get a literary agent. I also wanted to inspire everyone and boost their confidence, make them believe in themselves and the publishing process more.
But none of that matters…
If you don’t make a conscious decision as
an author about something else first.
A while back this all became clear for me when I was corresponding with one of my 1-on-1 consulting clients. We’d just begun working together and I was excited about his chances of getting an agent.
He’s a novelist with a good sense of story, a beautiful writing style, and a decent author platform (not good enough to get agents jumping up and down, but not bad enough to make them say “no” either). So I coached the author through some changes on his query letter.
Everything was going great.
Until the meltdown…
I sent the author two dozen sample query letters, and asked him to do one last rewrite… before I started working on his query letter myself. I told the author not to feel singled out, because I do this with everyone. The sample query letters are simply meant to give an author more ideas.
None of the query letters that I sent him were perfect, but you can learn from each one. They all have different strengths and weaknesses, because all authors and all books have different strengths and weaknesses.
The next thing I got from the author was this email…
I read the query letters you sent me and I want to thank you, for reminding me what a tremendous nobody I am. Let’s face it. This is just some pipe dream and I am nothing more than one of those million “writers” who want to be published but will never be taken seriously by a “real” publisher.
The example queries you sent were all too clear that I do not have the credentials to impress an agent. Now, as I see [my credentials] in my query letter, it just seems cheap and meaningless compared to those with true credentials.
Even if my work is well-written, which I am seriously beginning to doubt it is, I will never be able to create the “platform” required to appeal to the industry. That being said, I appreciate your words of encouragement but I realize now it is pointless for me to proceed with pursuing an agent or big name publisher.
My Decision: Take a Deep Breath
Now I learned a long time ago, not to respond to things like this too quickly. Otherwise you might say something you regret. Plus, it’s best to take time to think things through.
So I gave myself a couple days to ponder the
situation before responding.
Then I sent the author this email…
Before you back out on your commitment to yourself and your writing,
consider the following:
1) You really do have a good chance of getting agents requesting your work, liking it, and offering you representation. If anyone is in a position to make that judgment, it’s me (not you).
2) I wouldn’t have offered to work with you if I didn’t feel like there was a 75% or greater chance that we’d be able to get agents interested… because I want to get a good success story out of our working together.
3) You have plenty to work with in your bio… the query samples are drafts that I wrote. Yours will look 5-10 times better also, once I’ve personally edited it.
4) Unless you’re going to burn all your manuscripts and never write or submit another word to agents/publishers… I’m your best shot. No one will be able to help position you and your book in the way that I can. It’s what I do. I know exactly what to include and accentuate.
Please take time to really think this through before you respond. If you decide to honor your commitment to yourself and your writing, print out this email and put it somewhere easy to see… a reminder that you and your work deserve a fair shot.
Your journey with me might not be easy… but if anyone can help you get published,
it’s me. And I’ll give you everything I’ve got.
P.S. – A lot of authors struggle with things like this, and they aren’t able to get past it. With me as your coach, I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen. And that might be the most valuable thing that you get out of our time together.
Now you’re probably wondering what happened next,
but (to be honest) that doesn’t really matter.
This article isn’t about that author.
And it isn’t about me.
It’s about YOU…
Are you really serious about getting
a literary agent and publisher?
Are you going to do everything you can
to get your book published?
Or… are you just talk?
I hope you’re committed, especially if you’re
thinking about working with me.
Because I won’t settle for less.
And neither will anyone else in the
I used to think that the worst thing in publishing
was the author that didn’t start (or finish)
writing his or her book.
I was wrong.
The worst thing in publishing is the author that finishes
his or her book, but doesn’t follow through
and market it properly…
I don’t relish being the one to tell you this, but there’s no
such thing as “almost” when it comes to publishing.
You’re either published, or you’re not.
* * *
Your Decision: Final Thoughts
Have some guts and choose
(right now), to go all in.
Give yourself the best possible chance
of getting a top literary agent and publisher.
Don’t let your fear beat you.
Or, stop writing…
Burn your manuscripts and call it a day.
Don’t waste your time, or mine.
Harsh, or honest?
You tell me,
Your “Undercover” Agent