I’ve been working on pushing past my fears over the past several years. I started a blog, became a birth doula, sailed a one-man sailboat, and wrote a novel. All of these things scared me, but I knew that facing and overcoming my fears would give me joy.
But harder and scarier than writing a book is trying to sell it. Six weeks ago I started querying literary agents. To get your manuscript into the hands of the big publishers you need to get the interest of an agent first and that requires sending out query letters. If an agent likes the sound of the book, they’ll request the manuscript.
After sending out 21 queries, I received a couple requests for my manuscript, but mostly I received very nice rejections. But even a nice rejection is disappointing.
Yesterday afternoon, after assembling my flute in readiness for band class, I checked my email and saw a response from an agent. I sighed—probably another rejection. “What happened to your optimism?” I asked myself. So I squared my shoulders and opened the email.
It was a request for my manuscript from an agent whom I respect and admire. Of course this is a good thing, but it’s just one small step on a rather terrifying journey. One of the agents reading my book needs to fall in love with it and be willing to get behind it, then they’ll need to pitch it to an editor who loves it, then the editor needs to pitch it to their sales team. That’s a lot of people to convince that I have something worth saying on printed page.
I sometimes have the desire to whisk my book away from all these seasoned eyes and keep it safe from rejection, but safe isn’t what I signed on for. It’s not really what I want in life.
What I needed to do is haul my fear out of the dark closet and have a good look at it. What am I really afraid of? What’s the worst thing that could happen? Well, after spending hundreds of hours and bucket loads of devotion on a manuscript, the agents and publisher who have already shown interest might decide that the book isn’t a good fit for them. Or my book could make it to publication and bomb—failing to find an audience.
It would be a sad moment to tuck my book into a drawer and lay it to rest, but it wouldn’t be Armageddon. So what would I do if the worst came to be? I’d put my bottom in a chair, open my laptop, and write another book—a better one.
Taking a good look at my fear and making a plan for the worst-case scenario has helped me to move on and to remember that I’m doing what I love—raising my family, attending births, and writing books. And doing what I love requires not giving into paralysis-inducing fear.