Ready, Aim, Submit!
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In the past, I’ve blogged about procrastination and my need for deadlines in order to get anything done. I think that’s what makes the submission process so difficult for me. Unless you are submitting a grant proposal or writing competition with a specific deadline, there really is nothing to push you to submit that service article idea or book query/synopsis.
Some would argue that the passion to succeed and see your own work published should be enough to motivate you, but for me, it just isn’t. It’s gotten even more difficult for me to send out queries since I took on a contract editing job a few years ago. Don’t get me wrong. I love having a steady paycheck that arrives six months out of the year for that bi-monthly magazine, but it does give me the illusion of not needing to prospect quite as much. In reality, I should be prospecting round the clock to meet my financial goals. Another problem is that I let all the little details bog me down. Details like:
- Perfecting the query letter for a national magazine. I fret over sending it to the absolute right editor in order to prevent getting deleted or ending up in a slush pile. I agonize over making sure there aren’t any typos and that I’m sending seasonal article ideas far enough in advance. I worry that I haven’t read six back issues of every magazine I’m querying even though I know that in the interest of efficiency, sometimes that just can’t be done. This past year, I attended a conference for non-fiction writers where a managing editor of a large writing publication told us that he’s accepted queries from writers that had typos in them. As long as the meat of the query piques his interest, he understands that people make mistakes. That eased my anxiety about the process just a little.
- Submitting a book. About three years ago I finished a novel, and still floating on the endorphins of having completed 80,000 words, I dashed off a few queries to about five or six agents. Within two days I had received rejections from all of them. I immediately knew the book must need work if I couldn’t even figure out how to hook an agent with a query letter. I’ve been working on polishing my fiction ever since. I’ve attended conferences and learned more about the industry, what type of query hooks an agent, and how to submit to smaller publishing houses. I researched and created a spreadsheet of agents I wanted to contact. I soon found myself sweating the small details again, like “how do I make sure I submit to the agent this project is the best fit for?” and “how to I find a common interest with this agent without sounding cheesy?” Finally, I powered through my anxiety and sent out those first few queries, and I think the process will get easier as time goes on.
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who blogs at Renee’s Pages.