Failing Before You Even Start by Cassiel Knight

I love going to conferences and attend as many as I can (at least, until my husband cries ‘Uncle’).

I attend for several reasons. To get away from home. Don’t look at me that way. Unless you are supportive. 🙂 I say that because there are times I just need to immerse myself in the writing world and the best way to do that is away from home. I miss my husband and my three little dogs, but these times feed my soul.

I also attend to network with fellow authors, but mostly, I go to network with agents and editors. And my favorite way to do this is by volunteering at the agent/editor appointments. During these times, especially at Nationals, I have many opportunities to chat with editors and agents. And I love to do that because not only do I get the chance to meet them face-to-face and have even, at times, been able to pitch, I learned about the things they see and notice. I’d like to share some of these with you. You’d think these are no-brainers. But, you’d be wrong. And these are why some writers fail before they even start. There are more tips, but these are the ones I think are the most important.

1) Send in your requests. The percentage changes between agents/editors but they all agree on one thing – over 80% of the time, they don’t receive the material they request. That’s right. Writers scramble to get these coveted appointments and coveted requests but don’t send in the material. I’m sure a certain percentage of this are those who may be simply trying out an idea to see if there’s interest but I think that’s too small to matter. This means the majority just don’t send in their material. And it’s sad, really, because most of the agents/editors I’ve chatted with want to see the material. And yes, are even anxious to get some of the requests. Was that you?

2) Don’t pitch to “anyone that moves.” I saw this particular one a lot this year. I’m there the two full days of pitching (I’ve gotten to be quite a fixture :D) so I’ve seen writers do this too. The same writers coming through time after time, agent after agent, editor after editor. And believe me, the agents and editors are noticing. They are not so involved in pitching that they don’t recognize the same frantic writer bouncing from pitch to pitch to pitch. Why is this bad? Because it means you haven’t done something they consider important. Which leads to the next one.

3) Do your research. There are a lot of agents/editors out there and not everyone is going to be the right fit for you and your book. Research them. Read what they represent / publish. I know it’s hard to resist the urge to pitch to all of them in the hopes one will recognize your talent and sign up on the spot. Believe me. Been there, done that. But there’s no reason why writers can’t give themselves a leg over the competition by spending their time pitching to those they’ve researched who want their stories.

Do you see yourself in any of the above? Are you allowing yourself to fail before you even start? And now that you know, what you are going to do about it?


Posted on November 13, 2011, in General and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Such good advice, Kim. I’m always surprised by writers who get a request for their material, and then don’t send it off. An attack of self-doubt can stymy the best intentions.


  2. *hangs head* Okay, I’ll admit it … I am guilty of (probably) all of the above and then some. Pretty sure I’ve made every “newbie” mistake there is, and some that haven’t been discovered yet, LOL! As someone who’s been around the industry for longer than I want to admit, it’s easy to fall into the self-doubt trap. Getting rejected is difficult on the ego, as well as the creative muse that lives in your subconscious. I cannot even recall how many times I’ve wanted to quit. Give up. Slink away in self-induced shame. But this industry is not made up of quitters (is any industry??), and the fantastic friends I’ve gathered along the way have helped keep me on this path called … publication.

    Thanks Kim for the kick in the butt. A brilliant (and published, I might add) writer has said many times, editors and agents will not come to your computer and beg for your manuscript, no matter how much our ego wants them to …


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