A few years ago I lamented to a friend that at my age it’s rare to experience something completely new — not because I’ve experienced everything possible, but rather because most things will remind me of something else. For instance, visiting a foreign country will remind me of another foreign country or even a part of the U.S. That happened when I went to Denmark for the first time — the landscape reminded me of Iowa. And visiting Banff in Canada reminded me of the Pacific Northwest.
When it comes to tasting a new food, it will inevitably have notes of something I’ve already eaten. The other week I ate jujubes for the first time and they reminded me of a mix between dates and apples. Does that mean I’m doomed to never experience something new again? It turns out, no. There are experiences off my radar that are or will be completely new to me.
In fact, that happened recently. In addition to working as a healthcare journalist and being a writer for mental health professionals, I’ve also written a romcom novel. While I could publish it myself, I want to go the traditional route and have been trying to get literary agent representation for the past year and a half to no avail. Did you know literary agents receive 18,000 submissions a year and they only sign five new clients from those submissions? I didn’t.
Most literary agents sign new authors NOT from wading through the slush pile of unsolicited query letters, but rather via referrals from existing clients and meeting them at networking events like conferences. Often those conferences have pitch sessions, which are typically 10 minutes of one-on-one time with a literary agent. Those sessions are a chance to do what it sounds like — pitch your book.
As someone who has her own business as a ghostwriter for mental health professionals and is a content writer for small businesses, I’ve written oodles of things over the years about why people should work with me, how I’m better than artificial intelligence, etc. but I’ve NEVER had 10 minutes “in person” with a literary agent to tell them about my book and why it matters. (My recent meetings were over Zoom so not quite in person, but similar.)
I’m not ashamed to say the prospect scared the beejezus out of me. Here was a situation for which I had no frame of reference! Just like I asked for! And it was terrifying! But also thrilling! At first I cried because I was stressed about it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well because this could be my big break. And then I reminded myself if I performed dismally I could only get better. And there would be other conferences, other agents, etc. Plus, I searched YouTube high and low for a video to help me prepare. I didn’t find quite what I was looking for but I did get some tips.
After rehearsing over and over again (and practicing with my sister who is a performance coach), I reminded myself I didn’t have to be perfect or “right.” Instead, I can treat myself like I would a niece or nephew.
I said, “Rebekah, no matter what happens, I’m proud of you. You’re doing something new, you’re showing up for yourself and your dreams. That’s amazing! Great job!” And you know what? It helped. I brought that attitude into my anxiety-provoking experience and reminded myself I didn’t have to be perfect. I was in the situation to learn, to try my best, and that’s all anyone could ask for.
You know what happened? I knocked it out of the park. All the agents I spoke with said my pitch was fantastic and they were surprised I hadn’t pitched before(!!!). That’s very much NOT the outcome I expected but I’ll take it!
Why am I writing about this on a business website? Because it makes me wonder how often we stop ourselves from doing something new, something that scares us, because we want to be perfect, we want to do it “right.” Or maybe we stop ourselves from doing something because it’s too scary. Maybe we’re nervous to reach out to a new client, or charge the rate we really want, or whatever. Instead of talking ourselves out of it, why not treat ourselves the way we would a beloved small child? Why not say, “You can do it! I believe in you!” What would the outcome be in that situation? You might find the experience to be exhilarating instead of terrifying.
Maybe reaching out to me, growing your online presence, getting your voice heard, feels scary. I get that but it could also be the best thing you do for yourself. I write for mental health professionals just like you and create content for small businesses just like yours. Contact me today to see if we’re a good fit.