Saturday, October 17, 2015

Stewing in a soup of fear of failure

I joined twitter. If you notice my sentences getting shorter you'll know why. It was all part of the plot to be able to pitch some of my manuscripts to publishers and agents. This opportunity was offered at the Tinderbox conference and it seemed like a relatively easy way to gain the attention of some key players. I'd been thinking about jumping in to the twitterverse anyways and here was some very good motivation. So I jumped.

The astrophysical imagery is apt as Twitter does indeed seem like another planet after hanging around on facebook and blogger for so long. The pace, the brevity, the style and shape of conversations, are like nothing else I know. I guess it's probably good for my brain as I learn a whole new approach to social interaction.

But I digress. I joined twitter partly to satisfy my curiosity, partly cos of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), and partly to be able to pitch. And the pitching was easy. Tweet the correct hashtag with a brief tagline for your story and publishers and agents could search the hashtag and check it out. For Tinderbox it was #TBPitMad. If they favourite your tweet you could then query them with the story, referencing the pitching opportunity. And the thing is people that the Tinderbox pitch session was only one of many springing up regularly on twitter (my latest go was with #PBPitch - you can go and search these hashtags to get an idea of how it works). And these are generally international opportunities (although the agents and publishers may not always appreciate that fact?). And in the end most of the publishers and agents are open to general querying even if you don't get favourited. Realistically I don't know what the success rate is like and I suspect it's no greater than other more traditional channels of querying but it's very motivating. I have emailed off a rash of queries in the last few weeks with several different projects. Exciting stuff...

But also, as I know all too well, subsequently terrifying. Weirdly for a published author, I am a very private person when it comes to my writing. I don't share it widely before I send it off to publishers. It seems waaayyy easier to have my work judged by strangers then it is by fellow authors, other friends and relatives. I get my story to a stage that I feel happy with on my ownsome and then I start submitting. Then it's the moment of stark unavoidable truth. Sometimes I show other folk after I've submitted. I am weird that way. By then it's too late.

As an author, if you are following the path of traditional publication, whenever possible you should have some work out there, submitted. If one of your goals is traditional publication, submissions are just a day-to-day part of your job description. Thought being a writer meant you devoted all of your spare waking moments to your craft?? Ha ha. Think again. An appreciable part of your daily grind will be researching who to send your work to, how to send it, polishing queries, worrying about the strength of your query, trying to summarise your work in one or two pithy compelling sentences, wondering if your word length will put them off, trying to locate the name of the editor, sometimes wondering if that's a woman's name or a man's. Sometimes that is all so overwhelming that you think I just can't even... and then you go on facebook for a while. And so the twitter pitch seems inordinately manageable in comparison. Too easy in fact.

I went a little crazy...

It sucks you in and makes you excited about the process and before you know it you've wrangled your query and the synopsis and the biography and cut and pasted some text into the body of an email and pressed send. And then the slow dawning realisation that I am staring down the barrel of  all their responses.The waiting. The wondering. The post posting analysis. Sure, I like my analysis to arrive after it's too late to act (see above). And it leaves me drenched in that heady emotional mix of hope and terror. Like stewing in a soup of fear of failure. The thing they never tell you about pigeons coming home to roost is how much pigeon poop there is. How thick should I be growing my skin? How much loin girding will be required? My mum always asks me if I have anything out on submission. Well mum, at the moment I do. I'll let you know how I get on...

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