Jeannie here. This post first appeared in my literary consultant blog, but I've changed it up a bit. I feel like this topic is pretty evergreen around New Year's.
I always got a slew of new clients at the beginning of the year. And it seems like Thinklings Books has gotten quite a few queries from authors too. Whether I am here at Thinklings or working on my own, it's far too many to work with; and besides, I know better by now than to expect most of them to follow through. Back when I was just consulting by myself, I told some of my personal clients to try my query boot-camp classes in February. Usually there were three major groups: self-important narcissists, impatient eager beavers, and dropouts. I mostly want to talk about the last group.
The narcissists who emailed me wanted complete one-on-one attention. A few even forbade me from working with others while they worked with me. Something about a conflict of interest? Yeah, sorry. I wouldn’t work with you anyway.
The impatient ones said that February was too late to query agents. They wanted to get to agents NOW. Guess what? Agents are just getting back to the office and their submissions are still closed. They’ve got a very long backup of emails from their vacation, and your query will either get sent to auto spam filter because they are closed, or it'll get lost in the shuffle.
The last group will just never sign up for anything. I know this because it’s early January. It’s New Year’s resolutions. They hopped on the bandwagon and said, “This year is the year I write my book!” It’s like gym memberships. They make themselves feel good by taking the first steps, but when they find out how much work it really is, the willpower fails, and the resolution peters out.
Most of these writers probably won’t listen to me and be those much-maligned wannabes who still send an oddly worded two-sentence query letter that says, “I have a fantastic idea! When can I call to discuss it with you? Please sign this NDA before we proceed.” Or the exhausting five-page manifesto about their dystopian world and how they want a $100,000 advance to start writing.
You might think, given how annoying I find these New Year’s resolutions, that I’m not a fan of them. I like goals. I like big goals. Resolutions are important. And for many people, the start of a new year, a fresh year, is a time when it makes sense to start new goals. Personally, I make my goals and reevaluate quarterly.
But people often make grand, vague, or not-well-planned-out goals for New Year's. “Write a book” may be too vague and ambitious if you’ve never written one before. Maybe your goal should be to take a class on creative writing and outline your book. Or, if you really want to write that book this year, that should be your big goal for the entire year. I kid you not.
So, if you set a goal for writing your book this year, or if you’ve written it and want to get it published, here are some basic ideas to help you follow through, so you aren’t one of hundreds emailing me for help, but never get past emailing me.
1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew:
2. Keep the goal visible and review it regularly:
3. Break the goal down into bite-sized steps:
4. Be willing to reevaluate your goal:
If you’ve written your book and are trying to find a publisher, you can of course query us via our submissions page. We try to give at least a little bit of personal feedback to every submission.
If you're looking for some help with motivation or knowledge or anything else for your writing ambitions, look into joining our new Writers' Collective. We're still in the process of setting it up, so while we're in the beta testing and construction phase, we'll be offering the group for only $10 per month. Stay tuned for more info on that.
This special price will only last for a little while and will let you help shape the tone and content of the group. We'll offer short instructional videos on talking with publishers and agents, editing, self-publishing, marketing, author platform, and much more. There will also be a community page for questions and group support, and early access to my new podcast on story structure since the beginning of literature. Plus, we'll have a special area where we'll post breaking news that affects authors, their books, and their platforms.