This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
As an aspiring author I sometimes feel that I walk a tight rope between being pushy and not being pushy enough. In an ideal world a publisher would automatically find me and give me a ludicrously lovely six figure book deal. But we all know this aspiring author gig is far from ideal. The thing I struggle with is finding a balance between sitting back and waiting for things to happen, and actually being proactive.
Some of the best experiences and opportunities I’ve had on my road to publication have come from when I sent a cheeky or speculative email. Take this very column that you’re reading. I was reading the personal blog of Emily Tootsweet (who used to write the column) and she mentioned that she had hung up her reins on Novelicious as she was moving away from writing chick lit. It just so happened that I’d had a large glass of wine that night, and I decided to be big and brave and to email Kirsty to see if I could do the column. At the time I remember agonising over the email before I sent it. Would she laugh in my face? Would she even reply? And then that little voice in my head that comes out to play after wine (the one that has got me into a lot of trouble over the years) said what’s the worst that can happen?’ So I scrunched my eyes shut and I hit send. Then a couple of sample columns later and a few emails with Kirsty and voilà – I got my weekly column.
A couple of years ago I was on the BBC programme The Culture Show. Now I’d love to tell you that they had spotted my amazing talent and wanted to interview me about my wonderful novels, but alas I was interviewed about my love of chick lit. I’d responded to an advert on their website which asked readers of popular fiction to tell them about their favourite book in 150 words. I wrote them ‘The Confessions of a Military Museum Curator’ about my secret love of Sophie Kinsella books. Enjoying the dichotomy of a curator who looked after robust military items yet read books about handbags and high heels, I soon had emails and phone calls from one of the researchers. About a month later, the film crew came to my work and filmed me. Discounting the fact that I used my fingers to do air quotes (something none of my friends have recovered from), it was a great experience.
I think one of the biggest things that holds me back from trying to send more of these cheeky emails is that I’m always really worried that I’m going to somehow make it on to a publishing blacklist or that my emails will be the butt of a joke in an office. I’ve grown a thick enough skin that I can read reviews of my books in which people say mean things, and I’ve coped with enough rejection letters from agents over the years…so why am I still worried that some person I’ve never met might laugh at me?
Perhaps I need to learn to be a little braver, a little bolshier and to actually knock on some more doors. What do other people think? Is there a line that you can cross if you’re too cheeky and pushy? Have you got a success story where a wonderful opportunity came your way when you asked for it? Tell us!