I can’t pinpoint the exact moment the paradigm shift occurred. The transition from traditionally published author to an independent one marked the beginning of the change. When my first book was published, the overwhelming feeling of vulnerability I felt shocked me. A part of me was sitting on that bookshelf for anyone to see and criticize. Promoting the book felt like conceit. Sheepishly and shyly I approached bookstores and organizations as I attempted to broaden our distribution.
Several years passed, and I found myself in front of a dramatically different landscape. No longer dependent upon bricks and mortar to sell our books, we can reach our readers through the modern marvel that is social media. Much less intimidating than making a pitch in person, we can use our powers of persuasion in the privacy of our homes—just our screens and us.
Dipping a tentative toe into the water—I tweeted with trepidation—anxious about making a fool out of myself to a faceless audience. It wasn’t long before I learned the ropes and began to make connections, allies, and mentors. I discovered a community of wonderful artists who were generous with their advice and their willingness to help their fellow authors.
I gradually became comfortable promoting my work absent those feelings of embarrassment. The real test, though, would come when I found myself in a person-to-person encounter. What a surprise to discover my new ease with self-promotion had indeed translated into real life. Was I really pulling out my business card at a cocktail party to promote my book? What happened to the nervous Nellie that could barely look a prospective buyer in the eye? The same technology blamed for depersonalizing our relationships with others is responsible for building a community of writers and readers that would have otherwise not been able to connect. This daily interaction and affirmation had achieved what years of self-talk had not—providing me with the feedback that I do indeed have something worthwhile to offer.
My epiphany was straightforward—my work has value. If I procure an agent, a publisher, or a producer—they will benefit from the alliance as much as I. I do myself a disservice by taking the posture of the supplicant. If what I offer is my best work, even though it may take time to find the right home for it, when I do, everyone involved will reap the rewards. I no longer have to write that email or make that phone call with feelings of unworthiness. Will it be easy? No. Is the competition fierce? Yes. All endeavors worth pursuing require purpose, perseverance, and patience. Now I can move forward with self-confidence, putting my best foot forward, secure in the knowledge that just as I have a manuscript I want to sell—there is someone who wants to buy it.
Fast forward three years: Upon completion of my fourth book, I found representation. A wonderful agent fell in love with my new book, co-written with my sister, and we were stunned at her enthusiasm. I finally understood the importance of finding the right agent: one who understands your voice, your vision, and your dreams. We signed with her and six days later she sold our manuscript to HarperCollins. No one can define your success for you but you. Go forward with confidence, and don’t give up. You don’t need a group of agents clamoring for your work. All you need is one. The right one.