This is another unearthed 2004 article I wrote for a Canadian publication for writers. The publication went under before going to print. No point in the article going to waste. It’s wonderful blog fodder. Enjoy!
I think every writer has a fear of submission and rejection no matter how many books or articles they’ve sold. Even nowadays, after having sold numerous non-fiction articles, one non-fiction book, a novel, and a few short stories, I still feel queasy when I slip a query or manuscript into the mail. I still get rejection letters, and form rejections at that. For those of you still grappling with fears of submitting and rejection, I’d like to share a real story that may inspire you.
It was my mother who gave me the confidence to make my first professional sale. As a child, she always told me I could do anything in this world so long as I put my mind to it. As an adult, she is always the first person to encourage me to go for my dreams. This situation was no exception.
One day, back in 1997, I was reading a national trade magazine and came across a letter to the editor suggesting they print more computer articles. A tiny thought crept into my mind. I was a writer, and computers were my forte. The thought grew, and by the end of the day, I had an idea.
I went home that night, jotted down some notes, and wrote the first draft of an article. No sooner had I finished the article I began to lose my self-confidence. Who was I to think that I had the experience and know-how to write an article? I tried to rationalize my credentials. I did deal with all the office computers which made me a computer professional of sorts, so I knew what I was talking about, didn’t I? I became nervous and sat on the idea for a few days.
Finally, I went to my mother for advice. After sharing my ideas with her, I asked her what she thought.
Without hesitation she said, “You should call the editor and ask if they’re interested.”
I responded with a look of sheer horror. Everything I’d ever read said you should never call an editor to query your work. I became frantic. “That’s not how it works, mom! You can’t just call an editor. You have to submit a written query or the full article based on the submission guidelines!”
My mom laughed and raised an eyebrow. “I don’t see why not. They’re human. They don’t bite. Besides, this isn’t Vogue, it’s a trade magazine.” I met her comment with a brief moment of silence. Having received brutal rejects on paper, I could only imagine what a phone rejection would be like. I must have given her that ‘yeah-right’ look because she promptly added, “What’s the worst thing that could happen? They could say no, but they can’t kick you off the face of the earth. Can they?”
Her words were like a well-needed slap across the face. She was right. A simple no wasn’t that painful. Even if the words, “how dare you call” were attached. If anything, I would prove to my mom that writers could not call editors out-of-the-blue.
So the following Monday I did what no writer should ever do. I called the editor not expecting to get past the receptionist. Much to my surprise, I was promptly patched through. The editor was excited that I had called, and immediately invited me to submit my article. I submitted the article, she loved it, and I made my first professional sale.
Not one month later, the editor called me for another article, and another after that. I ended up writing for the magazine for six years, and received my own bi-monthly computer column as a result.
Mind you, I am not suggesting that writers should start calling editors to query their work. My situation was unique in that I worked within the trade the magazine was geared toward for nine years, I knew the audience first hand, and this particular editor was open to phone calls from industry professionals.
What I am saying is it’s okay to send out that query letter, or to submit your work. Be it fiction or non-fiction – go for it. Every time I start feeling hesitant about submitting anything, or become anxious about being rejected, I simply remember my mother’s words, “What’s the worst thing that could happen? They could say no, but they can’t kick you off the face of the earth. Can they?”