j’s Journey: The Laws of Attraction

By Judy Clement Wall

My agent search continues. Slowly. In two weeks, I’ve queried six agents. I tell myself that’s because I’m doing it right. I’m looking for good fits, searching out the agents of authors who write books like mine. I diligently read agency websites and agent interviews, and only when the stars align do I send my super amazing, awesomely customized query letter.

And yet, every time I do it, despite my due diligence, I experience a momentary panic, a stomach-dropping, breath catching sense of dread that boils down to just one question: Did I do it right? Was I impressive enough, concise but not boring? Did my letter capture the essence of my book, my voice, my passion, my commitment? And, holy cow, what if an agent visits my blog – is it cool enough? Big enough? Badass enough? I’ve never liked the font…

Really, j? The font?

And that’s when I know I just have to calm the hell down, despite all the expert advice that tells me to worry.

Over the weekend, I read “Against Professionalism” by Nick Mamatas. He points out how crazy writer worries can be.

I’ve heard people earnestly report that they never use American flag stamps when mailing submissions because liberal editors may take such stamps as a conservative political statement.

I get that. It’s easy to get caught up in, say, an expert’s post listing “Ten Things Agents Love In A Query Letter.” That is, until you read the “Ten Sure Fire Ways To Piss Off An Agent” and realize five of the things are the same on both lists.

You should have a great hook; you don’t need to worry about a hook. Be personal and charming; be professional and concise. I’ve read many times that I absolutely need an official website. Now. Before the book gets published. Nick Mamatas says, “We laugh at ‘official’ websites.”

What’s a fledgling badass writer to do?

Be myself.

That’s what I’ve decided. I have a theory. We attract people. All of us. All the time. We talk and tweet and blog and write and we attract people. Best to attract people to the real me – not the neurotic, half-crazed me who worries about whether an agent will turn me down because I started a paragraph with a dependent clause. If an agent turns me down for that, I’m thinking we’re both better off.

What do you think?


JUDY CLEMENT WALL is a freelance writer and Course Presenter for the Fear of Writing Online Course. She’s just finished her first novel, Beautiful Lives, and here at FoW is chronicling her quest to find a publisher. You can read more of her series here. Judy blogs about life, love, writing and cheesecake at Zebra Sounds.

27 Responses to j’s Journey: The Laws of Attraction
  1. Louise
    May 24, 2011 | 4:21 AM

    So true Judy! I am just in the early stages of a book idea and I keep meaning to pluck up the courage to share it with some publishers to see if there is any interest….keep procrastinating though. This has given me a good reminder just to be me and I will attract the right publisher/agent!

    I actually did learn this lesson when I started networking a few years ago, I used to think I had to “be” a certain way but it never worked until I just started to be me. So fab reminder to relate it to my writing also.

    Thanks as always Judy, you are brilliant!

    • j
      May 24, 2011 | 10:56 AM

      Awww! Thank you! I keep learning this lesson over and over again. I think it’s true in life, too. And maybe it’s kind of a nice thought… that we’re attracting people all the time, so authenticity is our best asset.

      Good luck!

  2. Patrick Ross
    Twitter: patrickrwrites
    May 24, 2011 | 10:47 AM

    Hang in there, J. I like the mental approach you’re taking to this.

    Hopefully you’ll soon be posting about finding the perfect agent, and then very soon after that posting about a nice publishing contract.

  3. j
    May 24, 2011 | 10:58 AM

    Thank you, Patrick. I surround myself with smart people like you and it helps me not to give into my own neurotic tendencies. πŸ˜‰ I love your version of my story.

  4. Michael Lockhart
    May 24, 2011 | 11:56 AM

    I was listening to Q on CBC last week, and Jion Gomeshi was interviewing the band Sloan who have been touring and putting out albums for around 20 years now. Jion asked if they were pleased that their latest album had received perhaps the most positive critical attention of their careers.

    Chris Murphy said something to the effect of, “We don’t pay attention to the good reviews. If we did, we’d have to pay attention to the bad ones too.”

    I’m sure there are tricks and systems and tried and true formulas that might even work from time to time, or maybe even more often than not. I’m sure that agents and marketers and publicists use them to great effect.

    I have no desire to be an agent, marketer or publicist though. I want to tell stories.

    I like your conclusions, j. Be you. Do what you want, what you feel. Formulas feel too much like math.

    • j
      May 24, 2011 | 4:59 PM

      Remind me of that, please. Relentlessly. πŸ˜‰

  5. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    May 24, 2011 | 2:25 PM

    Yes. Wait for the love connection, because the perfect agent for you is out there. The perfect agent will sell your book to publishers because he/she believes in it, which won’t be the one who is critical of the dependent clause. πŸ™‚

    The most repeated and most conflicting advice I’ve read is the query is the only time it’s okay to “tell”. Then I’ll read from agents that you should “show” what your book is about. There is a well-known blogging agent that said both of those things.

    It’s hard enough to summarize an entire novel in one to two paragraphs, but they want you to “show” your character is quirky, slimball, funny, horny, frigid, fun-loving or …? Hello. But by the time I “showed” my character, there’d be no room to “tell” what the dang story is about.

    • j
      May 24, 2011 | 5:06 PM

      I think you’re right. The wrong agent is worse than no agent, or so I recently read on an advice blog. [insert sheepish grin here] I do believe the right agent is someone who absolutely loves your book, understands the business of publication, and wants to work with YOU – neurotic, determined, committed you. (Or me, as the case may be.)

  6. @fearofwriting
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    May 24, 2011 | 2:26 PM

    “Be yourself” is a good way to bring it back to what it’s all about: YOU. You are a writer (something to be proud of) and your writing fills an important need in society.

    Putting agents on pedestals (even down to deciding what stamp to use, trying to second-guess how they might view us) reminds me of the way people become about doctors. They elevate doctors to gods who can cure them. And yet we all need to take a proactive role in our own health care.

    Putting experts outside of or above us reduces our power. Kind of like hoping a Christmas present will be so magical, it will make everything right.

    Without writers, the publishing industry would not exist. Sure, we need to have astute people deciding what to publish. But it all starts with the writing. And, even before that, the desire people have to read good stories.

    Great post, j! I needed to hear this. And to remind myself that, underneath my perceived intimidations, what I actually believe is what I wrote in my comment.

    ~ Milli

    • j
      May 24, 2011 | 5:08 PM

      You’re right. And I think writers are notorious for giving up their power. (Hence the rise and rise of HuffPo.) Thank YOU for the reminder.

  7. JW Rogers
    May 24, 2011 | 2:47 PM

    Start the next novel?

    • j
      May 24, 2011 | 5:08 PM

      That too. June.(I’ll show you mine…) πŸ˜‰

  8. James Clayton
    May 24, 2011 | 7:37 PM

    As someone who keeps on pitching out to people and going through similar doubts and worries, I salute you, Judy, and everyone else here.

    Be yourself – be the badass that you truly are and keep the angst to a minimum, because that’s not the badass writer and top-notch person that you are. πŸ™‚

    • j
      May 25, 2011 | 1:03 AM

      I’m going to print your comment and put it above my computer for when I forget. Thank you!

  9. Christine Grote
    May 24, 2011 | 7:59 PM

    Good luck. I think you’re right about trusting in yourself. I have a mostly finished memoir. I originally planned to query agents, but now I’m leaning towards self-publishing. I’m afraid I don’t have the patience required to get and work with an agent. Hopefully something will happen for you soon.

    • j
      May 25, 2011 | 1:06 AM

      Given the shifting, discombobulated state of the publishing industry, a decision to self-publish is totally understandable. I wish you luck. And me too. πŸ˜‰

  10. joannefirth
    May 25, 2011 | 1:53 AM

    Hi j….here to give you some encouragement and support. In my opinion, http://www.zebrasounds.net IS your website. It’s you, your writing, and your bringing people together with words. I’m certainly no expert on any literary goings on, but I do regard you as a writer who has that gift of writing what people want to read. Whether it be a blog post, an article, a review or a whole novel. You have the touch and with that you do magical things with words.


    There is an agent out there just for you, just for Beautiful Lives, and though the wait is difficult, when that moment arrives, it will feel right. So keep being your beautiful, badass, great f-ng writer self and know there’s a whole bunch of people to wait along with you, and a whole bunch of people who will celebrate when you and your agent find each other.

    • j
      May 25, 2011 | 10:43 AM

      Wow! If I can’t make today spectacular after a comment as beautiful as that, it can’t be done. So grateful for people like you to write for. xoxo

  11. kenneth hopkins
    May 25, 2011 | 10:15 AM

    When I read this, J, something in me jumped. I just want to scream out “yeah!” and fist pump and staff like that. I’m both inspired and encouraged, not to mention convinced that your thought will bring you to the right agent, the one that let’s you be you.

    I’m excited for you πŸ™‚

    • j
      May 25, 2011 | 10:45 AM

      Yeah, I felt like that too. (Little inner fist pump.) Then yesterday, I saw an example of a query letter that made my soul stand up and take notice. I think I’m about to make mine better. Cross your fingers. And THANK YOU!

  12. Estrella Azul
    May 26, 2011 | 5:08 AM

    That’s so true, we do attract people and it’s best to show ourselves and not someone we think we should be – love how well you’ve captured this, in your search for an agent.
    This seems like the right path you’re on!

    • j
      May 26, 2011 | 8:16 PM

      Thank you, I think so too. I’ll be writing more about this idea of being authentic. And I have related thoughts on platform building and balance and the importance of always, always, always continuing to write. (Thank you for cheering me on!)

  13. Kellie J. Walker (@Yourlifeingear)
    May 26, 2011 | 7:33 PM

    I actually like the neurotic, half-crazed you. She’s kind of sweet, in a loopy-kind of way. πŸ™‚

    I think you’re right on, dearest. Be you. The right folks will continue to find, follow & support you. The rest? They can find their own.


  14. j
    May 26, 2011 | 8:22 PM

    Yes, but let me be neurotic over something other than my sentence structure – which rocks, by the way. Important things like the secret of a perfect cheesecake, or determining whether my dog sees ghosts or is just playing mind games, or whether glitter on my Converse counts as dressing up… these are the important questions!

    I’ll never be too well adjusted. I promise.


  15. […] latest post in my j’s Journey (quest for novel publication) is up at Fear Of Writing! Don’t miss […]

  16. Bell
    Twitter: StartYourNovel
    May 27, 2011 | 3:57 AM

    Well, j, your last paragraph really says it all. An agent ought to have an eye for potential, and realize there’s a limit to tinkering. It is my personal belief that all this worry about the perfect query letter is fostered by the goblins of self-doubt, an international conspiracy to keep writers from selling their work.

    There’s no point worrying whether you are going to tick people off — because you will. It’s inevitable. Not everyone likes you.

    When you’re confident, every line you write demonstrates that confidence. That’s what really attracts people; confidence and broad strokes and a proactive mindset. Nobody appreciates nitpickers. (Except back in the day when picking nits was an actual job.)

    When the stars align, to use your phrase, you will find your dream agent, or at least the one who’s just right for you.

    • j
      May 30, 2011 | 11:23 PM

      Not everyone likes me?!?

      You’re right, of course. And no one likes the people obsessed with the possibility of nitpickers, so I’m officially done with that.

      Loved your comment. Thank you!

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