“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” ~William Wordsworth
My initial query letter and book proposal for my pride and joy, an alternative leadership concept called THE QUIET LEADER (since rebranded as Lead Without Followers) was rejected upwards of 200 times from literary agents from 2008-2010.
I pride myself on that statistic, not because I’m sadistic and self-loathing or love projecting an image of myself as a failure; but because I’ve not quit.
I’m still persevering and as time goes on, I am truly more and more motivated and inspired to see through this noble dream of publishing a destined-for-failure nonfiction book that rewrites the rules on leadership and what it means to be a leader.
I’ve Been Saying for Nearly 3 Years
…that people need to hear these messages. Few today could disagree. The public at large needs to rethink what it means to be a leader. They need to hear someone else tell them to reject the social paradigm that leaders are “the few” and that we, the people, are “the many” beneath them.
The more I share the ideas behind this philosophy, the more they are received by people at large: big name authors, businesspeople, movers and shakers… and far more importantly, the “everyman” and “everywoman” walking on the street.
Your Agency Shouldn’t Sign Me
A week or two ago, I received a really nice (and total surprise) shout-out from my friends Jenny Blake (Life After College) and Srini Rao (The Skool of Life) on BlogCastFM, mentioning me as an example of an aspiring career author who has faced rejection a number of times but is still carrying on (thanks, Srini and Jenny!).
With their kind encouragement helping to bolster my defiant nature and ever-determined attitude to share these important messages on leadership with the world at large, I present to you an outside-the-box approach to courting a literary agency on behalf of my book and big dreams.
Warning: your agency shouldn’t sign me.
1. I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE MONEY. I know it’s part of your job to. And I’ll trust you to take care of the numbers and figures. My job is to care about the words, the message, the mission, the readers.
2. MY WRITING CAREER WILL OUTLAST YOUR AGENCY. As a lifelong author, my career will span some 40-65 years. Wanna race?
3. I TATTOOED A SYMBOL representative of my alternative leadership book concept on my body. Some people think that’s pretty cool. It terrifies others. Which are you?
4. WRITING IS NOT MY HOBBY, skill or profession: it’s my life’s purpose. You can also throw public speaking in the mix, too. I’m here on Earth to be a communicator.
5. I’LL EXPECT YOU TO GO TO BAT FOR ME and what I believe in like Jeremy Piven playing Ari Gold on HBO’s Entourage. Cursing optional, though preferred.
6. I’M A PERPETUAL OPTIMIST. You can be as much of a realist as you wish, or even an outright pessimist. But, you’d better pretend that the sky is the limit with me, because that’s what I genuinely do (and always will) believe.
7. I BELIEVE IN CHANGING THE GAME, and not getting played by it. Together, we can achieve some really cool things. But if you’re not interested in changing the game (or, more importantly, changing the world) then our business relationship is certain to suffer.
8. I QUESTION AUTHORITY–partly because it’s fun, mostly because it’s genuinely healthy. You could question it with me, or you might become the one I start to question.
9. I’VE WALKED AMONG POWERFUL MEN IN SUITS. I’ve also literally spit while standing beside them in a symbolic gesture of “I’m not here to impress you.” My writing will sometimes be that spit. It will go against the grain, defy the status quo, challenge the way “things are” for the sake of moving toward the way “things should be.” In this regard, the spit is not symbolic–it’s because people need to hear it, and our world desperately needs it.
10. I CHOOSE SIMPLICITY OVER COMPLICATION, believe that less is more, and trust instinct and intuition more than over-thinking and mathematical calculation. You don’t need to think the same–you might instead be the yin to that yang.
11. I CAN’T HELP MYSELF BUT TO NOTE RULES that others tell me are “set in stone.” I also can’t help but want to systematically bend most, and break others–if only to see which are worthy of being there at all.
12. YOU’LL HARDLY KNOW I EXIST. Not because my energy and effort will ever be absent, lacking or misplaced; but because I work seamlessly among others and within myself.
13. I CALL MYSELF A LEADER. And I do because it’s true. When I’ve done so in past job interviews, most misunderstand this trait as representative of an insubordinate and difficult personality; or a person that can’t follow direction, listen to others, or work in a cohesive group. In reality, the truth is that most organizations and companies prefer to maintain their own power by hiring blind, deaf and dumb followers over leaders–to their doubtless and infinite detriment.
14. I WON’T WEAR A TIE TO OUR BIG MEETING. Instead, I might opt for a superhero-themed t-shirt underneath a clean black suit jacket. Probably Spiderman.
15. I’LL TRY TO DISCOURAGE YOU FROM QUITTING THE BIZ when you’re so rich you could retire, and baselessly claim that after the next contact you land me, I’ll buy you that house on Maui that I’ve been promising you since the day you signed me.
16. I’M ME, and won’t be anyone else but me. Beyond all else, I expect the same of you.
** Wildcard: In the words of George Orwell, “break any of these rules sooner than saying [or doing] anything outright barbarous.”
As you can tell by now, most of this post is fun, facetious and sarcastic. But I wanted to take an unconventional, outside-the-box approach to opening up to you, the reader, and especially to prospective agents.
If you’re a literary agent, maybe you’d like me to be your client. Maybe you absolutely don’t. Either way, I’m happy to help simplify the process of knowing who I am and what my earnest intentions are :)
Literary agents have an incredibly difficult job in an increasingly difficult industry and more-than-difficult economy. I want to specifically thank several agents who have been monumental in encouraging me along on my journey to become a lifelong, career author:
- Laurie Abkemeier, DeFiore and Company — whose helpful and encouraging feedback led me to discover Chris Guillebeau and a slew of amazing author/bloggers across the world who I’ve connected with, learned much from and even befriended
- Michael Larsen, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents — a legend in the literary and publishing field, Michael was kind enough to speak to me over the phone last summer and offer his advice and feedback on my book proposal for THE QUIET LEADER (now called Lead Without Followers)
- Dawn Frederick, Red Sofa Literary — who kindly provided me with the most detailed feedback and suggestions for my proposal for THE QUIET LEADER (Lead Without Followers)
Flickr photo credit: jjpacres