The Certain Way to Get Everything You Want

by Stacey on July 4, 2011

Zig Ziglar once said, “You can have everything you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

You know what most people want? They want to be seen, heard and valued for who they are. They want to know that their life matters, and that their work is making a difference in the world (and other modest comforts, like a nice bed).

So it’s not that hard to give people what they want and then ask for a little something in return. Because here’s the really interesting thing: our brains our wired for reciprocity. So when we do something nice for someone else, they really want to do something nice for us too.

When I decided I wanted to get my book published, I gave some thought as to how to do it. Most “Writer’s Market” type books suggest querying possible book companies or agents, but go to any publisher or agent website and you’ll see that nobody accepts unsolicited submissions.

So what’s a girl to do?

As I’ve mentioned before my modus operandi whenever I want to do something is to look to whoever has already done it and find out what they did. I really hate to recreate the wheel.

So my first step was to scour the “acknowledgments” section in all the books I love (and in a similar genre as mine) and see who the authors were thanking for “having made this book possible.” Guess who they mention every time? Bingo: their agent.

So for every author who thanked their agent, I took some notes, did a little more research and then sent them a carefully crafted letter. Here’s the one I sent Elizabeth Lesser, the author of Broken Open and the founder of the Omega Institute. (Note: I really want to give retreats and talks from her stage too.)

I sent my letter to her email address (which she helpfully provided in the back of her book).

Dear Elizabeth,

You’re probably one of the most prominent midwives in America. Even though you’re no longer catching babies, you’re still a midwife, because like a good midwife, you’re willing to facilitate, support, and encourage women in dark places.

You’ve certainly been a huge inspiration for me. You see, I’m also a midwife, and I think labor and birth make excellent metaphors for life. I currently practice nurse-midwifery in a hospital-based birthing center and I have a personal coaching business, Midwife for Your Life, on the side.

I’ve dog-eared almost every page of Broken Open and heard you speak at Omega NYC last April. Your message of making friends with change and asking every crisis or challenge, “What have you come to teach me?” has helped me more than I can express. Really, that book seems full of what midwives teach their patients: faith in a process of healing and our ability to find our own path back to health.

As it happens, I’ve written a book, called Create the Conditions for a Life You Love: 28 Days of Strategy, Tips and Inspiration That Will Help You Give Birth to Your Best Life. Every one of the days contains a lesson, with exercises I created from science-based research and from my experience with my midwifery patients and my coaching clients.

So— I couldn’t help but notice that you spoke very highly of Henry Dunow in your acknowledgments. Would you be willing to suggest how I might make contact with him?

Thank you so much for your time and attention to this note. I look forward to attending future Omega retreats and dream one day of teaching at one of them! Take wonderful care, Stacey

Everything I said in this letter was true, of course. I deeply admire the work that Elizabeth Lesser has done, and I wanted her to know that she had made a difference in my life. And so I tried to be as detailed as possible, and worked hard to express all that her work has meant to me. That was the gift I hoped to offer.

I knew, too, that I needed to be detailed about how she could help me. “Will you help me get published?” would certainly have been too much to ask. But I expected that if I asked a small favor—one that would satisfy a need I had worked to define—she would have no problem granting it.

Her response?

Hi Stacey, Thanks for writing. Your website and all your work is inspirational.

Henry Dunow is not taking new clients. I can name a few other good agents, if you would like their contact information, feel free to email my assistant (details given for how to reach her). Warmly, Elizabeth

From there I proceeded to contact a few of the agents I thought most likely to be interested in my work. I was very excited when I found one who had successfully represented an author to Hay House, which is where I “see” my book published.

Here’s what followed:

Hello Susan,

Elizbeth Lesser suggested I contact you. I was delighted to see that you represented Tim Freke to Hay House, because that is where I see my book being a good fit.

My book is Create the Conditions for a Life You Love: 28 Days of Strategy, Tips and Inspiration That Will Help You Give Birth to Your Best Life. It’s a 28-day journey that guides you to your best life: With it you learn how to create the conditions for a life you love. It’s everything I’ve learned about how to live a happy and successful life.

I’m a nurse-midwife and a mentor who helps women give birth to their big dreams. I have a thriving coaching practice and blog and I’ve published hundreds of articles online.

As you know, we’re in the midst of a sort of literary “happiness boom”—with books like Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project spending months on the New York Time’s Best Seller List (and weeks at #1), it’s clear that readers are ready to get happy.

If you’re interested in receiving a full proposal, I’d be happy to send it to you.

Thanks so much for your time and attention. Take wonderful care, Stacey

A few days later I received this reply:

Hi Stacey

Great to hear from you and your project does sound interesting. As this is a first book for you I am putting you in touch with my excellent and helpful agency administrator who will take you through new author assessment procedure and will do a report on your synopsis and book a meeting with me once that report is completed.

Looking forward to meeting you in due course,

Very best wishes
Susan Mears

And after a few more email exchanges, and one Skype chat, I was signed. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So what do you really want? And how can you help enough other people get what they want—even if it’s only appreciation—so that you can get it? And when you’re pursuing your dreams, how will you avoid reinventing the wheel? Answer those questions and you’ll be actualizing your dreams before you know it!


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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Melody | Deliberate ReceivingNo Gravatar July 4, 2011 at 7:01 am

Hi Stacey,
Thank you so much for sharing all of these emails with us. It really opens up a world that’s often so secretive and hidden. And it’s nice to see our spiritual principles at work: provide value (even in the form of praise, as you said) as a first priority and people will be more than happy to help you out.

Thanks for all the valuable insight.


StaceyNo Gravatar July 4, 2011 at 10:30 am

Hi Melody!

Thanks so much for your kind comment! I’m so glad that you can see the value in my approach.

Thanks also for underlining the most important point: providing value is always the top priority! :-)

Big love to you!


Britt BolnickNo Gravatar July 4, 2011 at 11:15 am

Hi Stacey,
I really love this article…love the use of one of the concepts of feminine centered leadership — there’s enough abundance for everyone to have what they want! And we can help each other attain our visions and dreams.
Very inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing.

much love,


StaceyNo Gravatar July 4, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Hi Britt!

Thanks so much for your kind note!

I love that you found “feminine-centered” leadership concepts in it! I didn’t think of it like that before but I totally get and LOVE what you mean by it!

The message that there really is enough for everyone to get what they want – and that they we can base our actions on cooperation, not competition, is a one that we can’t hear enough!!

Big love to you!


Shawndra RussellNo Gravatar July 4, 2011 at 11:54 am

Stacey, Great post! I attended the Skirt! Creative Conference in Atlanta a few weeks ago, and author Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs, Best Staged Plans, etc.) echoed your sentiments about doing nice for others before expecting any nice in return. This concept has shifted my approach to writing and getting published and has given me a lot of hope for my own future. Be a nice person, do nice gestures, and you will open yourself up to earning good things in return. Also, the idea of sincere, genuine appreciation (and flattery!) is something to be mindful of in all aspects of life, along with remembering that authors, agents, and others in the publishing world are just regular people who love to read and be inspired just like the rest of us!

Thanks for sharing the emails–huge help and dose of reality!


StaceyNo Gravatar July 4, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Hi Shawndra!

Thanks so much for your kind comment! I’m SO delighted to see you here (after first “meeting” you on my guest blog at Jen’s Everyday Bright)!

Thanks also for sharing your experience at the Skirt! Creative Conference! It’s fascinating to hear the insights you gleaned from it!

By the way, I love Skirt! Press. One of their editors was kind enough to review my manuscript and was one of the many editors I queried who gave me the valuable feedback I talked about in my blog post *last* Monday. :-)

Thanks again for coming to my blog to read and contribute! I’m also very excited about reading your blog too! You’ve got so much wonderful stuff going on (Movie Mondays, Taste Tuesdays, Writer Wednesdays, Tune Thursdays, Fiction Fridays, Soul Saturdays, and Sightseeing Sundays), I can’t wait to dive in!

Big love to you!


Marsha StopaNo Gravatar July 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Hey Stacey,

Thanks for sharing this process and your communications. It’s so much more helpful that folks who pontificate on how to approach people and make connections without real-world examples.

And an extra helping of bravo to you for putting yourself out there!

Keep it up.


StaceyNo Gravatar July 4, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Hi Marsha!

Thanks so much for your kind comment! I’m so glad that you found my post helpful! And I really appreciate the extra helping of bravo too!! Big love to you!


EmelieNo Gravatar July 5, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Stacey – this is a dream blog post. It’s inspiring, motivating, and completely actionable!! Ding Ding Ding! I so appreciate how willing you are to share your knowledge and experiences. You are a shining example of collaboration and positive productivity. You are showing so many people how to live their dreams… You never cease to be an inspiration.


StaceyNo Gravatar July 6, 2011 at 11:17 am

Hi Emelie!

Thanks so much for your kind comment!

It really is the coolest thing to share my processes and then hear that others find them inspiring, motivating and actionable!!

I know you’ve got (many!) books inside of you, and I really hope this helps you get them out!

Big love to you!


tammy vitaleNo Gravatar July 6, 2011 at 10:06 am

Stacey – you’ve mentioned before how you look for a mentor (a midwife really, right?!) so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Sounded brilliant but before this post I really didn’t have a good picture of exactly what that meant – since I think in pictures, I filed the words away for later. Then along comes this post. Pictures everywhere! Brilliant magnificent awesome pictures all lit up by neon saying “This way….” with a bright yellow arrow (I told you I think in pictures). Every writer in the world should see this! Am planning to share in several places I know it will be well received! Thanks again for your generosity and genuine soul. Hugs!


StaceyNo Gravatar July 6, 2011 at 11:21 am

Hi Tammy!

Thanks so much for your kind comment!

It’s so lovely to read that you’ve been filing away my past blog posts, almost like breadcrumbs on a path, but that today’s post was like “big reveal” of the map with neon signs included!

You really made me smile by sharing how I managed to flip the switch with this post and I’m delighted that you plan to share it with others!

Big love to you!


Jill ChiversNo Gravatar July 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Stacey, this is fabulous! I love how you gave us the exact emails that were sent and received – talk about not reinveinting the wheel: what a great model you have given to us! And even if the specific content isn’t relatable to everyone, the approach you take is so modelable (if such a word exists). I love that!

I also love the underlying spirit conveyed in this post about resourcefulness. It’s not quite the same as “never ever ever give up” – it’s not about dogged digging, as it were. It’s about finding a new path when a current path doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s about have an attitude of “there is a way – I just need to keep looking, and trying”. And I also love how you didn’t take any of the “no” letters as stop signs. They were sign posts pointing you in another direction, and you followed THOSE paths, rather than stopped dead and gave up. Bravo!


StaceyNo Gravatar July 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Hi Jill!

Thanks so much for your kind comment! I’m SO glad that this post resonates with you too!

And I LOVE that you commented on the underlying spirit I convey in this post. I was very much hoping that this spirit would be apparent, because it is such a BIG part of what I think it takes to be successful. It means a lot to me that you “got” it.

Thanks again for commenting! Big love to you!


EevaNo Gravatar August 11, 2013 at 10:34 am

Hi Stacey!

I’m glad I landed on your site! Very energetic yet warm-hearted vibes :)

The post was very useful for other contacting purposes too, thank you so much for the examples! An excellent reminder in the end was the question how to NOT reinvent the wheel again. That is a question I have pondered often while designing jewelry and malas. This question may be a bit off the topic, but do you have any insight how to stay genuine to yourself and create something unique yet attractive to bigger audience?

much love, Eeva


StaceyNo Gravatar August 11, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Hi Eeva!

Thanks so much for your kind comment! I’d be happy to give you plenty of insight into how you can stay genuine to yourself while getting your gifts out into the world in a much bigger way.

My completely complimentary Discover Your Purpose session is designed to do just that — you can sign up for yours here:

I hope to talk with you soon!

Much love,


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