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).
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.
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:
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:
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
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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