Monday, June 15, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                             Photo: Sammie Vasquez 

I'm not what you'd call a risk-taker.  Even still, I decided to take a gamble.

I contacted my former agent to see if she'd take a look at two of my manuscripts. Specifically, I wanted to know if they were marketable.

You might think, what's the big deal?  The big deal is, this move is generally not practiced in the literary world.

If a writer wants to know if her book is marketable, she has to send a query letter to an agent.  But agents will not tell you if your work is marketable.  The only way you'll know is if they offer representation, which means they love your story and they think it will sell. 

I believed that Mel would give me unbiased opinion about my work.  She was my literary agent up until the time she decided to start her own publishing company.  But approaching her for feedback would be risky.  Writer's usually don't ask this of publishers and it could sour our friendship.  This move could make me look foolish and unprofessional.

Though I was conflicted, I thought contacting her was the right thing to do.  Mel and I had worked together on a book.  And since we still stay in touch and have a professional and friendly relationship, I got the nerve to politely ask her if she'd take a look at my work. 

Mel agreed to read my manuscripts and said she'd get back to me.  And so, three things could happen:
  1. She could tell me that these manuscripts didn't have a chance in hell to get published.
  2. She could tell that that the manuscripts had potential, but would need significant revision.
  3. She could tell me that she'd like to publish them. (It did hurt to be positive.)
Photo: Ian Stauffer
I honestly didn't know what to expect, other than a sincere and honest opinion. Then several days later, Mel sent me an email.  She wrote that she loved one of the manuscripts. In fact, it showed so much promise that she offered to publish it!  That surprised the hell out of me.  In this case, taking a chance proved to be worth it.

But that's not always the case.  Taking a risk can set us up for rejection.  So, what does a writer do?

An article at gives seven reasons why we should at least consider taking risks:
  • Unforeseen opportunities often come from risk-taking.
  • Taking risks shows confidence and helps you stand out.
  • We learn from risks — and those lessons may lead us on an important, new path.
  • Success won't fall in your lap—you have to pursue it.
  • You don't achieve your dreams by playing it safe.
  • Embracing risk-taking helps you overcome a fear of failure.
  • Taking a risk doesn't mean doing so haphazardly—you must not only consider the fall-out, you must implement and follow through.
No doubt, taking a chance is unpredictable.  A crapshoot.  It can bring about an unfavorable outcome.  But then again it can also generate a surprising result.  If you have met an agent at a conference or have a good relationship with one on social media, then it's worth asking for her thoughts about your work.  What have you got to lose?  All she can say is no.  Sure, it's a risky move.  It's a gamble.  But just think, you could get feedback on your manuscript.  And that would be a monumental payoff.

✌ and 

More on risk-taking: