Friday, January 30, 2009

30-Day Marketing Challenge: Query rejections and the economy

I don't know about you, but all this financial news is bumming me out. And causing me to associate every query rejection with the Titanic-like demise of the publishing industry.

Last week, I was at my nadir. I received four rejections in a row, and I knew--just knew!--that it was a sign of the financial times. There's this little voice in my head that kept chanting, "Give it up kid--you've had a nice run, but this economy is too tough for you."

Now, you'd hardly be human if the current economy weren't making you at least a little on edge. For the anxious among us, myself included, that edginess can translate into constant worry--and worry to ascribing meaning to all kinds of things in a way that is both useless and damaging.

If you, like me, are having a hard time getting queries out--or bouncing back from rejections--because of the economic stress, don't shoulder it alone and let yourself get paralyzed.

Share the fear

I posted my concern--along the lines of, "Is anyone else taking rejections more personally in the current economy?"--to a freelancers' board to which I belong. There, I got all kinds of great encouragements ("If anyone will make it through this economy, it's you!" and "I see your byline everywhere; you'll be fine!") and reality checks.

Here's what I learned:

Rejection is less personal now than ever.
If a company doesn't have a budget, it really isn't personal if they don't accept your story idea. So if you are taking it to mean something about that company, it doesn't.

However, it may mean that you need to refocus your marketing efforts toward markets with money. Right now, I'm asking my clients as I query them if their budget is in tact for 2009. Most don't see to mind answering, and it's helping me query with more confidence.

Replace the negative with a positive mantra.
Jenny Cromie, who wrote a fabulous post on her blog, The Golden Pencil, about feeding fear or the faith in your career, encouraged me to create a mantra that can replace the "Give it up kid" one that pops in there naturally. The one she suggested went:
I know I got four query rejections yesterday, but I also have confidence in my abilities and know that these rejections probably have more to do with the economy and less to do with me. Eventually, someone is going to say "yes" so I think I'll send out four more queries today and maybe a couple of LOIs ...
The short version that I've created for myself of this is, "I accept that if I keep querying, I will get assignments."

And guess what? I did get an assignment and other editors are considering more of my queries as I write this. Querying is still a numbers game. Just because the market has changed doesn't mean that essential fact has.

It may mean the numbers will change. I'm considering upping my weekly minimum of three queries a week to higher-paying markets to four or five. I met that easily last week and am on track to do the same this week.

Turn off the news.
I've said it before. If the economy is freaking you out to the point where you interpret everything as a sign of a coming Depression, it's time to wean yourself off the CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews, NPR, and any other news source that transmits trauma directly to your eyeballs. Unsubscribe or skip blogfeeds that focus on job losses, etc.

Keep the focus on what you can control. The economy? That's not one of them.

Keep your expectations sane.
Every writer goes through cycles in their business: Sometimes you're so busy that you have to turn away work. Other times, you have so little work that you can devote all your time to business development. That cycle is probably going to continue in 2009. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with this market.

Here's what I know from my own experience: I earned more last year than I ever have in my journalism career. Most of it came in the last half of the year during the bailout hearings and foreclosure nightmares. If I look at my business--not the economy as a whole--I see that my business is fine.

Take a look at yours and look to see if you have real cause for alarm or if you're just absorbing cultural fears.

To sum up:
  • Don't keep it to yourself. Check in with other self-employed folks.
  • Ask clients if their budgets have been affected and adjust your marketing plan to accomodate the new reality.
  • Create a mantra that reaffirms that if you keep querying, you'll get work.
  • Turn off the news.
  • Get a reality check based on your business, not the stock market.
How do you cope with rejections in the current economy?

Photo by reubenaingber.


Anonymous said...

Hi Heather--Your "serenity" posts are really helpful to me--keep up the great work.

I'm trying to make all these terrible layoffs work for me... When I write a query or LOI, I think the editor may be sitting as his/her computer, thinking "I just laid off my staff--who can possibly do this work?" How happy they will be to see my email arrive in the inbox!

Yes, it's a mind game but it's keeping me going....

Jenny said...

I am beaming. And I am so glad that I was able to help remind you that you are a great writer and that it really is just a numbers game.

Every "no" gets you closer to a "yes." And you got a "yes"! Yessssss!!! And high five!