Ready to Pounce?

| May 3, 2010 | 4 Comments

Are you at the “wanting,” “ready,” or “doing/pouncing” stage? This is where I am:


I want to be writing for you more, I really do. I want to be sharing more, keeping more in touch, offering what I know in useful bites, especially for those of you I’m not currently working with. I want to keep testing out new ideas in public ways (practicing what I preach in Going Public, part of my ecourse for advancing your book).

I want to have coffee dates with new and old clients, readers, and “lurkers,” virtually or in your town or mine (btw, the neighborhoods of NYC are really like a whole bunch of small towns smooshed together).

I want to say THANK YOU to all the people who’ve come to the recent events I’ve led and who have been sharing some of the lessons they’ve learned and the ideas they’re trying out.

I want to have more free stuff, and fee stuff, and tools, and solutions, and all kinds of empire-y things (omg, really?, I’m sounding like @Havi or @NaomiDunford or some other expert I’ve never met but whom I follow).
I want to DO things, WRITE things, yet I hold back, freeze up, start and stop, change priorities (wisely, when the big projects and deadlines are on deck), procrastinate or incubate (depending on my mindset), recalibrate.

I want to honor “ease”—my mantra for the year, and it’s working; it’s a guardrail for decisions and being able to let go. But I also want to honor “commitment”—my promises to myself that I keep hedging.


There’s a question on my website, my company brochure, and even a postcard I send out. It asks:


Here’s the story behind that question.
In the high-stakes NYC publishing world, there’s an art to acquiring new authors and projects for one’s list and imprint. As an editor, it’s a mix of meeting lots of people in and out of the business, reading tons of proposals and manuscripts, and developing an eye and a nose for what you like, what’s good, what’s new, what’s timely and relevant, what will sell, and what you have a special affinity for shaping and launching to the wider world.

You want to chase projects that not only are you passionate about, but that your colleagues will understand and be passionate about too. However, if you’re too particular, you might go through droughts of acquiring nothing (and that’s what you’re getting paid to do), or you might bring up too many projects and you lose your credibility or dilute the excitement about the projects you propose.

I once heard a very seasoned publisher say that when an editor literally got out of his or her chair to talk about a new project, he knew to say “Yes” and to approve the money to bid for that book. He knew the editor had the right passion and vision to make it work.

Well, my boss for many years, Bill Shinker (both at HarperCollins and as part of the start-up team at Broadway Books), once said something to me that has always stuck in my mind. He said I circled around the process of deciding about projects like a cat circling a mouse with its eyes. But when I was ready, I’d pounce. I’d jump up and down and bubble with enthusiasm and urgency. And he’d want to pounce with me and authorize the money to bid.

It’s occurred to me that the “ready” part of “ready to pounce?” is hard.

It entails mental preparation, research, planning, commitment-making—even if it’s about getting ready for something small in scale. Getting ready—when it comes to the work that matters to us most—can involve a lot of practical and deeply emotional points of introspection and exploration. Is it good? Do I care? Will someone else care? Is it “me,” or is it too (fill in the blank: self-serving, prosaic, familiar, obvious, unoriginal, poorly thought out, minor, grandiose).
These questions NEED TO BE ASKED. Not every project or idea is a go. We gather our energy and pounce when it is right—when we have the right mix of want (hunger), preparation, and resources.

And it may be that we can break “ready” into smaller pieces. We can be ready to talk about an idea; ready to research it or plan an outline; ready to get help; ready to try; ready to just write.


Writing isn’t always effortful but it is hard. It takes courage to put words, beliefs, characters, theories, one’s identity and “brand” to the page. But the “not doing it,” the “getting ready” part, is often harder than the “doing it.” When we finally have the will, and we carve out the time, we break the inertia and we produce our work. It’s hard, but not as effortful and looming as the moments before. We create, we write, we draw—one stroke, one word at a time.


Do you know what you want?
Are you ready? Can you say yes?
Can you say no?
What will get you ready?
Can you get ready for a small piece of what you want? Can you reach out for help?
Are you ready to pounce? Now? When? Can you set a deadline?
Can you do it?

In terms of my own Not Doing Is Harder Than Doing, I’ve been making plans for my blog (not with the goal of becoming a “blogger”!) and kept myself in the “wanting” mode more than the “ready” or “pouncing” ones.

Well, I’ve decided to opt into one of the many blog challenges I’ve seen: 31 posts in 31 days. My idea is to keep the posts fairly short and informational and to maintain a sense of ease in terms of formats, voices, guest posts and outside contributions. It’s more for ME to experiment than a grand design to grow my readership.

I WANT to experience what happens when I do it. I’m READY to promise to myself that I can get small bites of tips, inspiration, resources, and stories out of my head and notes and into a form I can share.
Time to POUNCE.

I would LOVE you to subscribe to my blog. PLEASE add your comments, and send me your examples. If there’s enough interest, or even a tiny bit of interest, I can pull some of those comments out and can use them for new blog posts. I NEED help.
Hear that?

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Category: Janet's Editorials, Strategy

Comments (4)

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  1. Janet, you are blogging with a vengeance! And it’s great to see you here. I recently heard a wonderful description, from the poet Sophia Stone, of what you had to have before you had a book. “You need a beginning, a middle, an end,” Sophia said. “And a point.”

  2. Good for you Janet! I want to say, “you go girl” but perhaps that is a little too informal. 😉
    I love these thoughts & I’ve subscribed!
    I’m definitely in the “getting ready” phase. I feel like I would love it if someone had an instant master’s degree program on today’s book publishing market and how to best navigate through it. 😉
    One thing that I’d love for you to blog about are the in’s and out’s of doing both a traditional book as well as information products or e-books on one’s own website. I’ve seen a few people do it well, but I wonder what information is needed to do it successfully and with smart timing.
    I’d also love your thoughts on how the iPad will change books. Videos and photography are a strong part of our brand, so this interests me as they greatly enhance the written word in some instances.
    Looking forward to your 31!

  3. Elatia – You are the most wonderful reader. I love your addition of a “point.” I’ll add it to today’s post!
    Soul Travelers 3 – Great questions. I’ll see what I can get to! Here’s a link to a link to a great 1-hour audio on “When Is the Right Time (and the Wrong Time) to Publish a Book” that I did with Suzanne Falter-Barnes of last year:

  4. You are right. We absolutely have to stop just thinking about things and take positive actions.

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