How To Be A Feisty Submitter—The Mustard Factor


Let’s go back to the feisty writer premise we introduced in my last blog  Your job as a feisty writer is to:

Take the ego out and stay in creative motion. 

 Nowhere is this more important than in the submission process. Submitting to an agent, competition, or contest can be scary. It’s the moment of judgment. No more dreaming, plotting, editing, or shaping. Your submission will be followed with a clear “yes” or “no.” Having been on both sides of the game, I get it. I’ve been both the “submitter” and the “decider.” I’ve learned a lot being on both sides. But, to be honest, I have learned the most as someone who has had to judge the work of other writers.

Here’s what I can tell you that I have learned as the “decider.” 

There are a certain amount of pieces that rise to the top–these we will call the finalists. 

 They are finalists because they are well written, have strong concepts and unique voices, and are polished.  (You want to hone your craft until you find yourself in this arena. There is no short cut, just consistent joyful work on your craft.)

But, when looking at your pile of finalists, you are facing a crop of good stuff.

How do you decide on a winner?

The honest answer is that it’s subjective. Why one piece hits me and rises to the top is extraordinarily personal and sometimes unexplainable. And often it comes down to the mustard factor.

 What is the mustard factor, you ask?


I was in a room with a group of movie producers, and we were in the process of casting.

All day long, actors came in to read for various parts.

Two equally talented actors came in for the same part. The first actor auditioned before lunch. He was on point, funny, and we were all impressed. Then lunch came, providing us with gourmet hot dogs with gourmet mustard. Said mustard got on the head producer’s tie. It happened to be an expensive silk tie he loved. And that put him in a bad mood.


In walked the second actor. 

And guess what, he was awesome. On point, funny, and we were all impressed. (Maybe he was even a smidge more awesome than the first actor.) But, the producer who was making the ultimate decision was in a bad mood because of his damn soiled tie. No amount of talking it through could convince him that the second actor was as good as the first. 

So the first actor was hired. From that point on, we referred to the subjectiveness of the deciders as “the mustard factor.”

Now don’t get me wrong–you still have to be awesome to get to that round. You need to be a finalist. So work your craft like mad. But don’t take every or any hit personally.

How to Be a Feisty Submitter

1.     Make submitting part of your weekly or monthly schedule. Put contests or agent submissions on your “to do” list. (Go to Hope Clark’s for awesome submission info.)

2.     No need to talk about submissions with anyone, just do it.

3.     Refine, refine, refine. If you are seeking an agent, keep refining that search or rewriting the query if you get feedback. 

4.     Submit to the same competitions even if you are rejected–especially the ones that offer feedback. Take the feedback. They will be impressed with your tenacity.

5.     Run your own race. Do not compare yourself to anyone. Focus on improving your track record of submitting.

6.     Live by the question: Are you better at submitting now that you were in the past? (Keep improving based on your answer.)

7.     Reward yourself for submissions, not for wins.

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