Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Downside of Persistence (A Cautionary Tale)

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I've written a number of times in these entries about how a key quality for every writer is persistence. People tell us “no” a lot in this business and you have to persist to find the right place to get published. In this article, I want to tell a cautionary tale about the downside of persistence. Yes, persistence can be carried to far and make a negative impression.

At Morgan James Publishing, we get a number of authors and literary agents approaching us with material. Internally we call these leads because they may lead to a published book (or not). There are a many books that we are looking for and a number of books that we do not publish. The key at the end of the day is a good fit for the author and the book to publish with Morgan James. We receive over 5,000 submissions a year and only publish about 150 books. Despite what some people on the outside of the company say, we have a selection process and are not a vanity publisher. If we were a vanity publisher, then we would publish anything that comes in the door. From my years of working at Morgan James, I know this is simply not the case.

Last week someone associated with the U.S. space program approached Morgan James with a book idea. This contact was sent to me because I've worked with a couple of different astronauts on their book submissions. I reached out to this person. It turned out they were in the film side of the business and did not have a book proposal or a manuscript but according to them had lots of unique information. The email response pushed me toward lots of video links and photos. Bottom-line this “author” had no manuscript. His idea was that a manuscript would be created later. His vision was a coffee-table type of book with loads of color photos. From my years of working in this business, when I see an author has a vision for something completely different than what we publish, the best course of action is to tell that author in a straight forward and honest manner. It's how I handled the exchange and I wished him the best in finding the right place for his material. I “thought” that wrapped up my exchanges with this potential author.

Then last week I get a text from my founder at Morgan James. He had heard from this author again and thought I had not handled the initial exchanges (not the case). I explained how I had exchanged emails and made sure I told him the coffee-table book vision for this author. It was confirmed that we don't publish these types of books. To keep the communication clear, I returned to this author and reminded him of our exchanges—and asked him not to send something again to our founder. It would be the same as knocking on the front door of a publisher when you are already in dialogue with someone else in the same company on the same matter. Such duplication is not necessary and only causes confusion.

When this author received my email, he apologized and claimed he has “hundreds” of submissions in the works and couldn't keep track. When I read those words, "couldn't keep track," I thought, Who wants to work with that type of author? It's a case where his persistence had a huge downside and shows an unprofessionalism and leading to certain rejection.

Several lessons here:

1. Keep track of your submissions and avoid duplicate submissions to the same publisher. Publishers and literary agents keep track of submissions—and you as an author need to keep track as well.

2. Listen to the feedback and respond rather than persisting to submit and look unprofessional and inept.

3. Publishing looks huge but in reality we are a small community. I hope this author finds the right place for his book (and I told him that). Inside I know he is going about it in the wrong manner.

Hope this cautionary tale helps some of you. Have you discovered a downside to persistence? Let me know n the comments below.


Persistence is a valuable trait for writers but it does have a downside. Learn the insights in this cautionary tale. (ClickToTweet)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

2 Comment:

At 5:12 AM, Blogger J.D. Wininger Left a note...

Interesting, and in a manner humorous, post sir. My "persistence story" is perhaps from a different slant. It's always good to seek to improve as a writer, but sometimes the writer's dream of being published in a particular place fails to be realized. Yet, the author continues submitting with each year in hopes they might convince the publisher they've been wrong for all these years. Persistence can be harmful when it becomes an obsession. Sometimes, a writer's style just doesn't fit with where God actually wants their work to be placed. Learning to "pull anchor and get underway" is an important lesson for every writer I think.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Thanks for this comment and feedback. I understand writers are looking for the right connection but this writer that I wrote about today was sending off the wrong signal--and probably didn't know it but from my experience will likely be doomed to lots of rejection. He isn't giving the publishers what they need--a solid pitch--nor is he keeping track of where he's sending his submissions.



Post a Comment

That's the writing life...

Back to the home page...