Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Extra Push

Whether you want to admit it or not, I will. Some writers are pushy about their work to the point of being obnoxious. I'm sure you've seen those folks who push to the front of the sign up sheets at a writer's conference to make sure they snag the editor of their choice. Or they are the ones who overnight their book proposal to you because they are certain they have finished the next bestseller and as an editor you will lunge toward their overnight package, rip it open and fall immediately in love with it.

OK. I'll admit to being a bit cynical in my tone but you get the idea of which type of writer I'm talking about here. They are the ones with the moxie and to some degree it works for them. They get attention but will it be the right type of attention? Several months ago, one of my writer friends approached me with her novel. This particular writer has written a number of successful nonfiction books and now had turned her attention to a fiction series. Internally I groaned and wondered why she had turned to fiction when her nonfiction was going so well but I listened to her pitch. She sent me a proposal and a sample chapter or two.

For many of thUmpire outese submissions, I've been quickly looking at them and sending form rejections. Instead, to this writer, I sent a note of explanation that it would be a while until I could process her submission for a number of reasons and asked for her patience. She responded that she understood and would be patient. Then a few weeks later, I got another nudge from this writer asking about her submission. Again I reminded her of my few possibilities and how her timing was off and I needed her patience. Again she responded apologetically about being a proactive author and would be patient.

Well, I suppose after four or six additional weeks her patience ran out because this week I got another email nudge from this author. I wasn't eager to read her work--because the timing still wasn't right but I opened the file, read a bit, the sent her a form rejection note. Her nudging worked and achieved a response. Just not the response she expected. The experience reminded me once again of the potential result you push for your own work when you push. This author was pushing too hard but she graciously accepted my form rejection and is now pressing on to other places. Whew. Did I need that type of author? In a microcosm I was experiencing how she would interact with others inside our publishing company. It's not the type of author I want to bring to my colleagues. In some respects, the experience reminded me of a baseball game where the umpire calls the player out. 

It’s something else to consider the next time you are going to fire off an email and check on the status of your proposal which the editor has under consideration. Are you giving it the extra push which moves it from consideration into the rejection pile?

10 Comment:

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Crystal Laine Left a note...

Terry, I've experienced this with a client or two in my book doctoring business. I often wonder (and have sometimes cautioned the author) how this person would be in working with an agent or an editor if he's this impatient with me. This is a great reminder that patience can be a virtue at times. Now, if the editor or agent pushes me, I certainly get to work--pronto!

At 9:56 PM, Blogger Dan Edelen Left a note...

Terry, first-time commenter who follows your blog religiously--

I read your response and had to ask how long is too long to wait? It seems from your description that this dragged out for about three months or more.

I would think that a three month wait with no feedback seems a bit long. Or am I clueless?


At 9:58 PM, Blogger Bonnie S. Calhoun Left a note...

Yes, I'm curious too, Terry. What would have been the appropriate time length for her to wait? i don't want to shoot myself in the foot...LOL!

At 10:27 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Dan and Bonnie,

Thank you for your question. Apparently I didn't make it clear so let me try again. I regularly process submissions. I send rejection notes. For this particular writer, I told explained the particular situation--things were in transition at the moment. Lots of projects were in the works--and I could give her an instant response (rejection) or she could wait patiently for an answer. She and I had an understanding that no news was good news--it was still being considered. I had clearly communicated this aspect.

Bottom-line it takes months some times for a manuscript to be seriously processed, championed and considered. Three months isn't long when it comes to book publishing for this process. I know the writer is sitting around waiting--well don't. Write another proposal. Get another magazine article out there. Don't fixate on the single project. Because if you push, you can get an answer--but not the one you want.

I hope that clarifies it for you.


At 7:38 AM, Blogger michelleu Left a note...

I suspect people simply don't understand how many submissions are received every week. We routinely tell folks it will be six to eight weeks before we can examine a requested proposal--because we have a lot of other people in the queue ahead of them. We're not lazy, we're not mean, we're just a little overwhelmed by paper!

At 4:38 PM, Blogger Glenda Larke Left a note...

To authors-in-waiting: How long does it take? A long time! Here's an example - I had an agent and 4 published books. A new book was submitted by my agent to a new publisher - it was 9 months before we heard a word. That's right - 9 months. And it was a 3 book deal when it arrived.

My advice - submit and forget about it. You should be deep into your next opus, not worrying abut the last one.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger karin Left a note...

Well, she was your friend and she waited several weeks between nudges. That seems pretty reasonable to me.

She doesn't sound all that difficult unless you're leaving something out.

At 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

Adopt the writers motto "Hurry up and wait"

At 7:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

Terry, you've provided some good info. I hear a lot of discussions on the topic. I believe it's also ggod to check if the agent has posted the timeline on their website. Many times they will tell you how long the waiting period is and if/when you can check up on it. Thank you for the post.

At 5:15 AM, Blogger Unknown Left a note...

Thanks Terry. I cringe to think that I've been one of those writers you've mentioned. I wished there had been an etiquette class I could have taken years ago to know what was acceptable and what was not.

I hope that author friends, editors and agents understand that fledglings sometimes just don't know the ropes so we swing the wrong way sometimes.

Good thing for sites like yours.


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