Sunday, March 25, 2018

Don’t Believe The Internet Lies

As a part of my job as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing, I interact with a number of authors. Occasionally a literary agent will pass or reject a submission and in the process of sending that email, recommend the author reach out to me and will copy me on the email.

When I get one of these emails, I reach out to the author, give them my background and encourage them to send their submission to me. I need the full proposal or manuscript, their mailing address and phone.

Recently one of these authors and I corresponded. He was looking for an agent (and I used to be an agent—no longer and clear on my website). I told this author that Morgan James published a limited number of novels and that we had a novel on the New York Times list last January (broad distribution to achieve that success).

The author sent the manuscript and synopsis but not the mailing address. Morgan James acknowledges every submission with a letter in the mail—and we receive over 5,000 submissions a year. If we get to issue a contract, we use the same mailing address (one of the reasons we collect this data from authors). I wrote this author asking for the missing address information.

A day or two later, I got an email withdrawing the submission. No explanation just a withdrawal.

Why the strange interaction? I suspect this author used “google” to learn more about Morgan James. You can learn a lot looking at the publisher website—but it does not give all of the details – especially about novels.

With a simple search, you can find other sites that will give you objections and complaints about Morgan James. Yet I’ve also searched for these sites and have several observations:

1. Not everything you read is true. Even false material is on the Internet forever.
  2. Much of these complaints are years old and inaccurate from my investigation. 
 3. As an author you deserve to learn the true story—something I do with authors all the time, send them a real sample contract after our call, etc. The exploration process costs nothing (FREE) and gives me an opportunity to talk and interact with the author.
 4. Publishing is constantly changing and there is no one way to succeed in this business. The Morgan James model isn’t right for every author—but it is right for many authors. Unless you explore it with me, you will never know.

I suspect this author who withdrew the submission is still looking for a literary agent and the path to publication. There is not one path but many paths.I tried to encourage this author to explore the open door.

Morgan James is not a self-publisher and we have a publication board and a consideration process. As an editor, I do champion my authors to my colleagues but I also attempt to set realistic expectations. I can’t outright promise that Morgan James will publish a book because I get rejected too in the process of championing authors.

The reality is until I get the news of a contract from my publication board, I don’t know that a contract will be issued. Yes I have been in publishing for years and attempt each time to mount a strong case for my authors with my colleagues—but those attempts sometimes fail.

Recently I worked with an author who proposed a 400 page devotional book. I learned we have published a couple of those books and they have “crashed and burned” (the term from my colleague). I assume this means the actual bookstore sales for those 400 page books have been dismal or poor. It makes our team reluctant to take on another one—unless the author has a huge sales potential or platform. My author did not have a huge platform. You can follow this link to get my free Ebook (Platform Building Ideas for Every Author).

The good news is I returned to this author with this information and she was willing to do a smaller and better sales potential book. This type of interaction and adjustment is from my experience how good books get created and enter the market. Often they do not come in isolation from a solo author but are through the interaction with another professional.

The first author who withdrew her submission will never know or experience this interaction from the Morgan James Publishing team—unless they return in the months ahead (which does happen but rarely from my experience).

As an author you have a responsibility to learn the truth—which is much more involved than a simple search on the internet. Don’t believe the Internet Lies but move beyond the surface information. It’s the responsible way to work in my view. 


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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Can You Follow The Editor’s Directions?

As a long-time member of the publishing community, I interact with a number of authors. In fact, I have my personal email address onmy Twitter profile. It generates a number of emails that I answer. I do love to help writers which is one of the reasons I write these articles each week.

Recently I got an email from “Tom” (not his real name). He told about sending his novel out to numerous literary agents and not finding one. He sent me his phone number and asked to “schedule a time to chat.”

From my experience, this author’s suggestion was a big mistake. My time is as limited as the next person and I’ve “chatted” with plenty of authors who have wasted my time.

Because Morgan James publishes about 25 to 30 novels a year, and I work for them, I quickly transferred this discussion to my work email. I wrote Tom and asked for several specifics—true for any novel submission:

1. I need the full manuscript
2. I need a synopsis
3. I need the author’s mailing address

Tom responded that he would be sending it to me and appreciated the quick response.

About a week later Tom sent the preface to his novel and the first chapter. He acknowledged in his cover note that I asked for the full manuscript but he wanted to send what he wanted to send.

I quickly responded and asked for the full manuscript, synopsis and address. It was several weeks ago—and to date I’ve not heard from Tom. I believe Tom is going to struggle to find an agent or a publisher. Why? He has refused to send what is requested. 

Possibly he is a talented writer with a great novel but unless you follow the directions, you will never be read and published (other than self-published—and the average self-published book sells less than 100 copies during the lifetime of the book.). These details matter and are part of the evaluation process as I meet authors. Are they coachable and teachable?

Like I often hear from our Morgan James founder, David Hancock, we can always fix the manuscript but sometimes we can’t fix a poor or bad author.

Are the lack of attention or following the details holding you back from achieving your publishing dreams? If you are struggling to find the right connection with a literary agent or a publisher. I encourage you to consider if your material is in the requested format and if you are following the directions in the guidelines. Not delivering what is requested can prevent you from achieving your dreams as a writer. It can be something simple but important to the editor or agent which blocks you from moving forward.

Have you ever discovered that when you added something which was missing, it changed how it was received and opened a new opportunity? Let me know in the comments below.


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Sunday, March 11, 2018

My Oscar Surprise

The Oscars aired last Sunday night. While the audience has been slipping for this event and they often highlight “different” films (ones we never see), I still watch it. This year, I could not watch it live because my wife and I were traveling home from Kentucky where a few days before my mother celebrated her 90th birthday. Prior to leaving, I set my DVR to record the program and we've been watching it this week.

Over the years, I've watched hours of this event and never seen a single person that I've personally met—until this year. Imagine my surprise when they called out the winner in the Short Film category and called Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant. Here's the eight-minute clip:

Many years ago I wrote a story about Glen and Linda Keane which was published in Marriage Partnership magazine (which no longer is publishing). Glen worked at Disney animation for many years and was the lead animator of The Little Mermaid, Beast from Beauty and the Beast and many other films. You can follow this link to read my article from 1992. It has been years since I thought about Glen and his work on some children's books. It made me wonder what happened to those books and reach out to Glen to see if I can reconnect with him. It has not happened at this writing but I'm hopeful.

Last week, literary agent Bob Hostetler wrote a terrific article: It's Not What You Know But Who You Know. Yes it is important to have skill in writing and storytelling but I agree with Bob, that who you know is a key part of the process.

How do you kindle or rekindle the various relationships you have in the writing world? Sometimes it is from an occasional phone call or an email. Or maybe you are both on each other's newsletter list or read each other's blogs. There are many different ways to establish and reestablish these connections. Part of my regular practice as a writer and editor is to reach out to new people—but also to reconnect with old friends. Last week I made a number of these phone calls and emails to others. In some cases, I get zero response from it but in others, it reconnects me to these people and we are able to work together again.

As you read this story, who comes into your mind that you need to reconnect or reach out to them? Make some concrete plans to do so and tell me about it in the comments below.


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Sunday, March 04, 2018

Why You Want to Learn From Experts

As we move into spring, there are a number of upcoming writers conferences.  I've been going to conferences for many years and I enjoy learning from different workshops. Yet from experience, I have learned the necessity to check out the credentials of the workshop leaders or speakers. What type of expertise do they have in the topic they are teaching?

There is an old saying in the public speaking arena, if you really want to learn a topic, you need to teach it. While  there is some level of truth in this saying (you learn a great deal as you prepare to  teach it),  there is also the necessity of having a certain level of expertise before you teach a topic.

For example, I often find people who have written one or two novels, will be leading a workshop on a particular aspect of writing fiction. These workshops are the ones I would avoid  because of the lack of qualifications of the instructor. Or in the area of social media, I often see people who call themselves "a social media expert" then I look at their twitter following and see they have less than 500 followers (almost beginners).  I want to learn from many different people, but I also want to learn from people who have exhibited their expertise in the area where they are teaching.

Here's how to check  out this expertise:

1. Read the background of the instructors and keynote speakers.

2. Use Google to search for their names and background

3. Make decisions ahead of the conference based on your research

From my years of attending workshops, I've walked out of a few workshops where the speaker has been unprepared or under qualified. Also I've grown to be more discerning of this issue when I sign up for an online course or take writing training from someone.

Are you discerning about who you learn from with your writing life? What are other qualifications that are important to you when you attend a workshop? Let me know in the comments below.


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