Sunday, December 03, 2023

First Impressions Count

By Terry Whalin

I love the photo which begins this article. The light has made a perfect reflection and impression of the scenery. Our eye is drawn to this peaceful and perfect image. As you reflect on this image, I believe you can gain some insights about the process of submitting your work for publication.

Notice the photo is taken from the right spot. To get the attention of an editor or literary agent, you have to make the right connection. Admittedly its not easy for any writer to make this connection but it is possible through personal emails, LinkedIN and other places. As Ive often said in these articles, who you know is as important as what you know. 

Also notice the photo is a perfect reflection in the water. As writers we must become aware of what the editor or agent needs and is looking for. For a writer to gather this information will take work and effort. Study the books they publish or list of authors. Also download and study their guidelines and what they need. It's different for each publisher or agent but this information is often clearly spelled out on their website (and the submitter or author doesnt always follow it--which is a mistake on their part).

Every writer must make the right pitch at the right time. If your pitch is not crafted right or the timing is off, the publishing professional will pass on it. 

Throughout my years in publishing, Ive seen many missed opportunities, poor and inappropriate pitches. For my example, recently an author submitted a childrens book manuscript. The submission was just a manuscript and not crafted into pages and without a book proposal. If the author had crafted it into pages, it would have shown knowledge about the childrens book market. A proposal shows the author's business plans and background for publishing the book. Admittedly it takes work to craft such a submission but is well-worth the effort from my experience. 

Unfortunately this author made the wrong first impression. He didnt learn Morgan James Publishing has published some childrens books but they are a small percentage of the types of books which we publish (maybe 3%). Also this author called my phone and then disconnected--over a dozen times--before he left a voicemail with questions asking for my return call. Such an action from an unpublished author raises red flags for the professional. The submission will be processed but a pass or rejection letter will also be scheduled. This author made the wrong first impression and it counted.

I love childrens books, have published more than a dozen of them and Im a former instructor for the Institute of Childrens Literature, which is the oldest home correspondence course for childrens writers. Beyond the submission, Im looking for the right author.

As New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins wisely said when he interviewed me (follow the link), editors and agents are reading their email looking for what they can publish or the diamond in the rough. Unfortunately it takes thoughtful work to send the right pitch or proposal. My encouragement for each of you is to do this work on the submission side of things and the relationship-building side.

To balance my previous story, let me tell you about another author. On the surface, the full-color book didnt look like one that Morgan James would publish. Through a series of over 50 emails and phone conversations, the publishing details for this book were worked out. The author received a contract offer. Admittedly there are a number of additional steps before this book gets published and in the bookstores. I include this story so you see that every author needs a champion inside the publishing house for their book. It will take effort for you to find this person but if you work at it, you can certainly find such a person.  I encourage you to always be expanding your relationships to have the right one for your right idea.

On the surface, publishing may look simple but it is a complicated endeavor with many twists and turns. I encourage you to continue to take the journey. What steps are you taking to find the right place for your pitch? Let me know in the comments below. 


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