Sunday, 27 November 2022

T The Pro-Active Author

The Downside of Persistence (A Cautionary Tale)

I've written a number of times 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 There are a many books that we are looking for and a number of books that we do not publish.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. Yes there can be a downside to persistence.

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

Columnist: Terry Whalin


W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former  magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. To help writers, he has created 12-lesson online course called Write A Book Proposal. His website is located at:

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