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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

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we are looking for and a number of books that we do not publish.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
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
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
. 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)


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