Why You Should NOT Be Making Publishing Assumptions


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

We live in a hurry up world with limited time and resources. Are you making publishing assumptions which are limiting your publishing options? Admittedly there are many different ways to get published and thousands of new books released into the market every day.

For over nine years, I've been an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. As an acquisitions editor, I work with authors and literary agents to find the right books for us to publish. From my 25+ years in publishing and working with many types of publishers and authors, I know firsthand our model at Morgan James is different. In many ways, it is author-driven yet it has the team and consensus-building elements that comprise what makes traditional publishing work.

I've had the negative experiences in publishing. For example, a book proposal that I wrote received a six-figure advance. My co-author nor I saw the book cover or title before the book was published. In fact, there was a different title in the publisher's catalog than the printed book. The cover had a photo of my co-author that he didn't like. He didn't get behind the book in promotion and talking about the book—which every book needs if it is going to succeed. With the poor sales, the publisher took our book out of print in about six months. The stock was destroyed and I have some of the few remaining copies of this book.

While you may think this story is unique, I've often hear such experiences from others who have followed the traditional path. In this path, the publisher is in charge of the title, cover, interior, etc. They may show the author the information but at the end of the day, they feel like they have more publishing experience than the author so they make the decisions. The lack of author involvement from my experience leads to less author promotion and less sales. Some of these actions explain why 90% of nonfiction books never earn back their advance (a little talked about fact in the publishing community).

Recently a literary agent (that I had not worked with before) submitted a novel to Morgan James. As a professional courtesy when receiving an offer, he reached out to me to see if we were interested in the book. I had not spoken with this agent—the next step in the process of getting a Morgan James book contract. I tried to set up a phone meeting with the agent that day—and we arranged a time. At first, he downplayed the need for us to take the time to talk because he heard the model was a hybrid. Even the term “hybrid” means many different things in publishing. I was grateful this agent took the time to hear the details about Morgan James. Whether the agent does a deal with us or not, at least I got the chance to talk about the unique aspects. He did not discount the opportunity and assume he understood it.

Until an author submits their material and goes through the process, I don't know if they will receive a publishing offer from Morgan James. We receive over 5,000 submissions and only publish about 180 books a year—and of those books only about 25 to 30 are Christian books. We publish about 25 to 30 novels a year and about 25 to 30 children's books. The system is strong but not right for every author—and that is why there is a process.

Here's the basic principle that I'm emphasizing in this article: don't make publishing assumptions because of something you have found through a search or speaking with someone. Instead take the time to listen and read and explore. You will find some surprising opportunities if you explore them.  Behind the scenes, I've seen great integrity and transparency with Morgan James Publishing. If I can help you, don't hesitate to reach out to me. My email and work contact information is on the bottom of the second page of this information sheet.

Are you making publishing assumptions as you look at options? Tell me in the comments below.

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. 
He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers.  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. Get this book for only $10 + free shipping and over $200 in bonuses. On October 5th, his classic Book Proposals That $ell (the revised edition) released to online and brick and mortar bookstores. At the book website, you can get a free Book Proposal Checklist.Terry recently had an article about proposals in Publisher's WeeklyHe lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers



Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, this is such an interesting article. There are so many labels on publishing today that authors can easily get confused. And as you mention there are different models within a label. It's good advice for authors to do their research before accepting or rejecting a platform. Thanks for sharing.

Terry Whalin said...


I believe writers are missing opportunities because they don't thoroughly explore the various opportunities. They make a snap decision because of something they have read online or hear without exploring it themselves.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I couldn't agree more, Terry. It is be best of times for authors. We have more tools, more power than ever before. #bookbigotry is even waning...not gone but getting better. There is a "best" way to publish any title, any author in any financial situation. I think the author's personality is one of the biggest consideration.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Terry Whalin said...


Several months ago I was on a webinar where Markus Dohle, the CEO of Penguin Random House, said this was the best time to be in publishing since Guttenberg invented the printing press.

Authors have many choices and need to explore each option to see which is the best for them.Thank you for the comment and feedback.


deborah lyn said...

Thank you, Terry for this most helpful article.
Your key advice is so easy for writers to forget or be unaware of, with the various publishing models promoted currently.

"...don't make publishing assumptions because of something you have found through a search or speaking with someone. Instead take the time to listen and read and explore. You will find some surprising opportunities if you explore them."
You have saved many writers a lot of trouble. Thank you, deborah

Terry Whalin said...

Deborah Lyn,

Thank you for this feedback--and it was my intention to save writers from making the wrong decision about publishing.


lastpg said...

I agree with the point you've made in your article, Terry. In the old days (before the Internet), publishers' information was available in books such as the market guides offered by the Institute of Children's Literature and reference books at the library. I found quite a few publications that way willing to read my sample articles and consider my queries. Today, the same holds true only the search can be done on the Internet and social media, such as Twitter. I'm only sad that there are fewer children's magazines than yesteryear, such as Pockets and Hopscotch, and the absence of newspaper editors willing to publish lengthy articles by stringer reporters such as moi--and get pay! However, if a writer has a general idea of what s/he wants to write, such as nonfiction articles and books or fiction stories before they begin a search, I think they will discover many opportunities for publication. A writer just has to look, as you have said, and not take the word of others.

Authors Need to be Realistic

By Terry Whalin  @terrywhalin Over the years, I’ve met many passionate writers. One brand new writer told me, “My book is going to be a best...