Where is the line between commitment to your pet project and manic obsession? It took me six years of fencing with the fates before I found my answer—long after the project of a lifetime had been royally skewered.
I’m a road warrior with a passion for America’s national parks, and I dreamed of a book on the Passport To Your National Parks® program, telling readers where to find more than 1,700 Passport cancellation stamps throughout the national park system. In 2006, I gained permission from Eastern National Bookstores, owners of the Passport program, to pitch my book idea to a commercial publisher.
I wrote a winning proposal, and three weeks later, I had my book contract. The acquisitions editor at Falcon Guides told me, “We’re going to divide this according to regions. So we’ll publish nine books.” I had just one published book before this, so I had hit the jackpot. I connected with literary agent Regina Ryan, and she shepherded me expertly through tricky contract negotiations. It looked like all the pieces had fallen neatly into place.
Hurry up and wait
The publisher wanted all nine manuscripts completed in five months! I pulled off a writing marathon, delivering the last book 150 days after the project began. The manuscripts were accepted with great praise, and I got a fat check for all nine books. After several months of silence, however, my editor called: Falcon decided that we were “moving too fast,” and postponed the books’ release for a year. Worse, they would test sales by only releasing three at a time.
When the first three books came out in 2008, my supporters at Eastern National were no longer with the company. The books got lost in bureaucracy and were not placed in the national park bookstores. I connected with new people at Eastern and finally got the books into their stores in 2010, two years after publication, but it was too late—Falcon Guides had chalked them up as a lost cause, and decided not to publish the remaining six guides.
It was time to give up … but I didn’t. Eventually, Falcon released the rights back to me. I was preparing to place these six manuscripts online as Kindle books in 2012 when Eastern released a free app that detailed all the locations of the Passport stamps, rendering my books unnecessary.
Once again, it was time to give up … but I didn’t. I attempted an agreement with Eastern for them to include my content in the Passport app. We were on our way to a deal when Hurricane Irene (yes, a freaking hurricane) wiped out several of Eastern’s bookstores, making my proposal a low priority.
This time I got the message.
So when is it time to give up and move on? Perhaps it’s when you can take away a little good news with the bad, or when you can see an acceptable level of gain rising out of all the loss. When passion overruns common sense, however, the time to give up may be long overdue before you can finally see the obvious.