Category : Publishing

  • February 17, 2012

    Does the publisher lose money if my book doesn't earn out?

    by

    Brynn asked, "Does a publisher lose money if a book doesn't earn out?"

    I get this question a lot, and to answer it I need to beg your forebearance… Let me answer this with hard numbers, so that I can make my case. It will take a couple minutes to run the numbers.

    Remember, every business can lose money. Retail shops, service business, even publishers. I mean, if you own a shoe store, you order in shoes that don't sell, and you have to drastically reduce prices, you can lose money on each pair of shoes sold. Publishing is no different. The publishing house pays out advances, they pay an editor, hire a cover designer, buy ink and paper, then pay a printer, and cover overhead such as the light bill and the editor's long distance phone calls. A lot of expenses are involved in every book. I like and respect publishers, and as a longtime agent, I WANT them to make money and stay in business. So I'm just answering a question, not writing a polemic. 

    That said, the argument put forth that an unearned advance equals a loss for a publisher just isn't true. (Or at least not the whole truth.) All you have to do is look at some math…

    Let's take some big book the publisher is doing with a celebrity. She's created a $25 hardcover book, and the publisher has paid her a $100,000 advance. The average discount a bookstore gets when ordering a book is roughly 50% — so they're paying the publisher $12.50 for that book. (In reality, it could be less, and there are a thousand factors determining that amount, but let's use a conservative 50% for the sake of clarity). From that amount, you have to subtract the author royalty on the first 5000 copies (the author will be paid $2.50 per book), the next 5000 copies ($3.125 per book), and

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  • February 6, 2012

    Who REALLY Needs a Publisher? (A guest blog)

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    Let’s talk about the word publisher for a moment. The notion of a publisher has changed recently. We used to think of the Big Six — the old-school thinking, where they pay you a pittance, take on 1-to-4 new authors a year, and rely on their current bestselling novelists to pay all the bills. Their attitude is frequently, "No platform? No past sales? Then no deal."  They focus on retailers, not readers. They dread having "midlist" authors. Isn't there another way to think of a publisher?  

    The last few years have brought us the "new model" publisher — an indie publisher who is more of a publishing partner than a publishing boss. They do both print books and e-books, and they don't think anything to do with digital books are evil. They've learned to sell to readers, not just to retailers. And they understand that the huge majority of authors are mid-listers — people who have another job because they don't really make enough from their books to be full-time writers. Best of all, they've figured out that a "midlist" author might actually be able to make a living at this writing thing, if only the writer learns how to work the online game. 

    Let me tell you my own story: I went full time at writing with only two books to my name. My first book (Sweet Dreams) came out in all its unedited glory, in December of 2008. By the time my next book was out and I starting to figure out this business, I had hit the Amazon bestseller list. I was #1 in three categories for over two years. I went full time at this in November 2009, and started my own company, StoneHouse Ink. We now have about 40 authors and are blessed to have around 10 bestsellers with us. I speak all over the country about publishing, online marketing, creating eBooks, and the

    Continue Reading "Who REALLY Needs a Publisher? (A guest blog)"
  • February 6, 2012

    Who REALLY Needs a Publisher? (A guest blog)

    by

    Let’s talk about the word publisher for a moment. The notion of a publisher has changed recently. We used to think of the Big Six — the old-school thinking, where they pay you a pittance, take on 1-to-4 new authors a year, and rely on their current bestselling novelists to pay all the bills. Their attitude is frequently, "No platform? No past sales? Then no deal."  They focus on retailers, not readers. They dread having "midlist" authors. Isn't there another way to think of a publisher?  

    The last few years have brought us the "new model" publisher — an indie publisher who is more of a publishing partner than a publishing boss. They do both print books and e-books, and they don't think anything to do with digital books are evil. They've learned to sell to readers, not just to retailers. And they understand that the huge majority of authors are mid-listers — people who have another job because they don't really make enough from their books to be full-time writers. Best of all, they've figured out that a "midlist" author might actually be able to make a living at this writing thing, if only the writer learns how to work the online game. 

    Let me tell you my own story: I went full time at writing with only two books to my name. My first book (Sweet Dreams) came out in all its unedited glory, in December of 2008. By the time my next book was out and I starting to figure out this business, I had hit the Amazon bestseller list. I was #1 in three categories for over two years. I went full time at this in November 2009, and started my own company, StoneHouse Ink. We now have about 40 authors and are blessed to have around 10 bestsellers with us. I speak all over the country about publishing, online marketing, creating eBooks, and the

    Continue Reading "Who REALLY Needs a Publisher? (A guest blog)"
  • January 24, 2012

    Who Needs a Publisher?

    by

    In these times of self-publishing, ebooks, bookstore closures, agents turning into publishers, and the crumbling of the traditional publishing model—who needs a publisher?

    May I offer an indie publisher’s perspective on that question?

    First: Ask yourself if you know the industry. Many writers seem to have no clue about the changes in the publishing market. You need to do your research, learn book marketing, and educate yourself. One day your publisher is going to ask you, “What is your marketing plan?”, and if you say, “I can email my friends and do a book signing…”, there is a good chance your book will fail. No matter what path you take to publish, you will be responsible to market your book. Not the publisher—you.

    Second: Ask yourself if want a publisher. You may feel you don’t need a publisher these days, as you can do much on your own. But a publisher can do it faster and better, and brings expertise to the process… so do you want a publisher? (And when I say “publisher” I mean the indie publisher, the new model publisher, the partner publisher, or someone who is not stuck in the old way of doing business. I do not mean the Big 6 or old-school, dying on the vine publishers who seem to think eBooks and news of thinking are evil.)

    The fact is, a good publisher can do a few things for you that you can’t do on your own. But that will cost you something. You will give up part of your royalty to cover their services. Think of a publisher as someone who knows 50 people that you need to meet in order to get your book into reader’s hands. All a publisher does is make the introductions:

    ·      A publisher can get your book into bookstores. To sell with Ingram you need 10 titles before they will even talk to you.

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  • August 10, 2010

    NEWSDAY TUESDAY …

    by

    Digby and his mates

    Okay, so it's nearly Wednesday. We brought our new puppy (as opposed to "old puppy?") home today, so I've been writing this between other things as well as helping with trips to the appointed piddle spot and throwing treat parties when Digby succeeds doing his business. 

    (Digby's the cute one on the far left.)

    IN OTHER (far more relevant) NEWS:

    In case you haven't heard, we've added a new agent to our rolls here at MacGregor Literary. Amanda Luedeke made her conference debut this past week with us here at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference. All signs are pointing to her potentially having signed her first author already! 

    Our fabulous friend and local author Hillary Manton Lodge simply couldn't take it anymore. While at the conference last week she took professional quality photos and headshots for all of us – keep your eye out soon for new photos of us all — even if I am doing "that funny thing with my head" I'm sure our new pics will help us all appear far more professional.

     LIST AND REVIEW NEWS:

    Gina Holmes' CROSSING OCEANS, her novel published by Tyndale, is on the August CBA bestseller list.
    John Wilson, the editor of Books & Culture magazine (an online
    publication of Christianity Today) gave J. Mark Bertrand's BACK ON
    MURDER high marks.
    http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/webexclusives/2010/august/wilson081010.html

    UPCOMING RELEASES:

    Susan Meissner's next novel, LADY IN WAITING, is releasing this week
    with Waterbrook. It weaves the story of a contemporary couple with that
    of Lady Jane Grey, and has been very much anticipated by those who
    enjoyed THE SHAPE OF MERCY and WHITE PICKET FENCES.

    Chad Gibbs' GOD AND FOOTBALL is releasing this week from Zondervan.
    It's his look at the both faith and fanaticism with people who follow
    SEC football.

    Keep an eye out for Serena Miller's historical Amish tale, LOVE FINDS YOU IN SUGARCREEK, OHIO.

    Julie Cannon is busy
    at work on her next

    Continue Reading "NEWSDAY TUESDAY …"
  • June 17, 2010

    Ten Notes for Today's Writer

    by

    1. Lots of big news this week, including something nobody seemed to have sniffed… THOMAS NELSON WAS BOUGHT OUT by an equity company, Kohlberg and Company. Remember, Thomas Nelson is one of the largest Christian publishers in the world, and they were sold just a few years ago to the guys at InterMedia (one of the pioneers in cable TV, InterMedia made the interesting step of pulling the company out of being publicly traded, and went back to being a private company). Anyway, the previous owners had financed a big chunk of the purchase, and Kohlberg must have seen Thomas Nelson was going to make them money, since they paid off the $219 million loan (go ahead and read that figure again) and took control of the company. 


    2. Wow. And it didn't stop there – they had the good sense to keep Michael Hyatt, perhaps the brightest mind in CBA, and the man who has restructured the company and made it both leaner and more focused, AND they brought on Jane Friedman as a board member. Some CBA people may not recognize the importance of that, but Jane used to be the boss at HarperCollins, the owner of Zondervan, before that was the Executive VP of Random House, and before that Publisher at Vintage . I'll tell you there isn't a publishing professional who doesn't respect Jane — she's one of the best, most experienced minds in contemporary publishing. An incredible addition, frankly.


    3. Novelist (and longtime friend) Joyce Magnin, best known for her wonderful "Bright's Pond" novels with Abingdon, has started a company to help new novelists get their manuscripts ready. This isn't just another editorial service — take a look at her website. You'll come away totally impressed:  www.joycemagnin.com/Site/Narrative_Destiny.html


    4. If you're a married woman (or you have any married women in your life), they can be part of a research project on

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  • June 16, 2010

    More on the industry

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    Mark sent me this: “It
    seems that slowly the CBA is selling out. Is this true? Is it the ABA getting
    greedy? What does this signal for the future?”

    It signals that the general market has recognized the value of Christian books,
    Christian writers, and Christian readers. And, yes, it probably means that more
    CBA houses will be sold (or come under the influence of) large ABA houses. As to the question "are they greedy?"
    — good grief, they're running a for-profit enterprise. If "greedy"
    means "are they focused on making a profit," of course they're
    greedy. But I'd argue that CBA houses, for all the carefully-couched terms
    about having "ministry" and "doing the Lord's work," are
    also focused on profit. So maybe we should view this as a greater partnership,
    rather than a sell-out. Sure, there are some questions to face down the road –
    who will do commentaries and reference tools that aren't necessarily commercial
    but still have value to believers? What happens when a company faces a decision to publish a book at odds with believers? How will
    Christians respond when a company publishes some heretical tome? But, for those
    not in the know, those very questions are faced by some of us every day. Time Warner
    Book Group was a marvelous company that did many wonderful books when I was there (as well as before I came and after I left). We probably
    also published some books Christians would find offensive. But you know what? I
    was not responsible for every decision in the company. I was responsible to do
    good books with solid Christian content that will sell in the marketplace. I
    was comfortable with that role, and I believed in the company. So no, I don't find the blending of Christian and general markets a "sell out."

    Suzy asked, “How do you handle it when
    you have a change of editors (and editor styles)

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  • May 31, 2010

    Defining a Packager

    by

    Hope everyone is having a great holiday weekend. For today's post, we have a question from Gladys. She asked, "Are compilers (Allison Bottke, Chicken Soup, etc.) considered packagers?"

    Nope. Let's define terms. Somebody who requests stories from you in order to create a compiled book on a theme (God Allows U Turns, Chicken Soup, etc), which they then sell as a manuscript to a publisher, are compilers.

    A packager is somebody who creates the entire book for the publisher. They come up with the concept, hire the writers, get the work done, design the interiors, create the cover, and complete the entire book for the publisher. Normally at the end of the process, the packager turns over a disk that has the entire book on it — not just the text, as an author would do, but the entire book, complete with page spreads. All the publisher has to do is hand the disk to their printer and push a button. (And sometimes the packager will even have the books printed, so the publisher is simply purchasing pre-printed books.)

    Some of us have done packaged books before. I have done it with more than one magic book (that is, books of card tricks for magicians — PLEASE don't write to me with your concerns about card tricks being the tool of Satan). I concepted the book, wrote it, solicited tricks from other magicians, created the interior, hired the artist and approved the interior drawings, worked with a cover designer to create the cover, edited the whole mess, got bids from printers, and got the books printed and shipped. I then sent a couple sample copies to distributors and sold the entire print run to a magic distributor, who got them into retail stores. In a way, I was my own publisher (but I didn't actually sell them, so really I was just the packager).

    Most publishers do packaged books at

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  • August 1, 2008

    Online Rights and Other Things We’re Seeing Now…

    by

    Dana wrote to ask, "Was ICRS really as bad as everyone is making it out to be? Were numbers down all that much? I recieve emails from CBA (the sponsoring organization), and they shared some pretty good news to their membership."

    You know, I don’t take any pleasure in predicting the demise of CBA. I’ve been a member for years, am supportive of its goals, and have established some wonderful memories at the annual book show. But no matter how you spin it, the numbers are terrible. Ten years ago the convention drew just under 15,000 participants. This year the number was half that. And the number of "industry professionals" who attended the show was half the number of what it was ten years ago. The floor space is obviously shrinking (and word is many publishers may pull out or significantly reduce their floor space even more next year). So, yes, it’s a significant downward trend. No matter how they try to spin it, the show is in deep trouble (in my humble opinion).

    Sheri asked, "From walking the floor at ICRS, can you tell us about some of the book trends you’re seeing?"

    We’ve continued to see growth in fiction, and particularly in fiction sub-categories. (So while we used to just see "romance," we’re now seeing "historical romance," "contemporary romance," "romantic suspense," "romance with characters named Fiona," etc.) We’re also seeing more emergent writers. More reformed writers. More spriritual journey writers. More charismatic writers. More writers with professional platforms (MD’s writing on health, or investment guys writing on finances, for example). More "social justice" and "green" books. More audio titles. A continuing movement toward celebrity. The beginnings of narrative nonfiction titles. Fewer books from pastors. Few homeschooling books. Very few education titles. Few men’s books. Few humor writers. Few Bible studies. Almost no CBA gift books. More small presses starting up (hoo-ray!). And a handful of companies (Moody is

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  • June 29, 2008

    Talking Compilations and Agents

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    Jacob wrote to me and said, "I submitted to one of those compilation books, and the company requested I put my social security number on all my submissions. I wrote to ask them about the practice, since my submission had not yet been accepted, and was told by one of the people who helps with the project that he ‘puts his SSN on everything’ he submits. What’s your advice on this subject?"

    My advice is clear: DO NOT PUT YOUR SSN ON YOUR PROPOSALS. In fact, my guess is that anybody who routinely sticks that sort of confidential information on all his proposals is a dipstick. Don’t take career advice from that individual. Yikes.

    Belinda wrote and noted, "I have been accepted into a compilation book, but their contract has an endless non-compete. When I asked them about it, I was told they ‘don’t mean it like that.’ What should I do?"

    Sticking with the dipstick theme, if the editor said to you, "I know the contract only calls for you to make a 2% royalty, but we don’t mean it — we’ll pay you 15%," would you agree to sign? No way. The reason you have a written contract is to clarify exactly what the deal is. If they want to offer a broader non-complete clause, get it written down, or suggest some wording for them to insert into the contract. Basically a non-compete is there to protect a publisher from an unscrupulous author writing a book with one house, then writing a very similar book and producing it with another house, thereby cannibalizing sales. An author who regularly writes and speaks on a particular topic needs to gain some freedom, so as not to be prohibited from ever writing on that topic again. A good contract strikes a balance between the publisher’s protection and the author’s calling to speak to a certain issue.

    Timothy asked, "How long

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