Category : Books

  • March 14, 2014

    What's wrong with buying your way onto the bestseller list?


    Last week I made a point of saying that I think a guy who buys his way onto the bestseller lists is a weasel, and I had a bunch of people write to ask me why. This is a worthwhile topic for everyone in publishing, so let me offer some background…

    Mark Driscoll pastors a large church in Seattle. Last fall he was accused of plagiarizing the words of another author, Peter Jones, in his latest book, and in addition there were other examples given of him plagiarizing, including pages of text recreated  word-for-word from a Bible commentary and stuck into one of the church’s publications. The people at Driscoll’s church made the situation worse, first claiming it was okay because one of the obviously plagiarized documents had never been sold, then changing their story when it turns out it had indeed been sold, but saying they hadn’t made much, then blaming it all on un unnamed research assistant (even though it had Mark Driscoll’s name on it), then taking pains to criticize the “haters” instead of owning up to their own ignorance and laziness. The whole thing was a mess. Driscoll clearly plagiarized (whether you want to cut him slack and call it something else), and his publisher examined the book and released a statement that admitted there were “inadequate citations,” but defending him for handling the situation well. In the end, the entire mess faded away. I was a bit surprised, since I’ve seen books get cancelled and editorial careers get ruined over less than this. Still, we all moved on.

    Until last week, when it was revealed that Rev. Driscoll had paid a marketing firm, ResultSource, more than $200,000 to get his book onto the New York Time bestseller list. The scheme included hiring people to purchase 6000 copies of the book in bookstores, then ordering another 5000 copies in bulk. They even made sure to use

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  • January 13, 2014

    A Fabulous Beast is Born




    One of my earliest memories is of sitting in a darkened cinema and wailing, “But I don’t want to see his head explode, Mommy!” My parents loved scary movies and didn’t want to pay a sitter. I was doomed.

    Nightmarish creatures haunted my childhood dreams. In an effort to tame the monsters, I invited them to tea parties. I’d lower the blinds in my room, close the curtains and lock the door. Then, pretending it was midnight, (so both Dracula and the Wolfman could make it) I’d host elaborate festivities.
    I grew to love my monsters. After all, it was the monsters in the movies that made people pull together and rise above their petty agendas. (Bloodlust is a powerful organizational tool.) It was monsters that made us human.

    So while I was mentoring middle schoolers and waiting for a new book idea, I read a book on the psychology of fear and monsters. I was surprised to learn that scholars consider Aristotle to be the father of Monsterology. (Or, as my PhD scientist friend, Jodi, says, “Cryptozoology.” Then she rolls her eyes and changes the subject.)

    But Aristotle was also considered to be a major influence on Christian theology. Why was such a brilliant man mixed up with monsters? Unfortunately, Aristotle’s monster hunting days were cut short…he died under mysterious conditions. Then all his books were destroyed. (The writings we have of Aristotle today are mostly his lecture notes.) What happened to him? What secrets about monsters did he take to his grave? I clipped a picture from the book of an ancient, legendary monster and slipped it into a box for safekeeping.

    Unsure what to do with this mystery, I got on with life. I like to read fitness magazines, especially if I’m avoiding exercise. One day I read about a respected triathlete, who is disabled. She described picking off

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  • January 7, 2014

    A Workshop on Getting Published




    A new writing conference is fast approaching — and you’re invited.

    On Saturday, February 15, I will be speaking at the Dallas Writers’ University. It’s a one-day event, with a rather intensive agenda:

    • I’ll speak on “developing a book proposal that sells,” and the focus will be on giving practical, hands-on help to writers who want to create a proposal that will get noticed.
    • I’ll also be speaking on “creating your long-term publishing strategy,” with an emphasis on traditional publishing, niche publishing, self-publishing, and alternative strategies for writers to make a living.
    • Michelle Borquez, bestselling author and entrepreneur, will explore “building a platform around your concept.”
    • There will be a Q&A time, and everybody there will have a face to face meeting with me sometime during the day.
    • Finally, Michelle and I will be talking about the secret to success in contemporary publishing.

    I’m really looking forward to this opportunity. I’ve largely taken time away from conferences the past couple years, but I love talking to authors about proposals and strategy. And you’re invited. Again, every participant gets face time with me, where we’ll be reviewing proposals and talking about next steps in a one-on-one setting. That means our space is limited to just 30 people.

    Here’s the thing . . . there are a hundred conferences you can go to in order to get some basic information on writing. But if you really want to join a small group and find out how to create a book that will sell, make some money, and gain entry into the world of publishing by talking to some experienced people in the industry, I hope you’ll consider joining us. I don’t do many conferences anymore (and rarely do a writing conference), so I’m excited to be asked to be part of this one.

    The event is going to be in the Dallas area, at a church in White

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  • January 1, 2014

    My Publishing Predictions for 2014


    I sometimes hate reading people’s predictions for the new year, since they tend to be incredibly safe (“a new author will arise and start selling well”) or so obvious a moron could have guessed it (“it will rain a lot in Oregon”). But I enjoy the notion of trying to guess what will happen, since I’ve spent my life in this business, and I tend to try and stay ahead of the curve. So here are my un-safe, non-obvious thoughts on what may happen this year…

    1. Amazon is going to start a chain of stores. Maybe it’ll be in airports, maybe they’ll start micro-stores like the kiosks you see selling headphones and chargers in airport terminals, but Amazon NEEDS to find an outlet for their Amazon-branded books. No brick and mortar store will touch them, and they need a presence in paper somewhere.

    2. Barnes & Noble is going to be sold but remain in business. Okay, I don’t have ANY insider information, even though my wife worked for them for years. We all know B&N is struggling. They may sell off their Nook business (and I’m a huge fan of my Nook, as I’ve noted on this blog several times), but I don’t think America’s largest book retailer will go under. Instead, I’m wondering if the good folks at Microsoft (who propped up the Nook with an infusion of cash two years ago) might buy the entire chain. Someone will.

    3. We’re going to see a bunch of publisher mergers. Hear me out: the rise of ebook readers led to a flood of category novels. That in turn led to the creation of countless smaller publishing houses — start-up companies that focused on one genre. But with ebook sales gone flat, and dedicated e-readers failing due to tablets, a bunch of those semi-successful smaller houses are about to be taken over by the Random Houses and HarperCollins of

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  • December 5, 2013

    Thursdays with Amanda: My Favorite Authors and Books


    Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    (I’m taking a break from all-things-marketing for the rest of 2013…so if you’re here for posts on platforms and promotions, stay tuned…they’ll come with the new year).


    They say (okay, maybe ‘they’ don’t say it, but I’ve heard it on occasion) that the best way to get to know what an agent or editor likes is to find out what they read. What books they cherish. What authors they drool over. The thought is that if you can find an agent or editor who loves books and authors that are similar to what you write, you’re that much closer to getting picked up.

    I don’t know how much truth there is in this. Fact is, most industry professionals tend to enjoy literary fiction…and yet as an agent I’m lucky if I get to sell one lit fiction book a year. I think I had somewhere around twenty books come out last year that I had agented. None of them were literary fiction. In fact in my three-year career, I’ve sold one literary fiction title. One.

    BUT still. The idea stands. I love literary fiction. I love great speculative fiction. I love gothic fiction. Show me a book that fits these categories and I’m that much more likely to consider it.

    So with that being said, I thought I’d take today and go over my favorite authors and books of all time. These are the best of the best, in my humble opinion. And if what you write matches them…well, then. I’d suggest you introduce yourself the next

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  • November 13, 2013

    Snippet's Writer Dashboard Launches Today (a guest blog)


    snippet screenshot 1I’m excited to be able to share with you that Snippet–a brand new publishing and reading app–is moving their Writer Dashboard from private beta to open beta today.

    As an author, it’s been amazing to be involved with Snippet. (If you missed my post a couple months ago about how Chip became my agent and how my upcoming book became a Snippet, you can catch up on that here.)

    Even though Snippet has already gained thousands of readers, it’s still new, so I’ve included some information below about my own experience and about Snippet in general, to answer some questions you might have.

    You can request access to their Writer Dashboard starting today, and begin creating your own Snippet at any time!

    What does Snippet mean for writers?

    Snippet gives writers a brand new publishing path that allows you to publish and monetize quickly and easily, but in a high quality, beautiful format. (Published Snippets are gorgeous, which was a really important factor for me as an author.)

    How does it work?

    With the move of Snippet’s Writer Dashboard to open beta, you can sign up to get access and begin creating your Snippet at any time. Each chapter is 1,000 words or less, but you as the author decide how many chapters your Snippet will have.  You also have the option of enriching your text with “discoverables” like video, audio, and pictures. (And just a note here: don’t let this part intimidate you; for one of my videos, I simply used my iPad to record myself, and for all of my audio, I used my phone. They turned out great, and it truly enriches the reading experience.) Creating and publishing a Snippet is free, and your published Snippet will be available for download from $ .99 – $4.99. As the author, you choose the price.

    What are some ways writers can use Snippet?

    1. As a companion

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  • October 26, 2013

    What did the publisher do to help make the novel succeed?


    Recently I had a couple writers ask me about two particular novels that did well in the market. In both cases I had been the agent for the books, and they wanted to know what the publisher had done to help make each book a success. I can think of a number of things that were done well, and I think they offer a model for others to follow…

    First, in both cases the authors spent a couple years building a readership for her writing through websites. That took a lot of patient work and investment by the authors, and it helped immensely (and I realize that’s not a publisher activity, but I bring it up because it wouldn’t be fair to talk about the success of the novels without that fact). Both authors worked tirelessly at marketing, which also helped. I’m one of those who realizes writers don’t get into this business to become “marketers” — they want to be writers, so investing a bunch of time into marketing is a sacrifice. Both of these authors made that sacrificed and did the hard work to make their books succeed.

    Second, each author wrote a very good novel. The publisher’s role in that was to push the writers to make their books better. The editors weren’t satisfied to let the novels be adequate — they pushed them toward greatness. So I think the publisher really believed in the books. That may sound trite, but I think it makes a difference. A publisher can’t believe in every book — no matter what they say, the lists are too long, and there’s only so much time to invest. They need to spend the bulk of their energies on their current bestsellers, since that’s close to being a guaranteed source of income. It’s tough to invest a lot of time, money, and manpower on a newer author who may or may not pan

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  • September 11, 2013

    Maegan Beaumont on her novel, Carved in Darkness


    GUEST WRITER MAEGAN BEAUMONT is the author of CARVED IN DARKNESS, the first book in the Sabrina Vaughn series (Available through Midnight Ink, spring 2013). A native Phoenician, Maegan’s stories are meant to make you wonder what the guy standing in front of you in the Starbucks line has locked in his basement, and feel a strong desire to sleep with the light on. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband, Joe, and their four children, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one true love, Jade.


    My writing career did not start out well. When I was 7, I entered a young authors’ contest through my 2nd grade class. I lost. When I was 12, I turned in a short story as a class room assignment. Instead of the A I was hoping for, I earned weekly sessions with the school psychologist. True story. When I was 15 I entered a short story contest held by Seventeen Magazine. I lost that one too… bat at least no one tried to stick me in therapy.

    These three events taught me a few things:

    1. 1) I can’t write.
    2. 2) What I write scares people.
    3. 3) The way I see the world isn’t normal.
    4. 4) Failure sucks.

    As I got older, I learned there was nothing in this world I hated and feared more than failure. It became a living, breathing thing that I actively avoided, like that mean kid in school who pushed you in the mud on picture day and “borrowed” your milk money.


    I never took a creative writing class in high school. I never allowed my friends and family to read what I wrote (for fear of failure… and also a 72-hour bed hold at the county annex).  I never developed what I can now

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  • August 28, 2013

    An Orkan becomes a Human


    A guest post from novelist Ann Tatlock

    “Jesus told his disciples a story….” Luke 18:1, NLT


    Remember the Mork Report? In the 70s sit-com “Mork and Mindy,” Robin Williams played the alien Mork from Ork who was sent to earth to study human behavior. At the end of each episode, he reported his findings to Orson, his Orkan boss. Mork often seemed baffled by this strange species called humankind, yet at the same time, he longed to be like them.

    I myself am baffled by at least one segment of the human race—those who don’t read novels, claiming fictional stories to be entertainment at best, a waste of time at worst.

    A waste of time?

    How do we begin to learn as very young children? Most often through stories. What inspires our play and lays the foundation for the games that challenge us and help us grow? Stories. What carries us off to places and times that we otherwise wouldn’t experience and, in so doing, makes them a very real part of our lives? Stories. It’s only natural that this should be so. We were created for stories.

    Jesus knew this, for he was himself a storyteller. Not that what he said wasn’t true, but he often wrapped the truth in fictional packages called parables. By doing so, he gained his listeners’ attention, captured their imagination and gave them images they could understand and hold onto. Novelists today are simply doing as Jesus did, offering truths within the context of fictional narratives.

    Stories affect us profoundly. Stories have the power to change minds, change hearts, change lives. That’s because, as C.S. Lewis put it, stories have the ability to “baptize the imagination.”

    And Lewis should know. He was an atheist until he read Phantastes by George MacDonald. Upon reading this story, Lewis claims his imagination was in a certain sense baptized because his mind was first opened to the possibility

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  • July 16, 2013

    "It's the Power of Words"


    A novelist wants to know, “What keeps you going? You’ve spent years as a writer, editor, publisher, and agent – what fuels your passion?”

    I love books and words. I believe in the power of words. I believe in the ministry of words. There are many movies I love, and several that have had a short-term emotional impact on me, but I’d be hard-pressed to name many movies that actually changed me – I went, saw it, and left a different person. Maybe that’s happened a couple times (“Schindler’s List” comes to mind), but for the most part movies are an enjoyable diversion.

    I love music, and have been moved by songs and arrangements, but I doubt I could tell you my life was ever changed because I attended the symphony. The same is true with paintings, sculpture, and dance. The arts are great for helping us explore the world, feel things, see things in a new way. But their influence is often short-lived. Yet I can point to several books that simply changed my life. After I read Brennan Manning’s RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL, I was simply never the same. When I completed Frederick Buechner’s SACRED JOURNEY or Henri Nouwen’s THE WAY OF THE HEART, I was different than I’d been before I read those books.

    Words can do that. A book can have a life-changing effect on a person. Perhaps that’s why when God came to earth as a man, his closest friend, in trying to describe him, didn’t say, “He was like a Symphony” or “He was the Great Dance.” Instead, the guy who was closest to him wrote, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God.”

    So Jesus was described as being the “word” – the very word of God come to life. To me, that not only says something about Christ, but about the importance of words.


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