Category : Current Affairs

  • February 6, 2012

    Who REALLY Needs a Publisher? (A guest blog)


    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

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  • January 24, 2012

    Who Needs a Publisher?


    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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  • October 11, 2010

    Getting To Know Us


    We've had a bunch of "get to know you" questions lately, so I thought I'd group several of them together…

    Andrew wrote to say, "You used to be a publisher with Time-Warner — why did you go back to agenting?"


    I love agenting. I enjoy working closely with authors, doing book development, planning careers, and spending time talking over projects. Actually, I never really got comfortable in my role as publisher – I always felt like a “suit.” Much happier being back on the agenting side of the desk.  

    Janice asked this: "It seems like you and Sandra have had a lot of success in a short time — to what do you owe your success?"

     Most likely it’s my good looks and Scottish heritage. But aside from that, I have a pretty good eye for writing. And let’s face it – an agent is only as good as the authors he or she represents. If I’ve had good success, it’s because I’ve had the privilege of representing really good writers. Go to my web site, select any author, and read a novel… all of them can write. That’s the main reason I’ve been successful.  

    Jim wants to know, "What types of projects do you get excited about?"

    always tell authors at writers’ conferences that I’m looking for “books that change me.” It’s true. I get excited about reading a book that will leave me changed, since I know it will have the potential to significantly impact readers. I also look for a strong voice – your book shouldn’t sound like everyone else’s book. If there’s great writing, a strong voice, and a message that has the potential to change me as a reader, I know I’ve got a winner.

    Dana asked, "Are there stories that you know right away you're going to be tired of?"

    Sure – The tough-guy hero opens his eyes,
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  • October 5, 2010

    Newsday Tuesday …


    Some quick notes and random stuff…

    Well-known writer Alton Gansky has put together a strong faculty for his intimate, new-style writing conference, coming up October 18-22 in New Mexico. If you’d like to meet people in the industry, but are a bit intimidated by one of those 500-attendee gatherings, check out what he’s doing at the Southwest Christian Writers Studio:

    The INSPY Awards have announced their list of 2010 finalists. Included this year are some authors we represent: Gina Holmes, in the Literary Fiction category, for Crossing Oceans; Jim Rubart, in the Speculative category, for Rooms; and Jenny B Jones, in the YA category, for So Over My Head. Other finalists included two authors we represent, but whose books we weren’t representing at the time—Dean Nelson for God Hides in Plain Sight and David Gregory for The Last Christian. And Mark Bertrand made the finalist list for his fabulous novel Back on Murder, but then was taken off the list when it was revealed his book released one day too late to make the list! You can see the entire list of finalists here:

    Publishers Marketplace (a great resource that you should consider subscribing to) did some research on the number of deals being done so far this year in all of publishing. As usual, they reported things were slow in the summer, then picked up considerably in September. Overall books deals are up about 16% from last year (which is great news for authors), with “thrillers” being a clear growth category, and YA fiction on an upswing. And while big-money deals are growing, “debut” authors are down considerably—meaning publishers are looking toward their A-level authors to pay bills more than ever before. If you’re interested in staying on top of the publishing news, check it out at

    In case you missed it, Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, penned a wonderful piece of writing in the

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  • September 29, 2010

    Will E-books Kill the Printed Page?


    Benjamin wrote to ask, "What's your perspective on all the new e-readers?"

    History has taught us that as new technologies are developed, the culture adapts to them. We used to walk across the room to change TV channels. We used to stop and find a pay phone to call home. We used to re-type each page of a manuscript that had error. But we've adapted our lives to adjust to remote controls, cel phones, and PC's. (And, of course, the advent of TV's, telephones, and typewriters were cutting-edge technologies in their own days — each requiring adaptation from radios, telegraphs, and handwritten notes, respectively.) Right now we're moving from printed materials to digital materials, and that's creating a lot of change for people. My son will read a book on his cel phone — that's about all anyone needs to know regarding the future of digital technology. All those extant great books and words? They're all out there, ready to be interpreted through a new medium.  So you know what that means? If you don't own one yet, YOU are going to own an e-reader very soon. 
    Michaela asked, "Will e-books kill printed books in the long run?' 

    I don't honestly know about "the long run." But we've been living with books for roughly 500 years, and it's hard to see that changing. But sure, there are some rough waters ahead as we go through this change. Technology may be killing the cookbook. (Think about it — the last time you needed a recipe, did you go to a cookbook? Or did you simply go online and do a quick search for the ingredients?) Technology may be killing the do-it-yourself manual. (If you need help with a new software program, do you want to drive to Borders to buy a copy, or look for your solution immediately online for free?) It's clear that technology is changing the way we view books

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  • September 28, 2010

    Developing the Craft & Art of Writing – a guest blog


    When I was growing up, my parents decided to sign me up for piano lessons. They hired my second grade schoolteacher to also be my piano teacher—I think I was her only piano student. She probably didn’t charge much and I really didn’t require much work; flashcards for reading music and making sure I was banging the right notes with the right fingers.

    Two years later my second grade teacher moved away and so my parents found me a professional piano teacher who had dozens of students. She lived about thirty minutes away but she came highly recommended. She slotted me right into her typical rhythm and I followed the same path of hundreds before me—first the primer, then the secondary, then the suzuki, then the duets. I was learning but I wasn’t being offered anything just for me. It was education by curriculum.

    I met a couple of kids during these years who could play piano just because they sat down and listened to music and played what they heard. I never could get those kids—I’ve not been blessed with that ability to just sit down and pick out the notes I hear. I don’t think there are too many people who can do that.

    By the time I was old enough to realize what I wanted my parents found me a new teacher who lived just a few minutes from our house. Her house was small but she had managed to cram two baby pianos into the living room to sit side-by-side—those were the pianos we rarely got to touch. The lesson room was around the corner where she had her upright piano. Her name was Kathy, and she was the perfect piano teacher. If I wanted to learn something for church or school, I could bring it in and she would help me with it. But she also brought me a rich assortment of pieces both classical
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  • September 23, 2010

    Some ACFW Notes…


    There has been a ton of buzz in the media about the just-completed American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference. It was big (more than 600 writers, about 700 people attending), it was fun (Susan May Warren teaching a line dance to 100 people at her pizza party stands out), and it has become influential (lots of media there — I had interviews with a national magazine and a large newspaper). A few things that stood out for me:

    -As noted yesterday, Sandra Bishop of MacGregor Literary won "Agent of the Year." Congrats, SB! Well deserved. 

    Jenny B Jones, an author we represent, won two "Book of the Year" Awards, in both the "Contemporary Romance" (for her novel Just Between You and Me) and the "Young Adult" categories (for I'm So Sure). 

    -Other authors we represent who were finalists in various categories included Vickie McDonough (a two-time finalist in the "Historical" category, plus a finalist in the "Short Contemporary" category), Joyce Magnin (in the "Long Contemporary" category for her fabulous book The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow), Susan Meissner (one of the great novelists in CBA today, for White Picket Fences),  Mindy Starns Clark (for Under the Cajun Moon), Darlene Franklin (for A String of Murders), Janice Thompson (also a two-time finalist, for Pushing Up Daisies as well as Love Finds You in Poetry, Texas), Rachel Hauck's Sweet By and By in the "Women's Fiction" category, Lynette Sowell (for All That Glitters), and Jill Williamson (for By Darkness Hid - which we didn't represent at the time, but Jill is now represented by Amanda Luedeke). So a great night for our authors. 

    -By the way, the Book of the Year Award is now The Carol Award, named for longtime Bethany House fiction director Carol Johnson, who had significant influence on the direction and growth of Christian fiction over the past 25 years. In a very touching moment,

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  • September 8, 2010

    Still talking books and authors…


    Okay, so on Monday I spent some time answering questions from people about which books I’ve been reading and what I like. On Tuesday I got this response from someone: “Well, there’s really only ONE BOOK – the Bible. It’s more than a book, so nothing compares to it. But books written by the muse of man that I have enjoyed would include…”

    Um… where do I start? First, there isn’t only “one book.” There are a lot of books, many of great value – even to people of faith. Second, I’ve never heard of a book that wasn’t “written by the muse of man.” For crying out loud. Third, that is without a doubt the most pompous note I’ve received in years. 

    Look, I appreciate that I have people of faith reading my blog. I'm a person of faith, and I represent a lot of Christian books. But I also live in the real world, not some hokey spiritual world where we need to always point out that we are religious. So give it a rest. Learn to write words that people want to read and you'll find more success. Geez…

    Janet wrote to say, “Looking at all the religious fiction writers being published today, who do you 
think will be read and admired 25 years from now?”

    First, this is a great question. It's also a bit of a slippery topic, since "popularity" and "longevity" don't always go hand in hand (in writing or in any other art). Tastes change and that pushes the culture away from one author and toward another. For example, Ernest Hemingway has long been considered one of America’s greatest writers. But as readers have moved away from his books, and as time has marched on, his reputation as a stylist has flagged considerably. And his buddy F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was reduced to writing B-movie scripts late in life because the reading public had

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  • September 6, 2010

    Talking Books


    People have been asking me about books…

    Vicki wrote to ask, “With all the new books coming out this fall, is there one that really stands out? Something you can’t wait to read?”

    Sure. I’m a huge Mark Twain fan, and when he wrote his autobiography he asked that it not be published until 100 years after his death. The first volume (of three) releases this fall. I CAN’T WAIT.

    Dawn asked me, "What is the book you're most excited about these days?" 

    From a business point of view? Well, Jim Rubart's ROOMS has been a steady-but-slow-grower, but after several months on the market it's just now hitting the bestseller lists (currently #18 on the ECPA fiction list). I'm excited about that one, because I think the more people who hear about it, the more will read it, and the bigger the fan base it will develop. I've said from the beginning that one had a chance to be a huge hit. And I should note that one author who is really generating excitement in the industry these days is Irene Hannon. I was listening to some editors talk at a conference recently, and the fiction director at a major house said, "Of course, Irene Hannon looks like she's going to own the romantic suspense category in CBA — she's taken the place of Dee Henderson." As you can imagine, that made me very happy. Irene is a total pro, has sold more than a million Harleqiun books, and it’s nice to see her books at Revell do so well in the broader market.

    Deborah sent this: "I like literary fiction, and you tend to talk about literaries a lot. Which new releases would you recommend I read?"

    I'm finally finished THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE ASSOCIATION, and loved it. Then read Audrey Niffenegger's HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY and was disappointed. But I'll tell you, if you don't read Lisa

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  • August 25, 2010

    On Relationships in Publishing


    Donna wrote to ask, "Is it possible to have two agents, one for fiction and one for nonfiction, or one for ABA and one for CBA?"

    It's possible, I guess. I'm not a fan of this plan, since I think it makes it harder for an agent to do his or her job in terms of career planning. Still, some people do it. The alternative? Find an agent who fits what you do. 

    Julie wrote with this: "Some agents have a large number of clients, and represent very successful authors. But where does the midlist client fit in today's market?"

    I think your question presupposes that having a small list of clients is a good thing — perhaps better than being part of a larger agency. In my view, it's not as simple as that. First of all, I don't think most authors would know what a large or small number of clients is. I represent around 40 or 50 authors. Is that large? Not in publishing — it's fairly small. But so what? You don't sign up with an agent because he or she has only five clients, do you? You sign up with an agent because he or she does a good job, knows how to help you, is a fit for you and your work, and can help make you successful. Move from the world of books to the world of investments for a moment – Would you prefer to hand your hard-earned money to a startup guy who admits he doesn't have many clients, or to somebody with a proven track record of success? (And I"m not making an argument for going with a big agency here — I'm just trying to show the weakness of this particular argument.) Janet Grant, a friend and a very good literary agent, and I are two of the people who have been agenting the longest in CBA. We've both seen

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