Category : Resources for Writing

  • June 16, 2010

    More on the industry


    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 24, 2010

    Random Notes on a Monday


    So many things to share, so little time…

    First, if you haven't seen this wonderful youtube ditty about booksignings, you should take a peek…

    Second, I want to suggest two websites to check out —

    Publishing Perspectives offers a really interesting take on the industry [  ]

    and the folks at   solicit a lot of fascinating people to talk about the industry.

    Third, take a look at what one excellent writer, novelist Mark Bertrand, has to say about the future of publishing at

    Fourth, if you haven't yet read Jon Acuff's Stuff Christians Life, you are missing not only a hilariously funny look at contemporary Christianity, but some really insightful stuff on how we live out our faith. Jon was just profiled on this past weekend, so he's getting huge press. 

    Fifth, you might want to check out what Barnes & Noble is doing with PubIt — B&N's own version of self-publishing, which lets you leverage the world's #1 bookstore by making your book available on the Nook. Lots of details online:

    Sixth, people have been asking me when I'm teaching a seminar next…  Bestselling novelist Susan May Warren and I are teaching "How to Create Bestselling Fiction" in Denver June 18 & 19. It's easy to get to, is on a Friday/Saturday, and we'd love to have you join us. Susan is simply the best writing instructor I know. You can find out all the details at

    Seventh, you probably already know the names Lisa Samson and Susan Meissner. They are bestselling, award-winning novelists who are respected by everybody in the industry. The two of them have been teaming up to do a weekend retreat entitled "How to Add Depth to Your Fiction," and people are raving about it. They were going to do it in Detroit in July, but instead they

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  • March 9, 2008

    Resources for Writers


    I’ve got a bunch of notes and questions regarding writer resources, so let me try to get to several of them today…

    On MONEY: Patricia wrote to say, "Thanks for your recent blog post about earning money. So if a book doesn’t ‘earn out’ its advance, is the balance applied against the next book?"

    It is if your contract is cross-collateralized — that is, if all your various book advances are "basketed" into one deal. If not — if each book is on a separate contract — then no, your advance cannot be applied to your next book. 

    On REMAINDERS: DeeAnn wrote me to ask, "What does it mean to ‘remainder’ a book?"

    That’s when the publisher sells the remaining copies of your book to a book wholesaler for less than the cost of printing. It commonly happens when your book is going out of print, or when they’re down to the last 1000 copies or so, and the publisher wants to be rid of them. The books might have cost $2 to print, but they’ll sell them for $1 apiece to somebody who will buy the entire remaining stock, just to get them out of the warehouse.   

    On SELF-PUBLISHING: Gene wants to note, "The latest issue of Writers Digest is filled with ads for self-publishing. I’m on my second agent, still trying to get  published, but it takes SOOOO long. How can you convince me not to go to and have my book for sale on Amazon tomorrow morning? When will the traditionalists speed up the process?"

    You’re right — there are a ton of self-publishing companies. Some are good, some are not. Be careful. The problem with self-publishing is not the speed, it’s the sales. If you write a book, you have to make sure the book is good (and if publishers are all turning you down, there could be a message there, Gene). You also

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  • March 6, 2008

    An Editor Drops By


    Becky Germany is a Senior Editor at Barbour Publishing, and a familiar face at writing conferences. I recently asked her a couple questions about the industry…

    In many ways, Barbour has become a leader in Christian fiction — doing novellas, establishing a book club, focusing on mass market. Where does all the creative thinking come from?

    Becky: We’re the leading CBA publisher of fiction categorized as romance. We rank fourth in the number of units produced in fiction in CBA. We started publishing fiction as romance flip books way back in 1983 with authors like Colleen Reece, Irene Brand, and Elaine Schultze. I wasn’t at Barbour then, so I"m not sure how it was decided to settle upon romance, but it’s been our strength ever since. The Heartsong Presents book club began in 1992, the year before I joined the company, and out of that has come a number of stars — Tracie Peterson, Wanda Brunstetter, Lauraine Snelling, Colleen Coble, Cathy Marie Hake, and more (forgive me for not trying to name them all, Chip). Our fiction series have helped us remain open to working with unpublished authors and developing them into strong writers.

    Another Barbour strength has been doing series and repackaging previously published material (including Grace Livingston Hill) to extend the breadth and life of the product. Our novella collections were born when we decided we could create new short stories specifically for collections under topics of our choice. So the creative thinking seems to extend from Barbour’s roots, and builds on what we do best. Our team members are, for the most part, people who have been with Barbour many years and who know the company’s success model. We’ve learned to work within our strengths and to keep our product subjects broad, in order to appeal to the widest audience.

    What are some of the things that have worked (and not worked) in fiction for you?


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  • February 9, 2008

    A Visit with an Editor


    A couple months ago, my buddy Andy Meisenheimer stopped in to talk about one of his pet peeves: the overuse of novelists turning all thoughts into italics in their manuscripts. Andy is an editor at Zondervan, and his post caused much debate and hand-wringing with some writers. Never being one to avoid a good controversy, I asked him if he’d come back.

    Chip: So your last visit to my site created a stir, Andy. You ready to face this again?

    Andy: Yeah, my last guest blog might have come across as Andy’s Vindictive Rant About Certain Arbitrary Rules of Style. People assuring me they’d never, ever, use thought italics, and people offering condolences to the poor writers who have to obey my every whim (and Mike Snyder, constantly calling to let me know his progress in eliminating thought italics from his current manuscript). Instead of a discourse, it became an ultimatum. Instead of "okay" and "better," it became "wrong" and "right."

    My intention for that post, and any time I speak up about words, is to encourage writers toward better writing. They aren’t rants about my personal hot-button issues. They aren’t indirect ways of editing my current authors (please, Mike — stop calling). If your editors says to take out all semicolons, I encourage you to say, "Puh-leeze. You got somethin’ to back that up? The market isn’t buying books with semicolons?"

    Chip: So would you say an editor’s job is to continue the conventions? Or to help an author break them successfully?

    Andy: An editor’s job is to help the author discern what’s working. A good editor must appeal only to conventions of the craft and the effect upon the intended reader to justify editorial comment. And convention and effect are fluid things, open to change and dialogue and debate. Not that they are subjective; there are conventions, and there are effects upon readers, and their equivocation does not

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  • July 6, 2007

    Ten Laws for Critique Groups


    I happen to be a huge fan of critique groups, and have participated in several until I moved or they wised up and threw me out. The experience has taught me a few principles for getting the most out of the group. My ten laws for critique groups:

    1. Ask yourself why you want a group. What do you hope to get out of it? You ought to have clear expectations going in, so that you’ve got some way to evaluate the benefits to your writing later. Some people basically want to hang out with writers — more or less the same reason they attend writing conferences. There’s nothing wrong with that, and if that’s your reason for joining, you should easily find a group that meets your needs. Others really want a dedicated group of professional writers to take a careful look at their material. If that’s what you’re after (and, being a reader of this blog, which is aimed more or less at writers, I figure that’s the majority of people reading this little missive), you’re going to need to put a lot more thought into your group.

    2. The value of a critique group is based almost entirely on the membership. So look for people who are at your level or maybe just a bit better than you (if your ego can take it), and talk to them about the group. People need to know what the commitment will be (a weekly or maybe twice-a-month meeting that lasts a couple hours), what the expectations are (that members will actually read the other member’s writings before coming to a meeting), and what the benefit is to them ("You will hear advice for improving your writing").

    3. Invite people to participate. Don’t put an announcement in the local newspaper or an invitation in the church bulletin. You’ll get the hangers-on, the wannabes, and, very possibly, members of my family.

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  • July 2, 2007

    What drives you crazy?


    Back from soggy Scotland (just missed the terrorist attack on Glasgow airport by a few hours) and hoping to get caught up. Jennifer wrote to ask, "As an agent and a reader, are there writing errors that drive you crazy?"

    Yes! Of course! Here’s one! Novelists who use exclamation points as though the period key didn’t work! I hate this! Really!!!

    Here’s "another" one: The "author" who feels a "need" to put emphasized words in "quotes," since they apparently think it makes them look more "official." This is particularly tiresome when a "funny" author decides to put his "punchlines" in quotations. (Does anybody remember the episode of Friends where Joey kept putting "finger quotes" around certain "words," even though he didn’t understand how to do it?) Here’s an "idea" — cut the quotation marks in your "epic."

    And a third (related) item: People who use an open parenthesis but no close parenthesis. (For example, this kind.

    Fourth is the serial comma. Drives me crazy. The rule for using commas is that there should be ONE LESS COMMA THAN THE ITEMS IN YOUR LIST. So if you list five things, you’d use four commas. An example: "Farnsworth visited Scotland, Wales, England, Ireland, and Djibouti." Note that there are five countries and four commas — one less than the list. Writers often drop the last comma, in an apparent attempt to make "Ireland and Djibouti" one country. (Similar to Trinidad and Tobaggo, if you’re into geography jokes.) Makes no sense at all.

    Fifth is the adverbial ending "ly," which some authors insert regularly in an attemptly to sound scholarly. Note that this paragraph doesn’t start with the word "fifthly." From a strict editorial perspective, "fifth" is an adverb. To add  "ly" to the end is to adverbialize an adverb. Why write "firstly" when it is clearer to write "first"? (Besides, if it’s a long list, can you really defend "thirteenthly"?)

    Sixthly, :o)

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