Chip MacGregor

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) in mid-contract?”

This business is all about relationships. Editors move
around quite a bit in the publishing world — even more than in most industries
(the reasons can be discussed in another post). So authors can expect this to happen to them occasionally. How to respond? Be polite, be positive, try to
establish a new relationship with the new editor. Say hello. Send Starbucks.
Show him or her that you're easy-going. Keep a positive attitude. Don't give
the editor any reason to lose enthusiasm for your book, because every new
person in a role is looking for projects that will succeed and make them look

Tim wrote and said, “What can we do as
writers to stay current on industry news?”

For CBA, read Christian Retailing, Outreach magazine, World,
CT, maybe the CBA retailer's magazine if you can locate it. For ABA, read Publisher's
Weekly, subscribe to Publisher's Lunch, keep tabs on book news. There are a bunch of blogs that stay current with things — Rachelle Gardner's CBA Ramblings are Michael Hyatt's excellent blog are two I find important and helpful. Also check out the Writers Digest list of 101 Best Blogs for Writers — a great overview of where to find good information. Have conversations with other authors and editors. Rarely do things come
as a surprise to the industry. Generally, any big changes are talked about for
months. By keeping up with some of these sources, you’ll be more prepared for
the industry shifts.

Carl said, “Why is it important to be
aware of this news?”

To impress girls at author signings and cocktail parties, of course.
And, I suppose, to make wise decisions in your writing career (should you find that

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