The sun came out today! (Exclamation point intended.) Seriously. Around here, lately, that's very big news.
But I know YOU didn't come here to talk about the weather. You're wondering if we have any news.
WHY YES, WE DO ...
-Irene Hannon is again on the CBA bestseller list.
-Susan Meissner's SHAPE OF MERCY is on the top ten list of Kindle bestsellers.
- Carla Stewart's CHASING LILACS (just out from FaithWords on June 17th) is enjoying front table exposure at Barnes and Noble bookstores across the country this month. Also, Kathy Patrick, the creator of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club has invited Stewart to participate in the Books Alive weekend held in Jefferson, TX in November as an inspirational author. And, CHASING LILACS is a November selection for Pulpwood's Splinters Book Club – books Kathy recommends for readers from Young Adult and up. We are as excited about the exposure for Carla's book as she is humbled by the opportunities it is opening up for her. Way to go, Carla.
Melanie Dobson will be doing another book with the Love Finds You line of Summerside Press. Jeremy Kingsley is doing a non-fiction title with Bethany House, GETTING BACK UP WHEN LIFE KNOCKS YOU DOWN.
Harvest House is releasing Poppy Smith's new non-fiction title, tentatively titled WHY CAN'T HE BE MORE LIKE ME.
EVENTS The Christy Awards are this Saturday, and we have three authors up for awards: - Kaye Dacus in Contemporary Romance for STAND IN GROOM - Lisa Samson in Contemporary Stand-Alone Novels for THE PASSION OF MARY MARGARET - Mark Mynheir in Suspense for THE NIGHT WATCHMAN Also, the International Christian Retailer's Show (ICRS) takes place next week in St. Louis. MacGregor Literary authors Arloa Sutter, Jay Payleitner, Carla Stewart, will be signing books. Speaking of ICRS, something we can all be looking forward to next week is Chip's choice of the
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
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)
bit ago, Shawn wrote and asked about the Christian industry. Here’s his
question: “Is the biggest trend in religious publishing the fact that none of
the Christian publishers are owned or run by ministries anymore?”
I've been saying for quite
some time that the biggest trend in Christian publishing is the distribution —
AWAY from independent Christian bookstore/gift centers and TOWARD general market
bookstores. That has both an up and a down side, of course, but it's not
something a cabal has been planning — it's simply the marketplace at work.
Christian readers would prefer to spend $12 for a book at Wal-Mart (and don't
underestimate Wal-Mart in the Christian retailing market) than $20 for a book
at Betty's Angel Book Shoppe. That has caused Christian independents to go
under by the dozens, and it is rapidly forcing a reshaping of CBA as we know it.
Along with that has been the sale of three CBA publishers. Time Warner (my
former employer) had its stock price stuck at $17 for three years, so in an
effort to get some things moving (and to hold off Carl Icahn), the board
decided to get out of the book business. They sold the Time Warner Book Group
to Hachette Livre, a French publishing conglomerate that owns Hodder in
England, Car & Driver and Elle magazines in this country, and
numerous publishing ventures around the world. So I lost the cache of saying I
work for Time Warner, the largest entertainment company in the world…but, of
course, I was able to say I'm a publisher with Hachette Livre, the
third-largest publisher in the world. On the heels of that came the sale of
Thomas Nelson — interestingly enough, moving from a publicly held company to a
private one. Then Simon and Schuster, who was already for sale by Viacom, and
who has not had a Christian imprint, decided they needed CBA exposure.
In this discussion about the writing life, I think there are a number of factors for an author consider. One is the notion of CONCEPT — for all their talent, is the book idea big enough? Is it salable? Is there a market for it? Is it significant?
Another is the notion of CRAFT — even if an author has a million-dollar concept, does he or she have the talent to turn it into a good book? Can they learn to do so? Do they have the voice and tone and ability to make it work?
A third is the notion of CREATION, or "art," if you will — that quality that sets apart the good from the great. Even if they take classes and attend conferences and practice, will they ever really be good enough? The best authors have a spark, a unique creative voice that rises above other writers. Some people are just born with that, perhaps others learn it, but there are definitely authors who stand out.
Look at it this way: I love baseball, and when I practice I'm better than when I don't practice, but no matter how many years I played and practiced, I was never going to be good enough to really be a professional baseball player. I'd love to be great ballplayer — I have the passion and the desire, and some basic skills, but I'm never going to reach that level because, in the end, I don't have the talent. That's a hard truth, and one some writers may have to face.
Ever read a bestselling novel in which
the hero was a construction worker?
It's a story-telling basic that writers
– even published authors – tend to forget. It's the reason
Stephen King's characters tend to be novelists. It's the reason we
haven't seen Khaled Hosseini stray too far from the Middle East. Or
Jeffrey Eugenides from Detroit. And it's the reason bestselling
authors rarely deviate from their chosen genre.
Write what you know.
It's almost silly how often I see a
proposal come through from a published author who suddenly
wants to take a stab at writing for teens. Or African Americans. Or
the thriller/adventure crowd. And yet that author has done nothing to
understand the basics (let alone the complexities) that surround
their new target market.
And if we're seeing this from published
authors, imagine the type of stuff we see from unpublished ones.
The goal of a novel, however
off-the-wall or hokey the plot may be, is to get the reader's buy-in.
With it, the reader is able to fully immerse themselves in the story
and, to some extent, believe in
what's happening. Without it, the reader spends his time
picking it apart, analyzing the details and scoffing at its overall
This is because when authors write
outside of their expertise, the sense of reality that should surround
their story starts to deteriorate. Readers begin to notice
inconsistencies and begin to question whether the author has ever
even seen the Eiffel Tower or heard an M-16 fire or ridden on
A story can only be as good as the
reality behind it, you see, and readers tend to be extremely educated
in their genre-of-choice.
So, if you're a homemaker, living in a
suburb of Cleveland with field experience in Nursing and a few Horse
Jumping trophies in your closet, it's probably not a good idea to
come to us with your idea
Amanda Luedeke is joining MacGregor Literary as an agent. This is a big step for us, and we're very excited.
Amanda is a 2006 graduate of Taylor University’s Professional Writing program, headed by Dennis E. Hensley. She's got a long background in books and words, and this is a step she's been moving toward for the past year.
Since her college graduation, Amanda has made her living as a full-time writer, freelancing for newspapers and marketing agencies as well as operating her own writing business. Her current full-time job is with a marketing group in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she writes and assists in the marketing strategy for clients such as Vera Bradley, Peg Perego and Baekgaard. Like both Chip and Sandra, Amanda understands what it takes to make a living as a writer.
Amanda came on board with us a year ago as Chip’s assistant, and she's been going through the slush pile, helping out with research, and taking care of other odds and ends. We’ve really enjoyed her help here, but now that she’s gotten the hang of things, we’re excited to move her on to the next step – so she's becoming a literary agent.
Amanda will be working with childrens, YA, speculative, and post-college-aged fiction and nonfiction. This is great for us, because we currently don’t have "specialists" in these areas. Bringing Amanda on will help expand our knowledge of the industry and allow us to take on more authors with differing interests. She's just getting started, and will focus her time on a handful of clients as she gets her feet wet. Amanda will also be helping us with our foreign deals — an area we've been wanting to expand in order to help authors maximize their income potential.
She's going to be attending the ACFW conference with us in Indianapolis this summer, so if you write children's books (for either CBA or the general
Our guest blogger today is Cindy Carter, the Recognition and Resources Manager for the ECPA…
Thank you, Chip, for allowing me the opportunity to be a guest blogger on your site and to introduce your readers to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association [ECPA].
ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) is the trade association for Christian publishers with nearly 150 members worldwide. It is our mission to equip the Christian publishing industry with programs and services that enable them to more efficiently and effectively “make the Christian message more widely known.” Our programs aim to build industry awareness, and to enhance ECPA members’ access to markets, education, expertise, information and peers.
One of the ways that ECPA builds awareness of quality Christian literature, is through the annual Christian Book Award program, which recognizes and promotes the year’s finest Christian titles in six categories. Here are the 2010 winners:
Christian Book of the Year: The Hole in Our Gospel
by Richard Stearns (Thomas Nelson)
Bibles: Glo by Immersion Digital (Zondervan)
Bible Reference: The New Moody Atlas of the Bible by Barry Beitzel (Moody Publishers)
Children & Youth: B4UD8 by Hayley and Michael DiMarco (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)
Christian Life: The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns (Thomas Nelson)
Fiction: Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)
Inspiration & Gift: Grace Notes by Philip Yancey (Zondervan)
This collection of six books represents the industry's ‘best of the year’ and the program’s retail partners have agreed to promote them to their consumer bases.
60; Those partners include Christianbook.com, Berean, Family, and Parable, along with Amazon, Borders and Barnes & Noble. I highly recommend that you consider these titles for your personal reading and for gift giving.
ECPA also recognizes and celebrates the impact of Christian titles through our Gold, Platinum and Diamond Sales Award program by honoring titles that have sold 500,000 (Gold),
Great question for today. Chris wrote and asked, "What have you done, as a writer, to overcome and keep on writing in seasons of doubt and discouragement?"
Okay, much as I hate to reveal this, here's what my head tells me at times:
-Good Lord, you're awful.
-Nobody is EVER going to read this piece of tripe.
-You don't make enough money at this. Why don't you get a real job?
-This isn't working. You should at least check into the openings at Target.
-You're lazy. Your words are turgid. You don't know anything about this.
-Go check your emails again. Maybe find out if there's anything new on ESPN.com.
-You're going to fail! You'll live in a trailer, eat lard, and they'll have to lift your lazy butt out of there with a crane.
All of this comes to me, not with a subtle whisper, but in a screaming rush. Even now.
Um…maybe some of it is true. So I can think of a few things that help me get over it.
1. BIC. That's writer-talk for butt-in-chair. If I'll just sit down and start doing work, it's amazing how things start to get done.
2. My "Sunshine" file. Yeah, it's true. I keep a file of emails people have sent to me that basically say, "You helped me" or "Thanks for being wise." For years I kept a file folder of cards and letters people had sent, just to perk me up. I might be a total putz TODAY, but I can always look back and remember, "Hey…you were BETTER THAN A PUTZ that time!"
3. Friends. Cec and I send each other encouraging notes once in a while. Steve Laube too. Keri Kent. Greg Johnson. My buddies. I occasionally get the nicest messages from Jenny B Jones, or Rachel Hauk will say something nice on my blog. I sometimes call my best friend Mike and he'll remind
Tracy asked, "How can I find an agent?"
First, you should know that BEFORE seeking an agent, you should have an idea of what you're looking for. Different types of personalities require different types of agents. Some authors need a contracts manager, some need a career counselor, some need an editorial type, etc. If you haven't explored your own strengths and weaknesses a bit, if you don't know what sort of person you'd partner well with in a
business relationship, and if you don't know what you actually need in a literary agent, I suggest spending time researching those issues.
Second, go into this with your eyes open. Be aware that there are no requirements to call yourself a literary agent — so I've seen complete dipsticks try to pawn themselves off as agents. And…it's not like I can name then on a web site, since I'd quickly find my derriere in a sling. But don't take someone's word that they're good just because they say so. Check out their reputation. Learn to ask good questions (like "who do you represent?' and "what books have you contracted in the past year?" and "who did you contract those books with?").
Third, you can find lists of agents in books like the Writers Digest Guide to Literary Agents. (There are numerous others — check on Amazon.com or go to any big bookstores and look in the "writing reference" section.) Sally Stuart's Christian Writers Market Guide has a list of agents who focus on the CBA. Some other organizations (such as the Writers Information Network) post a list of "approved"
Fourth, you can search some of the helpful web sites, including some that name names on the real stinkers (such as Writer Beware and Predators and Editors).
Fifth, if you subscribe to Publishers Lunch and Publishers Marketplace (and if you're planning a career in writing, you should consider doing so, just