• Brian

    July 22, 2015

    The Immediate Past or The Distant Future?


    Publishing & Technology: The Immediate Past or the Distant Future?
    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about innovation in digital publishing (again). This week, like every week, I scoured the internet looking for signs that the publishing revolution that we’ve all heard about for so many years now will feature something beyond digitally delivered versions of print only books (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and again I came up empty-handed. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but the most relevant article I found this week was penned by The Silent History co-creators Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn in the spring of 2013. For the full article on the Huffington Post site click here.

    I had the good fortune to attend a conversation between Eli Horowitz and Paul Collins (yes, that Paul Collins) not long before this article appeared on the Huffington Post Blog. The conversation was a part of the Transmit Culture lecture series put on by the Master’s Program in Publishing at Portland State University and what was discussed that evening galvanized my growing enthusiasm for pursuing for pursuing a career in publishing. During the conversation Collins and Horowitz discussed The Silent History, its recent launch, and its success (or potential lack thereof) as an experiment in innovative digital publishing at length before finishing the evening with talk of Horowitz’s tenure at McSweeney’s and a Q&A session with the audience. The Silent History is a truly innovative in its scope and unique (thus far) in its level of execution. As Horowitz and Quinn put it, “In the olden days (say, 2009), a few publishers did dip their toes in these waters, experimenting with a few innovative

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  • July 21, 2015

    Editing for Authors: Part 2, Perspective and How to Find it


    brick green no smile b:wContinuing my series on being your own editor, I’m talking today about the importance of the right perspective when editing your own work, specifically the role that time plays in your editorial success.

    Writing is an up-close-and-personal business. You live and breath your story while you’re writing it, spending hours with your characters while thinking about and planning your story, talking about it with friends and family or your writing group, and then when it’s time to write, your creation appears on the page literally seconds after you conceive it– writing is, in essence, a largely improvised art form. Even if you know the general direction your story is going to take, even if you plan out all the names and scenes in advance, the truth is that when the time comes to put words on paper, you’re making it up as you go along. The words that come into your head are the ones you put down on paper; that’s the only way anything ever gets written. If I sat here and waited to write my blog post until I knew every word I was going to say in exactly the order I was going to say it from beginning to end, I would die before I started a single sentence– that’s not how writing works, and many writers’ favorite thing about writing is the instantly measurable nature of it– “I wrote 1000 words today!” But while that stream-of-consciousness creation is great for getting words on the page, it’s not so good for editing.

    Editing is a process in which the majority of your decisions are made on a comparative basis— this line isn’t as clear as the rest of the paragraph; this scene’s pacing is slow compared to the rest of the chapter; this character/plotline is less developed than this other one, etc. To be an effective editor, you have to train yourself to take one or

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  • July 20, 2015

    Can CBA novelists move to the general market?


    What with the struggles of Christian fiction over the past couple of years, one of the most frequent questions I’ve been getting has to do with the potential shift of writers from CBA to the general market — specifically, Can a CBA novelist move to a traditional publishing house in the general market?

    My answer is quick: Potentially you can, but it’s very tough to do successfully. 

    I understand why inspirational authors want to explore this shift — CBA fiction is pen and inkshrinking, there are fewer legacy publishing houses releasing fiction, and those that do focus on fiction have generally been trimming the number of titles they release. That’s particularly true with literary fiction, where there are just a handful of traditional CBA houses who do any literary titles at all. And while there are a number of new, smaller presses popping up with titles aimed at religious readers, few have shown staying power and nearly all of them are focused on category fiction (most often romances, though there are also some cozy mysteries, romantic suspense, and even some spec fiction titles available).

    In addition, traditional CBA publishers have heavily relied on brick-and-mortar stores to move their books, and the disappearance of so many Christian bookstores has hit publishers extremely hard. The potential closing of Family Christian Stores, the largest chain of religious bookstores, has been a scary proposition for CBA publishers, as I’ve noted on this blog in the past. A recent study done on the buying habits of those who read Christian fiction demonstrated their reliance on finding titles in brick-and-mortar stores. So we have as many writers as ever, but trying to do books in a market with fewer publishers, who are doing fewer titles, available on fewer stores shelves. That’s the problem, in a nutshell.

    The potential answer for many authors has been to try and take their stories to the broader general market… and it hasn’t

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  • Brian

    July 15, 2015

    Feast and Famine


    Publishing & Technology: Feast and Famine

    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about a trend in the publishing industry (among others) toward the expanded utilization of independent contractors, or freelancers. I had intended to spend this week addressing either global publishing trends or talking about the highly comical price ranges that Publishers Marketplace provides on its “Report a Deal” form. But this month’s issue of Publishing Perspectives, the monthly magazine published by the good folks at the Frankfurt Book Fair, has a little article on its very last page by Laura Summers titled “In the Future, Will we all be Freelancers?” and I just can’t stop myself from weighing in on this trend.

    Don’t get me wrong; I always wanted to be a freelancer. I used to dream about it when I worked a corporate job. I put myself through graduate school as a freelance reviewer of reference books and research materials for a publication catering to the needs of college librarians, doing a little web design, and writing for an SEO copywriting specialty company, and I truly did enjoy the freedom that came along with the position. I would roll out of bed at a reasonable hour, shuffle into the kitchen in my pajamas and slippers, put the coffee on, and settle in at the kitchen table to start my work day. If I had a meeting, a class, or an appointment to attend, I would leave the house and my work behind for the necessary time, without having to consider the impact on my nonexistent co-workers or boss and without having to ask for permission. If I felt like taking an afternoon off, or sleeping late on any given day, I

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  • July 14, 2015

    Editing for Authors: Part 1, The Importance of Being an Editor


    brick green no smile b:wWelcome back to my Tuesday blog on craft! I’m starting a new series this week in response to several questions that have come in from authors over the past couple of months on the subject of editing your own work. If you’ve spent any amount of time on this blog in the past (or read any resource on getting published, or attended pretty much any class on writing), you know the importance of submitting a clean manuscript to an agent or editor. “One chance to make a first impression,” “These people work with words for a living,” “We’re looking for a reason to say no–” you’ve heard all the warnings, and you would never submit pages without having thoroughly proofread them, right? The problem many authors have is that they equate “proofreading” with “editing,” and while proofreading is certainly an important part of the editing process, your manuscript usually needs a lot more than just a proofreading to be ready to submit for consideration by an agent or an editor.

    “But I’m a writer, not an editor!” Obviously, writing and editing are not identical tasks, and the skill sets needed to perform each one well differ enough that some authors have a really hard time putting on that “editor hat” beyond a basic proofread for punctuation and spelling typos. Some people don’t have a great eye for editing, while others flat-out just don’t like the process, and many don’t trust themselves to see their own story realistically after being so close to it throughout the writing process. I understand that it can be hard to switch gears from neck-deep-in-the-middle-of-the-action author mode to cool-and-detached objective editor mode, but as many excuses as there are for not being an editor of your own work, there are a lot more arguments in favor of developing your editorial skills.

    “Can’t I just pay someone to do that?” Sure, there are plenty of great editing

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  • July 13, 2015

    The Great Christian Fiction Debate


    It’s always interesting when you create a blog post that blows up, since you never know how people are going to respond (or what sort of biases they’re going to bring to their reading of it). I found that out last week when my post on Christian fiction, in the words rsz_19780312309282-1of two different publishers, “blew up the internet.” Seems I struck a nerve, and everybody wanted to talk about it… but a bunch of people got it wrong. So some notes on the debate:

    I said that CBA fiction is facing hard times for authors. It is, no matter how much of a happy face anyone wants to paint on it. A bunch of houses have simply gotten out of fiction, several others have reduced the number of titles, and the slots available at traditional publishing houses for authors is considerably smaller than it was a few years ago. By my count, we’ve seen the number of slots for Christian fiction cut in half over the past six years. That’s troubling.

    I did not say that CBA fiction is dying. In fact, I believe just the opposite. This is the Golden Age of publishing — we’re selling more books than ever, we have more readers than ever, and we have more opportunities than ever. (And, since it’s conferences season, I should add that we have more great training and conference opportunities than ever.) The struggle is with connecting books to readers. In my view, that’s the biggest challenge we face.

    I said that sales numbers for CBA fiction are down. They are — at least for rsz_9780060545697traditional houses. Ask any CBA sales person. Numbers for fiction titles from traditional publishers may be stabilizing, but at a much smaller number than they were at a few years ago. One can argue that the numbers overall are still greater because of indie-published titles — and that might be true, but

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  • Brian

    July 10, 2015

    Publishing & Technology: Open Access Beyond Academia


    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about about the slow, incremental growth of open access monographs in the world of academic publishing and how that business model could maybe have a positive impact on trade publishing in the future. According to a study published in May of this year by Publishers Communication Group (PCG), a marketing and sales consulting firm that exists as a division of the publishers services company Publishing Technology, “publishers and libraries are increasingly experimenting with Open Access (OA) books…with funding derived from a variety of sources including library budgets.” For the entire survey report on the PCG website click here.

    The fact that OA books are slowly gaining in importance in the world of academic publishing, especially in the area of monographs, is not a tremendous surprise, working directly with academics to produce works with an all but guaranteed (if comparatively small) market, effectively cutting out the middleman, seems like a proverbial no-brainer. But, as the report goes on to state, “librarians and publishers perceive the benefits of the OA books movement differently,” with librarians advocating deeper institutional involvement while academic publishers “fear unrealistic funding expectations…vanity publishing, and the inevitability of institutional mandates.” Sound at all familiar? Understandable? I’m sure opinions will vary depending upon perspective. I am left wondering though. Could Open Access book publishing gain any traction in the trade market? And, if so, what would that look like?

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  • July 8, 2015

    What's going on with CBA fiction?


    I’ve been getting a lot of questions about CBA fiction lately… [And I updated this column recently.]

    Is fiction aimed at the CBA market (that is, the “inspirational” market) growing or shrinking? Those of us who write for that market keep hearing different things and, frankly, I’m not sure who to believe.

    CBA fiction is in a world of hurt. When I started my literary agency nine years ago, KeyboardChristian fiction was the fastest-growing segment in all of publishing, and continued to be a growth category for a couple more years. But, as I’ve said so often, publishing is a “tidal” business — the tide comes in, the tide goes out. Seven, eight, nine years ago, it was in. Then the tide started to recede, and now it’s out. Way, way out.

    Several CBA publishing houses that used to do fiction don’t do it any more. (Today, Abingdon announced they’re killing their fiction program, for example.) Several others have cut back their lists. There are fewer slots for authors, and shopping for inspirational fiction has become harder. Barnes & Noble sort of sticks all religious fiction off into one corner, so if you don’t walk in specifically hoping to find that section, you’re not going to stumble onto it. Books-a-Million does a better job, but they’re not a huge chain. The potential demise of Family Christian Stores is a looming disaster — it leaves Lifeway Stores as the biggest chain, and the fiction decisions at Lifeway have been a huge disappointment to many of us in the industry (meaning the company only wants VERY safe Christian romances where nothing truly bad happens, sex doesn’t exist, everyone talks like they’re living in Andy Griffith Land, and in the end the characters will fall to their knees and accept Christ so that All Life Problems Will Be Resolved). Sales numbers have fallen, so that the novelist who used to routinely sell 18,000

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  • July 6, 2015

    What's the difference between a website, a blog, and a web newsletter?


    Someone recently sent in a question about websites and blogs… “Practically speaking, what is the real difference between a website and a blog, or between a blog and an online newsletter? And does an author need one of each?” 


    Practically speaking, there really isn’t any different between them – they are all simply information shared via digital means. But in common parlance, a website is most often a static site that introduces readers to a person or organization, and a blog is an active commentary about topics of interest to the writer(s).pen and ink

    Think about it this way: a blog provides more commentary than a website, and is updated regularly, whereas a website often presents some basic information that tends to remain the same for a long time. For that reason, we generally see websites as one-way communication, whereas a blog is more interactive and has multiple communication pathways. Media commentator Jeff Korhan has said that a website is a digital storefront, and a blog is a digital magazine — an image I’ve long found helpful.

    A newsletter is similar to a blog, but often is used as a device that is sent out (rather than waiting for people to come visit), and shares information about upcoming events of interest to the regular members or readers of the newsletter. I once heard a speaker say that a newsletter is a “push” device (because you push it into people’s email boxes to get noticed) while a blog is a “pull” device (because you offer writing and ideas that pulls people in).

    Does a writer need all of these? Well… no. There’s no “one right method” for every writer. But I think most writers these days have some sort of website, so that new or potential readers can go and research them. For whatever reason, readers enjoy seeing photos of the writer, reading a bio, hearing him or her say a few

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  • Brian

    July 1, 2015

    Publishing and Technology: Talkin’ Bout That Generation (Gap)


    Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

    This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about those pesky Millennials and how they still won’t (or rather just don’t) buy ebooks. This week’s post was touched off by an article by Charlotte Eyre on the website The Bookseller regarding information released in Deloitte’s Media Consumer 2015: The Signal and the Noise report. Though the statistics reported in the document are specific to Deloitte’s research in the United Kingdom, I think it’s safe to make some general extrapolations from the data regarding U.S. consumers.

    The gist of the article on The Bookseller was that, though Millennials are the most tech-savvy generation we’ve seen to date, they are not embracing the ebook (not even as they emerge from their tween years). In fact, it may be a bit of a mistake to market ebooks to this generation at all. And, though most respondents in the Deloitte sample did purchase a book (regardless of format) in the past year, they were least likely to have purchased it in ebook form, and did report that the majority of their media consumption was focused on other non-print media. None of this should come as much of a surprise for anyone who’s been even loosely aware of trends in media consumption and publishing. But, it does point to an area of continuing concern for all of us who make a living off of the written word.

    So, how do you get millennials (and Generation Z – if that’s what we’re really going to call what’s next) to buy books, if not via e-readers? As I’ve mentioned in the past, according to the white paper put out by Thad McElroy of Digital Book World in December of last year on

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