Chip MacGregor

January 13, 2017

Publishing Predictions: What will happen in 2017?


So a new year is here, and it’s time to make some predictions about what will happen in 2017. I do NOT have the gift of prophecy, but that doesn’t stop me from pontificating and making wild surmises, all while not really having a clue about much of anything beyond the concept that “books are good.”  So with that as an introduction, here are one agent’s thoughts on what will be happening in our industry during the new year:

  1. We’re going to see huge growth with audio books. It’s clear that alternative forms of books are part of the growth pattern in publishing, and audio is the next big thing with the under-40 crowd. (The only downside? Amazon has bought up every audio book company, so they’ve basically cornered the market.)
  2. All the talk about growth potential with US publishers is going to be on rights sales. In other words, subsidiary and derivatives are going to play a MUCH more significant role in every contract negation you have this year. Expect every conversation you have with a publisher to explore dramatic rights, foreign rights, greeting cards, plush toys, and board games. Another reason to go on living!
  3. The Pareto Principle will be more evident than ever. Wilfredo Pareto was the Italian social economist who noted that 80% of the Italian government’s income came from 20% of the population… and thus the Principle of Factor Sparsity was born, which demonstrates that 80% of publishing income comes from 20% of all authors. Or, in layman’s terms, more and more publishers will continue promoting a handful of successful authors and ignore your book because they know where the sure money comes from. Hello James Patterson!
  4. Barnes and Noble will open some mini-stores that only stock bestsellers. I don’t have any insider knowledge about this, but with Amazon opening brick-and-mortar stores, B&N has to do something to try and grab a bit more market share.
  5. More mid-size publishers will be bought by Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster. In fact, with those first three all making major purchases over the last two years, I expect we’ll see S&S follow suit by trying to snap up some struggling houses with strong niche markets.
  6. Everyone is going to start bundling ebooks. It’s been a growing movement among ebook publishers, and this year we’ll see major houses begin to do it… and thus shrink author earnings even more.
  7. On the other hand, we’re going to see the end of the ultra-low price on ebooks. All those business geniuses who took over ebook lines and were told to grow the readership have now been slapped upside the head for not making enough money. So expect ebook prices to begin to grow across the board — meaning we’re moving toward the end of the 99-cent ebook, and thus earning authors a bit more and counter-balancing #6 above.
  8. We’re going to see a group of successful ebook authors quit indie publishing. For the record, I am NOT opposed to indie publishing, and have been very vocal in encouraging the authors I represent to consider doing some of their titles indie. But with declining indie sales, we’re now going to start seeing a migration of big-name authors back toward traditional publishers. Have a look at the news so far this year, and you’ll see the movement has already begun.
  9. There’s going to be a push to offer new books on mobile phone applications first. Publishers have figured out that people under 30 want to read books on their phones, so there’s going to be many titles that follow the video game market and are offered to mobile readers before anyone else.
  10. Christian fiction as we know it is going to almost completely go away. The days of people buying 100,000 copies of a new Amish romance are dead. The readership has aged, the readers have discovered there are quality issues with CBA mystery, suspense and thriller genres, so CBA fiction is going to morph into “clean romance” and “values fiction” and “apocalyptic biblical thrillers” aimed specifically at a shrinking group of hard-core conservative evangelical readers in their 50’s. There are only a handful of houses still acquiring Christian fiction these days, and some of them are shifting to doing high-quality literary or women’s stories for a broader people of faith, or a slim list of suspense novels, rather than clearly religious stories aimed only at the faithful. (And no, there’s still no New Adult, Fantasy, or Spec Fiction in this category. Sorry, young creatives.) This doesn’t mean I’m down on CBA fiction (I’m a fan of the works, the companies, and the people involved). But it is changing so that the books and system that was so fast-growing just a few short years ago have now nearly disappeared. In its place are just a handful of houses focusing on doing big stories with great craft for a much broader audience.

To end this little excursion into the future, may I note one thing that we should all celebrate about the past?  We’re about to see the ten year anniversary of the Kindle — the one event that changed publishing more than anything else in my lifetime. A tip of the hat to the folks at Amazon for reshaping the world of books.


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  • ashlynchase says:

    I too am grateful to Kindle. I was epublished in 2004 and had to explain what an ebook was and how to read one every time I shared my new release news. LOL

    I’m delighted you’re seeing the prices of ebooks going back up. That 99 cent thing used to work. Now that everybody’s doing it, Indie authors are losing their shirts. Personally, I’m happy to have a trad publisher who actually pays me an advance for all my hard work.

  • Frances Brown says:

    RE: Number 8. I agree except for that one little word—”successful” indie authors. Why, oh why, would a successful Indie author opt out of 70% royalties for a few pennies on the dollar? Lose their rights to the quality of editing, choosing release dates, and cover images? What, are the big publishers going to sweeten the pot somehow?

    At this point, I don’t think they can afford to.

    I do believe many, many authors who have tried the Indie route will quit. But those who are successful? Going after a contract where they give away all their rights, as well a large percent of the income? I don’t think so.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Again, I’m not down on indie publishing at all, Frances. For some reason, indie authors as a group tend to see anything negative about the topic as an attack on the very notion of independent publishing — something I don’t understand. All I’m doing is describing what I’m seeing, which has been the movement toward traditional publishers for some larger, successful indie authors. That’s not to say I’m opposed to indie — I’m not. Maybe it’s the competition. Maybe it’s the guaranteed money. Maybe it’s the fact that someone else is handling things like covers and production. I don’t know… but this isn’t an attack; it’s a description of what I’ve seen.

  • Christine Dillon says:

    Have thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and all the comments below. I am very excited about entering the indie market by November this year after having had 2 Christian non-fiction published. It’s been a steep learning curve but I’ve learned heaps and am building my mailing list and putting out a quarterly author’s newsletter and am experimenting with giveaways. Never thought I’d learn marketing (or write a novel for that matter). Very thankful that the Lord has provided the right help at every turn and very thankful he delayed me an extra 15 months putting out the novel. It wasn’t ready and I am so glad not to have released something mediocre. The Lord provided me with a fantastic editor and I am so thankful. The final edits were finished yesterday and it’s a HUGE relief.
    I have been reading indie ebooks the last 9 months and it has mostly been discouraging. Only about 10-15% have been 4 stars and far too many have been 2 stars. As I keep saying to the Aust-NZ Christian writers – we need to help each other improve because every poor Christian book influences others. I would hate people to say – ‘Christian novels are terrible rubbish!’ That’s a poor witness. Working together to help each other is so important and one blessing of Facebook groups is that it allows this team work and learning from each other.

  • Interesting Chip! Love your insight!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Thank you, Stacey. (And for those who don’t know, you should check out Stacey’s wonderful nonfiction series with Harvest House Publishers. She’s got really good ideas.)

  • Anita Weaver says:

    Does #10 apply to historical fiction as well?

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I was referencing Christian fiction specifically in that, Anita. There’s still some genres selling — Harlequin’s Love Inspired does historical romances, contemporary romances, and romantic suspense titles. Bethany House continues to have some success with historical stories, and Thomas Nelson has done a fine job with some historical authors. My point was that, in the larger picture, Christian fiction is hurting.

  • Kathryn Sue Moore says:

    Great post, Chip! I whole-heartedly agree that the Christian fiction genre is going away. As an author, I’m frustrated that my reality-based fiction with a subtle faith message struggles to glean acceptance among the CF readers who want only “safe” stories devoid of the sins of our current culture. But if there’s any faith message at all, the ABA won’t embrace it. I’m told my writing crosses boundaries but in fact it’s just real world. I think the publishing industry is starting to recognize this fertile opportunity that exists in the inspirational middle space between general and Christian fiction. “Values fiction” – Maybe it’ll stick.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      The fact is, we’re just seeing a shift are, Kathryn. Publishing is tidal – the tide goes out, the comes back in. Christian fiction will be back in. It may very well morph into something else, but it will come back. I’m not giving up on it.

  • Kathy Cheek says:

    I miss the days, when years ago, the LifeWay stores and/or Family Christian Stores (remember when they were Zondervan stores?) were in the mall. I bought more books when a stop at the mall was also a stop to browse books in the Christian bookstores in the mall. I guess that is just me.

  • David Rawlings - Author says:

    Thanks for your insights Chip!

    Re #9: with a move to more books on mobiles, do you see that impacting on the length or type of stories we write? If I read 90,000 words on my iPhone I’ll need thumb replacement surgery, so do you think stories will shorten, become serialized or stay as they are?

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I think that means shorter books, David — perhaps a book section aimed specifically at that medium & audience.

  • Chip, would you say advances are also down with mainstream publishers, or just with Christian publishers? I know several CBA authors have gone mainstream and I’m wondering if that’s the answer for Christian authors seeking tradpub as more CBA houses stop acquiring fiction?

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Advances went down across the board with the crash of 2008, and they’ve never gone back to those levels. I work part of the time on the CBA side, and part of the time on the general market side, and I would argue that advances are not automatically higher on the general market side of things, Heather.

      As for Christian authors moving to the general market… I’ve worked with some authors to help that happen (Davis Bunn, Susan Meissner, etc), but I think that will remain a rare event. Why? Partly because of audience — those who have published in CBA tend to be writing stories from a distinctly religious worldview (and surrounding themselves with that message, and seeing their story worlds that way, etc), and the audience for their books tends to share that perspective — so moving from that audience to a non-religious audience that sees the world and story in a completely different way is difficult. But there are other reasons as well… which I will get to in a future blog post, Heather. Glad you came onto the site and commented.

  • boss09 says:

    Thanks for your insights. It’s been difficult for this newbie because my novel presents a plausible alternative to the Gospel stories as we know them, but is nevertheless quite spiritual. So mainstream agents tell me to go to Christian agents, and Christian agents are put off by the non-orthodox synopsis. –Patrick Andersen (not sure how my i.d. on this site became boss09.)

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Yo boss! (No idea how that happened – the mysteries of the interweb, apparently.) May I offer a word of advice on your situation? I sometimes see books that are “too Christian for the general market, and too worldly for the Christian market.” Beware of that — it’s no-mans-land. There’s no place to take a book like that, so you’ll be stuck. If you want to get your novel out there, you’ll have to think about your audience, and where your book fits in the marketplace.

    • boss09 says:

      Thanks! Maybe I should just go for the Historical genre.

  • Adam Verner says:

    Great list! Fun to hear your prognostications 🙂 I’m a full time narrator in the audio book biz (since 2005), and while I agree with #1, the second part is not quite true. As far as I know, Audible has never bought another audio book publisher. Amazon bought Audible in 2008, and has cornered the market as both a publisher AND the platform for distribution (so in that sense they are indeed the monopoly). Recently, a private equity firm called Shamrock has been buying up audio book publishers such as Recorded Books, Highbridge, and Tantor, and may buy more. Consolidation is happening in the industry, and whether that’s good for the listener and/or narrator remains to be seen 🙂

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Nice to hear from you, Adam. Amazon bought Audible, then Audiobook, then Brilliance, then Rooftop Media, then AudioGo (in the UK). Shamrock has come into the market over the past couple of years, basically because they believe Amazon needs some competition. But they’re still small potatoes compared to Amazon. (As for the effect on authors, I’d note that once Amazon started to corner the market with audiobooks, they immediately lowered author royalty rates.) Glad you came onto the site!

    • Adam Verner says:

      I totally forgot about Brilliance! When I record there there’s signs everywhere describing “Amazon’s Safety Policies.” The rumor in the industry is that Shamrock will buy a few more and then flip them to either Apple or Google to create a true competitor 🙂

      Now don’t get me started on ACX…..

  • LisaGraceBooks says:

    My best seller this year was in an ebook box set with mine being the only overtly Christian book. I’ll be seeking out more box set opportunities with secular box sets because of this trend.
    Audio is something I need to get serious about. I only have one released in audio.
    As an author, I’ll be approaching producers about selling movie rights to more of my books.
    I think indies will go back to the approach of releasing smaller works often, smaller works funneling readers (probably using Book Funnel) with a teaser of a free ebook in exchange for their email (shoot, even Dekker did this through a Facebook ad this last month) then get the reader in the habit of downloading a shorter work for a cheap price on a monthly or quarterly basis.

  • Dana Mentink says:

    I knew I should have been an orthodontist!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Not nearly as fun or creative, Dana, but my guess is there’s more money in it! :o)
      (And for those who don’t know, that would be bestselling novelist Dana Mentink, whose third novel for dog-lovers, “Fetching Sweetness,” is set to come out any day now.)

  • GreatLifeAlready says:

    Sounds about right.

  • Miralee Ferrell says:

    Thanks for a well-thought out post, Chip. I’m one of those multi-published trad authors in the Christian industry who lost her ‘home’ after my publisher closed their fiction line. I had the choice of shopping my next series or going indie. I chose to take control of my career and go indie–then a few months later, I started one of those micro-publishing houses you mentioned, Mountain Brook Ink. I’ve been blessed to be invited to three different writer’s conference to teach and take appointments with hopeful authors. Here’s why I don’t believe Christian fiction will die. I believe it’s simply taking a new direction.

    There’s plethora of exceptional talent out there who are not able to find a home in a traditional, larger or mid-sized house. Some of those talented writers are willing to try to go it alone, but many others don’t want the extra work of cover design, formatting, editing, and more. We’ve been blessed to partner with a number of these writers and bring their work to the public We look for Christian fiction that’s not trite, not preachy, explores an issue or problem, and creates multi-dimensional characters. So far, we’ve batted 1000 with the authors we’ve signed in that their work has met that goal.

    Are we getting rich yet after almost three years of being in business? No. But we’re breaking even and putting out quality work. I believe as the large and mid-sized houses close their doors to more fiction, we’ll see more tiny houses like ours acquiring and partnering with exceptional authors who don’t have the desire, the energy, or at times, the resources to do it all themselves. I believe that the big houses loss is our gain.

    We’re still learning and striving to find ways to shine a light on the books we’re publishing, but so far we’ve had reviews in Pub Weekly, and RT’s…in fact, each book we’ve sent to RT’s has been reviewed. Our titles are carried by Ingram/Spring Arbor, our publicist sends out press releases for each new book in a series, we do live video chats, FB release parties,have a professional web presence, and more. We aren’t garnering a large section of the market yet, but I believe our commitment will pay off, and we’ll continue to grow. I do believe Christian fiction is alive and well, and both the indie writers and the micro-publishers will see that it continues and doesn’t die. My two-cents. And Chip, we’d love to have you speak at our Portland/Vancouver ACFW meeting in the spring, if you have time. Miralee Ferrell

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Thanks for writing, Miralee. I agree that CBA fiction is taking a new direction, and that seeing large traditional houses turn away good writers means small houses will benefit. But an author going with a small publishing house needs to see some tangible benefit to signing a deal versus going indie — and that means a small house has to have a system in place to market and sell books. As you know, most small houses don’t. They basically offer the chance for a writer to claim, “I got published!” Then there is little more that happens. The closing of so many CBA fiction lines has led to a boom of small publishers. The next couple of years will see most of those small publishers shut down, because they can’t market and sell books, so the few that can actually make it work will succeed… and then become medium-sized traditional publishers, and will live with having all those indie authors denounce them as evil! :o)

  • Dan Walsh says:

    I agree totally with #1. Not sure about # 2-6 (not my strength). Hope you’re right about #7. TOTALLY disagree with you on #8. Not
    sure where you get the “…with declining indie sales…” And then go on to say a large numbers of successful indie authors will go back to being
    traditionally published. This makes no sense to me. For one thing, after
    being traditionally and successfully published for 12 books,
    I’ve done my last four as an indie. In 2015, I did pretty well. This past year, I doubled my indie income and
    actually wound up making more money than my best year with my
    former publisher. Beyond that, I don’t see why a successful indie author, who is now being paid
    70% for each book sold, would ever voluntarily go back to getting only 25% of that 70% (which is what a traditional contract offers)? And why would they ever go
    back to iving up the rights to their ebooks forever (again, which traditional
    contracts offer)? I’m not seeing this as something that’s likely
    to happen in 2017, or any other year. Not to mention losing so much creative control over their books, titles, covers, pricing, marketing strategies, and even book/story direction (2 of my MOST successful indies–in terms of sales and dollars–are books my publisher refused to publish, saying “they’d never sell well.”

    • Kristen Stieffel says:

      Great information, Dan. I agree with what Rachel said above: the indie authors I know have no desire to go back. That said, I can imagine there are some who have not had great sales and might want to try trad pub in the hopes of selling more books, even at a lower percentage. I know I wavered on this decision for years before signing with a small press.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I want to respond to this and not sound like I’m putting anyone down here, Kristen… I have long heard a group of authors claim they prefer indie because they have more control, can be more creative, etc. Um, I’ve found that most of those people aren’t really selling many books. In fact, I’d argue that most (not all but most) indie authors don’t make much money at all, certainly nowhere near a full time salary, and that they’d publish with a traditional publisher in a heartbeat if they were offered a contract… but they’re not, because they aren’t that good. That’s a hard thing to say, but I’ve tired of hearing authors tell me about how great their indie situation is, when in fact you can tell from looking at the Amazon numbers this author hasn’t really sold any books. So it feels good to them emotionally, and they can leave a copy of their book on the coffee table so when guests come perhaps they’ll notice it and comment, and the author somehow feel as thought he’s achieved a goal. All of that is fine with me. If doing an indie book makes some guy feel important, then I say let him publish his book and boost his self-confidence. But, um, I’m a lifer in this business, working primarily with people who are making money with their writing. And doing some little title with Lighthouse of the Carolinas and selling 133 copies isn’t what I would consider making a living or having real success in publishing.

      Dan Walsh is a good writer (I really liked “The Unfinished Gift,” for example) who had some success with traditional publishing, moved to indie publishing to get some of his books out, and has sold some of his indie titles. I think that’s great. He was able to tell some of his stories that a publisher didn’t want, and he’s making more per book sold. Of course, Dan had already had some success with his traditionally published titles, so he had a readership in place, and he’s a proven writer. And my guess (though I’ve not talked with Dan about this) is that he liked having the publisher edit and distribute the books, and if they’d have been willing to do more books and maybe boost their royalties, he might still like to do something with them. So there are exceptions to every rule. Dan was successful before with traditional publishing, he’s successful now with indie publishing, and, because I think he’s pretty smart, he’ll probably follow the trends and make more wise choices down the road.

      Um… many indie authors aren’t like that. For all the talk about creativity and freedom and higher royalties, we’ve seen a ton of really bad books released (every market survey I’ve seen has complained about the lack of overall quality with ebooks, and the difficulty of finding a good/fair evaluation system), overall ebook sales are down, and the indie universe parallels the traditional universe — there is a small group of authors making the bulk of the money. I’m not arguing here that one way is better. I’m just pointing out what we’re seeing in the industry.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Dan, if you can actually SELL books, you can make money. And I’ve long argued that 70% of each indie book is better than 25% on a traditional ebook contract. But I think you’re missing the point… There are some authors who are doing great at indie, which I think is wonderful. But the indie side has swamped the marketplace, ebook sales are down dramatically, and we’ve seen a number of successful indie authors move back to traditional publishing. Don’t read into that I am somehow saying “traditional is good and indie is bad.” I’m not. I’d argue that there is a balance (something I’ve long argued), there isn’t a “good and bad” side in publishing, and events will cause shrewd authors to move back and forth depending on the project and the audience. (More in response to Kristen below…)

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Chip, I don’t disagree with the idea that there is a quality control problem with indie books. Clearly there is. One thing the trad pub model has always provided is the gatekeeper role. Since they had the only means to get books published (and held the role for so long), authors had to keep honing their craft until they “made the grade.” Of course, that’s a generalization, especially in the last 4-5 years with the emergence of the ebook/Amazon wave. Trad pub houses turned down A LOT of worthy books for bogus reasons. Books written by authors that were clearly ready for prime time. Those books have made up a huge block of the more successful indie book titles, because they were written well, and the readers loved them, bought them and often signed on these authors’ newsletter lists so they could buy their next book.

      Amazon, and I’m pretty sure the other online stores also, don’t screen the books they accept for writing/story quality. So everyone and anyone can upload any book they think is ready. Even if that book would have been summarily rejected by every traditional house. The author uploads as an indie, and it doesn’t sell well. And if that author’s writing is not up to par, neither will any future books. Amazon seems to be okay with letting the Review system serve as the gatekeeper. But that means a ton of sludge (maybe sludge with great covers) become available. But in the end, these indie books must fail, because readers won’t put up with crummy writing. I’m always urging indies to focus on their craft, more than every other aspect of the indie experience. Nothing can substitute for a great story well told.

      The point of your 2017 projection I’m taking issue with is that a great number of SUCCESSFUL indie authors will head back to the Trad Pub world. I’m not seeing that. Don’t know a single successful indie author who has done that, or is even thinking of that. For all the reasons I cited.

      Anyway, I genuinely respect you and your long history of being an advocate for great writing (and writers), especially in the Christian fiction arena. Hope you have a successful and prosperous 2017!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Thanks for your nice note, Dan. I rarely talk about the quality control issue, frankly, because it seems to set indie authors’ teeth on edge. But it’s a problem, and the Amazon review system hasn’t worked that well, since it’s so easy to get all your friends to go on and rave about your book. (And no, I don’t have a better solution, other than to try and focus on some other review system.) As for your other point, this is just me making a prediction. But yeah, I’ve seen some successful indie types moving back to traditional publishers (or at least try to be hybrid and find success with each). I think we’ll see more of that. It won’t significantly change publishing, in my view, but it’s something I’m watching. Wishes for success and prosperity right at you, my friend. When is your next release?

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Thanks for asking. Book 3 in my Jack Turner Suspense Series (the series I wasn’t supposed to write because it’s not my brand), should release April 1st. Title not firmed up yet. There’s actually going to be some exciting news coming soon about Book 2 in a week or so (Remembering Dresden).

    • I agree with you, Dan–the indies who stay successful aren’t the ones with cruddy covers, poorly edited writing, etc. Those books can barely get off the ground now. It should be noted that Christian indies are placing in the same award contests CBA authors are placing in (more doors are opening every day as far as who can apply, etc.), and some are getting amazing reviews by non-CBA review sources. Quality does rise to the top and stay afloat.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Um… yeah. This right here is why I’m going to quit blogging. The rise of indie publishing has allowed a bunch of people who are full of themselves but lack any sort of actual, working knowledge of the industry to pronounce themselves experts. Cathryn, I’ve never heard of you. You have a couple free novels on Kindle, none of which seem to be doing much. You have some books that look like soft porn (“Cyborg Pleasure” and “Show Me the Honey”) and aren’t in the top 250k titles on Amazon. And yet you want to come on, be condescending, and TELL ME ABOUT CHRISTIAN FICTION because, uh, you read some stuff on “author loops.” Thanks. Thanks for sharing from your expert knowledge with us. Apart from not having any information beyond your own feelings, it’s good that you can provide us with such helpful content.

  • Dr. Michelle Bengtson says:

    You’ve got a good pulse on the industry. Wish I could do the same with healthcare…

    • chipmacgregor says:

      We’ll be tackling that as soon as we work out all the issues in publishing, Michelle… :o)

  • rachelhauck says:

    I’m so surprised at your #8 and #10. I don’t know any indie authors who are looking to go trad. They are looking to double down on their indie goals. As for Christian fiction, I think we have to stay true to the stories we feel called to write. No matter what the market.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Agree with you, Rachel (as I just posted). But hey Chip…can’t get ’em all right, right?

    • Yes, the indies I know are working to get more books out per year, be it in audiobook, boxed set, individual release, etc. Many are hybrid and are balancing traditional contracts, as well. I think just like with anything, some will stick with it, and some won’t. But the successful indies have no reason to quit–they’re already making a tidy income and are happy with their freedom.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Well, let me again restate that I’m not at all down on indie publishing, Rachel (as you know). But we’re already seeing some indie authors move toward finding traditional deals because they believe they can make more money there. So this doesn’t say that ALL authors are moving away from indie publishing — only that some big name authors are. And… that’s already happening.

      As for #10, we’ve already seen this happen. Publishing houses that have dropped new fiction include Harvest House, Cook, NavPress, Moody, Worthy, B&H, etc. And the New York imprints (Waterbrook, Howard, and FaithWords) have trimmed their lists significantly or aren’t adding any new authors. When I get a new novelist approaching me, I realize there are only a handful of traditional publishes I can take the manuscript to… think of how that’s changed since five or six years ago. So I’m not celebrating CBA fiction’s demise, so much as noting that the way it used to be is gone, and I see changes ahead for the publishers sticking with it.

      Of course I totally agree with you on the “write what you’re called to write,” Rachel, and I’ve pretty much said that repeatedly with authors. I think stories are given to an author, and he or she has to write the story they’ve been given. And I am NOT trying to dissuade anyone from writing. I’m just trying to help people see how things are changing.

    • I am actually hoping to go trad with a major house. I have great success as an indie, but I think the market is shifting and the future is in hybrid publishing — I am 100% indie. I’m not looking the money a traditional deal can get me, because I know I can make more in a month indie than on an advance from a trad — I’m looking at the reach of readers that I currently don’t have.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      For those who don’t know, Hallee Bridgeman is a huge success on the indie side. She’s sold more than a half million ebooks, has a huge following, and knows what she’s talking about. Check out her “Song of Suspense” series!

  • Traci Hilton says:

    Hmmmm….as a matter of fact, I don’t disagree with any of this! Always fun to see the future predicted by smart people who know what’s happening.

  • Cheryl Baranski says:

    It is sad to see that the christian fiction is going away. I am in my 40’s and the majority of the books that I read are christian fiction. I for one want to be able to read a book that is clean and has some faith in it. I pray that the wonderful authors that I have to privilege to read are able to continue to have their works published.

    • Traci Hilton says:

      In my opinion, niche readers who adore Christian fiction aren’t going to run out of books so long as they are willing to read on an ereader and give indies a chance. The key thing pushing indies is the ability to write what they want no matter what the publishers are selling. I think Chip is right about the percentage of them able to make it big/make a living at it (but I’d say it’s been 80/20 all along anyway.) But, hope is strong in the author’s heart, and you won’t run out of reads. The authors will just have some lean years until trends shift again.

    • There is a remarkable diversity in Christian indie fiction that just can’t be found in the CBA at this time. However, the CBA is slowly changing, and I see more books that tackle new topics, etc. (Chip, I just got Of Stillness and Storm by your client Michele Phoenix, because I was so thrilled to see a CBA book with a married protagonist, dealing with married issues). But this reluctance to follow trends in the CBA seriously limits its ability to reach readers of this generation. Like I said, some CBA pubs are starting to get those books out, but in the meantime, I do recommend checking the indie market for books that cover those locales, genres, and topics you can’t find in CBA at this time.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Completely agree, Traci.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      There are millions of books in print, so you’ll still find plenty of titles to read, and there are lots of books still being published (many by smaller houses and indie authors). This blog is aimed more at people in the industry, not at the average book reader, Cheryl, so the focus tends to be on “making a living with your writing” and “what’s going on in the world of publishing right now.” Hope that helps. But glad you’re reading and commenting!

  • kathrynjbain says:

    Good information. What would you recommend with regard to the Christian market if it’s going to change like you suggest? Should we just go for clean writing and wait until the market bounces back?

    • chipmacgregor says:

      That’s a very fair question, Kathryn. I think an author has to write the stories he or she have been given. So write your stories, and worry about the market later. My two cents.

    • Cara Putman says:

      I so agree with this advice. Write the stories on your heart. Eventually the market shifts.

    • kathrynjbain says:

      Great advice. Thanks.

    • Christine Dillon says:

      I strongly agree with this piece of advice. As disciples we do what Jesus has asked us to do. Are we content to just sell one book if that is the purpose He had for it?
      I’m blessed to have the freedom to follow His call because I have my outside salary and so don’t have to live on my writing. The advantage of this is that I only write what I’m asked to write and at the pace that my Boss (the ultimate one) tells me.
      There was a very interesting call to action recently to Christian novels of high quality in the ‘Christianity Today.’

  • Linda Knadle Rodante says:

    As an Indie author, I see my sales increasing. I and many others write Christian fiction and are bringing in the Christian fiction readers traditional publishers have left behind with either high prices or watered down Christian content
    As a reader and book buyer myself, I am looking for good writing and plot but real life situations at a discouned price
    I am not alone.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I see some authors making it work as indie authors, Linda. The big push into that realm seems to have faded, as too many indie authors haven’t really sold many copies. Right now, the indie ebook universe mirrors that of traditional publishing — a smaller group of highly successful indie authors making the bulk of the money, and a huge group of others hoping to sell some copies and get discovered.

  • Rick Barry says:

    Even if your expectations prove only 50% accurate, that is still a lot to contemplate. Thanks for this food for thought.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      You’re welcome, Rick. A word of caution: Do not use this blog post for making bets. This information is for entertainment purposes only.

  • Cara Putman says:

    It is a crazy business. No doubt about that!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      No argument here, Cara. The tide is out right now. The tide will come back in. (For those who don’t know, Cara is a wonderful novelist who has worked with both small and large publishers, written very strong romances and suspense, hit the bestseller lists… and still finds time to work as a lawyer. Don’t you have a new book coming out with Thomas Nelson soon, Cara?)

    • Cara Putman says:

      Thanks, Chip! I do. Beyond Justice releases in April from Thomas Nelson, and is on preorder sale now.
      Have a great weekend!

    • Cindy Thomson says:

      There is someone who doesn’t know that? 😉

  • Jodie Bailey says:

    Every year I say the same thing when you post your predictions… I understand why all of the literary giants of the past took up drinking. Remind me again why I do this? 😉

    • chipmacgregor says:

      You do this because you’re good at it, Jodie, and you have stores to tell. (For those who don’t know, Jodie is a wonderful novelist with a growing readership.) I don’t share this because I want to trash CBA fiction or because I want to dissuade anyone from exercising their gifts — only to state “this is where we are and where we’re going.” I love CBA publishers (Daisy Hutton and her group at Thomas Nelson Fiction is as sharp as anyone in the industry; I think the world of Karen Watson and her crew at Tyndale; I love the teams at Revell and Bethany House, who continue to find and produce great books; Christina at FaithWords clearly knows her stuff; and Shannon at Waterbrook and Beth at Howard are two of my favorite people in the industry) — I’m just pointing out how toughie is to try and get published in this genre at the moment. That said, you’re having success with the good folks at Love Inspired. Be faithful to your calling, Jodie!

  • Katie Powner says:

    As a 30-something myself, I agree with your #10. CBA hasn’t done it for me in a long time. With a few exceptions, of course. I’m looking at you Dale Cramer and Chris Fabry! But this leaves an aspiring Christian author such as myself with a huge decision to make: where should I submit my work?

    Disclaimer: I do love and appreciate CBA but the majority of what’s out there just isn’t for me.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I think it’s tough for a newbie to find a publisher to work with, outside of the micro-publishers that have cropped up (and the danger is that they won’t really sell any copies). When I see a new CBA novelist these days, I tell them there are only a handful of houses doing fiction, and very few slots available for debut novelists. Really a tough time at the moment outside of tiny houses and indie publishing. (Okay, to be fair, Harlequin’s Love Inspired is always looking for good CBA romance writers, and they do a fantastic job of editing, producing, and selling their books. But outside of that, it’s really tough on debut writers.)

  • Becky Minor says:

    I always look forward to your posts where you do a little prophesying on trends in the market. Given your #10, being close to my heart, I would append to your parenthetical statement that we’ll see a growing exodus of Christians who write speculative to the general market in search of contracts. Here’s hoping the general market has a place for speculative without nihilism and trysting demihumans.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Thanks, Becky. And yes, I think we’re seeing that happen — and I continue to think there’s a place with readers for these stories.

    • rj_anderson says:

      There is a place in the general market for fiction written out of a Christian worldview, definitely. But it’s very hard for readers to find it if they don’t know which authors are Christian. Yet if Christian readers raised on CBA fiction know they’re reading a Christian author, they tend to bring certain expectations to the story which don’t always match up with the conventions of the general market. Which tends to work in Christian authors’ disfavour, because the same book which gets criticized by a non-Christian review source as dangerously close to preachy may be criticized by a Christian reviewer as not being spiritual enough!

      I’m not sure what the solution is to this, if there is one. But I’ll be interested to see what happens if Chip is right.

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