Chip MacGregor

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 want to ensure the cover is good, the editing is good, the title is good, and that you know how to sell it. The biggest problem with self-pubbing is that usually the author doesn’t know how to market and sell his own book. Listing it on Amazon isn’t really a marketing strategy — there are two million books on Amazon. If you can’t market and sell your self-pubbed book, don’t go that route — you’ll lose a lot of money. As for the speed of traditional publishing, it’s not the production side that is slow — it’s the retail side. It’s March as I write this, and right now book sales people are walking into bookstores to show everyone the coming Christmas titles. The catalogs they’re using were put together a couple months ago, so they could be used as sales tools, so that stores could order the books and get them in time for Christmas, AND the marketing people can begin their push before the book actually arrive. All that takes time. Publishing is a slow business.

On PROPOSALS: Martha wrote, "I’ve been told it’s customary for a nonfiction proposal to include two sample chapters. So why has a publisher asked me to send all the material I have finished? I’ve sent 9 of the 12 chapters and have still not heard a decision."

It’s true that a standard nonfiction proposal generally included a thorough description of the project, table of contents, author bio, and two sample chapters. But standards can change. In these competitive times, we’re often seeing publishers ask for more of the writing. They want to see if you have enough to say, if your message can carry a manuscript, and if you’re close to being done. The fact that a publisher has asked to see more of your work is a good sign, Martha. There’s certainly a risk that you could complete the work and the publisher still says no — but that’s true with any book. In fact, if you’re so close to being done, I’d probably encourage you to finish the book so that you have the added selling point of being able to tell publishers, "The manuscript is complete."

On CONFERENCES: Lee Ann wrote and asked, "What are the best Christian writers’ conferences?"

Christian writers these days have a plethora of great conferences they can attend, and I’m a big fan of them. I think conferences are a great place to network with other writers, hear from experts, and get face-to-face with editors and agents. My favorite conference is probably the one put on by the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). It floats, but this September will be in Minneapolis. The Write-to-Publish conference at Wheaton College is a good choice — it takes place the first week of June (and though the ads say I’ll be there, I had to cancel due to my daughter’s college graduation). Other good options include the Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference in Asheville, NC, and the Colorado Christian Writers Conference up in scenic Estes Park — both of these take place in May, and both offer excellent speakers in beautiful settings. There are a bunch of other big ones with good opportunities to learn and network — Florida, Philadelphia, Oregon, Glorieta (NM). Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild puts on a conference that I’m told is very strong (though pricey), but I’ve never attended. The Mount Hermon conference in California is coming up in a week, and, though expensive, is one of the good ones. Reg Forder’s American Christian Writers organization puts on smaller one-day conferences in cities around the nation, and many colleges will have excellent writing conferences in the summer (I’m speaking at the Harriette Austin Writer’s Conference at the University of Georgia this summer, for example).  There are also many excellent general conferences not focused on CBA, and a couple of speciality conferences to consider. Next month Calvin College will be hosting their bi-annual Festival of Faith and Writing, and ACT ONE out in Hollywood offers a special conference for Christian screenwriters. Finally, there are retreats and smaller gatherings going on all the time. There’s really no reason for a writer to not find a conference where he or she can learn, network, and get inspired.

On NON-CONFERENCE RESOURCES: Bev wrote to ask, "Aside from a writing conference, what sort of other resources can you recommend to those of us who want to learn more about writing and marketing?’

I encourage you to check out Randy Ingermanson’s material at He has some great things to say about writing articles to promote your books, and offers a teleseminar on how to promote your writing through speaking. And a newer site to visit is, created by my friend Mary DeMuth. Some good stuff for those looking to break into the business. If you’re looking to network with other writers, novelists should connect with the afore-mentioned ACFW, and many writers would appreciate a yahoo group called "The Writers View." You’ll probably want to be reading Publisher’s Weekly to find out about the industry, and the web-based Publisher’s Lunch and Publisher’s Marketplace are two sources I cannot live without. If you really want to stay on top of the CBA market, you should be looking at Christian Retailing magazine and buying a copy of Sally Stuart’s excellent book with Random House, Christian Writers Market Guide. Finally, consider Writer’s Digest Magazine, and especially their annual Writers Market, which tells you everything you probably need to know about book publishers. Hope this helps.

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