Book Business

This Agent’s Look Back at 2019

2019 was quite a year for me. I suppose it was a year for nearly everyone who made it from January 1 to December 31. In my case, however, it was a year of much change, stress, and some success.

The bulk of the change (and stress) involved a long-planned move for me and my wife from our Ohio home of 24 years. We spent the first five-plus months of 2019 packing and preparing for the sale of our home (which sold in ten hours from listing to accepted offer, a surprise that prompted more than a few adjustments, I hope to tell you). We packed our possessions into a moving pod, closed on the sale of our home in late June, my wife accepted a new job, and we journeyed to Las Vegas, Nevada to start a new chapter of life within driving distance of our kids and grandkids (all of whom tried to get away from us within the last few years by moving to new homes and jobs in California; but while they can run, they can’t hide). After living in temporary lodgings for about three months, we moved into our Vegas home in late September and have since been unpacking, enjoying regular trips to see family, ordering and awaiting new furniture, and adjusting as well as possible. But we survived and hope in one of the boxes we have yet to unpack to find some semblance of a new normal.

As a writer, I was blessed by the publication of two books in 2019 (Don’t Close Your Eyes—my first children’s book— in February and Closer to God in May). I did a little article writing for Mature Living, Bible Advocate, Peer, and War Cry. I continued my daily contributions to (a daily prayer blog) and posted weekly to my “A Thousand Ways to Pray” blog (on and this agency blog (

My speaking schedule took me to three engagements in California, two in North Carolina, two in Ohio, and others in Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, and Oregon.

In my role as a literary agent, I was honored to help clients sign a number of new book contracts and one video curriculum deal. I added a bunch of new clients into the agency this year, and I expect many to get good news on their projects in the very near future. (Some have already received their good news.)

I often tell people that writing for publication is a “long obedience in an uphill direction,” to paraphrase both Friedrich Nietzsche and Eugene Peterson. That continues to be the case. The Christian publishing picture these days looks more like a late Picasso than a Rembrandt or Van Gogh. But I continue to be blessed and inspired by the perseverance and perspicacity of my clients and by the beautiful and life-changing books being produced by the editors and publishers with whom we work. Overall, though, I’m supremely confident that, like my personal 2019, the road ahead promises much change and stress but also some success.

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A Year in Review: A Look at 2019

It’s that time of year to reflect on the past year, to learn from our experiences, and to count our blessings. Here are some thoughts on the last tumultuous twelve months. The Industry The publishing industry seems to survive the bad press that loves to find the negative in everything. …

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Never Burn a Bridge!

The sale of Thomas Nelson to HarperCollins and last week’s sale of Heartsong to Harlequin brought to mind a critical piece of advice:

Never Burn a Bridge!

Ours is a small industry and both editors and authors move around with regularity. If you are in a business relationship and let your frustration boil into anger and ignite into rage…and let that go at someone in the publishing company, you may end up burning the bridge. And that person who you vented on might someday become the head of an entire publishing company.

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A Retail Renaissance?

I spent some time with a recent research report from the ILH Group called “Retail’s Renaissance – True Story of Store Openings/Closings.” In this study, they looked at the last three years of all segments of brick-and-mortar retail stores and discovered some facts that counter what we hear in the …

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Book Manufacturing

If you ever get the chance to visit a printing press, do it. I’ve had the privilege to visit two of them. The first was Standard Publishing’s printing press in Cincinnati. Their plant is quite large and they do a wide variety of printing, everything from books to curriculum to Star Wars coloring books.

The other plant was Bethany Press International in Bloomington, MN. During my years with Bethany House Publishers I visited this plant many times since their building is about 100 yards from the back door of the publishing house! I watched them move from the old “film” method of processing to a completely digital technology.

The beauty of watching the books being printed is partly the fascination of cool machines, but also an insight into all of the incredible details that go into the manufacturing process.

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Dealing with Bad Publishing News

Remember the media principle of “if it bleeds it leads,” which means bad news or salacious headlines are designed to grab our attention. When authors are constantly barraged by bad news, it can be demotivating at the very least. I’m sure sales for your book could be better. I’m with …

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Books Are Still Selling

Despite the desire of many to declare the death of the book, they continue to sell at a breathtaking pace. (New Yorker magazine “Twilight of the Books”  and BBC future – “Are paper books really disappearing?”) According to the “Association of American Publishers’ StatShot Annual Report for Calendar Year 2018,” …

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