The Publishing Life

The Painful Side of Publishing

Ache

We’ll get back to focus next week, but something has been weighing heavy on my heart and I want to share it with you.

We all know that publishing is a tough gig. It was proven yet again by what happened last week with the B&H Publishing Group’s fiction division (see Steve’s blog about it). It’s easy to commiserate with the authors impacted by this sudden change, to pray for them and encourage them. But I saw something happening in a number of blogs and author loops, and I confess it troubles me. What I saw was people making caustic comments about the publisher and about the people who work at the publishing house. Even to the point of questioning their faith. As in “How can they call themselves a Christian publisher and do something like this?”

Friends, first and foremost, there is no such thing as a “Christian” publisher. There are publishing houses that provide Christian products, many of which have people working there who are Christians. But, as Steve put it, business is business, even when the business has the higher purpose of spreading the Gospel of the Good News. And Christians in business must sometimes make terrible decisions to keep their companies going. I know we, from the outside, look at the impact of some of those decisions and are outraged. Especially when those we care about are hurt. Disagree with them, yes. By all means, disagree. But to call into question someone’s faith…to accuse them of doing wrong or evil because we disagree?

Not on your life.

Because neither you nor I know all the details. We weren’t there, with them, inside their heads and hearts as they made these decisions. Not one of us saw how making these decisions impacted them. How they worried or struggled or sought God’s counsel. And none of us can say, with any measure of truth, that they didn’t seek God! How dare we presume to do so?

When you or I are tempted to do this, I pray these words will stop us: “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Our love.

If that doesn’t do it, how about, “Love your enemies!” (Because heaven knows, the way some folks have talked about this publisher, they must be our enemies.) As it is written, “Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

This business is hard. Grueling. It can chew you up and spit you out. Let’s not make it even harder by our words and actions toward each other. Instead, let’s take these painful times and let them turn our eyes to the One who called us to writing in the first place. None of this surprised God. Nothing that any publisher or business does can change the fact that He is in control. Of every aspect of our lives. And He is at work, refining us. Even in the hard times. Especially in the hard times. Look to Him and His truths to get past the pain and anger, and to remember who we are—HIS children—and why we’re doing this—to bring His truth to a weary world.

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Happy Birthday Winnie-the-Pooh!

by Steve Laube

On this day in 1926 the book Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne was published by Methuen in London. Our household has celebrated this day each year with my wife baking Winnie the Pooh shaped cookies. (Yes, it is a scary thing to be a man in a house of Winnie the Pooh celebrations…)

Some say the real birthday is the day Christopher Robin Milne was given his stuffed bear (August 21, 1921). But since I’m in the publishing business I prefer to mark the date with the publication of the book that started it all. And if you collect rare books I found this listing where Ernest Shepherd’s own copy (he was the illustrator) can be purchased for only $95,000.

So, “Happy 86th birthday!” to Winnie the Pooh.  (Go bake some Winnie the Pooh cookies and celebrate.)

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Inside a Publishing Company

by Steve Laube

I just returned from three days at the Write! Canada writers conference outside Toronto. During my time there I presented a six session lecture series on the Complete Publishing Process: From Idea to Print.

When the entire process is compressed into a short series like that it becomes evident how many people are involved in the publishing of a book at any given publishing company.

Recently Random House did a 10 minute video interviewing a number of key people in-house who are involved in the acquisition, editing, design, marketing, and sales of a book. Having worked for a publisher (Bethany House Publishers) this video made me smile as I remembered many of the great people I was privileged to work with (many of whom are still working there!).

What thoughts does this video invoke for you?

If you are self-publishing, how much of this are you doing yourself?

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A Visit with Angela Hunt!

Today’s guest blogger is Angela Hunt, a master craftsman and wonderful woman. Angie is one of the first novelists I ever worked with, so we go back a loooong ways. In fact, I think we’ve been friends now for almost 25 years. She’s agreed to share her thoughts about writing, the changes in publishing, and how she refuels creativity. So without further ado, ladies and gents, I give you the amazing Angela Hunt.

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KB. Angie, I’m delighted to have you join us here at the Steve Laube Agency Blog.

AH: Do you remember when we first met? Back at Tyndale House, when I was writing novels for young readers and you were my editor?

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What Role Do Influencers Play?

One of the services a traditional publisher provides is working with authors in regard to getting publicity about books through word of mouth. This piece of the publicity puzzle is more important for trade books than for mass market books because they fit into an established line and are less author-focused than trade books. Trade books rely more on author identity and brand recognition to be successful. This is why traditional publishers ask writers to provide lists of influencers for their books.

Who Might Be Influencers?

Often after you are contracted, the publisher will ask the author for a list of influencers. In return for spreading the word about your book, many publishers will provide a copy to the influencer free of charge. Already your agent has insisted that you include a list of potential endorsers in your proposal. Chances are good that not all of your potential endorsers were asked for formal endorsements, so begin with the remaining friends who already know you, like your writing, and support you in your career. When asked for a larger list, choose wisely.

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A Defense of Traditional Publishing: Part Five

INFRASTRUCTURE

The more I write on this series the more “boring” it seems to become. Why? Because I’m not revealing anything particularly new or uncovering the secret to getting published. However, the goal has been to talk about things that the traditional can do quite well. And this series ultimately is a journey through the innards of the publishing business.

Today we discuss infrastructure. I’m talking about the yawn-worthy topics of accounting, licensing, legal protection, and metadata.

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A Defense of Traditional Publishing: Part Four

DESIGN

Napoleon Bonaparte, is supposed to have said, “Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu’un long discours,” translated “A good sketch is better than a long speech.” That has morphed into the modern phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words,” which is a fundamental truth when talking of book covers.

Another cliché states, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we do it all the time. We are a visual people and our eyes are drawn to images that capture our imagination. In my opinion, the title and the cover vie for preeminence as the most important part of the presentation of a book to a potential reader.

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A Defense of Traditional Publishing: Part Three

CONTENT DEVELOPMENT

I need to clarify what I’m attempting to do with this series of posts. I am not digging deeper trenches and pouring the dirt over a head that is already buried in the sand. Some think I’m defending a dying industry and failing to see the changes around it. This series is merely an attempt to remind us what traditional publishers do well. Their critics are jettisoning all of traditional publishing as antiquated. But I posit that there is good to be found in the things that brought publishing to this place.

Today’s topic is Content Development – or more simply, “Editorial.”

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A Defense of Traditional Publishing: Part One

 

INTRODUCTION

There has been a plethora of new developments in the publishing industry causing the blogosphere, writers groups, and print media to light up with opinions, reflections, and advice. Some of it has been quite brilliant, other parts, not so much.

I would like to attempt to address the positive elements of traditional (or legacy) publishing as a defense of the latest round of assault.

The source of the overall criticism can be found in the e-book revolution and the invention of print-on-demand (POD) printing. Book Publishing used to be a difficult and expensive proposition but has become a valid do-it-yourself option. Consequently anyone can publish a book, so why be beholden to the major publishers?

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