The Publishing Life

A Year in Review – a Look at 2018

It is a good thing to periodically take a look at the past, especially as a way to count our blessings. Here are some thoughts on the last twelve months.

The Industry

The publishing industry continues to pursue the best content possible. Market forces continue to press for the need to find those titles that will bring a return on their investment. Books continue to sell at an incredible pace.

In light of the modest size of the Christian retailing industry, Christian publishers are finding new places to sell books through strategic partnerships. Amazon.com remains as the number one account for most publishers. Many do 50% of their business with Amazon. But don’t forget the other half!  It is encouraging to talk with special-market sales experts who are always thinking a few steps ahead.

Another group of great editors retired this year. The hardest part is no longer having the privilege of working with these long-time friends. But each publisher has found some great new talent: people with new ideas and perspectives. Spend any length of time with the top editors in the industry and you will be impressed. I know I am.

Worthy Publishing was purchased by FaithWords (a division of Hachette), which moved another strong publisher under a new umbrella. We don’t know if it will become a named imprint of FaithWords or soon fall under the parent’s name. This includes the entire catalog of Worthy/Ideals, which is a strong children’s book publishing program.

In September the Christian publishing industry was shaken by the news of bad behavior by faculty at Christian writers conferences. (Here is a link to the Publisher’s Weekly article “Sexual Harassment Uncovered at Christian Writing Conferences.”) I’ve talked to a number of conference directors, and they all have taken steps to help prevent this behavior in the future. I addressed the issue in a post about the importance of integrity in all things.

Our Agency

What a year it was! I spoke at six events during the year and was a guest on three podcasts. As an agency, we all canvassed the country from North Carolina to Washington state, attending nearly 20 different writers conferences.

The first part of the year saw us working to integrate the clients we inherited after I purchased the Les Stobbe Literary Agency. Bob Hostetler did the heavy lifting and is doing an admirable job.

In October Dan Balow left the agency to pursue his work with Gilead Publishing full-time. (I will miss having him to kick around.) So I hired Thomas Umstattd Jr. to join the agency. He quickly established our new weekly podcast “The Christian Publishing Show” that airs every Tuesday. Check out our past shows and subscribe!

Meanwhile, Tamela continues to find new writers and grow her existing clients with grace and expertise. Well done, Tamela.

We now have the privilege of working with nearly 300 authors. This situation resulted in securing contracts for 169 new books! Sixteen were for first-time authors. This is very exciting and sends a message that both our agency and the publishing industry are looking for new voices all the time.

It was another fun year for author recognition. During the year we had four finalists for the Christy Award (Susan May Warren, Morgan Busse, Mesu Andrews, and Elizabeth Camden); and Mesu won for the best historical novel! Both Nancy Pearcey (current events) and Josh Chatraw (apologetics) had books named as book of the year by The Gospel Coalition. We had three winners of the Carol Award: Susan May Warren for best romance, Susan Sleeman for best romantic suspense, and Morgan Busse for best speculative novel. Katy Lee was a finalist for the RITA award. Ronie Kendig won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Inspirational Thriller. Joanna Davidson Politano won an ISPY award for best debut fiction. Hugh Ross was a shortlist finalist in World magazine’s book of the year in the science category. Both Jessica Brode (contemporary fiction) and Leanna Lindsey Hollis (mystery/suspense/thriller) were honored as Genesis Award winners.

The Christian Writers Institute and The Christian Writers Market Guide

The Christian Writers Institute continues to grow. The opportunity for writers to further their education via the convenience of online audio and video courses is a wonderful thing. We are constantly adding new course material. We reworked many of our classes this past year, and added both my updated “Elements of a Book Proposal” class and Laci Williams’ “The Smart Indie” six hour course.

The new 2019 edition of The Christian Writers Market Guide is available now in paperback and ebook. Or you can subscribe to the information online and have access to up-to-date content all the time, on any device. We will continue to release the new paper/ebook edition each December and keep the online version constantly updated.

The Future

I rarely like to speculate on the future of our industry. We are often at the mercy of the volatile economy and world events. However, 2019 promises to be another great year in publishing. The need for great stories will drive the fiction market. The issues in moral apologetics and both theological and political conversations need to be addressed. Believers desire to grow spiritually and understand how to apply their faith to their daily lives. Audio is a growing format for busy readers. Visual media in all its forms—online, TV, and film—influence our content creators and content curators. My hope is that our agency’s efforts via this blog and our ongoing support of clients and aspiring authors will help add to the growth of God’s Kingdom.

Leave a Comment

Read Old Books, Write New Books

C. S. Lewis (maybe you’ve heard of him) famously commended the reading of old books: Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our …

Read More

Lessons Learned As a Literary Agent

Dan is leaving the agency at the end of this month to focus his attention on the work of Gilead Publishing, the company he started in 2016. Here are some parting thoughts. _____ I’ve been a literary agent for about 2,000 of the 13,000 total days spent working with and …

Read More

Of Making Many Books There Is No End

This past week Bowker, the company that issues ISBN numbers for published books, released their annual statistics. They broke out the numbers for self-published books and revealed a stunning statistic. (If you want the history and explanation of the ISBN, read my scintillating post on the topic here. Each country …

Read More

Competing for Attention

Everything in our world is competing for our attention. Where you finally give your attention is a combination of what you want to pay attention to and what caught your eye at the moment. No matter how you publish your book, either through a traditional publishing method or through some …

Read More

The Myth of Foolproof Publishing

To be honest, it is a myth. There is no such thing as foolproof book publishing. In fact, publishing content of any type—books, Bibles, audiobooks, music, magazines, Gospel tracts or anything else—contains a level of risk, both financial and response wise. While there is no guarantee of publishing success, there …

Read More

Rumbles in CBA

News broke late last week that key staff people in CBA (aka Christian Booksellers Association) are no longer working for the association. In what appears to be a purge, Curtis Riskey, president for 11 years, is no longer working there. Other key people are either no longer with the organization …

Read More

So You Want to Be In Pictures? (The Sequel)

To simulate how the book-to-film process really works, I waited five years to write this sequel to my original post on books and films. Experiences with book-to-film connections are a very real box of chocolates for authors ever since the opportunity to connect the two media debuted a hundred years …

Read More

Two Ways to Think About Your Book

Two of the many complexities within book publishing are how often the book buyer and the book reader are different people and how books may sell only in limited locations. Some people read only what someone else buys for them. Some books sell primarily in one city at one retail …

Read More