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A Year in Review – A Look at 2017

I find it a healthy exercise to review the past as it can be encouraging to note progress and look at the foundation for the future.

The Industry

Our industry continues to create tremendous books but few new ones “break out.” It is hard to gain the attention of readers and buyers in our media-saturated society. And yet books continue to sell!

It was almost a foregone conclusion, so in February when Family Christian Stores announced the closing and liquidation of their 240 stores, no one was caught by surprise. I stand by what I said back then in an interview, “[The closing] will have a deleterious effect on many communities which have relied on their local store for their Christian products, whether it be a greeting card, book, or Bible. While hard news for the publishing industry to absorb, I suspect most companies have limited their financial exposure. Any loss is regrettable.”

Nearly a year later the industry seems to have weathered the changes quite admirably. Some of the FCS locations were reopened under new management. This included some becoming Lifeway stores, some becoming part of a new regional chain, and others taken over by former employees.

Retail is a constantly shifting landscape. Publishers work very hard and hire a lot of smart people to find new places to sell their books. (Re-read “Retail is Dead! or is it?” posted in November.) Even Hobby Lobby has begun carrying a larger selection of Christian books in their stores.

It was encouraging to see Gilead Publishing find new funding and a new distribution partner (Kregel) to relaunch a robust fiction publishing program. They released the 50th anniversary edition of Christy by Catherine Marshall and have 40 titles in the queue for 2018 (including 12 science fiction and fantasy titles from Enclave Publishing for which I still acquire.)

There were a handful of shifts among our publishing partners. Howard Books closed their Nashville office. Harlequin Love Inspired ended acquisitions of new historical novels. Plus there was the various assortment of editorial and executive staff changes. Including the retirement of long time colleagues Philis Boultinghouse (Howard Books) and LaRae Weikert (Harvest House). It can be hard to keep up, but fortunately we keep a finger on the pulse (so to speak).

Our Agency

We had an eventful year, to say the least. I spoke at six events during the year and was a guest on three TeleSeminars/Podcasts. As an agency the four of us covered the country from Florida to California attending nearly 20 different writers conferences.

In July, Karen Ball decided to shift her focus to freelance editing and writing and stepped away from the agent role. I was quickly able to rope Bob Hostetler into joining our team. He has done a great job!

It was fun to be at the ACFW awards gala when Tamela Hancock Murray was named Agent-of-the-Year! Congratulations again Tamela.

It was also a fun year for author recognition. During the year we had four finalists for the Christy Award (Susan May Warren, Connilyn Cossette, Mesu Andrews, and Elizabeth Camden). Lynnette Eason won a Carol Award. Bob Hostetler won the Selah Book-of-the-Year award. Stephen M. Miller’s The Complete Guide to the Bible received the Gold Book Award from ECPA for more than 500,000 copies sold. Patrick Carr won an ISPY award. Ronie Kendig won the Romantic Times Reader’s Choice Award. Both Rod Gragg and Ken Samples were shortlist finalists in the World magazine book-of-the-year in their categories. Both Nadine Brandes (Alliance award) and Morgan L. Busse (Parable award) were honored by Realm Makers.

In December we announced that we had bought The Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. It has been a busy time integrating those writers into our agency. We look forward to great things in the coming years.

Meanwhile, in 2017, our agency was able to secure contracts for 145 forthcoming books titles. That is very exciting. Seven of those contracts were for first-time authors (five non-fiction and two fiction). We are glad to be able to help find and develop those new voices.

It is awesome for our agency to serve over 300 authors!

The Christian Writers Institute and The Christian Writers Market Guide

It has been fun to watch The Christian Writers Institute grow. The ability for writers to further their education via the convenience of their own devices is great to see. We recently created three multi-course “Tracks” to help guide the user through the basics.

The new 2018 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.

In addition, we released two books on writing for writers. Ghostwriting: The Murphey Method by Cec Murphey and Writing Deep Viewpoint: Invite Your Readers Into the Story by Kathy Tyers. Both are truly incredible books that should be read by everyone.

Personal

At the end of August our third and youngest daughter was married. It was a joyful and God-honoring ceremony. Then, at Christmas, it was a delight to literally have a full house.

The Future

2018 promises to be another great year in the world of publishing. While keeping our feet firmly grounded in reality we like to remain positive and upbeat. The writing and publishing life isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would do it. The key is doing it well. We are called to excellence in all things. My hope is that our puny efforts guided by the sovereignty of God will further His kingdom.

 

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Three Steps to Freedom!

It’s The Most Wonderful/Terrible Time of the Year

It comes every year, and every year we wait for it with a mixture of excitement and dread. No, I’m not talking about taxes.

I’m talking about the award season.

From the ECPA Book of the Year awards to the Christy’s, the Genesis to the RITA, the Golden Heart to the Carol, and all the gazillion contests and awards in-between, online groups, Facebook, Twitter, and more are buzzing with the news of who finaled and who didn’t, who was nominated and who wasn’t. It’s a heady time for those chosen; a difficult and even painful time for those not so blessed.

This year has been especially interesting to me as a number of the books I acquired and edited over the last year or so have garnered several nominations for prestigious awards. I’m delighted for these writers, because I know how hard they’ve worked, and how talented they are. But I know, too, that those not getting happy news have also worked hard, are also talented. And I know that so many of us find ourselves smiling through the ache inside, congratulating our friends, knowing we should be happy for them, but all-too-aware of that nagging “Why not me??” in our gut.

So what’s a writer to do?

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Christy Award Finalists 2012

We are quite excited to announce that our agency has a number of finalists in this year’s Christy Awards. (Click here for the list of this year’s finalists.) Congratulations to all finalists. Below are our clients who have been honored and a link to their publisher’s site for more information on the book.

Susan May Warren – My Foolish Heart (Tyndale) – Contemporary Romance

Ronie Kendig – Wolfsbane (Barbour) – Contemporary Romance

Ginny Yttrup – Words (B&H Publishing) – NOMINATED TWICE – Contemporary Standalone & First Novel

Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee – Forbidden (Center Street) – Visionary – (we represent Tosca)

Lisa Bergren – Waterfall (David C. Cook) – Young Adult

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Implications of the Department of Justice Lawsuit Against Five Major Publishers

by Steve Laube

As you have heard by now the Department of Justice (DOJ) has leveled a lawsuit against Apple and five major publishers accusing them of conspiring to fix prices. There has been a lot written on the topic with varying degrees of understanding and a wide disparity of conclusions.

Authors are asking what this all means to them. And many are confused about the math involved. A great, and lengthy summary has been brilliantly composed at Shelf-Awareness. Read that article if you do not understand the details of the situation. It is important that every writer grasp the implications because it could affect how books are sold moving forward.

Already, three of the five publisher have agreed to settle without admitting guilt (HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon and Schuster). And that settlement will take at least 60 days to finalize. This leave MacMillan and Penguin who have vowed to fight the suit. Such a fight could last years.

By the way, Random House was not named in the suit because they did not change their pricing policies until much later and thus cannot be accused of colluding.

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News You Can Use – Mar. 27, 2012

Differences in screen vs print reading contributing to illiteracy? – Chris Meadows asks some interesting questions about the future of reading.

Branding for Writers – A perennial topic that bears another look.

Trinity Broadcasting Sued by Granddaughter and Former Employee – Please. Not again.

Oprah’s Endorsement Hurt Book Sales – Interesting perspective!

My Parley with Book Pirates – Lloyd Shepard engaged web site pirates. A fascinating report.

Proofreading Tips – from the Grammar Girl

A Fun Infographic about Twitter:

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News You Can Use – Feb. 28, 2012

Why Authors Need Agents – Four professionals weigh in on the discussion.

How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing – Read this when you have the time.

Questions an Agent Might Ask You – Be prepared if an agent calls you with these questions. It might happen today.

E-b00ks: The Giant Disruption – another breathless evaluation and ominous prediction about publishers. From the UK.

Why I Hope Real Books Never Die – Kevin DeYoung writes this wonderful salute to the printed book.

The Death of Chick-Lit – The Salon just got the memo? Publishers (and readers) made this decision a long time ago.

Here are some staggering statistics from the infographic below.

Over 845 million active users. 1 out of 5 page views on the Internet come from Facebook. 2.7 billion “Likes” a day on Facebook.
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News You Can Use – Feb. 21, 2012

My Favorite Article of the Week – Please read it and make your agent happy.

What Publishers Can Learn From the Airlines– Andy Le Peau of IVP renders a very clever take on what publishing could look like if they would only emulate other industry practices.

Amanda Knox Signs a $4 Million Book Deal – Sigh…Think about it for a second. In 2005 a relatively unknown senator from Illinois got $1.9 Million for two non-fiction books, his name was Barak Obama. And right before he took office as president he signed a $500,000 advance deal for a children’s book. Former President Bill Clinton got $8 Million up front for his memoir. And former President George Bush received $7 Million for his Decision Points memoir.

Do You Ignore Issue of Copyright? – This article shows the complexity of copyright when going from one country to the next. For example, Hemingway is public domain in Canada, but not in France. Do you even care?

Men are from Google+, Women are from Pinterest – clever article

Adult vs. YA Dystopian Novels – Interesting look at the phenomenon of dystopian novels in today’s YA market. And if you don’t know what that means, click the link.

25 Subordinating Conjunctions – I was afraid to read the article too. Clever help for flat writing.

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News You Can Use – Jan. 31, 2012

Amazon’s Hit Man – The is a very good article about Larry Kirshbaum the new head of Amazon’s Trade Publishing division. Every serious writer should read this article. Take the time, it is only 3,400 words. Source is Blomberg’s Business Week magazine.

Is There Hope for Barnes & Noble? – an interesting take by Rich Adin.

Why Are We Obsessed with What’s New? – Maria Popova reviews a book that explored this sociological phenomenon. Oh, by the way, the book is new… 🙂

How to Read a Book – Chad Hall explores the various ways to read. I do a lot of #4.

Will Non-Fiction E-books Achieve the Same Success as Fiction? – Laurel Marshfield explores why e-book fiction outsells e-book non-fiction and whether that will ever change.

Do You Sit at the Computer All Day? – Then read this life-saving article from LifeHacker.

This is a very creative short film (15 minutes), watch it with your kids! It is also an incredible interactive iPad app. Check it out.

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News You Can Use – Jan. 17, 2012

Thank you for the overwhelming response to our survey last week. We had almost 100% confirmation that we should continue this feature. So you are stuck with it!

Publicity Calendar for 2012 – EVERY author should download this PDF and see if there is something they can capitalize on! This is a brilliant resource.

Write for Your Audience – An excellent article from a YA author on the challenge of writing for the market or writing for the acquisitions editor!

Publishers Should Publish Fewer Titles and Monetize Their Backlist – Mike Shatzkin, again, makes everyone think twice about the publishing industry.

The Writer’s Note Taking Tool for 2012 – I use this program every day. Indispensable.

Cell Phone Interrupts Symphony – I love this story. Hurray for the conductor!

Click through to view this great infographic on “Who is an Average Facebook User?”

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Did You Miss Today’s “News You Can Use”?

For quite some time we have been providing various links on Tuesdays under the title “News You Can Use.” This post takes considerable time to compile. But since it doesn’t create discussion or comments we have little idea if anyone is reading this weekly post. Therefore we are asking if …

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