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.
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).
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.
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.
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.