Thursday, October 30, 2008

Heart of America Conference

This conference is coming up in Kansas City November 13-15th and the information on it may be found at Client Mark Littleton has prevailed upon me to be a late substitution for Agent Les Stobbe, who will be unable to attend. It will be held at the Emmanuel Baptist Church, 10100 Metcalf, in Overland Park, KS. The conference features a stellar lineup of editors, agents, and industry professionals, and the list of topics being covered by the faculty is a very strong program indeed. I hope to see you there.

I just got back from the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference where I had a chance to connect with clients Deb Van Horn (top above) and Trish Porter (lower picture above). Trish’s new book from Bridge-Logos entitled “Rekindle Your Dream” is now in the final edit phase and will hit the stand in early 2009. Trish is the current National and World senior women’s high jump record holder. A former member of the US Olympic Team, after many years Trish decided her dream just wasn’t over and came out of sports retirement with amazing success. Her book speaks to women who may have set their dreams aside for home or career and encourages them that it is never too late to rekindle that dream.
Today is Jennifer Hudson Taylor's birthday and I just called her with a great present. Abingdon just accepted her book Promised Blessings. Happy Birthday Jennifer, and congratulations.

I also want to congratulate Tammy Barley as we just negotiated a three book deal for her at Whitaker House, and further congratulations to Amy Alessio as she brings out a new non-fiction in conjunction with the American Library Association.

I’ve launched my new career as a cover model as my friend Donald Parker asked me if he could use my picture on the cover of his new book. Seems he thinks I might look a lot like the protagonist in “Angels of Interstate 29.” There’s a book trailer on it at but in all honesty I don’t see this as an ongoing career strategy for me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The talk on Publishing vs the Economy

I just completed my talk on “Publishing and today’s difficult economy” here at the Glorieta (NM) Christian Writer’s Conference. I’ll have to admit I was rather concerned that I could take such a potentially dry subject and make it interesting. I asked the Lord, of course, to use me to tell these people what they needed to hear. I spent a lot of time checking industry sites and quoting industry professionals from their blogs or emailing them directly, and when I distilled down what they were telling me several interesting things emerged.

I suppose it came off okay, I got a lot of very nice comments, none of which impacted me as much as Dan Penwell of AMG who took the time to compliment me on it, then said he was getting the CD to play for the people back at his publishing house. That meant a lot to me.

I do believe even though some of the information was hard to hear that it is really important for people to have a realistic outlook of the marketplace, what it is doing, and what it takes to succeed in it. It is not a time for rose colored glasses. I have put it online at my website and the direct link is for anyone who would like to see the results of this research and gathering information from some of the key people in the Christian publishing industry. I encourage you to take a look.

If you don’t have the time let me give you the bottom line. What I heard industry pros saying is business as usual, but a bit slower and more cautious. It calls for exceptional books with good, defined markets. They expect authors to share in the risk of the market by taking some lower advances in return for higher royalty rates, and stronger and stronger platforms for helping promote the product become increasingly important. And we need to remember this is nothing new, the industry has been here before. In fact in the Great Depression, two areas that stood up the best was publishing and the movies. The more difficult it got on people the more they needed an economical means of escape from their problems.

Drop by and take a look at the best information I could gather on this difficult subject and let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Elephant in the Living Room

The Publishing Industry vs the Economy

I’ve been asked to do a short program on this subject in a couple of weeks at Glorieta. Why didn’t they ask me to do something easy, like picking everybody a lottery winner?

Trying to second-guess the publishing industry is hard enough in normal times, but now with the economy doing a belly-flop off the high board it’s even harder. I know what I think about the state of things, but I decided the conference attendees deserved more than just my opinion, so I set out to gather all of the input that I could. And where do people express their opinions? Either in a letter to the editor or in a blog.

I don’t have access to a lot of letters to the editor, but I do have an extensive list of blogs of editors, publishing houses and agents, and some sites that industry professionals use to try and keep tabs on industry trends. I spent a couple of full days going right down the list. It would be foolish of any of us to think as hard as everyone is being impacted by the economy, personally and in our businesses that the publishing industry would be exempt. But then I found that few people in the industry are talking about it.

What? How can that be?

I went from blog to blog and site to site and finally rounded up enough information to be able to say it was more than just my opinion, but for the number of sites I visited to do it, the scarcity of comments was astounding. They ranged from a New York Times article entitled “The End” spouting gloom and doom and predicting the end of publishing as we know it, to a Publishing Trends article that simply says patience and staying calm are all that is required.

Even though no publishing sites admitted houses were feeling the pinch there were ample statistics that showed they were being impacted and talked about layoffs and steps being taken in the industry. Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, did talk about the fact that there was “no silver bullet” or no single magic solution but rather a lot of incremental steps to solve a big problem. He didn’t come right out and say what the problem was.

I only found two agents talking about it, Chip MacGregor of course, and Lori Perkins. Both basically said the same thing, that acquisitions were sure to slow down, but publishing houses are in the business of selling books and it would soon pick back up again. That’s where I was positioned to start with, so maybe I didn’t have to do all this research after all.

I watch all the stuff on the economy ad-infinitum in the media. I see the steps various people are talking about taking but no matter who wins the election or what steps are being taken it is still going to take months to start seeing significant improvements. I do have a strong opinion that it matters very much who wins the oval office too, but I don’t want to get into that. If everybody just spent a lot of time in prayer before they vote that problem might resolve itself.

For those at the conference I’m going to have a lot of support for the things I’m saying here and I hope I don’t prejudice the experience of seeing where industry people stand by giving away the ending, but I don’t think so.

For now I believe there is a need for an even greater degree of patience in the business of writing. It never is a very quick process going from writing to publishing, but even more patience will be required. We should keep doing business as usual, writing our stories, making our submissions. Only at this point in time good may not be quite good enough. We should take the time to polish it even more. Right now good will lose out to excellent, and a good proposal demonstrating that excellence and showing a terrific platform and a willingness to help the publisher make a success of the offering could tip the scales.

It’s funny how many people are talking about the economy in public forums but how few are talking about it in regards to our industry, but we shouldn’t think that means it isn’t a factor, it is. It’s like the elephant in the living room that nobody is talking about, but he’s there, he most certainly is there.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Blind leading the blind

Time to again open up the top of my head and see what falls out.

I just made a couple of comments over on a writing list and perhaps it bears a closer look. We were talking about how often lists are dominated by people who have little publishing experience but have a lot of time and a lot of information to dispense.

I don't claim to be an expert, but I do this full time and have learned a thing or two. I often pass it on. I find, particularly on some of the lists in question that I will tell someone how something really works in the publishing world only to havea number of folks with no publishing credits at all challenge me on it. I don't bother to respond. If people don't know how to evaluate the quality ofthe advice that they are getting they aren't ready for the advice anyway. Particularly for new writers these groups are incredibly useful. I spent a half dozen years in them before I started publishing over ten years ago. They really helped me get started, but I did have to be sensitive to the"blind leading the blind syndrome."

You can get a lot of help on these lists but you can also get a lot of advice from people who are unpublished because they have learned a lot and what they have learned are the things that are keeping them from being published. There is a reason that 85% of all submissions are turned down. One solid comment from a pro who is willing to share some hard earned knowledge can offset a number of folks who are passing on theory. I was lucky early in my career to connect with a number of such pros and with them grounding me I was soon able to distinguish between the caliber of advice that I was getting. Not that new people and unpublished people don't have good advice to offer, they do, we just have to learn to filter it.

This can also come into play in another way. I talked to a young man at a recent conference and when I asked him how it was going he told me he was utterly and terribly confused. I also told him about filtering what he was hearing. I told him conferences had programs on many levels to have something for newbies, beginning, intermediate and publishing writers and hopefully even something for the pros. I told him he needed to learn to realize when he was hearing information and advice that he wasn't realy for, to file it away for when he needed it but not let it worry and confuse him. I saw him later and he said that advice was giving him a fresh look at the programs and it was going very well.

We all need help and we all need advice. We just have to learn to filter so we are getting what we need at the time we need it, and are filtering what that advice is based on the credentials of the person giving it. But we should keep in mind that person giving it may not have the experience to back it up, but may have done the research necessary to know the validity of what they are talking about and not just be passing on untested theory.