f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gaiman in NYTimes on Halloween

An Op-Ed Piece from Neil Gaiman.

I've always, always, always hated costumes so Halloween has never held that much appeal to me. Probably my happiest memory of childhood Halloweens is being hugely creeped out by the Disney animated version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Relief Journal Interviews

I am neglecting you, it's true, but it is not intentional. And certainly not personal. I still like you all. I miss you even. I think longingly back to the times when I could post with diligence and regularity. But, alas, I am busy at the moment. I am hoping to be slightly less busy in the future however I am not sure when that will be.

In the meanwhile, here's some fine folks talking about why they're launching a Christian literary journal.

Kimberly Culbertson (Editor in Chief) and Heather von Doehren (Assistant Editor)
J. Mark Bertrand (Fiction Editor)
Karen Miedrich-Luo (Creative Nonfiction Editor)

Here's the website if you want to submit or subscribe. Without getting all PBS-ish on you, think about sending some support their way. These ventures are good for the market of ideas.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How You Know You've Made It

There are a ton of ways you know you've made it as a hot-shot literary author. A National Book Award nomination, for instance. Some obscure grant for a lot of money. A cover designed by Chip Kidd.

Here's another way: Your author photo is taken by Marion Ettlinger.

I did just okay playing "Name That Author." Spotted Tom Wolfe (not terribly hard), Richard Powers, John Irving, Sebastian Junger, Richard Ford, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Haruki Murakami. And, of course, Andre Dubus--who I love. And Ray Carver--who looks like he'd rip off your arm and beat you with it if given half a chance.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Busy Fall Season for Books

NYTimes has an article about the "superauthor" crush at the bookstore this fall.

There's a throw-away line in the article about some disappointments, one of which is Jed Rubenfeld's The Interpretation of Murder. Last week, the Wall Street Journal had an article about Henry Holt and Co. putting a lot of their eggs into that book's basket. It was a sobering piece about our "ability" to create a bestseller. The book got an $800,000 advance and huge marketing campaign, strong sales push...and has so far bombed. In part because of this book which B&N decided to throw almost their entire weight behind earlier this fall.

If you can track down the article I recommend it highly. (I think it was from Oct. 16.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Unpublished Crime Novelist Contest

Court TV is partnering with Regan Books to discover the next big crime writer. At first I was appalled at this...thinking they were soliciting true-crime stories. That just seemed horrific. But it's actually a fiction contest.

I guess that should've been obvious since the judges are Lisa Scottoline, Jonathan Kellerman, Judith Regan, and Faye Kellerman. An impressive group...though Scottoline's video reminds us, once again, why most authors should be read and not heard.

If you're writing crime fiction and aren't published...why not?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

WestBow is No More

Well, it's actually not that dramatic. PW announces that Thomas Nelson has just decided to drop all of its imprints and consolidate under the name Thomas Nelson so I'm assuming that means WestBow, too.

I actually liked the name WestBow a bunch. And the logo. It was certainly better than a lot of the other imprint names that have been announced recently.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Book You Didn't Know You Wanted

We'll get back to this topic this week. In the meanwhile, I came across a book that seems like the ideal (if somewhat extreme) example for what I'll be talking about.

Giraffe by J. M. Ledgard.

I can't imagine anybody clamoring for this novel. And yet here it is. From a very legitimate publisher.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More Richard Powers Love

Is Richard Powers the new Richard Russo of this blog? Based on how many times I've mentioned him recently, the answer is undoubtedly "Yes."

Anyway, it's not just me that likes him. Slate.com does, too. And they explain why here.


Criticizing Lisa Samson

I found this hilarious.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

National Book Award Finalists Announced

The NBA finalists were announced today...thoroughly confusing basketball fans around the world.

The fiction line-up looked like this:

Mark Z. Danielewski, Only Revolutions (Pantheon)
Ken Kalfus, A Disorder Peculiar to the Country (Ecco/HarperCollins)
Richard Powers, The Echo Maker (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Dana Spiotta, Eat the Document (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
Jess Walter, The Zero (Judith Regan Books/HarperCollins)

I'm pulling for Powers for what should be obvious reasons at this point. If you ever want to have an experience that leaves you shaking your head check out Danielewski.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Two Paths to Sales: Books Readers Want

Most of what I try and write about here (and most of the conversation at many other writing sites) is about perspective. What are the various ways/angles we can look at this world of publishing and writing so we can, hopefully, understand it better? As I progress through a number of these conversations I’m finding out that some perspectives seem more helpful than others.

For instance, we’ve kicked around the old literary vs. commercial fiction horse here. And that very often gets us nowhere. We’ve talked about plot-driven vs. character-driven fiction. Books with high internal stakes vs. books with high external stakes. I’ve probably set up about half-dozen more dichotomies for us to sort through and one of the main problems we’ve always come up against is that the “versus” in these comparisons becomes too much of a temptation—and we set up our camps on behalf of one book or the other.

What I hope will be slightly different about this approach is that—for the most part—the book is neutral in this perspective. Instead, this becomes less a matter of writing and more a matter of marketing, promotion, and reader expectation. It’s a crucial perspective for publishers, too, because it puts the emphasis on the positive idea of a book finding a reader.

So, moving forward…

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Here are some random books that readers know they want:

Lemony Snicket’s Book 13 in his Series of Unfortunate Events. (Due Friday, Oct 13, natch.)

Whatever letter Sue Grafton is up to.

The new book excoriating Ann Coulter.

The new book excoriating Hillary Clinton.

And the grand-daddy of them all….

Harry Potter 7. (Which, frankly, may be one of the most anticipated books of all time.)

These are no-brainers. Two are on my own list. But, so are a number of books, that may not be quite so obvious.

For instance, I just saw that Richard Powers has written a new novel. It’s due October 17 from FSG. It’s called The Echo Maker, (which means nothing to me) and it has a boring cover (which wouldn’t otherwise catch my eye at a store). Despite those “problems,” (which might affect finding readers who didn’t know they wanted the book—foreshadowing to a later post) I’m his audience. I’m on board. Currently it’s #1307 at Amazon, so obviously some other folks are onboard, too.)

Simply put, these readers are the engines that drive publishing. Without them everything would be guesswork and dart throwing.

This is all Publishing 101 stuff, I realize. Future posts, hopefully won't be quite so obvious. What I want to point out about here is that while we're all readers with our own lists, our most common reaction to each other is usually to stare at each other in blank horror aghast at the books the other is allowing to get published. I mean do we really need more Nora Roberts? Or another over-intellectualized tome from Dave Eggers? Hasn't John Grisham essentially been writing the same story over and over? And Richard Russo, too?

Those are arguments you're welcome to fight out somewhere else because in this context this simple answer is a definitive: "Yes." We need the authors. We need the books. We don't have the luxury (for the most part) of denying readers what they want.

Time on Prosperity Theology

I'm a bit late coming to this article.

Remember back in high school when you had to practice writing journalism articles? How you were supposed to be objective and not overly editorialize, but could get your viewpoint across by the details and quotes you chose to use?

[Osteen speaking] "I think he wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don't think I'd say God wants us to be rich. It's all relative, isn't it?" The room's warm lamplight reflects softly off his crocodile shoes.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Two Paths to Sales

Publishing, even Christian publishing, is a business. It's not just a business but at the end of the day we don't have some benefactor handing out oversized checks just so we can fill the world with books, wonderful books. The things need to find a readership; they need to sell.

And that's not a bad thing. Just as you can question whether a tree falling in an empty forest makes no sound, so too you can question the purpose of a book, boxed and tucked away in a publisher's warehouse, unable to find its way to a shelf. A book, we sappy-hearted believe, is more than an object. It's a message and only in the reading does it achieve its purpose. An unread book is no better than an uncorked bottle of wine or a toy still hermetically sealed in plastic (see Toy Story I and II). Books merely as decoration is as vain and bubble-headed a facade as I can think of...reminiscient of Jay Gatsby's library where all the books are real...but uncut.

So, there is no shame in selling books. The shame always seems to come in what kind of books you sell.

Because there's two different "kinds" of books you can sell. One is acceptable and one is looked at askance. And we'll spend the next couple of days talking about these two types of books and the dangers of lifting one too high on a pedestal or demeaning the other.

The two types we'll talk about?

Books readers know they want.

And books they don't know they want.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Year in Book Cover Design

AIGA celebrates the year in book and book cover design (2005) with this slick website. (Click on the 50 Book/50 Covers link.) Among these, I like the Tom Wolfe, Charlotte Simmons cover and the Paris Review Picador image.

(via NYTimes Book Covers.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

State of the Industry

Two and a half years ago I gave a five day tour of the industry. Here’s a very brief summary of all that’s changed since then in Christian publishing. (And this is at the corporate level. Even more has shifted at the personnel level.)

Unchanged

Zondervan – Still owned by HarperCollins…and somewhere up the pyramid, Rupert Murdoch. They have a new director of fiction.

Baker Publishing Group – This includes Bethany House, Revell, and Baker Books.

Harvest House – I think there’s a new VP of fiction here, too.

Tyndale – Steady as she goes…though Left Behind is waning.

Barbour Books – Not much new here.

Moody – Nor here.

NavPress – Their fiction line has taken some blows on the personnel side but I think it’s still up and running.

Steeple Hill – Though they always seem to be adding small lines/imprints.


Changed

Thomas Nelson – Used to be publically traded. Now owned by a private equity group, InterMedia Partners VII. Also, they just bought Integrity Publishers. I’d bet on Integrity’s fiction line simply being wrapped into WestBow (Nelson’s fiction imprint.)

Waterbrook – Still owned by Random House who also just bought Multnomah. I don’t think anything definitive has been announced regarding plans but word on the street suggests that the two fiction lines may be merged under a new, as yet unnamed, imprint.

Howard – Now owned by Simon & Schuster.

Cook Communications – Had a fiction imprint called RiverOak. Shut it down. Hired a new staff (including most of NavPress) and looks to be completely revamping their publishing program. Fiction will likely be part of that.

Warner Faith – Now is FaithWords and is owned by Hachette Livre in France. Still has Center Street imprint as far as I know. Recently lost publisher Chip MacGregor to the agent world.

HarperSanFrancisco – High-end spirituality line is launching an inspirational romance imprint with fellow sister company Avon.

Penguin – I thought they launched an inspirational imprint. I can’t find any record of it though.

Relevant – I think they’re out of the book business.

Realms - I've heard they're now publishing only spiritual warfare fiction.

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Industry colleagues: If I've mispoken or miscast your publisher or forgotten anything do let me know.