An Intimate Look Inside
Throughout this week, I've been giving you a glimpse of my recent time in New York City. Besides giving you some information, my hope is that it is spurred you to consider the value of organizations like the American Society of Journalists and Authors as well as attending writer's conferences in general. It's a solid way to grow as a writer and in your craft.
The largest Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson, announced they are not going to be exhibiting at the Book Expo (for the general market) nor the International Christian Retail Show (for the Christian market). This company has a large presence at these events and you can follow this link and read the details. Coordinated with this announcement, Thomas Nelson hosted a two day, open house with 100 of their top accounts which represented about 1,400 store fronts.
Late last night I watched Michael Hyatt's 40 minute presentation called Why I Am (Still) Excited About Christian Retail. If you care at all about Christian publishing, I encourage you to watch this presentation. It is an incredible intimate look inside at this leader of the sixth largest book publisher. Mike tells about how he came to know Christ and the importance of books in his personal life. I hope you will find it encouraging and strengthen your own resolve in this business. It certainly did for me. I would challenge you to find any other publisher -- general market or Christian -- whose leadership provides such a peek inside. It's rare.
Toward the end of his presentation, Mike talks about the proliferation of product in the marketplace and uses the statistic that 250,000 new books were introduced in the marketplace last year. I'm sure he's got his documentation for such a statistic but it is higher than I've seen before. And he said that Thomas Nelson brought out 500 new books last year. Then he told how 23% of these new titles accounted for 90% of their revenue.
What does this last statistic tell you? I'm admittedly a words person but I believe if you look at what is not said, 76% of these new books accounted for only 10% of their revenue. It affirms the general statistic that I've read in other places that 90% of nonfiction books never earn back their advance. Thomas Nelson finished their fiscal year on March 31st and Mike also said they are taking a hard look at their own product creation and going to cut their new titles for this coming year "in half." So instead of 500 new books, they will make about 250 new titles. It means fewer books will be given book contracts at Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publisher.
How do you react to such news? From my perspective, you have two choices. You can throw in the towel, leave book publishing and go into another business. I've seen a number of people make such a choice during my years in this business. Or you can see this information as an encouragement to improve your writing craft and improve your own visibility in the marketplace--whether you write fiction or nonfiction. The great manuscripts will always rise to the top and get published. Yes, you need a champion such as a literary agent and an editor inside the publishing house but it is possible.
I want to close this entry with an example of this type of writing. Many people want to write fiction--yet the opportunity for fiction is less each year with a growing number of writers competing for those few spots. Nonfiction out sells fiction year after year. In other entries, I've mentioned Joel C. Rosenberg and his political thriller fiction. I've been a fan since Forge Press published his first book, The Last Jihad. I just completed reading Dead Heat which is the fifth and final installment in this series.According to the March 31st issue of Publishers Weekly, "Tyndale's initial printing for Dead Heat...was 100,000 copies; two additional printings bring the total to 145,000...In May, he'll do a 10-city book tour to promote Dead Heat and to discuss his nonfiction bestseller, Eipcenter (more than 248,000 copies in print)." See the wisdom of a fiction author having a nonfiction angle to talk about with the media? Also Rosenberg's writing is brilliant and page-turning.
I hope you see this entry as a clarion call to excellence in your writing and storytelling. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you need to be working on and constantly practicing the craft of writing. Also you need to continually work at building your audience and presence in the marketplace. It doesn't happen overnight (for anyone as even someone like Joel Rosenberg can attest if you look closely at his background) but it can happen.