Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Sky is Falling!!

Well, the Northwest Christian Writers' Renewal is a wrap, and it was a lot of fun. (I've got some cool pix to share, but forgot to bring my card reader along, so will post them as soon as I can.) My workshop, on Demystifying Publishing, was a lot of fun. Had just under 50 in attendance (I now this because I printed 50 handouts and only two were left in the pile), and we spent a little over an hour immersed in fun, intense, honest discussion. I LOVE doing workshops like that, where folks just throw out questions and we all wrestle 'em (the question, not the people) to the ground. Cec Murphy was the keynote speaker and he was an entertaining and informative as always. Mostly, though, it was great just to talk with the people who were there.

Tell you what, If you live in the Northwest and are interested in writing, I highly recommend this conference. Shoot, I recommend it even in you don't live in God's country! (Yes, I'm just a little prejudiced about the Northwest. So sue me.) Great faculty and staff, and a good group of writers, ranging from beginners to those who've been around almost as long as I have.

Yeah. The reaaaaaally old ones.

I had a good time reconnecting with some of the faculty. Mick Silva, an editor for Waterbrook Multnomah Group, for example. I've always respected Mick. He's passionate about writing--fiction in particular. And about communicating Truth though story. We found a little time to sit down and just talk--something editors don't get to do very often--about what's been happening in the Christian bookselling/publishing industry, the changes and shifts, the worries and blessings. There's a lot happening now, what with all the technology changes and publishers changing the way they're doing business.

On the technology front, things like the Kindle have folks wondering if books are going the way of the Dodo. My vote is no, because I think readers will always want the feel of a book in their hands as they read. (Hey, remember on Star Trek Next Generation, how Captain Picard always read from a book when he was relaxing? Yeah, yeah, that's not real life. But I'm thinking we're not that far off these days...) Anyway, I've heard that people are buying electronic versions to read on the Kindle and other devices, but when they find books they LOVE, they go out and buy the actual book to keep. What do you guys think? Will books go away?

As for publishers, things have really been hopping in the last few years, and especially in the last few months. Which, in case you were wondering, is why I titled this blog entry what I did. Remember good ol' Chicken Little?
Some in Christian publishing are looking at the changing landscape and fearing the worst. Understandably so.

So what's the problem? Well, for one thing, some publishers have been cutting their lists, meaning they're cutting back on the number and/or kinds of books they're going to publish. I've even heard of one publisher that's decided not to offer advances anymore. And one of the largest Christian publishers has had yet another wave of employee layoffs, and is among those cutting the number of books they're putting out. (The one list not affected? Their fiction line. Yet more confirmation that Christian fiction is still going strong and growing.) They've even said they're going to focus on publishing only midlist and higher authors, which means the newbies are out of luck, at least with this house. (Happily, there are a number of houses out there still determined to find new voices and work with new authors.) What's more, that same publisher pulled out of the two major trade shows, ICRS (the Christian bookseller's show, where publishers present books to retailers--used to be where publishers sold the majority of their books) and BEA, the trade show for the general market. So how are they reaching retailers, who, as you know, are publishers' first customers? This house, Thomas Nelson, brought in their top 100 retailers, all expenses paid, to their own little "convention." So questions abound. Is ICRS dying? Will other publishers follow Nelson's example and host their own little shows? What will retailers do if ICRS dies?

My vote on these questions? Well, you'll have to tune in to the next blog entry for that!

Talk with you soon.



Christopher Miller said...

I, for one, was glad to have been at the wonderful Northwest Christian Writer's Renewal. It was nothing short of a phenomenal! My creativity was tickled - my passion restored. I can't recommend it enough.

In fact, there were so many good speakers and sessions that I often had to choose between 4 or 5 I wanted to attend at the same time. Wish I could have made it to your session, was one of the ones that I had to let go. Next year I hope they sell CD's of all the sessions. Can I have one of the two extra handouts that were left over?

Oh yeah, I appreciated the energy and laughter you brought to the were a riot.

"...somebody oughta belt you in the mouth, but I won't. I won't..."

That was the moment I knew I liked you!

Nicole said...

If for no other reason, it was worth it to be on the receiving end of your hugs, your expertise, and the few doggy tears we shared--sorry about that.

Karen B. said...

No apologies necessary, Nicole. I appreciate meeting those who love animals as much as I do. And it was delightful to finally meet you!

And Christopher is talking about my quoting John Wayne from McClintock: "I won't hit ya. I won't hit ya. The **** I won't!" SMACK!

Love that movie!


Rel said...

Give me real pages any day of the week and twice on Sunday!!! Can't imagine snuggling with a kindle ;-)

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

A delight to meet you at NCWR, Karen -- it was that purple bracelet that caught my eye!

Here's to grace, joy, gratitude!

I think I am back at Day One. But isn't every day Day One-- a clean slate to begin again. By His grace...

With JOY!