"In grad school, "literary" was used as a synonym for "good." You often hear people these days say things like, "The classics were genre fiction," to which a grad school prof would say, "No they weren't -- they were good." If a genre writer wrote a good book, it was considered to have "transcended the genre.""

- J. Mark Bertrand
Lifeway Pulls Heaven Tourism Books

Last year, the Southern Baptist Convention resolved that the Bible tells us enough about the afterlife and that experiential claims can't trump it. In light of recent bestsellers and movies, their influence on even biblically literate believers, and Scripture refusal to tell us personal experiences with the afterlife, SBC messengers "reaffirm the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell."

Yesterday, Lifeway softly announced it would follow suit, saying it is taking a new direction. A spokesman said, "We decided these experiential testimonies about heaven would not be a part of our new direction, so we stopped re-ordering them for our stores last summer."

I hope the business tactics used to obtain the Malarkey family book will not be part of this new direction as well.

Publishers Sue Family Christian Stories Over Inventory

Family Christian Stores (FCS) is filing bankruptcy with the desire to claim several million dollars worth of inventory that they haven't purchased. Publishers, who consigned that inventory to FCS, is suing to have their merchandise returned or purchased.

"As the nation's largest retailer of Christian books and gift items with 266 stores in 36 states, Family Christian said it needed to restructure its debt in the face of sales that had fallen from $305 million in 2008 to $230 million in 2014," reports Jim Harger.

Black Market for Textbooks

In Mauritania, where 60 percent of the country is under age 25, school books are hard to find. Added to what distribution issues publishers may have, thieves are taking books to sell on the black market. Where a book should cost under $1 at a legal bookseller, on the black market it will be sell for $10.

Aldada Weld El-Salem, who is in his thirties, said he was lucky to find six schoolbooks for his daughter for a total of 20,000 Ouguiya ($68.81) on the black market.

“I did not want to risk the future of my daughter so I recently gave in to the prices of the dealers and I paid whatever they asked for,” he said. “I did not want my daughter to be a victim of the indifference of the official authorities toward a current crisis afflicting all of Mauritania’s schools.”
(via The Literary Saloon)

Bookstores Finding Small Spaces to Survive

Borders and other large bookstores have closed over the past several years, leaving some towns without a local bookseller. Some business owners are trying out smaller spaces as a sustainable business model for their brick-and-mortar stores.

Judith Rosen reports,

This 1,200 sq. ft. store in Beverly, Cabot Street Books & Cards, which opens in May, will also be paired with an Atomic Cafe. “We’re trying to get the model right,” said Hugo. “I’m hoping we can do more of these. The stock is managed better because booksellers touch it and feel it within 10 ft. of their desk. The trick is traffic.”

Ministry Buys Bulk for Bestseller Boost

A former employee of Pastor David Jeremiah’s ministry, Turning Point, has come forward with a report that his employer directed him to buy copies of Jeremiah's book with his personal American Express card in order to boost market sale numbers. He asked for prepayment before making the purchases.

World has the story. "Tyndale House Publishers lists David Jeremiah as one of its authors. Todd Starowitz, the director of public relations at Tyndale, refused to answer specific questions, but he did issue this statement: 'Tyndale House Publishers does not contract with anyone or any agency who attempts to manipulate best seller lists.'"

Wage Hike Laws Force Bookstore Closure

San Francisco's Borderland Books, which currently makes only $3,000 profit annually, will be closing by the end of March, because the city's voters passed a minimum wage hike, effectively putting a favorite bookstore out of business. One customer is quoted saying he didn't think the wage hike would affect certain small businesses. Another said he loved the store and hoped it wouldn't close.

Photos of Unique Bookstores Around the World

The Guardian has these photos of bookstores described by that fun, book culture author, Jen Campbell, in her book, Books Are My Bag. From that collection: "Fjaerland is one of Norway’s Book Towns near Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier in mainland Europe. Old sheds, houses and even a hotel have been converted into bookshops. “During the winter, the bookshop owners have to transport the books from place to place, over the snow, on kick-sleds,” says Campbell."

They also share a photo of this remarkable pile of rare and otherwise books in Detroit. It's Michigan's largest used bookstore.

How (Not) to Be Secular by J.K.A. Smith Wins CT's 2015 Book Awards

Many titles are recommended in today's list of Christianity Today's 2015 Book Awards, among them is James K.A. Smith's work on Charles Taylor's How to Be Secular. Smith makes Taylor's work accessible to a broader audience and adds a good bit of commentary himself.

In the fiction category, CT picks Lila by Marilynne Robinson and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

“Robinson slowly unfolds the story of Lila, a woman not quite defeated by a brutal, hardscrabble life, who discovers hope and security as the wife of an elderly pastor. Together, they wrestle with questions of the meaning of existence and the ultimate fate of humanity. Readers who loved Robinson’s earlier novel, Gilead, will discover the same breathtaking writing, beautifully painted scenes, and strong working knowledge of theology.” —Cindy Crosby, author of By Willoway Brook

And on The Invention of Wings:

“Based on the life of abolitionist Sarah Grimke and a fictional slave girl, Handful, the novel skillfully joins fiction and history, African American resilience and Southern white hypocrisy, Charlestonian exuberance and Quaker idealism. Kidd reminds us that the foundation of social injustice is ordinary human selfishness.” —Betty Smartt Carter, author of Home Is Always the Place You Just Left

SALE: The System Has a Soul by Hunter Baker

"What relevance does Christianity have in our societal system? What place does the church have in a system that so often seems to be ordered only by the ultra-complex machinery of state power and corporate strategy?"

Hunter Baker answers these questions and more in his collection of essays, The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life. Get it today for almost half-price.

Le Guin: 'Resistance and Change Often Begin in the Art of Words'

Author Ursula Le Guin received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at this week's National Book Awards and inspired the crowd by holding up freedom as an author's best prize. "We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality."

She said many things needed to change, and that change often begins in art, specifically the art of words. Writing books according to marketing formulas for corporate profit is a rotten idea, she said. We need artists.

Her speech was short, so you can easily watch the whole thing here.

In an interview, Le Guin said, “If you’re going to create a world out of whole cloth, that is to say, out of words, then you better get the words right.” You can read about her and her many books in The Guardian.

New Catholic Literature Prize

The new George W. Hunt Prize, sponsored by America magazine and Yale University's Saint Thomas More Chapel, will recognize a variety of accomplished literature from Roman Catholics. The judges appear to be looking for good, expressly Catholic works by authors who lead moral lives.

“We’re trying to promote new creative thinking,” Beloin told The Washington Post's Ron Charles. “Catholic theology is a very wide umbrella — or at least it’s supposed to be.” The Hunt Prize will be awarded to an author who is “trying to write things that are true — to bring a fresh language to theology, to bring real creativity to intellectual life and Catholic imagination.” (via Literary Saloon)

Authors Union Seeks Investigation into Amazon.com

The Authors Guild met with the Justice Department in August to request a federal investigation into Amazon.com's actions against Hachette Book Group in their ongoing dispute over ebook prices and service fees. They say the earth's largest bookdealer is using anti-trust tactics against publishers like Hachette. Authors United is also preparing to ask the DOJ to get involved. Does this make you want to find other bookseller options, or is this all so inside baseball you don't care?

Self-Publishing: Too Many Little Fish in a Huge Sea

Ron Charles, editor of The Washington Post's Book World, asked Roger Sutton, editor in chief of Horn Book magazine, about reviewing self-published books.

Charles asked, “What do you say to the indie writer who reminds you that Walt Whitman was self-published?”

“You are not Walt Whitman,” Sutton said. “The 21st century is different in so many ways from the 19th that the comparison is meaningless. No one is forbidding you from self-publishing, but neither is anyone required to pay attention.”

Charles reviewed Sutton's recently expressed concerns over the glut of self-published books vying for place in our hands. Are there bound to be some great books out there? Yes, but there are too many bad one that look like it from a professional reviewer's outpost. The school of the self-published will only grow, and perhaps a new system of reviewing and judging will be organized to help readers find good books. Sutton isn't convinced it will matter. "People are more interested in writing self-published books than in reading them."


"Price point"

I've heard people use the term "price point," and I'm pretty sure they only meant "price," but thought "price point" sounded professional or something.

I'm sure there's a proper way to use "price point," but I'm not sure what it is.

In any case, the price point for my self-published novels has been adjusted to $2.99. This does not affect the price points for my Baen or Nordskog novels.

Try Death's Doors, here.

Many New Bestseller Lists

For years, the New York Times has curated the most coveted bestseller lists of our day. Now they are building on that strength by adding such topics as Travel, Humor, Family, Relationships, Animals, Politics, Manga, and many more, each list bound to occupy literary banterers and book ballyhoo-ers for an hour or so. These won't be published every week. Some will rotate through the month.

Melville House has dug up even more lists to be introduced by everyone's friends at the New York Times Book Review. Here are some of the lists you will want to keep on eye on.

Most Fully Realized: Every week, The New York Times Book Review describes dozens of books as being “fully realized.” This lists ranks the top ten fully realized books from “Most Fully Realized” to “Least Most Fully Realized.”

Bestselling Young Adult (Cancer): The most successful books for teenagers that include cancer as a major or minor subplot.

James Patterson: The 10 bestselling James Patterson books released this month. (BTW, Patterson has outsold every other living author and holds a Guinness record for most books on the NY Times Bestseller List.)

Bestselling Non-Sellers: Amazon gives lots of books away for free. The “Best Non-Sellers List” will rank the top books downloaded by Amazon users for $0.00.

Literature: No genre fiction. Unless, of course, genre is employed ironically.

'Wolf Time' now available as an e-book!

My novel Wolf Time, so long out of print, is now available as an e-book! Kindle version available here.

Rite of fall

It just occurred to me that Autumn/Fall is the only season with two names. Perhaps because it's so depressing they figured they'd divide it up into two bundles to make it easier to carry.

Oh yes, buy my book: Death's Doors.

So. Fall. This means that my blog posting, never regular even during summer break, will diminish materially. It's back-to-school time. I'm in my second year of graduate school already. How time does fly!

No it doesn't. I feel like I've been at this for a decade, and have about 30 years left to go.

I had a gratifying moment on Saturday. It's my ancient custom to go out for lunch somewhere on Saturday noon, and then go to the local Dairy Queen for a Dilly Bar.

As I approached the window, the manager said, "I always like to see you coming. You remind me of better times." Read the rest of this entry . . .

'Death's Doors': a snippet and an apologia


The Lifestyle Services case worker seemed friendly and genuinely interested in him. Tom Galloway wasn’t entirely pleased about that. The case workers he’d dealt with in the Twin Cities had all seemed overworked and time-pinched. The desks in their cubicles had been piled with file folders and official bulletins, and they themselves had exhaled an institutional miasma that seemed to say, “Don’t show me any red flags and we won’t ask too many questions.”

But Megan Siegenthaler seemed to have all the time in the world, and was cordially curious about everything having to do with Tom and his family. Her small office had been painted a cheery mint green, and a tasteful landscape print hung on one wall. No family pictures though. He supposed those might be stressful for some of the case subjects. Or just as likely she had no family.

She herself was a honey-haired woman who must have been very attractive once and was still comfortably good-looking. Her green eyes were especially remarkable. She smoked a long thin cigarette, as was her right in all places except for hospital ICUs ever since the passage of the Smokers’ Re-enfranchisement Act. She’d offered Tom a breathing device, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, but he’d turned it down. Tobacco smoke had never bothered him much.

“I suppose it’s pretty dull here in Epsom compared to life in the Cities,” she said.

“I like it dull,” said Tom.

“Does Christine like it dull too?”

Tom adjusted his mouth in something like a smile. “No. She’d like to move back.”

“What do you think about that?”

“I don’t care what she’d like. I’m trying to keep her alive.”

Megan picked up the Galloway file and flipped through it. She had very long fingernails, enameled in red. Tom had always wondered why anyone who had to work with paper or keyboards would bother with such a self-inflicted handicap. “I think we ought to talk about this,” she said. “Your last case worker made a note about your attitude. You realize that, in the long run, you can’t keep your daughter alive, don’t you?”

Tom kicked himself in a mental shin. He should have learned to keep his mouth shut by now. He didn’t want to have this discussion again.

“I know what the law says,” he grunted.

“Then you know that if Christine decides to end her life, you have no legal power to stop her. The Constitution’s on her side. If she complains to us that you’re interfering, she can be taken from you and escorted to the Happy Endings Clinic by a Lifestyle Services worker. The law is very explicit.”

That’s just a snippet from Death’s Doors, my newly released e-book (by the way, Orie says it’s non-DRM, which means you can convert it to your e-reader’s format using the Calibre utility, even if you don’t have a Kindle). I thought I’d just take a few moments to talk about this book, and what I think it means (I could, of course, be wrong). Read the rest of this entry . . .

Death's Doors, Snippet 1

(As best I can figure out, we're close to releasing my next novel, Death's Doors. To whet your appetite, here's a snippet. lw)


We have no use for barns anymore, but are ashamed to tear them down. So the lofted sheds stand here and there across the land on derelict farmsteads, redundant, their backs swayed like old horses’.

The woman tossed her cigarette away. It arced like comet spit in the dark. She went into the ruined barn through a dutch door, pulling open first the upper panel, then the lower. The granulated hinges screamed and the bottom scraped an arc in the earth. She was afraid the noise would wake the baby she cradled in her left arm, but it did not. Such a good baby.

The law said she could be rid of a baby up to the age of eight weeks. She would never have let this one go except for something like this – something terribly, cosmically important.

Her flashlight showed her a low-ceilinged side-shed with animal stalls along its inside wall, its dividers and wooden posts scaly with brown flakes of ancient, petrified manure.

The old woman she’d come to see sat so still that she overshot her with the flashlight beam and had to back it up. Once fixed by the beam, the old woman smiled – a smile of radiant beauty that brought to mind a Renaissance Madonna gone wrinkled and white-haired.

“You – you’re the one I was to meet?” the younger woman asked. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Amazon: "Lower Prices!" Hachette: "Profit Margin!"

The Amazon.com dispute with Hachette continues with full page ads in the New York Times and emails aplenty. Hachette's Michael Pietsch writes, “This dispute started because Amazon is seeking a lot more profit and even more market share, at the expense of authors, bricks and mortar bookstores, and ourselves.

“Both Hachette and Amazon are big businesses and neither should claim a monopoly on enlightenment, but we do believe in a book industry where talent is respected and choice continues to be offered to the reading public.”

Many authors are throwing their weight into the fray. "As writers--most of us not published by Hachette--we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want." Amazon argues that when paperbacks came out, publishers hated them just like cheap ebooks.

In related news, Amazon is disputing its contract with Disney and withholding pre-orders on select movies.

You know, when you find everyone around you acts like a jerk, the reason could be the common denominator--you.

An announcement and an appeal

I've been keeping a secret from you. We plan, God willing, to release a new novel of mine within the near future. This is a draft of the cover, with a lovely painting by our friend Jeremiah Humphries, and cover design by our own Phil Wade.

How is this possible, you ask, when I keep complaining of having no writing time because of graduate school? Well, this is a book that's been pretty much finished for some time, except for a couple plot problems. I took my brief study hiatus this summer to work on those holes, and now I think she's ready for launch.

The novel, entitled (obviously) Death's Doors, is sort of a sequel to Wolf Time, but not what you'd call a close sequel. The location is the same, the town of Epsom, Minnesota, but a few years later, and with only a couple of the same characters showing up. In the world of Death's Doors, assisted suicide has become a constitutional right. The main character, Tom Galloway, is trying to keep his depressed daughter from exercising that right, with no help from the authorities. On top of that pressure, a stranger drops into his life -- the Viking nobleman Jarl Haakon (whom you may remember from The Year of the Warrior), who has passed through a door in time.

What we're asking of you, at this point, is just your opinion on the cover above. Phil isn't sure he's satisfied, and would appreciate your input.

Thank you for your support.

eBooks Projected to Outsell Print/Audiobooks by 2017

Amazon owes 2/3 of the eBook market in part because they have followed their dreams to reach the unreachable star. Now we all may get burned.

Fantasy author Brent Weeks says the reality for many readers is that if they don't see a book on Amazon, they assume it isn't available. With eBooks, they may not know where to else to go to buy them. Amazon is also attracting authors as a publisher, not just a distributor. with promises of high royalty percentages. This and other factors are hurting big and small publishers alike.

“We're at the point now where the publishing houses are being undercut by the river of indie publishing, and at some point in time the front porch is going to drop in the river. At that point maybe they'll have to acknowledge it, but right now they just don't want to,” attorney David Vandagriff said.

The Changing World of Publishing

Philip Yancey writes about this many years of experience in publishing.

I had an enlightening experience with e-books in 2013. In April I finished the book The Question That Never Goes Away, based on my visits to three places of great tragedy. My traditional publisher wanted at least nine months lead time to publish it, the typical schedule for a new book, yet new tragedies such as the Boston Marathon bombings, tornadoes, and school shootings were occurring almost weekly, the very situations my book addressed. So I signed on for an Amazon-exclusive program to publish an e-book for 90 days before the hard copy book came out. Leaning on my friends for email lists, I managed to sell about 3,000 copies. On September 11 and Thanksgiving weekend I offered free downloads and 40,000 people downloaded the book! The moral of the story, as many have learned: things can quickly go viral on the Internet but it's a tough place to generate income.

How the French Buy Books

Shakespeare & Company

We don’t force French people to go to bookstores,” explains Vincent Montagne, head of the French Publishers Association. “They go to bookstores because they read.”

And the French government doesn't allow them to discount their books more than 5%, so Amazon.com isn't undermining local stores through deep discounts. France has around 2,500 bookshops now.

We couldn’t have opened our bookstore without the subsidies we received,” Ms. Pérou said. “And we couldn’t survive now without fixed prices.” She and her husband own L’Usage du Monde in Paris.

Pamela Druckerman suggests this plethora of bookshops affords the French the choices we all want, but what do the booksellers offer that publishers don't produce? Is choice in reading a selling, not a publishing, option? (via The Literary Saloon)

What Is the Dispute Between Amazon, Hachette?

James Stewart asked someone at Hachette about their dispute with Amazon. "This person said that Amazon has been demanding payments for a range of services, including the pre-order button, personalized recommendations and a dedicated employee at Amazon for Hachette books. This is similar to so-called co-op arrangements with traditional retailers, like paying Barnes & Noble for placing a book in the front of the store."

Stewart report describes the efforts Third Place Books has made to capitalize on Amazon's refusal to pre-order a popular book. They offered The Silkworm at 20% off with free, personal delivery the day it was released. The owner, Robert Sindelar, "along with several other store employees, delivered the books (although a surprising number of customers said not to bother — they wanted to come into the store for their copy). He also handed out what he called 'Hachette swag bags' with a T-shirt and advance copy of a coming Hachette novel. Some buyers also received a surprise visit from a local author, Maria Semple, who wrote the best-selling book Where’d You Go, Bernadette."

Sindelar calls the promotion successful. He sold 60 books that day. Normally, he doesn't believe he would have gotten any pre-orders and maybe a few sales on the day of the release. (via Shelf Awareness)

Book Auctions for Missions

Scattering Seed Ministries sells great, vintage Christian books at auction to support the spread of the gospel to unreached people. These aren't reprinted books. These are actual first editions of doctrinally sound works.

Apple Settles Its Ebook Case

Apple has been fighting the accusation that it conspired to fix ebook prices unfairly. I believe I remember this class action lawsuit being wage on behalf of Capital Hill politicians who hadn't felt properly, shall we say, appreciated by Apple over the years. Had a little more corporate lobbying taken place, maybe they wouldn't be having to answer for themselves.

Now Apple is settling. The company is "also appealing the antitrust ruling against it for the same issue of price-fixing."

Amazon vs. The World: Next Episode

A few days ago, we pointed out the news that Amazon was not taking pre-orders and delaying orders for books from Hachette. We're talking books you have heard of, possibly read already, or may be looking forward to, such as J.K. Rowling's next crime novel. (Read an excerpt through that link.)

Here's a quick fact list on the Hachette dispute.

Now Amazon is refusing to take pre-orders for The LEGO Movie and other DVDs from Warner Home Video because of a contract delay.

Writers David Streitfeld and Melissa Eddy suggest the biggest bookseller on the planet actually needs the money: "Amazon hasn’t really explained what it is after, but here’s one compelling theory: The company just doesn’t have enough money to finance everything it wants to do. Rather than trim its ambitions, it is putting one side of its business through the wringer to pay for another."

Amazon Plays Hardball with Publisher Hachette

In 2010, Amazon disputed its arrangement with Macmillan on ebook prices and removed the publisher's books from its site. Today the largest book dealer on the Internet is refusing pre-orders on new books from Hachette and delaying shipment on existing titles. Stephen Colbert is one of the authors with un-new books on the shelf, and he isn't amused by the delay of what he says could be 30 of his books sold in a year. J.K. Rowling's new book is coming out soon, which means thousands of readers would have pre-ordered it through Amazon by now, but cannot--not for ebook or print.

Since Amazon has 65% of the ebook market, working a deal with them is important to any publisher, but they aren't the only ebook dealer. Barnes and Noble, Powell's, and others are available, and maybe conflicts like this will make any argument for DRM pointless. If I have a Kindle and want to buy an ebook, do I need Amazon to sell it to me?

11 Ways to Support Your Local Author

"Anyone can support an author’s book release by doing different things to help the book sell and get noticed," writes Chuck Sambuchino. He has 11 fairly obvious ways to do it, but these points need to be made because people on the Internet don't have much sense--can we all agree on that?

His points include buying the book for yourself and others, reading that book in public, posting selfies of you reading that book in public, posting photos of you reading that book in "private" (the more sensational, the better), and rearranging bookstores.

I personally attest to this last point. Several times I stuffed a few Harry Potter books into the Star Wars collection in order to make room for a few of Lars' books on the Hot New Reads by J.K. Rowling display. Once I got the store manager shouting about it, which is great publicity I tell you.

One great way to support a book that Sambuchino doesn't list relates to hard-bound books only. If the book you want to promote has a dust jacket, you can swap it with a great NY Times bestseller's dust jacket for increased crossover sales. It's hard to recommend a best time to try this bit of good-hearted subterfuge, because customers and managers alike tend to rat you out. Maybe if one person starts a fire in the Survival Tech section, another person will have the time to swap dust jackets.

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