Monday, April 30, 2012

Sober cheesecake

Today is my day over at the group blog, The Cheesecake thickens. If you're new around these parts and wondering what that's about, it's a little place those of us who have "graduated" from the New Authors Fellowship (and graduation means having landed a publishing contract) now blog together for the sake of readers and writers alike.

Today's post is reflective and quiet, which is a bit of a departure for me, but I hope you will stop in. I felt there was no other topic upon which I could write, with so many people around me mourning the loss of family, friends, colleagues, babies, even pets.

May you have a week full of unexpected joy!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hello friends of the speculative arts!
Have you ever had an idea that just won't leave you alone? I keep trying to ignore the concept of creating an annual event for lovers of fantasy, science fiction, and other "weird" stories--for people who also happen to be  trying to live their lives with their faith emblazoned upon them for all to see--but the idea keeps rearing its head no matter where I try to tuck it.

And so, here is the first public introduction to this idea: FaithandFantasyCon2012.

Here's the concept as I see it:
For a couple of days, authors, filmmakers, artists, musicians, fans, anyone at all interested, really, would come together to celebrate what about the speculative arts can serve as a conduit of our worldview to the world, in ways that are effective, winsome, and just plain cool. A time to discuss how to live as a person of faith who also happens to love things not of this world.  It would be a time to encourage one another, that although we may be a small group, we have the power of story in our hands, and therefore, we are mighty!

Want to read the rest of my thoughts on this ? Please join me over at to see what nuts-o stuff I'm thinking.  If I can combine all the little pockets of speculative networking I come into contact with, this could be more fun that we know what to do with!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Earning Your Keep

For those of you who read my Facebook posts over at Rebecca P Minor, Author and Artist may have seen my update that I have "earned out" on my inaugural effort at published fiction, The Windrider Saga. (Meaning my publisher has been able to recoup the cost of producing my book through sales.) Now, this is not a giant amount of money that has moved around, since I am dealing with a small publisher who is using print-on-demand technology, but it is significant in that Diminished Media has been able to help me make available a book that isn't leaving them in the red, given the staggering number of books in the publishing industry that never "earn out." I am pleased that I have a very good chance of significantly surpassing the average performance of speculative fiction in the Christian market.

That all being said, however, I am keenly aware that I have reached the point where you might call the honeymoon over. Many authors I have spoken with have a strong start, only to see their books fall into obscurity six months after the release. I am pretty much at that six month mark now, given that Divine Summons released as an ebook in October of 2011. Anyone I know who was going to buy likely has. From here, how do the sales continue?

That seems to be the million dollar question in small publishing circles. So far, the answer I have seen that works better than anything else is: be prolific. And the irony is, with books to promote, the amount of time an author has to write gets a big, honkin' scoop taken out of it. But far be it from me to whine--better to have books to promote than to still be pounding the pavement with my first work, praying for a favorable glance from an agent or editor. But the excitement of new releases seems to generate sales for already-available work, so it's my hope that in having a summer release for another series I'm working on, and maybe an end of the year release of another Windrider book, I will be helping to build the momentum I need to take a serious stab at this author thing.

And if you were keeping track, yes, that means 3 books released in 14 months. That's my insane goal. From there, however, I will have nothing left in the works other than a sequel book to my summer release that is in woeful need of complete re-writing. That will have to wait for 2013, which promises to show a slow down in releases as I can see it from here.

But if I can keep it up, it's my hope that such insanity will feed the muse, satisfy my publishers, and perhaps even help feed my kids all at the same time.

Looking forward to the adventure!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Small Press Reality

Earlier this week, my comrade in arms Diane Graham posted on her blog about her sales numbers on her inaugural novel, I Am Ocilla. Diane has challenged herself to sell a minimum of eight hundred copies before December, in an effort to justify the cost for her publisher to enter her book into the Christy Awards for 2013. When Diane had first embarked upon this challenge, she spoke of how the average Christian Speculative Fiction book sells about three hundred copies in a year.

Three hundred copies.

I remember watching movie not that long ago--the disaster movie 2012. It wasn't very good, but we had gotten it from Netflix and wouldn't have anything else until we returned it, so I figured we might as well see it through and get our money's worth. Anyway, one of the characters in the story is a writer--a guy who poured himself into his book, and apparently wrote a pretty good book--that only ended up selling about four hundred copies. He basically lost his wife over his rabid commitment to the book, and it kept coming back to those four hundred copies. The movie clearly depicted the creators' opinion on the author's return for his effort--that it was all investment with no return.

So, traditional publishing, at least according to Hollywood, calls four hundred sales a waste of time. Christian publishing in speculative fiction calls three hundred average. And I continually ask myself, why he disparity?

The secular world does not have a monopoly on talent. However, the proportion of Christian artists to non Christians is obviously a wide ratio. I venture that perhaps we hamstring ourselves by isolating our small population. We create Christian publishing houses and make Christian movies and write Christian Speculative Fiction. Clearly that limits our resources and our audience. Instead of finding a way to insist our viewpoint is represented in the general marketplace, we instead create a fractionally proportionate segment of the arts community where we can be comfortable, understood...and undersold.

And what's worse in my mind--we become an anomaly to the secular world.

I bought one of Donita K Paul's books for my son in the local Books A Million not very long ago, and the clerk gave me a laugh with what he said. He looked at the book with a raised eyebrow, and said "Christian fantasy? So what, are the dragons Christians?" With our isolation, we create a genre that makes no sense to anyone other than the people involved closely with it, which is a relatively small number of church-going readers. I would love to know what percentage of overall revenue generated by the publishing industry is from Christian publishing--but I have a feeling I know the gist. If the size of Christian book publishing is anything like the annual revenue of Christian music publishing, we really can't hope to sell many books. The "by ourselves--for ourselves" model dooms us to always treating our writing as a ministry and a pastime, not a livelihood.

I know, I know there are people who have contracts with large publishing houses who are doing well. But again, it's a matter of percentages. For the every Ted Dekker there are probably hundreds of people like me who scrape for every sale that isn't to a family member or a friend. When you write fantasy, there are only so many slots in Christian publishing, and most of them are occupied.

So it seems to me we as authors have to decide--do we stay within the confines of CBA? If we do, then we can't complain about small sales reach. If we want to go to ABA, are we ready to stand our ground on the message of our work? The road to selling a Christian manuscript would be harder. But if you manage it, your reach would become exponential.

Sometimes I think that selling fantasy within CBA is like running a lemonade stand on a rainy corner in Maine in March. You might get some sales from die-hard lemonade enthusiasts and sympathetic passersby, but doesn't it make more sense to set up at the beach in July?

So what do you think--is Christian Speculative fiction a market that will ever really boom?  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Thanks to Morgan L Busse

Today, I found out Marcher Lord Press author Morgan L Busse posted a new review of the second book of my Windrider Saga on her blog. Drop by Morgan's little corner of the universe and check out her thoughts on A Greater Strength. And while you're there, why not read some of her other posts about life and faith? I'm sure you will come away with an appreciation of a tender-hearted woman of God if you do.

Thanks, Morgan!