Search Results for: label/crime fiction

How Healthy Is the Christian fiction Category?

Publishing professional and friend, Dan Balow, recently took a look at the Christian fiction category in his blog for the Steve Laube Agency. His analysis includes some counterintuitive insights for publishers and some very specific advice to retailers that I wanted to share here. (Since my novels are considered “tweeners” – somewhere between the Christian and general markets, I especially appreciated what he had to say.) Dan – thanks for permission to use the following!

Just how well is Christian fiction doing?

Last year, two Christian publishers downsized or suspended their fiction programs. Currently, some Christian publishers are nervous about fiction and in a wait-and-see mode before they attempt to expand it or try new things. Others are excited about growth potential in the category and are taking an aggressive stance toward it.

Similarly, some Christian retailers are doing quite well with fiction, others are lukewarm with it and some are not doing well at all.

The answer to the question, “Is Christian fiction thriving?” is no, but it is certainly interesting to explore the reason behind such widely diverse opinions on the subject of Christian fiction today.  How can one group see great potential and another see little or none?

Here is why I think Christian Fiction is causing some publisher and retailer confusion right now:

First and foremost, fiction is the segment of book publishing and retailing most affected by the sales of eBooks. In some cases, 50% or more of unit sales on a particular title can be digital.  Because eBooks are cheaper than printed editions, overall revenues to the publisher will decrease or remain flat, all the while readership increases. For a particular novel, digital sales might be 50% of the units and 20% of the revenue.

A new business model eventually emerges, but it takes time for publishers and retailers to adjust to new realities.

Retailers can easily recall how the decline in physical product sales were affected by music downloads (iTunes started in 2001), video download/streaming and audio book downloads. The migration to digital delivery in music, video and audio resulted in a corresponding drop in physical product sales at retail.  But knowing the cause doesn’t make it easier to handle.

The second major contributor to publisher and retail confusion about fiction is the relatively small number of titles published.  Even in good years, the total output of new Christian fictions titles by the main ECPA Christian publishers are not more than 250-300 annually.  (I am not counting the various Harlequin Love Inspired and Heartsong mass market lines which publish over 200 titles per year.)

According to R.R. Bowker data from a couple years ago, the entire U.S. publishing industry (not self-publishing) released over 250,000 new titles annually, of which about 40,000 are novels. There is no completely accurate data available on Christian publishers, but not long ago the total output of books from Christian publishers was around 10,000 new books annually. If Christian publishers followed the same ratios in fiction as the general market, there should be over 1,000 new novels each year, not 250-300.  Not every category growth problem is solved by doing more books, but in this case, I believe it has something to do with it.

Similarly at retail, when a category suffers a slowdown, reducing shelf-space for the category only hastens the decline.  The huge disparity between fiction in the general market retail and that in the Christian market would leave one to wonder whether some are giving up too early on it.

The final reason for confusion about fiction is there are a limited number of genres published by Christian publishers. For reasons that may or may not be obvious, Christian publishers cannot publish in as many genres as a general market publisher.  For instance, erotica will never be a category in Christian publishing, while it is a major category in the general market.

Combine these three things…eroding physical sales due to digital delivery, a small number of titles in relatively few categories  and maybe we can understand why it is rather confusing time in the Christian fiction category.

What can retailers do about it? (other than stocking current best-sellers and new titles)

  • Begin with the inventory. Carry the classic backlist.  Not just In His Steps or Pilgrim’s Progress but the authors who made the category successful over the last 30 years … Janette Oke, Frank Peretti, Jerry Jenkins/Tim LaHaye, Bodie and Brock Thoene, and Francine Rivers to name a few.
  •  Decide to add a new genre of fiction that heretofore you have not carried or promoted.  This is to grow your customer’s taste for a wider type of fiction.
  • Consider rearranging the fiction section by genre to help readers find new authors. Perhaps using a variation of the umbrella categories that the Christy Awards uses to separate the genres.
  • Encourage fiction reader groups among your customers. This will show how fiction can communicate spiritual truth in an effective manner.

Steve Laube, the founder and owner of the literary agency with whom I work, was a Christian retailer himself before getting into the publisher side of the equation over 20 years ago.  In 1989, his Berean Store in Phoenix, Arizona was named the CBA Store of the Year.  I asked him to give his perspective on how retailers can sell more fiction:

The key was that great story that got people telling their friends. Word-of-Mouth.  Second was a staff that was knowledgeable about the various fiction offerings. Hand-selling is still a critical piece of what makes the physical store a destination. Hand-selling is a form of word-of-mouth. For example, when Mrs. Sally came in the store each month and asked us, ‘What’s new?’ we could direct her to the latest and greatest because we knew the type of stories she liked and the type of stories that were on our shelves.  That principle has not changed over the years. I am always attracted to the part of any bookstore that has a ‘Staff Recommendations’ section. I find it fascinating to see what other people think is worthwhile to read.

Keep in mind, that if readers don’t find what they need in the Christian store, they will look elsewhere and personally, I’d rather they find a lot of great reads among titles from Christian publishers in Christian bookstores.

Is Jack Reacher the Most Unique Character in Commercial Fiction?

a quick glance at jack reacher

Reacher has a major attachment issue – he can’t commit to living in one place.

In Jack Reacher, Lee Child has created one of the most unique and interesting male characters in commercial fiction today.

Army brat, West Point grad, and decorated military veteran, Reacher never lived in one place more than a year or two growing up or in his military career, so why start now? He doesn’t.

When Reacher leaves the Army – as a matter of honor, of course, he begins a new life as a drifter, traveling by bus or as a hitchhiker with the clothes on his back, a toothbrush, and an ATM card. He always finds trouble – and he is always ready to fight for the underdog.

Oh, and when his clothes get dirty, he throws them away and buys new ones. He’s not real particular on brands. So he’s done the math and it makes perfect sense to him.

Reacher is pretty lucky. None of the bad guys shoot as well as he does. And whatever mess he gets in the middle of, there is always an extremely attractive, independent, and unattached woman for him to consider the possibility of settling down with.

Reacher hit the big screen in 2013 with Tom Cruise in lead role, which created a storm of controversy with fans of the 6′ 5″ literary character. Cruise is always great in an action role. He’s not great at being taller than most everyone else in the room.

As of this writing Child has written 18 full novels … the series might finally be losing steam (at least for me), but Child has pulled off no small feat.

Adapted from my Pinterest board, Spies, Detectives, Hit Men, and Vigilantes.

The Four Queens of Crime – When Women Ruled Murder Mysteries

Ngaio Marsh was one of the Four Queens of Murder.While growing up I consumed a lot of Agatha Christie novels – I even solved one of the murders before the ending. (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.) I met another of my favorite “locked room mystery” authors – almost as popular as Christie – when I was a junior or senior in high school – Ngaio Marsh.

Marsh was born in New Zealand and split time between there and London. She wrote 32 crime novels and was considered along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Margery Allingham one of the “Queens of Crime.” Women novelists dominated the genre in the 20s and 30s – and they don’t do too bad today either.

Marsh’s most famous character was Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Alleyn was smart and witty but didn’t have the noir edge of a Spade and Marlowe – two detectives “across the pond” as mysteries and all genres became more “modern” and heroes were shown with all their flaws.

Circling back to read A Man Lay Dead took me back to a different era of entertainment, when even murder was polite, civilized, and almost wholesome!

I highlighted Ngaio Marsh from a Pinterest board I keep with book covers that feature my favorite spies, detectives, hit men, and vigilantes.


Richard Jury Returns – One of My Favorite Detectives Is Still Solving Crimes

Martha Grimes' Richard Jury novels are dark and humorous with a melancholy detective.

Vertigo 42 is the 23rd Richard Jury novel.

Chief Inspector Richard Jury is surrounded by colorful characters – from the idle rich Melrose Plant (who gave up his hereditary title of Lord) who assists him on cases, to his assistant Sergeant Alfred Wiggins (a hypochondriac and tea lover of the highest order), to the copper-haired fortune teller Carole Anne (is Jury her father figure or a “person of interest”) who lives two floors above him, and the residents of Long Piddington, his frequent stop from London to the scene of the crime.

Jury is intuitive and methodical and always “gets his man” – but despite his new romantic interest who cuts up bodies in the morgue – he never seems to get his woman. Jury just doesn’t fare well in love. We can assume from descriptions and responses that he is handsome and attractive, but the melancholy war orphan sabotages relationships at every turn. Unrequited love is always a wonderful plot device!

The plots are both humorous and dark – and occasionally get a bit too charmingly convoluted. But if you like your murder mysteries laced and paced with psychological reflection, Richard Jury is your man.

By the way, if you shake your head when you see individual book titles – The Dirty Duck, The Stargazey, The Horse You Came In On –  Grimes names most books after an English pub.

Martha Grimes’ 23rd Jury novel, Vertigo 42, released on June 2, 2014.

I won’t do a full review but I’ll note:

  • Sargent Wiggins can still be distracted by a piece of cake and hot cup of tea, but Grimes is letting the plodder show some real detecting skills in Vertigo 42. He seems to be coming into his own.
  • Did child-waif, free-spirited Carole Anne do some grown up flirting with Jury? I think she did.
  • Yes, Vertigo 42 is another London bar – but not the usual quaint neighborhood pub, but a sleek sophisticated spot 42 floors above the city.
  • Jury and Plant have always had a good-natured rivalry, but they seem to be picking at each other in this novel more like … dare I say it … nah … I’ll leave it at that.
  • Yes – the plot is convoluted – but as is almost always the case with a Jury novel, very satisfying!



Every Breath You Take

“Every Breath You Take is an action-packed pEvery Breath ANGLEolice procedural that will keep you flipping pages.” – FRESH FICTION

When the son of a Chicago billionaire is murdered the only lead on this high-profile crime – one that has the media buzzing and politicians scrambling – is an exclusive dating service that discretely caters to the rich and famous.

Who better to go undercover in the world of personal profiles, promising matches, and questionable motives than an ace detective who is single and as attractive as she is tough?

Some dates are to kill for – but some dates will get you killed.

Detective Kristen Conner may not be able to figure out her own love life, but she is about to get a crash course on finding Mr. Right – even as she finds herself in the crosshairs of a determined killer’s gun.

Conner and the fabulous cast of characters that made Cuts Like a Knife a debut sensation are back and on the case.

Amazon: Paperback  | eBook  |  Audio Book

Barnes & Noble: Paperback  | eBook Paperback  | eBook  |  Audio Book



Character Interviews and Features

Detective Kristen Conner Interview

Detective Kristen Conner

Klarissa Conner interview

Klarissa Conner

The Cutter Shark is a serial killer that haunts Detective Kristen Conner in the M.K. Gilroy novels.

The Serial Killer




Contact Page

Snail Mail:

2000 Mallory Lane, Suite 130-229, Franklin, Tennessee 37067

Author Interview With Mark Gilroy

As the launch date for Cuts Like a Knife rapidly approaches, I have been doing a series of interviews for radio, print, and internet book programs. Here are a few of the common questions I’ve been asked.

Noir image of author M.K. Gilroy

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am the father of six great kids – with just one left in the house now. Oh – wait – one came back after college graduation – so there’s two around here somewhere. I’ve spent 30 years in publishing – from packing boxes, writing articles and curriculum and ad copy, editing and managing editorial departments, creating marketing plans and directing art design, and finally serving as exec vp and publisher for three companies. I love book publishing! I’m president of the Ravenwood High School track program (contributions welcome) and participate in our football boosters as well. I freelance publish for retailers, publishers, ministries, and businesses. My lovely wife Amy and I live in Brentwood, Tennessee, and attend Brentwood Baptist Church.

What was your motivation behind this project?

I have always loved character driven mystery and suspense. From the Hardy Boys in grade school, to James Bond and Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe in my teen years, then on to spy thrillers by Deighton and LeCarre in college, and then discovering a plethora of great mystery thrillers from Hillerman, Block, Grimes, Child, Leonard, Mosely, Crais, Silva and a host of other great writers throughout my adult life. I even went through a crime noir faze where I had to reread everything from Chandler and Hammett – The Long Goodbye was the creme dela creme. I can’t forget Graham Greene. The common denominator? Great lead characters. I’ve spent 30 years in publishing and have a couple graduate degrees, but the best training I’ve received to pen my debut mystery thriller comes from the sheer volume of great books I’ve read – and not just thrillers, even if they are my default fiction genre.

I had a tremendous amount of fun writing Cuts Like a Knife – and count it as a tribute to the writers who have brought me so much enjoyment as a reader.  I hope readers fall in love with my lead character, Detective Kristen Conner, in the same way. She’s tough and in-your-face. And she’s a fragile mess. She loves God, her family, the Chicago Police Department – her dad was a cop – and anything you put on her plate. Doesn’t mean she gets along with all parties mentioned above – except the food. Kristen also has a secret – but don’t expect me to tell you what it is for at least a couple of books!

What do you hope folks will gain from this project?

I did my best to write a great thriller that has all the twists, turns, and suspense readers love. The fact that my character is such a “graceful mess” to watch in action should make the experience even more fun – I’ve been told by reviewers that there are some real laugh-out-loud moments. I think there will be deep appreciation for Detective Kristen Conner’s simple and honest faith.

How were you personally impacted by working on this project?

I earned quite a few frequent customer awards from Starbucks while writing Cuts Like a Knife. I wrote early morning and late night so I could do the day job. But I’ve never been one for a lot of sleep anyway! I do feel a sense of gratitude from the critical response to Cuts Like a Knife.

Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists?

See above! LOL. Let’s just say I like a great plot as much as the next person – but the writer that creates a wonderful character is the one I read over and over. Probably my favorite character over the past 10 years has been Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon. The author that inspired me to try and write a Christian character into a general market mystery was Tony Hillerman. His character Jim Chee is a deeply religious and self-reflective Native American – his faith is part of his inner dialog as he solves crimes on the Navajo Reservation.

Anything else you’d like readers to know?

When books don’t do very well you often hear an author complain that his publisher didn’t do very much to get behind and promote the book. Having been a publisher I know there are a lot of factors. I’ve personally worked hard on some books that never caught on – and basically spectated as some others have taken off in the marketplace. But what I can state very boldly is that my friends from Worthy Publishing have done a tremendous job bringing Cuts Like a Knife to market. They hired Jeane Wynne as publicist and she has performed miracles securing reviews from periodicals like USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly for this first-time novelist. If Cuts Like a Knife should fail commercially the fault will be all mine. However, I think we have something special here. The Worthy leadership team has somewhere around 170 years of combined experience in publishing. I’ve asked Byron, Jeana, Kris, Rob and others who holds seniority – but no one will claim most years of service.

The Pillars of the Earth – Building a Cathedral to God’s Glory

Ken Follett. Penguin. Published in 1989.

My first exposure to Follett was in the early 80s with a trio of spy thrillers, Eye of the Needle, Triple, and The Key to Rebecca. I like the spy genre and though I didn’t think Follett had the nuanced political and psychological depth of a LeCarre or Deighton, he delivered intrigue, twists, and turns at a Frederick Forsythe (Day of the Jackel) level. Smart, action-packed escapist reading!

Follett wrote The Pillars of the Earth in 1989 and I completely missed it. For 20 years. Once I’ve read an author a couple times and like him or her that usually doesn’t happen. But it should have come as no surprise. In Pillars, Follett switched genres from international political thrillers to historical fiction with this 973 page tome. I’m sure his publisher was aghast when he brought the proposal to the table. Follett was undoubtedly told that this was a bad “self-branding” move for any author, that he would confuse and lose his core audience. I’m Exhibit One that his publisher was probably right in a business sense. But if Follett had listened, we would have missed out on a literary treat. It hasn’t turned out too bad for Follett either, as Pillars is his backlist title that continues to sell the most copies every year.

So what prompted Follett to write a book that features a devout and godly monk who dreamed of building a cathedral to God’s glory; the ups and downs of a couple of stone masons and their families; and some really rotten earls, barons, sheriffs, bishops and priests? Was it Follett’s own act of devotion and religious fervor? In his preface he claims to be an atheist despite a Plymouth Brethren upbringing. But he did have what can be described as a near religious experience on a business trip to Peterborough for the London Times. He had recently read a book on European architecture and was fascinated with Nikolaus Pevsner’s description of all that went into the building of Gothic cathedrals. With an hour to spare before his train left for London, Follett took a tour of the Peterborough Cathedral and says he was instantly “enraptured.” This began a personal hobby of visiting and studying cathedrals all over England and Europe.

Follett may have left modern politics behind in Pillars but not the politics of 12th Century Europe. With the death of King Henry, Stephen and Maude wage a civil war for the throne spanning decades, with a constant and ensuing political fallout for earls, cities, and counties. Even the building of a castle or cathedral became a political roller coast ride with access to lumber, stone or labor determined by which combatant won the last battle of the season and which barons and earls had the right allegiance to be rewarded or punished.

Follett shows Medieval churchmen at their superstitious and barbaric worst – and their enlightened, progressive, spiritual, and charitable best. I think he is very fair to represent the true spirituality of the Medieval – and modern – believer. He doesn’t succumb to the temptation to paint crude caricatures. My own reading of Medieval history is cursory but from what little I know, Follett actually helps dispel the myth that these were simply “Dark Ages.” Watching Jack – a stone mason and master builder – wrestle with how to make his cathedral roof taller but still safe and finally discover the pointed arch is a marvelous glimpse into the technological developments of the day.

Pillars is set around the building of the Kingsbridge Cathedral, but Follett takes us on a historically plausible side journey through France, over the Pyrenees, and into the Iberian Peninsula, where Medieval monks traveled to the library of Toledo, Spain, and were introduced to Euclid (his algebra and geometry play a role in the building of cathedrals), Plato, and other great writings from antiquity. Throughout the story Follett introduces the historical seeds that blossomed into the modern political mind and arena, from worker’s and women’s rights to the question of whether kings and nobility must answer to the law.

Toward the end of the book, Prior Philip, the stern, austere, kind, hard nosed, fair, loving hero of the story witnesses the assassination of Thomas Becket at Canterbury – carried out under the urging of his nemesis, Waleran, a bishop who made Machiavelli seem like an author of positive thinking and encouragement titles. Philip faces his ultimate test of faith, namely whether he will keep his faith in God and whether that faith in God has the efficacy to make the world a better place. As a reader, we have followed his life as orphan, monk, reformer, and builder for sixty years up to the year 1174 A.D. But the question he must face in the closing pages of Pillars is just as relevant today!

J Mac – 3-point Scoring Machine

Tune into the next edition of ESPN SportsCenter and you’ll probably hear about another athlete arrested for drunk driving or for testing positive for steroids or for getting in trouble at three in the morning for some form of disorderly conduct.

Of course many athletes are outstanding citizens and terrific role models. And some sports stories transcend the category to break down our walls of cynicism. Jason McElwain – J Mac to his teammates – will never play professional basketball but he has become an internet legend not for getting into trouble, but for suiting up in his final game as team manager and catching on fire behind the three-point line.

Truth can be stranger than fiction and right now I’m inspired enough that I might head out to the driveway to work on my own three-point shooting.

Put me in coach!

About Mark Gilroy

Meet Mark GilroyMark Gilroy has had a long, varied, and successful career in publishing, from his first paid creative assignment as a newspaper sports writer while in college, to serving as head of gift, specialty, and backlist publishing for Thomas Nelson, the world’s largest Christian publisher. Throughout his journey in the world of books he has worked with leading authors such as Max Lucado, Sarah Young, John Maxwell, Darlene Zschech, H. Jackson Brown, Donald Miller, Billy Graham, Newt Gingrich, Beth Moore, George Foreman, and many others.

Mark has had a leadership role in numerous publishing phenomena, including God’s Little Devotional Book and Jesus Calling—two series that each sold more than 10 million copies and touched countless lives.

Mark won’t claim he has done it all in the world of publishing, but he has packed boxes, edited manuscripts, made sales calls, created marketing plans, directed design and illustration, started companies, consulted, agented the works of others, and written advertising and catalog copy. He’s authored, compiled, and ghost written books that have landed on an array of bestsellers lists and sold millions of copies. His first ghost writing project, The Wal-Mart Way, was done for Don Soderquist, Sam Walton’s longtime right-hand man.

In early 2012 he put on a new hat as a fiction author. His debut novel, Cuts Like a Knife, was released in April 2012 and was met with rave reviews from USA Today, Fresh Fiction, Publishers Weekly, and other leading national reviewers. His second novel, Every Breath You Take, second in the Kristen Conner Mystery Series, released in Fall 2012 to similar acclaim. Kristen Conner returns in Cold As Ice, which releases in Fall 2014.

Gilroy has extensive writing credits. He scripted and served as creative consultant for a two-hour training video that was honored with the Award of Excellence by the International Television Association. He has compiled and written close to fifty books and penned hundreds articles and curriculum pieces for a variety of periodicals and publishers.

Gilroy is a graduate of Olivet Nazarene University (B.A.) with a double major in Biblical Literature and Speech Communications. / Journalism. He also holds two graduate degrees, the M.B.A. from Baker University (4.0), and the M.Div. from Nazarene Theological Seminary (magna cum laude).

Mark enjoys his family - which keeps growing!

Mark enjoys his family – which keeps growing!

Gilroy and his wife Amy reside in Brentwood, Tennessee. Their six children are Lindsey, Merrick, Ashley, Caroline, Bo, and Zachary—the youngest has now headed off for college, so he and Amy are officially empty nesters.


How Many People Are Reading on eReader Devices?

according the Pew Institute 23% of adults have used an ereader now.
Where do you read books?

January 15, 2013 – According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 23% of adult readers have now read an ebook.

In a blog last year I noted that percentage as 12%. Recognizing that there are no comprehensive studies – and the numbers seemingly change dramatically on a month-to-month basis – that is a growth rate of almost 100% in the past year. During the same period, ebook sales in trade publishing have risen from 17% to 25% of all books sold. Almost half of all adult fiction is now being bought for consumption on eReader devices.

I remember the prophecies of the paperless office back in the early 90s. I’m still waiting.

But to state the obvious, the digital revolution in publishing – starting with daily news and now moving to long form content –  appears to be a relentless and unstoppable transformation in how we consume what we read.

The eReader is here to stay.

Where do you read your books?

M.K. Gilroy Novels

In 2012 Mark Gilroy put on a new hat in the publishing industry as M.K. Gilroy with the release of his first novel, which introduced the Kristen Conner Mystery Series. The third KC Conner book, Cold As Ice, will release in Fall 2014.

Just Before Midnight is a standalone Christmas novella. And in addition to more Kristen Conner novels, a new series will be announced soon.

Cuts Like a Knife by M.K. Gilroy

“Gilroy’s debut novel is a sure-fire winner!” USA TODAY

Every Breath You Take by M.K. Gilroy

“Action-packed – will keep you flipping pages.” FRESH FICTION

Cold As Ice by Mark Gilroy

Kristen Conner is back – what she doesn’t know, just might get her killed.

Just In Time for the Holidays -

A Christmas Eve Novella From M.K. Gilroy

Just Before Midnight by M.K. Gilroy

Christmas Eve is the time to be home enjoying the warmth and laughter of family isn’t it?


“Kristen Conner is the freshest voice to hit the Christian market in a long time. She’s beautiful but doesn’t believe it. She can’t shoot worth a hoot, but can knock an assailant twice her size on their butt with her hand-to-hand fighting skills. She’s Miss Congeniality-meets-Castle’s Kate Beckett; a lethal, smart, and fun combo.”


The Runaway Pastor

I’ve worked in the publishing industry for more than 25 years now and have been blessed to have my hand on a number of bestsellers. I tried counting that exact number up the other day and I know I’ve missed a few – and maybe not accounted for some returns or remainder sales – but I think I’ve worked directly on at least 18 books that have sold more than a million units and somewhere close to 70 that have topped 100 thousand units. Okay, sounds like I’m bragging, but really, I want to make a point, which is: I have a fairly decent feel for what will work in the marketplace.

That’s what surprised me so much about publisher response to a book I represented as an agent, The Runaway Pastor, by a friend from my college days. Responses were tepid at best – and there was definite resistance by some. A few thought it was written as a negative indictment of ministers, the ministry, and the church. One publisher even waggled a finger at me! I spoke with a few general publishers who weren’t aware that anyone in America goes to church, so they weren’t convinced there is a market.

I admit, I was a little worried when David first asked me to give it a read. I was afraid that I would find the material poorly written and would have to figure out a diplomatic way to tell him that. But the book was very well written, exceptionally well for a first time fiction author. But what I thought the book really had going for it was a raw – but kind – honesty that gave it a couple of amazing “hooks” for several audiences. Because one thousand ministers leave the ministry every month:

  • I thought this book would strike a nerve with pastors – duh!
  • I figured most regular church attenders have been impacted by this career exodus, and that would make it a book of acute interest.
  • I assumed sociologists – particularly those who observe religious patterns in America – would find it fascinating.
  • I was certain that professors at Bible colleges and seminaries – and others who provide academic and professional development for ministers – would consider this must reading for themselves and those they work with.
  • I even suspected that some critics and skeptics of the church and Christianity might find the title intriguing.

Now I know the publishing industry is distressed and not as many books are being acquired – and new-author fiction has always been a high risk venture. But I still assumed this book proposal would sell quickly. I’ve got other projects that have been selling in short order. So when The Runaway Pastor didn’t have a taker within three months, David and I got back together and decided I would put this out as a micro-publishing project under one of my imprint names. He made me nervous – again – when he said his wife Shelly could design the book cover. I’ve seen a lot of author-directed book covers in my day and many have been awful. But I think she did a bang up job!

So voila. The Runaway Pastor is now available on Amazon and I think it is going to do great over time. I think it may get picked up by a major publishing house. I think it will generate a lot of publicity. In fact, David got an extended note from one person who reviews books for ministers:

I read The Runaway Pastor word for word, cover to cover this weekend and as far as realistic fiction is concerned, the book is nearly too realistic. The book reads so well also, causing the reader, especially one who may be prone to run away from it all, to consider the outcomes of running, to consider the options of seeking help, to muster the courage to wake up and tend to his/her inner life, his/her marital life, his/her emotional life. The book is a wake up for the Church as well. To consider its expectations of pastors as real or hyper-unrealistic, to consider a pastors marriage as something to be cultivated, to consider a pastor’s life as more precious than the goods and services the pastor offers. David Hayes, in my opinion, has a winner of a book which I hope helps pastors seek the help and guidance they need. The events surrounding Pastor Trent and his wife Natalie’s brokenness are all too real.

I’m not going to give a spoiler on how the story ends here. Just let me say that this book is a great tale of loss and redemption. A very clever storyline. Always respectful of the church, the ministry, and a life of faith. By the way, David knows whence he writes of. No, he didn’t run away from it all, but he did experience a significant bout of ministerial burnout – and survived it! In fact, he pastors a church today.

The nature of my business doesn’t require that I give a sales pitches on this blog – so I’m not real good at this – but I would encourage many who read this to strongly consider ordering a copy of The Runaway Pastor from Amazon right now.

(Publishers who are thinking maybe they should take a look at this … you know where to reach me! LOL)

Sales Continue to Drop for Print Books

Publisher’s Weekly just reported:

The total unit sales of print books sold through the outlets whose sales are captured by Nielsen BookScan dropped 10.2% in the six month period ended July 3, falling to 307.1 million. Among categories, the biggest decline came in adult fiction with units off 25.7%, while mass market paperback had the steepest decline among formats with units down 26.6% in the period. BookScan totals cover about 75% of the outlets where print books are sold.

Is this yet another signal that the book is dead or should at least be placed on the endangered species list?

As someone who makes a living in the book publishing industry I continue to maintain an optimistic position on the future of the book, in part, because I don’t define the book as a physical object.

I see no reason for hand wringing. Publishers need to keep their focus on what they can control and what matters most: great content. The distribution medium matters but is not paramount. The music industry fought Napster (rightfully) and electronic distribution (wrongly) for most of a decade – and lost control of its own packaging and pricing. I think the book publishing industry has maintained a much healthier point of view toward electronic formats from day one.

I like physical books – actually, love is the better word for it – but I’m not going to lose sleep if we sell more books as electronic editions and kill fewer trees in the process. One of the biggest benefits of selling e-books for publishers is fewer dollars tied up in paper and ink with all the inventory management issues surrounding that. The amount of time it takes to recoup a dollar of the investment that goes into publishing a book is long enough without making the irreversible commitment to a print quantity that may not dovetail with real demand.

Of course many publishers have long built financial models around a certain percentage of their unit sales coming from higher priced hard cover releases. As e-books continue to eat into the number of hardcovers sold, particularly with adult fiction, it changes the proforma dramatically, so I’m not saying this change makes things easier in all ways. Change is hard.

I’m strictly describing what I think is – not proscribing what should be. And no matter how strong Amazon is as a bookseller, I still hope the market will support a robust brick and mortar retail environment. (Borders might not agree that is possible – but we should know if their reorganization is Chapter 11 or Chapter 7 within days – or even hours.)

My personal prediction – more gut than numbers at this point – is that five years from now 35-40% of all books sold will be e-books (digitally distributed), which would mean the majority of books consumed would still be on the ink and paper medium. I also think that projection would leave space for a strong brick and mortar presence for at least Barnes and Noble and some exceptional independents that incorporate an e-book strategy into their overall sales mix.

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” said Mark Twain after hearing his obituary had been printed in the New York Journal.

The same can be said by and of the book.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy


Cormac McCarthy's novel, The Road, won the Pulitzer Price.

Is The Road McCarthy’s best novel yet?

A father and son push a shopping cart along a broken concrete highway. The sky and landscape are gray and desolate. Nuclear holocaust? Armageddon? We can assume but are never told. Father remembers what it was like before. The son has known only this world of ash and danger and survival. What happened to the father’s wife and son’s mother? We think we know but even that is left to the imagination.

As father and son head for the coast – we don’t know why – they carry scavenged food, anything they can find for warmth, and a handgun. The rule is there must always be two bullets left. We find out why when they almost fall into a trap at what seems to be a deserted farmhouse.

Bleak. Despairing. Sparse. And yet The Road is a story of love and faith. The bond between father and son is inspiring and offers glimmers of hope in the midst of the gray tones.

This is a road and journey I highly recommend you take.

I read The Road before Oprah (along with the people who made the movie No Country for Old Men) took Cormac McCarthy mainstream. But not by much. I must confess in my years of reading and spending time in the book publishing industry, I somehow missed McCarthy as a brutal, unrelenting force in American fiction. Some would argue that he is the greatest living American novelist and this is his greatest novel.

One warning on McCarthy’s style. As mentioned, his writing is sparse. It took me a little while to get used to the fact that he doesn’t use quotation marks in his dialog, and he doesn’t care much for commas either. I think there is a little something Ernest Hemingway in his tone and style.

After The Road, I did go back and read a number of his other works, including Blood Meridian, which I thought was the best of his novels I read. It is a true classic. The portrait he draws of the Devil in human flesh in the last scene is as terrifying as anything you read from Dante – but that’s a different road to cover at a later time.

The Professor and the Madman – The Making of a Dictionary

The making of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Simon Winchester. Harper Collins. Published in 1998.

The prompt for writing a quick review of this book is that I just started a third title by the same author, Simon Winchester, The Crack at the Edge of the World, and couldn’t help but remember with fondness – yes, I used the word ‘fondness’ in regard to reading a book about how a dictionary was written – when I read The Professor and the Madman. Winchester is to my knowledge the developer and foremost practitioner of an immensely entertaining historical-narrative literary style whereby he lures us into turning page after page (rapidly) of a history book by telling a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story that reads like pulp fiction, and yes, which is set within a larger historical context and moment.

Erik Larson followed the pattern in Devil in the White City , introducing us to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and how it changed the history of America through the lurid tale of a serial killer who was as big as Jack the Ripper before Jack found his first victim. In some parallel ways, Sebastian Junger employed this model, telling us about seemingly mundane things – the deep sea fishing industry, the physics of waves, the types of North Atlantic storms, and a little of the history of Gloucester, Massachusetts – through the sensational story of the crew of the Andrea Gail in his book The Perfect Storm, even better known for the George Clooney movie.

What is the historical setting and importance of the Professor and the Madman? The writing of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), of course. Now, without making any claims of being an academic, I must admit that topic kind of, sort of interested me anyway. I like the history of words and their definitions. But enough to read a book? I’m not sure. Even if it’s less than 300 pages? Still not sure. It may never have reached the top of the stack. But even if you aren’t that interested in what made the OED the finest reference work of its day – and perhaps the greatest reference ever created – the story of Dr. Charles Minor, the man who contributed thousands of entries, all painstakingly researched and neatly written from his home in Crowthorne, England, just 50 miles from Oxford, just might hook you.

What tied Minor to the OED and made his role so remarkable? Was it that he was an American creating something so peculiarly British? Nope. There was no snobbery as a sub theme. That he was a veteran of the Civil War, where he was surgeon for the troops of the North? Interesting, but not interesting enough to bring a dictionary to life. Was it that he maintained a long distance relationship with Professor James Murray – strictly by correspondence – for decades, despite numerous invitations from Murray to attend fundraising dinners or just stop by the office to meet due to his prolific 10 thousand entries? Not even close. Was it that he thought Irishmen were … and that one night he went out and … and because of that he ended up living in … ? Yes. Yes. And yes.

Spoiler alert. If you don’t want to know what each “yes” represents, now is the time to stop! [Read more…]

Q: Why Won’t a Publisher Read My Manuscript in a Timely Fashion?!

Q: Why won’t a publisher read my manuscript in a timely fashion?!

A: A better question might be this: Why should he or she give two or three hours in his or busy schedule to pore over what you’ve written in the first place?

Let’s start with the simple reality that most of the publishing world is situated in a low demand, high supply section of the supply-demand curve. That means publishers must deal with the fact that we publish more books than there are interested readers. You, the writer, are likewise part of a supply group that is sending more manuscripts than a publisher has demand for in his or her world of limited open slots.

Note that the third variable in the SD Curve is Price. High supply + low demand = low price. Price, for you the aspiring author, is the publisher’s motivation to read your manuscript. Don’t get mad that the price you can charge is low, just understand it and do what you can to change something on the graph. Incidentally, I know a lot of publishers and acquisitions editors who are very nice people and would love nothing more than to encourage and help you. Those who spend a lot of time doing this, however, tend to be ex-publishers and ex-acquisitions editors. It doesn’t pay the bills nor justify the salary.

Publishers aren’t looking for more manuscripts to review but we’ve got to publish something, so unless we have a strong cadre of proven authors signed to long term deals we do want to read the right ones. (See my blog on whether you need an agent to round this discussion out.) What makes a manuscript the right manuscript? Bottom line: It offers something unique and compelling to a well defined audience. If you can’t articulate in a sentence or two what makes your book special for a group of readers that the publisher has some history or means of reaching, then an acquisition specialist probably won’t sort through your material to help develop your “elevator speech” with you. Let’s break down the components of the sentence that is set in bold face.

1. Articulate: Is your sales pitch as well articulated as your manuscript? (Both are well written, right?)

2. In a sentence or two: When you skim book shelves or magazine contents or advertisements or any other message, how long do you give it to catch your attention? Five seconds? I doubt it. Why would you expect a publisher to be any different than you, particularly since he or she knows that the finished book will have the same requirement to nab attention in a second or two put on it by consumers. Hint: There’s something that goes on the cover of a book that serves as the best sales pitch available. (I’ll address titling and subtitling in a future blog.)

3. What makes your book special: If you have quoted someone else’s work in every chapter, there’s a good chance your book is not needed. If you haven’t created something with a new angle, a new discovery, a new application, a new character, a new anything that is important and compelling – why bother?

4. For a group of readers: Chances are your book idea will not appeal to everybody. So bold assertions that millions will want to pick up this book is a real turn off and indication you haven’t thought through who will actually take the time to look your book over and purchase it. Better to be honest about the size of the group that your book appeals to.

5. That the publisher has some history or means of reaching: Textbook publishers don’t effectively market to fiction readers and fiction publishers don’t do a good job of marketing to preachers and ministry publishers don’t tend to reach romance enthusiasts and so on! When you determine who to send your manuscript to, make sure that the publisher has published comparable titles.

This Q/A is as philosophical as it is practical. It’s about helping you measure your expectations and understand why the process is frustrating without getting to frustrated. I’ll come back to the major points of a good book publishing proposal (because whether or not you hire an agent, you’re going to be the one who has to write it!), which will have significant overlap.

Okay, back on topic. Why won’t a publisher just read your manuscript and proposal? Don’t blame him or her. You haven’t yet articulated a concise and compelling reason to do so.

Mark Gilroy Joins Worthy Publishing Team – Press Release

Mark Gilroy has joined senior management of Worthy Publishing in Brentwood, Tennessee.
The Worthy offices in Brentwood, Tennessee.
NASHVILLE, Tenn., February 1, 2013Worthy Publishing is pleased to announce that industry veteran Mark Gilroy has joined the executive team as a Senior Vice President, Associate Publisher. Gilroy will manage the rapidly growing Freeman-Smith imprint, working closely with founder Ron Smith, who will continue his creative work in product development and key account management.
Gilroy has had a successful career in all phases of publishing, working with top authors such as Max Lucado, Beth Moore, and Newt Gingrich, and on numerous bestseller projects. His most recent role in the corporate world was as publisher of the gift, specialty, and backlist books for Thomas Nelson.
“As we continue to build Worthy Publishing, we want to attract strong, energetic leaders and Mark Gilroy fits that bill,” said Byron Williamson, president and CEO of Worthy. “In my years of working with Mark at Integrity Publishers and Thomas Nelson, I know he has tremendous passion for books and great understanding of the marketplace. He and Ron will make a remarkable team.”
“I’ve enjoyed my recent work as an author, agent, and book packager,” Gilroy said, “but when Byron calls with a big idea you have to listen. I’m honored and excited to jump on board and work with the talented team at Worthy. I’m not sure how many individuals in publishing can match Byron’s track record for building great companies based on high-impact books.”
In addition to his work as a publisher, Gilroy has an extensive list of writing credits and in the past year has released two novels, Cuts Like a Knife and Every Breath You Take, which were met with critical acclaim in USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and other leading outlets. Gilroy has written with authors on many significant projects, includingWalmart Way, with Don Soderquist, Sam Walton’s longtime right-hand man.
Mark Gilroy joins Worthy Publishing team.
Worthy Publishing (, a privately held, independent voice in Christian and inspirational publishing, manages editorial, marketing, publicity, and distribution from its home office in Nashville, Tenn. Worthy Books focuses on a boutique list of new titles each year across a broad spectrum of genres, including fiction, current events, biography, devotionals, as well as spiritual and personal growth, and specialized Bibles. Worthy owns Ellie Claire, Gifts and Paper Expressions, as well as Freeman-Smith, a specialty book imprint.

Morgan Canclini

The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan

The Man Who Would Be King by Ben Macentire

The American Who Became King of Afghanistan

I loved the Michael Caine and Sean Connery movie, The Man Who Would Be King, which came out when I was in high school. The John Huston film was nominated for four Academy Awards. Christopher Plummer played the role of a young journalist by the name of Rudyard Kipling – and the film was based on the Kipling’s short story by the same name.

But who knew that Kipling’s literary bon mot was inspired by a true story – and that truth truly is stranger than fiction?

In 1989, Ben Macintyre was sent to Afghanistan to cover the final stages of the 10 year war between the Soviets and the CIA-backed Mujahideen guerrillas. While there he read Kipling’s tale of Daniel Dravot (written in 1888 but looking back to the middle of the Victorian Age, the 1820s and 30s), who made it to the heart of Afghanistan disguised as a Muslim holy man to become king of a fierce tribal empire. It was several years later, while combing through stacks of books in the British Library that Macintyre first discovered the name of a man who “reputedly inspired Rudyard Kipling’s story, ‘The Man Who Would Be King.'”

So began Macintyre’s search for an elusive footnote in history – all his papers were assumed to have been destroyed in a house fire in 1929 – that culminated in The Man Who Would Be King, a fascinating slice of history that is relevant to today’s most pressing geopolitical hotspot. Following clues that led him from Britain’s war archives to the Punjab, San Francisco, and Pennsylvania, Macintyre was finally able to find a box hidden away in the basement of the archives in a tiny U.S. museum of this mysterious man’s birthplace. At the bottom of the box was a “document, written in Persian and stamped with an intricately beautiful oval seal: a treaty, 170 years old, forged between an Afghan prince and the man who would be king.”

The first American in Afghanistan had many titles: Prince of Ghor, Paramount Chief of the Hazarajat, Lord of Kurram, personal surgeon to Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Five Rivers, King of Afghanistan … and many others. His highness Halan Sahib – who in 1839, enthroned on a bull elephant, raised his standard and made claim to the Hindu Kush – was known back home in Chester County, Pennsylvania, as Josiah Harlan. The man who followed Alexander the Great’s winding mountain path 21 centuries later and led an army made up of Afghan Pathans, Persian Qizilibash, Hindus, Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Hazaras who were descendents of the Mongolian Hordes, a pacifist Quaker of Chester County, Pennsylvania.

If you like history, biographies, and tales that seem too fanciful to be true, you’ll love The Man Would Be King.