Thursday, August 6, 2009

Through the Grapevine

So we've been talking books now for a while, which is a feat for me considering that most of the time I just post whatever I happen to be thinking about. Sorry for the inconsistency, though I'll admit it keeps things interesting! At least for me. ;) But I've managed to string together a coherent thought for several posts now, and it's all been leading up to this master plan that's been fermenting in my mind for weeks and weeks now. Let me explain.

In the few years that I have been privileged to be a part of the publishing industry, I've learned one thing: nothing is guaranteed. Not another contract, not book sales, not reviewer or audience acclaim of your hard-won blood, sweat, and tears. Nothing. It can be disheartening. I've seen talented authors devastated by crushing reviews and not-so-talented authors sell in the multi-millions. As much as we might sometimes like it to be formulaic, it's not.

But there is one thing that seems pretty consistent in this unpredictable market: the importance of word of mouth. Conventional wisdom says that word of mouth is still capable of selling more books than any fancy, expensive campaign. At first, I thought: Get real; it all comes down to the almighty dollar. And it might, to a certain extent. But when I'm ready to buy or borrow a book, I don't give a rip about a billboard in Times Square if my trusted friend tells me that it sucks. In fact, I'm so confident in the assessment of like-minded book lovers and friends that I happily skipped right over the last two books in the Twilight series because I was so annoyed with New Moon. And at the high recommendation of a woman in my community, I bought The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society without even bothering to read the back blurb. I had no idea what the book was about when I cracked the front cover. But my friend was right--it's one of my current favorite books. Word of mouth works for me.

Anyway, I haven't hidden from you the fact that I was never a very big fan of Christian fiction. And now I write Christian fiction. How'd that happen? Well, God's plans are bigger than mine, but I also have to admit that I used to have a pretty narrow view of faith-based literature. Maybe it earned my disdain. Maybe I didn't look hard enough. Either way, the CBA market is much more interesting, diverse, and dynamic than I ever gave it credit for--and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Since The Moment Between came out, I've received many emails saying a version of “I wish there were more authors like you out there.” Guess what? There are. I’m a drop in the bucket, a little fish in a big sea, a novice surrounded by professionals who have been doing this much longer than me… But before you get any big ideas to up and leave me, you still have to love me and buy my books. I think you signed a contract, didn't you? ;)

At any rate, for the next year or so (and as long as I can keep it going!) I'm going to take a break from my regular blogging once a month to introduce you to some fantastic CBA authors. These authors write books that are sophisticated, literary, and able to rival anything the ABA has to offer. You'll be blown away by their talent and the scope of their stories. I'm so excited to introduce you!

I've decided to call this new monthly segment Through the Grapevine because it's all about word of mouth--not to mention my website (and latest book) are vineyard themed. How's that for cutesy? Gag. But I have to call it something. Anyway, who cares what it's called when it will feature reviews, interviews, and (best of all!) giveaways! I've contacted my first five authors (through December), and they are all eager to participate and give away copies of their books. Some are even giving away more than one. So, what could be better? Fascinating authors, great book suggestions, and chances to win. Best of all, word gets out that people who happen to love God can (and do) write beautiful, complex, and literary books. Maybe even life-changing books. Imagine that.

My first Through the Grapevine feature will happen on August 15 and continue spicing up the mid-month sag from then on out. In the meantime, back to more personal posts... Thanks for reading. :)

P.S. - As I was finishing up this post yesterday, a cop in a ghost car pulled up to my house. When the boys caught sight of his gun holster and handcuffs, mayhem broke loose. Thankfully, he was here for an interview, not an arrest, but I neglected to add the last paragraph of this post. I wanted to know: Do you agree? Is word of mouth important? Where do you get your book recommendations? Are you a religious Publishers Weekly reader? Do you wholly trust your local librarian? I'd love to know...

P.S.S. - I've decided my witty moniker (ha!) is too cumbersome. I'm ditchin' the preposition. Stay tuned for a monthly installment of The Grapevine. ;)


  1. Oooh! Can't wait to see what authors you have to feature! Always looking for recommendations (though I need more books to read like I need a hole in the head).

  2. Oh, this sounds really cool. I'm excited about the books you'll be discussing. Even if I don't ever win another giveaway I will definitely take a serious gander at these recommendations. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is already on my list. :)


  3. I'm glad you're excited! Me too. There are some really amazing authors out there and I'm looking forward to giving them some much-deserved press. Free books are always fun, too. :)

  4. I don't read Publisher's Weekly. Usually my cousin and I go back and forth between what books we've read and which ones we've liked. Mostly, I just browse through bookstores and libraries to see which ones appeal to me most. I don't really get a lot of recommendations because I'm one of the only people I know who likes to read so much. My friends Shannon and Jill recommended Twilight to me last year after I trash talked it for a couple years. Then when I read it I loved it. (Though the movie, I thought, was a real letdown. My friend, Jill, and I watched it the other night and just couldn't stop picking out things they did wrong or how the actors were "acting" nothing like the characters. Anyway, I digress.) The point is, after I get carried away trying to write a book for a post, my method of finding books is looking online or browsing through libraries and bookstores, as previously mentioned. :p But, yes, to answer the question, I believe word of mouth is very important. One other person I can think of who recommends me books, is a girl I used to take dance classes with. She's always telling me when the newest Mary Kay Andrews books is coming out.

  5. I think word of mouth is important, but if I really want to read a book I am going to do it whether someone else gives it a bad review of not. Not everyone likes the same kind of books, for instance some love romance novels and I tend to gag if any are even mentioned. I think it is because I totally burnt myself out when I went through my Danielle Steel phase in college! I get a lot of my recommendations from the monthly book club I am in. It makes me read books I would not have otherwise picked up and I have read some really great books because of it. One of my favorites is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I always suggest that one to people. Another good one is Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken.

  6. I have heard such good things about The Book Thief. It's on my to-read list. And am I dreaming, or is Niagara Falls All Over Again by an Iowa author...? Us Midwesterners gotta stick together. ;)

  7. Elizabeth McCracken is an Iowa author. Part of her book is set in Valley Junction which is part of Des Moines where I grew up. Niagara Falls All Over Again was an All Iowa Reads pick a couple of years ago. I read it as part of a book club in Webster City, where I was living at the time. I think I was the only one under the age of 50, but it was still an awesome group of people.