What’s Up at Jericho Books?


Late last week, Hachette Book Group announced that Wendy Grisham was being let go, and that her imprint, Jericho Books, was going to be dramatically downsized. In the Christian publishing world, this is very big news. (Full disclosure: my agent, Kathy Helmers, pitched Jericho several book proposals from me; Jericho did not bid on any of them, and I ultimately signed with another publisher. I harbor no animus whatsoever, and Wendy and I remain friends.)

Jericho arrived on the publishing scene with a bang, paying significant advances to acquire big name authors like Brian McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Philip Yancey, and Shane Hipps. Their first book to the make the New York Times bestseller list was Nadia’s Pastrix this fall.

Big New York publishing houses like Hachette have been snapping up evangelical publishers for some time now, as Christian books have one of the few bullish areas in publishing. Thomas Nelson and Zondervan are owned by NewsCorp, Waterbrook and Multnomah are owned by Penguin Random House, etc. You get the picture. The conglomeration in publishing is a reality.

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A Little Something about E-Publishing

Patton Dodd, a long-time friend, is the executive editor of a new publishing venture called Bondfire Books. He interviewed me about my own foray into ebooks and posted the intertview on the Bondfire blog:

One of my favorite short ebooks of this year–and given my love of Byliner, Kindle Singles, and The Atavist, and my work at Bondfire and Patheos Press, I read more than my fair share–is one you may not heard of unless you’re a theology nerd: Tony Jones’ A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin. Fortunately for Tony Jones, theology nerds aren’t hard to find, especially online, but they aren’t exactly an audience that major publishers are lining up to serve.

That makes Jones’ ebook a perfect example of one of the best things about epublishing today–authors can serve even the niche-iest of audiences with a low-cost, quick-to-market title.

Low-cost and quick-to-market do not mean “cheap.” A Better Atonement is less than 15,000 words long–you can read it in a single evening–and costs less than a latte, but it offers a helpful, thoughtful, and balanced overview of the dominant views of the atonement, that hard-to-pin down doctrine about how humans can be reconciled to God. I’m not a theology nerd so much as I am theologically curious, but I found the book an ideal primer on the major schools of thought about Christian atonement, and I appreciated seeing Jones consider how the received wisdom of an idea like “original sin” inspires particular ways of thinking about salvation. If I were teaching the atonement to a group of students or leading a church discussion, I’d have a hard time coming up with a better introductory resource.

Click thru to read the interview: A Better Ebook: Tony Jones’ “A Better Atonement” | Bondfire Books.

How I Got My Publishers to Drop the Price of My Books to $.99

Short answer: I asked.

Longer answer:

In November, I started thinking about Christmas. Not what I would get, or what I would give. Instead, I was listening to all of the reports about iPads and Kindles that were going to be sold over the holidays. Combine that with millions of dollars given on Amazon gift cards, and I thought: There are going to be a lot of ebooks sold in the two weeks after Christmas!

So I composed an email and sent it to every publisher with whom I’ve had a book in the past. I asked them if they’d be willing to drop the price of my ebooks in to $.99 for one week, starting on Christmas. All but one did, but it took some coaxing. As a result, we (Doug Pagitt and I) sold a bunch of books.

Here are my tips, based on this experience:

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Amazon’s New Tablet and the Future of Books

Today Amazon will debut their new tablet, the Kindle Fire.  My guess is that it’s going to be quite awesome, and that it’s going to be $100 less than and iPad.  Also, Amazon is likely going to throw in some goodies, like lifetime Amazon Prime with some versions.  That would be pretty awesome, too.

Jana Riess interviewed me about my new book and about my adventure in self-publishing for her blog, and she’ll post the interview next week.  I think I’ll follow up with some thoughts of my own on self-publishing and e-publishing next week.  But, in the meantime, the today’s announcement about the Kindle Fire has inspired John Biggs at Tech Crunch to prophecy a timeline of the future of books:

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