News and Notes
What does it take to intrigue a Thomas Nelson editorial director and a book buyer from Sam’s Club?
Len Bailey of Wheaton, IL put his imagination in the Holy Spirit’s hands and came up with a Bible study idea he called Sherlock Holmes and the Bible. He envisioned Holmes and Watson by time travel visiting ten Bible story sites and solving a remaining mystery, adding small group Bible study questions. Since the agent for the author’s two general market books decided he did not want to tackle the Christian publishing world, Bailey turned to the Christian Writers Market Guide and landed on the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency name and e-mail address, who promptly agreed to represent this unusual book project.
Did editors jump on board?
No, conventional wisdom at publishers for years has been that books featuring time travel do not sell. Undeterred, Stobbe approached Matt Baugher of Thomas Nelson at ICRS and found a kindred soul. That Warren Wiersbe, a prolific biblical studies author with a national reputation as Bible teacher and closet Sherlockian, wrote the Foreword helped Baugher in his presentation to his team, which included marketing. The discussion revealed a concern about the method of time travel, so the author and Wiersbe came up with Moriarity’s needle’s eye approach. And while the author had envisioned two books, one with the narrative and the other with Bible study questions following each Bible story, the Thomas Nelson team decided on one book, with the Bible study questions at the end. The title became Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye, with the sub-title: The World Greatest Detective Tackles the Bible’s Ultimate Mysteries. The title represents a bid to engage the general market book buyers and the sub-title is designed to intrigue the Christian book buyer.
Now came the tricky part, getting permission from the Arthur Conan Doyle estate to use the detective team as the lead characters. That secured, with a share of the royalty committed to the estate, the book’s writing could proceed.
Now it was up to editorial and marketing at Thomas Nelson, both of whom tackled this most unusual approach to Bible study with zeal. Marketing secured solid advance sales, including buys from book buyers at Sam’s Club and similar mass market merchandizers. Books shipped in early April—with the promotional drumbeat in full swing. Sales results will determine whether those committed to this book’s unique approach—or the naysayers—were right.
B&H Resets Fiction to Align with Broader Strategies
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 3, 2013) – B&H Publishing Group president Selma Wilson has announced a new strategy for the company’s fiction program.
Uniquely positioned for developing strategic partnerships, B&H will intentionally focus on publishing only those novels that are tied to broader strategic endeavors, including initiatives with ministries, external film partners, LifeWay Films, and the B&H Kids line. Past releases using this model have included such best sellers as The Love Dare, The Vow, The Resolution for Men, as well as titles such as October Baby and Unconditional. New and upcoming releases include the Experiencing God at Home line, The Lost Medallion by Bill Muir and Alex Kendrick and The Truth Seekers Series by Bill Myers.
“B&H is focusing on projects that align with our core strengths,” said Wilson. “We are uniquely gifted in working alongside partners and utilizing all of the tools that LifeWay Christian Resources is blessed to have. We are a team of people who want to spread the gospel around the world, and we believe we accomplish that best when we deploy our gifts to broader movements alongside strategic relationships.”
Upcoming B&H releases this year include The Love Dare for Parents by Stephen and Alex Kendrick (July 1), Whispers of Hope by Beth Moore (October 1), and Operation Christmas Child by Franklin Graham and Donna Lee Toney (October 1).
Commitment and Persistence Win Big Fiction Contest Prize for Eye Doctor
What does an ophthalmologist with a family do in his spare time? For Dr. Peter Bekendam, an ophthalmologist in a VA hospital, it’s writing fiction and studying how to market it on Kindle. And it has paid off big-time with first place in the Operation First Novel Contest co-sponsored by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and Worthy Publishing--and a fiction contract for Prime of Life from Worthy with a $20,000 advance. But there’s more to that storyline.
Dr. Bekendam initially submitted a proposal for a comedic novel to his agent, Les Stobbe, in 2007. After several revisions the agent sent it to fiction editors, only to repeatedly get rejections with “Humor does not sell for us.” In succeeding years he continued to rewrite and in early 2012 decided on a bold strategy to get publishing executives’ attention. He embarked on intensive research into Indie e-book self-publishing to prove to editors his book, Prime of Life, would sell. He concluded that he would need to sell 2,000 copies.
Free Offer Launches E-Book
Launching his book at $2.99, the lowest price amazon permits Indie Kindle publishers to list while still retaining a 70% royalty, he started his campaign with a free launch the first day. Five hundred downloads later he knew there was interest in Prime of Life, which he had listed in both Humor and Christian Fiction categories. The reviews were stunning, consistently registering at five stars, with an average of 4.7, including reviews by obvious non-Christians. By early 2013, he had more than 130 reviews.
“One reviewer panned the book for its Christian message, only to be quickly refuted by others,” says Dr. Bekendam.
As the reviews piled up, Prime of Life moved up in the rankings, eventually reaching the upper stratosphere, as one of the top 100 Humor e-books sold by Kindle. The rise in ranking fueled increased sales.
Since the Operation First Novel Contest did not consider self-published books as “published,” Dr. Bekendam entered Prime of Life in that contest. He was so convinced he would not win that he decided to prepare for his meetings with editors at the Writing for the Soul Conference by offering Prime of Life free on the previous Saturday. With 15,000 free downloads in one day and a total of 50,000 downloads over the past year, he was ready to do battle with editors who had reported comedic novels did not sell. He was in shock when he was announced the first prize winner in the Operation First Novel Contest. Commitment and persistence, and the faith of his agent in him as a writer, had paid off.
Dr. Bekendam was one of two Stobbe clients who were finalists in the 2013 Operation First Novel Contest. The other finalist was Sue Montgomery with Despite an Oath, another novel eight publishers rejected in 2008 and the author kept working on until she submitted it to Operation First Novel. Talk about commitment and persistence paying off. An earlier Stobbe client winner was Topm Pawlik, a Tyndale author, and finalist was Rusty Whitener, now with two Kregel contracts and a movie in post-production.
Visit Dr. Peter Bekendam’s blogspot for more of the story at PDBekendam.blogspot.com.
Amazon Reviews Top 200 for The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast in a “Race for Reviews”
Tapping into her loyal fan base, Kristen Feola announced a “Race for Reviews” for The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast, a Zondervan publication, on amazon.com, going from 155 reviews to 201 in four days, January 28-31. Sheeasily topped the number of amazon.com reviews for Susan Gregory’s The Daniel Fast, a Tyndale book, released a year before Kristen’s book. Since then the number of reviews has climbed to 211.
In January, Kristen launched her second annual "Plant the Seed" Online Daniel Fast, with nearly 2,700 people participating. That was the base she tapped into for the surge in reviews. If participation in a Lenten Daniel Fast interests you, go to email@example.com.
In addition to chapters explaining the Daniel Fast and 21 daily devotionals, Kristen’s The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast contains recipes and full color photos selected from 100 Daniel Fast dishes prepared and photographed in Kristen’s kitchen.