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October 2011

Reporter: Colleen Coble

Colleen CobleBest-selling author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana. Visit her website.

Editor: Janny Butler

Janny ButlerA popular speaker, workshop teacher, and writing coach, Janet W. (Janny) Butler is a Golden Heart winner, author of the “best little book no one’s ever heard of,” ACFW member, and book project editor for the nation’s largest nonprofit Catholic publisher. She blogs at Catholic Writer Chick at Large! and Hoosier Ink. Visit her here.

Workshop 5: Christian Fiction Unplugged

Allen ArnoldThe room was packed and the audience buzzing with excitement when Allen Arnold (right), senior vice-president and fiction publisher at Thomas Nelson, got started. The writers gathered in the room didn’t take long to jump into questions about e-publishing.


Ebook pricing

Arnold said Thomas Nelson has found pricing at $0.99 or $1.99 was a better way to get people to actually read the download. When readers pay nothing for a book, they often don’t read it at all. A publisher running a promotion like that believes people will become fans once they read the first book.

Author names on ebooks

Most readers don’t remember who wrote the last ebook they read.

Another problem Arnold is trying to solve with ebooks is that they don’t have the author’s name on every page. A survey showed that most readers don’t remember who wrote the last ebook they read. Arnold said Nelson’s revenue for ebooks in 2010 was 4- to 6-percent of total sales—this year it is at 26 percent. Arnold said Thomas Nelson is not in the business of choosing for a reader how they view content.

Print runs decreasing

The initial print run of new books has been going down with the prevalence of ebooks. He sees ebooks taking the place of mass market eventually. The return rate from mass market is 50- to 70- percent, so now publishers are working smarter and shipping smaller quantities until they see if the initial amounts sell. Trade books are still holding steady while hardcover has become a collector edition.

Enhanced ebooks

Readers want to be immersed in a novel.

Arnold considers enhanced ebooks a bleeding edge and said he doesn’t want to be on the bleeding edge. Readers want to be immersed in a novel. They want to read the book, not hear the author. On the whole, enhancement works better for nonfiction than for fiction.

Edgy books

Tell stories in an authentic way rather than trying to push to envelope of what is acceptable.

When WestBow started, Arnold loved edgy books, but he’s since come to believe being on the edge is not glorifying God. The culture lives to see how it can become more shocking. He believes in following the Scripture about dwelling on what is good, right, wise, and true. He recommended authors tell stories in an authentic way rather than trying to push to envelope of what is acceptable. He wants authors who believe in the Nicene Creed.

Recently, Thomas Nelson did an online survey and conducted several focus groups. They found was that readers wanted novels with hope.

Author promotion

When asked what he liked to see in promotion from authors, he called on Colleen Coble to comment because he felt she was one of the authors who connect well with readers.

Coble said she loves to hear from readers and that she is very active on Twitter and Facebook. She sends out physical mail, a signed bookplate and 3 bookmarks, when a reader signs up for her newsletter. She also recommended being thankful for what your publishing house does for you. Thank the cover designer, the rights people, and sales people. Truly love and appreciate your team.

Arnold’s candor and transparency was refreshing, and the audience was quick to applaud and talk more with him after the session ended.

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