Lord Press began out of a passion and a frustration. My passion has
always been for speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, etc.—the
weird stuff) ever since I saw the original Star Wars
movie when I was twelve and it showed me the power of story. Then I
became a Christian and discovered the Lord of the Rings
speculative power, but this time I saw it through the lens of
Christianity. Suddenly I wanted to tell speculative stories from the
Christian worldview. That became my passion.
My first published novels (six
novels under the pen name Jefferson Scott) were near-future
technothrillers. I thought they were terrific, as did the three people
who read them. But they sold terribly. I thought I was ahead of my
time. That’s what you say when you try something different and it
doesn’t catch on. [grin] This began over a decade of frustration.
I became an editor at Multnomah
Publishers. While there, I championed many Christian speculative
fiction proposals. Most were shot down in committee, which added to the
frustration. Then the few that did get published sold terribly, which
also added to the frustration. I moved from Multnomah to Strang
Communications, where I was able to spearhead the launch of their new
fiction imprint, Realms, which was dedicated to Christian speculative
fiction. There again we had great stories, great covers, and great
promotion, but the sales were mediocre. More frustration.
I moved to NavPress, where I ran
their fiction department for a while. I acquired some excellent
novels: Sharon Hinck’s Restorer trilogy and Tosca
Lee’s Demon: A Memoir. Great stuff, but still they
didn’t receive the popular support to match the excellence of the
content. More frustration.
At that point I’d been in the
Christian publishing industry for twelve years. It slowly dawned on me
what was happening. Readers were out there who would love Christian
science fiction and fantasy, but we weren’t reaching them. I finally
The people who walk into
Christian bookstores looking for novels are white, evangelical women.
As a group, those dear ladies prefer bonnet and buggy romances over
stories about mutant alien vampires who eat your brains. When I made
that key realization, I knew why speculative novels didn’t sell. There were
Christians who wanted SF and fantasy, but they’d long ago given up
looking for them in Christian bookstores.
I began thinking and praying
about what a publishing company would look like that produced
speculative fiction and got it to the people who wanted it. It wouldn’t
be a company that sold to Christian bookstores. What would be the
point? The task became figuring out where these target readers were and
how best to reach them. Marcher Lord Press—and its very different
publishing model—is the result.
MLP is an advance-paying,
royalty-paying publisher producing print books with
Kindle and Sony versions (not e-books only). Ninety percent of our
sales are through the Internet: Amazon, CBD, or MLP’s store site. We
sell a few copies at Christian writers conferences and a very few
through special arrangements with bookstores (usually in my authors’
of the traditional offset printing, in which thousands of copies of a
book are printed and sent to warehouses, Marcher Lord Press uses
print-on-demand technology. POD is not
self-publishing. As I said, MLP is an advance-paying, royalty-paying
publisher. The author puts up zero money for the production of his or
her book. POD is just a technology. Instead of printing thousands of
copies, hoping to have thousands of orders, I print zero copies until
I have orders, and then I print just the number to fill the orders.
publishing arrangement with
my authors is also quite different from traditional CBA houses. They
pay an advance of a few thousand dollars and then, if the advance is
made back, a royalty rate on the order of 16 percent. I pay a very
small advance and then, when my expenses for that book are made back, I
split royalties with my authors 50/50.
This arrangement is great for
the author (and the publisher). A traditional CBA house needs to sell
10,000 to 20,000 units of a book to break even. I break even on 300
units sold. After that, it’s all gravy for the author. A book can sell
8,000 units for a traditional publisher and be considered a colossal
failure. A book can sell 500 units for me and be considered a runaway
bestseller. I rather like that.
Marcher Lord Press launched in
the fall of 2008. In 2009 we became eligible to enter contests. In the
2009 ACFW Book of the Year Award, two of our three novels were
finalists for the award. And in 2010 we entered our six 2009 novels in
contests. By Darkness Hid, an epic fantasy by Jill
Williamson, won the 2010 Christy Award in the Visionary category. MLP
novels have also won the EPIC Award, the Indie Award, and cover design
contests. In this year’s ACFW Carol Award (the renamed Book of the Year
Award), we have five finalists, including four of six finalists in the
Speculative category. Five of our six 2009 novels are up for the Clive
Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction. And I am one of three
finalists for the ACFW Editor of the Year Award.
I believe the publishing model
we use at MLP is inspired by God, because the more things change in
publishing, the smarter our model looks—and I’m not that smart! As
traditional Christian publishers are laying off and their incomes are
taking a precipitous drop, MLP continues on a steady climb. And new
small presses are springing up, using models very similar to MLP. Some
are even asking me for counsel, which I’m pleased to offer.
The market for Christian
speculative fiction is there. I found it. It’s bigger than I’ve been
able to exploit so far, but hopefully news of what we’re doing will
spread and the growth will continue. But right now MLP is not able to
supply the need for all the people who want to read Christian
speculative fiction. If I had the staff and time, I could publish three
to four times the number of novels I’m publishing now, and the market
would gobble it up. So we need more presses serving this loyal and
voracious market. Hopefully, I will be able to expand my publishing
program in the
In addition to discovering new
authors and voices, which I love, I’m now in a position to acquire some
beloved authors and books from the pioneering days of Christian
speculative fiction. Marcher Lord Press recently acquired Kathy Tyers
and her groundbreaking Firebird trilogy—plus two
previously unpublished novels in the Firebird saga.
Other big names and well-known novels may rally under the MLP banner,
but I can’t say anything just yet.
For a small, nimble press with
MLP’s model, this day of dire news for the traditional publishing
industry is a time of great opportunity. Something that began out of
passion and frustration has led to a new path of possibility. Our fifth
release list of novels will be available October 1. Now, the
frustration is gone and the passion remains.