Beyond the Smoke
Joyce Hart

Founder Joyce Hart began her career in 1978, selling Christian books at Whitaker House Publishing. She was a secretary to the vice president and the editorial department. She worked for Whitaker for eleven years, the last three of which she was the Vice President of Marketing. Her specialty was Special Markets, selling to chain bookstores, ministries, book clubs, catalogs, and rackjobbers.

She founded Hartline Marketing in 1990 and represented several small companies, including New Leaf Press and Victory House Publishing, handling special markets for both for many years. Hartline Literary Agency, a division of Hartline Marketing, was founded in 1992. Joyce has cultivated strong relationships with every major CBA publishing house and has outstanding long-term relationships with key editors in these sought-after houses.

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Interesting Developments in the World of Publishing

The latest news is the request by the ABA (American Booksellers Association) for a government investigation of price wars.

From Publishers Weekly:

“In a letter sent to the antitrust division of the Department of Justice Thursday, the board of directors of the American Booksellers Association requested that the government begin an investigation into what the organization believes is the illegal predatory pricing policies being carried out by Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target in selling 10 hardcover titles for as low as $8.98. The ABA requested a meeting with officials as soon as possible, arguing that left unchecked, the predatory pricing policies ‘will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to remain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public.’

“The letter charged that the big box retailers are using predatory pricing practices to ‘attempt to win control of the market for hardcover bestsellers.’ By selling books below cost, Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target ‘are devaluing the very concept of the book. Authors and publishers, and ultimately consumers, stand to lose a great deal if this practice continues and/or grows,’ the letter stated. Furthermore, the letter noted, the companies involved in the price war are not engaged primarily in selling books, yet their fight could result in the entire book industry becoming collateral damage.

“The letter added that the price war over hard covers was precipitated by Amazon’s decision to price e-books at $9.99. ‘We believe the loss-leader pricing of digital content also bears scrutiny,’ the letter stated.”

The latest today is that Sears/K-Mart will not offer the books at the $8.98 or $8.99 prices that Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target are offering; however, they will give a $9.00 store credit if you bring in a receipt from one of the other stores.

There has long been discord between big box stores and retail stores. The big guys buy huge quantities of books at larger discounts and sell cheaper. This hurts the bookstores. When I used to sell books to bookstores, the managers would tell me that they could go to Sam’s and buy Bibles and bestselling books cheaper there than they could from the publisher or distributor. The big box stores sell certain products at a loss to bring the consumer into the store. They make it up on other products. A problem for the publisher is that these stores do huge returns, and returns are bad for all of us. This is why some publishers hold back certain funds, anticipating returns, and the author has to wait for his/her money. The other side of the coin is that publishers cannot exist on bookstore sales; they need the sales from the larger clients to stay in business.

Chances are that these promotions will not hurt the smaller stores if only a few titles are offered at this low price. They could go to the big box stores and buy them at that price and sell them without a profit at their stores to draw people in. It would be better than paying the publisher or distributor a higher price and selling at a loss; however, if there are only a few books on the shelf, that might not work. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Here is some advice from the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) for the bookstores concerning the Christmas Season:

“With more than 43% of holiday shoppers viewing price and discounts as important, according to BigResearch/National Retail Federation holiday-sales research, Christian stores must have bargain and discounted products available and promoted to achieve business success this year, according to Mike Hockett, Strata Consulting LLC president and CBA service provider.”

Most Christian bookstores are stocked with more than books. Gifts, cards, music and T-shirts make up a good part of their inventory. I recommend that you support your Christian bookstores when possible. Even though online shopping is easy, and I order online when I can’t get the book at my Family Christian store, we don’t want to see our bookstores go out of business. There is something satisfying about going into a bookstore, especially for those of us who are book addicts.

In agency developments, I’d like to announce that Hartline has two books on the CBA Bestsellers list: Fields of Grace by Kim Vogel Sawyer and A Man of His Word by Kathleen Fuller. Both are Tamela Hancock Murray’s clients.

Our agents have been busy this year of 2009, attending writing conferences. To mention a few, Diana and I attended ICRS, Diana and Tamela went to the Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference, Diana and Terry attended the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference, Terry and Tamela attended the ACFW, and I just got back from the San Diego Christian Writer’s Conference.

Looking for Christmas books for gifts or to enjoy in warmth of your living/family room? Here are a few of my choices: The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne from Hachette; Loree Lough’s Love Finds You in North Pole Alaska, and An Amish Christmas: December in Lancaster County, a novella that includes a story by Kathleen Fuller. These three happen to be Hartline authors. A couple others of my Christmas favorites: White Christmas Pie by Wanda Brunstetter and One Holy Night by J. M. Hochstetler. Some new titles that I want to read are Home for the Holidays, from Grace Chapel Inn by Rebecca Kelly, Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson, and One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling.

One of the big news items is “Kindle Goes International: U.S. Price Lowered.” Amazon will have begun shipping October 19 a new device with U. S. and international access. The new Kindle will be available to more than 100 countries and will have more than 200,000 English language books, Amazon says. The price will be $279, while the new U.S. price will be $259. Titles available to U. S. consumers numbers 350,000.

Other news from Publishers Weekly—the amended Google deal is targeted for November 8. “Lawyers representing the AAP and Authors Guild told Judge Danny Chin they will file an amended agreement with the court by November 9 to address the many concerns raised by the original Good Book Search Settlement.”

Have you heard that ACFW will be in Indianapolis in 2010? Be sure to visit the site and make your plans to go to this conference if you are a fiction writer.

An interesting free newsletter is newsletter [at] booksquare[dot]com. Check it out, you might like it.

Happy Shopping & blessings,