I type this, I’m sitting in a comfy chair looking out at the Gateway
Arch in St. Louis. Even though I’ve been up in the Arch and peered
through the tiny windows at the surrounding city and countryside (you
can see a long way from up there), I forget how big it is. Looking up
at the scudding clouds beyond it will make you slip-footed dizzy if you
watch too long.
That’s sorta how I felt at this
week’s ACFW conference after I heard for the umpteenth time about an
unexpected change in Abingdon’s fiction program. And each time I heard
it, the mentioned change became broader and more untrue.
I felt I was living a real-life
version of the telephone game: one person whispers a statement to the
person next to him, that one repeats it to the next person, and so on
around the circle. Then the last person says the statement aloud,
amazing people with how different the final version is from the
original. One of my favorites of these involved only fifteen people,
and the first whispered statement—“Donna eats spaghetti and meatballs
with red sauce”—became “Donna is spitting mad at Alice and seeing red”
by the time it made it around the circle.
Over the past few months,
Abingdon has been evaluating the sales of the previous two years. We’re
a young line; our first releases were in fall 2009. So it’s a normal
part of the process for us to track the trends of what’s selling and
what isn’t, and of those that are selling, which genres are moving
best. All publishers do this; it’s the way we stay up-to-date with the
constantly evolving trends in the industry. It helps us refine and
consolidate the vision for the program.
Also, because we plan so far
out, making adjustments in what we acquire now will
mean changes for the line over the next two to five years. So here’s a
list of those adjustments:
We’re expanding our line from twenty-two to twenty-five books a year.
We will be putting more emphasis on traditional genres, including
historical romance, Amish, and suspense. We will be looking to add one
or two speculative fiction titles per year, strictly on a trial basis.
This is not a mandate; it’s an opportunity.
• We will be adding one to two YA titles per year, one of which will be
• We will be acquiring fewer women’s fiction titles, in part because we
have WF titles booked through 2015.
• We will be adding the Quilts of Love series, which will be a shorter,
monthly series. This series will primarily include books of
contemporary or historical romance and women’s fiction.
Until now, these adjustments
have not been disclosed for public consideration. They’ve been listed
in in-house documents, and I’ve discussed the points with a few agents
arrived at the ACFW conference Wednesday night and had not yet left the
airport before I heard for the first time, “Is Abingdon doing less
women’s fiction?” I blinked, wondering if I’d heard it right. The
baggage claim at STL is pretty noisy.
But I nodded. “Looking for less
at this conference, yep.”
heard it again once I got to
the hotel, pretty much in the same form. This time I tried to clarify.
“We’re still doing it; just fewer titles, and I’m just looking for more
of the other genres.” This contrasted with the questions about Abingdon
doing speculative fiction. “We’re going to try it,” I explained. “I
think it’s going to be a trend that expands over the next few years.”
Parallel, warring rumors. Less
women’s fiction; more speculative. I tried to clarify when I was asked.
Then, last night at the awards
banquet came the question that both horrified and amused me. “I hear
that Abingdon is discontinuing all women’s fiction and doing mostly
After I shooed the flies out of
my mouth and stopped gasping like a fish splashed up on a bank, I
managed to grin. “Uh, that’s not true. We will still be doing plenty of
And we will. We recently
launched River’s Song, the first in a women’s
fiction series by Melody Carlson. In spring 2012, we’ll be releasing
women’s fiction titles from Melody, Jennifer AlLee, Yvonne Lehman, Judy
Christie, and Jim Kraus. In 2013, we’ll be experimenting with
back-to-back releases (April, May and July) of a women’s fiction series
by Debby Mayne. There will be women’s fiction titles in the Quilts of
Women’s fiction is still a
strong part of our publishing program. However, we will be doing fewer
WF titles than we have in the past, and I have WF titles booked for the
next few years. I’m looking for less of it at this time. In a few
months, that may change.
So will the rumors. This isn’t
the first time I’ve been caught off guard by some rumor about the AP
fiction program. Other editors deal with the same problem. And I truly
appreciate the folks who came to me to ask.
Please, any time you hear a
suggestion about what one publisher or the other will do or not do, ask
the people involved. Or your agent, if you have one.
A long time ago, an extremely
wise woman explained to me the futility of trying to combat rumors.
“You can’t stop them. They move faster than wildfires. The only thing
you can do is to keep doing what you’re doing, live it the best you
can, and demonstrate the truth for the world. Only then will the rumors
So I hope you will buy, read,
and enjoy the powerful women’s fiction titles on our current and future
lists. In the meantime, please welcome Kathy Harris to our list. She
signed the contract for her fall 2012 women’s fiction title just last
week . . .
look at it this way. I’m not an eavesdropper;
I have an attention surplus