Monday, February 1, 2010

What’s Hot and What’s Not

It’s a new year with new opportunities, so it’s time to brush off that work in process and get serious about finishing your novel. I’m saying that to myself as well as to you. Thank you for your continued support of my ongoing attempt to polish my novel into its finest form that will enable my agent, Janet Kobobel Grant, to send it out into the publishing world.

Speaking of Janet Kobobel Grant, I would like to introduce her to you. She has been a very patient literary agent, and I am so humbled and honored to be one of her clients. She has an impressive resume that includes writing her own books, managing her own imprint at Zondervan, serving as a managing editor for Focus on the Family Books and founding her literary agency, Books & Such. For those of you who are looking for an agent, she has some excellent insight and tips for this important process. Here is the link:

In order to succeed in any industry, one must have an excellent product to fit consumers’ demands. With that in mind, I asked Janet in a recent phone conversation about “what’s hot and what’s not” in the fashion – oops - I mean the publishing industry. Since she represents clients in the general market and the CBA market, I asked her about both areas, and I was surprised by some of her responses.

“What’s Hot”

In the general market, Romance remains Very Hot – with the double entendre being understood and underlined. The claim that romance is recession proof has held true during this economic downturn. As a banker, I always look at the numbers, and according to the Romance Writers Association website, sales in the romance genre market for 2008 were around $1.37 billion, and 74.8 million people read at least one romance fiction novel during 2008. Here’s the link for more statistics:

In the CBA market (Christian Booksellers), romance novels are selling very well in addition to Amish fiction. Janet thinks that the continued popularity of the Amish storylines reflects the hunger for simpler times and lifestyle. Readers seek a quiet place with buggies rather than a highway zooming with SUVs. Those who enjoyed Jan Karon’s Mitford series would find Amish novels appealing because of that same escapist dynamic.

“What’s Not Hot”

Now this one was surprising: Suspense, especially romantic suspense. Readers are looking for tranquility. Except for those established authors with an existing readership base, publishing houses are not proactively soliciting suspense. Yet isn’t it interesting that the suspense-based movies continue to garner large audiences. According to Janet, the readers want to escape in print to someplace safe and simple, i.e. those Amish buggies.

Some interesting side notes from Janet regarding a variety of topics. Literary fiction continues to be difficult to place unless a manuscript has fine writing with commercial appeal. Many book clubs select the literary novels as long as the pacing and plotline are written in a relatable way. Another interesting trend is that readers continue to look for bargain prices and tend to purchase a series of three books that are combined in one volume.

For those editors reading this blog, Janet brought up a very interesting point. Debbie Macomber’s books are flying off the shelves. (She has sold over 60 million books during her career.) Debbie is a delightful person who so graciously wrote an essay for my non-fiction book Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit Experiencing Grace. Debbie is a talented writer whose tagline is “wherever you are, Debbie Macomber calls you home.” Readers are seeking solace and searching for “home,” so why aren’t the editors proactively growing that genre and looking for more “Debbie Macomber” writers to “call readers home”? Something to think about….Looks like a consumer demand without enough product.

Thank you, Janet, for your generous time in filling in the blanks for “what’s hot and what’s not” in the publishing industry at this time. I encourage all of you to keep writing, and as Roy Yamagucci, the famous Hawaiian chef likes to say, “Imua!” That means move forward with courage. Write with courage! And please keep in touch along the way!


Here is Janet’s favorite recipe:

Herb and Goat Cheese Souffle

• Minced fresh thyme

• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• 5 tablespoons all purpose flour

• 1 large garlic clove, minced

• 1 1/4 cups whole milk

• 1/4 cup dry white wine

• 6 large egg yolks

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

• 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

• 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

• 6 egg yoks

• 1 cup crumbled chilled soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet)

• 1/2 cup (packed) grated Gruyère cheese (about 2 ounces)

• 6 large egg whites

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Generously butter one 10-cup soufflé dish or four 1-cup soufflé dishes; sprinkle with minced thyme to coat. (If using 1- cup dishes, place all 6 on rimmed baking sheet.) Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and minced garlic. Cook without browning until mixture begins to bubble, whisking constantly, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in whole milk, then white wine. Cook until smooth, thick and beginning to boil, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix egg yolks and salt in small bowl. Add egg yolk mixture all at once to sauce; whisk quickly to blend. Mix in 1 tablespoon basil, 1 tablespoon thyme and 1 teaspoon rosemary. Fold in cold goat cheese and Gruyère cheese (cheeses do not need to melt).

Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites. Transfer soufflé mixture to prepared dish. Sprinkle with ground black pepper.

Place soufflé in oven; reduce heat to 375°F. Bake soufflé until puffed, golden and gently set in center, about 35 minutes for large soufflé (or 25 minutes for small soufflé). Serve immediately.

(photo courtesy of The Errant Aesthete)


  1. Wow, I love having Janet as an agent ... with a recipe like that I want her to cook for me too!!!

  2. Yum! I just made goat cheese and thyme calzones and they were totally yummy.

  3. What's the outlook for first-person, nonfiction stories?

  4. I'm not sure what you mean by first-person, nonfiction. If you're talking about a memoir, then the general market has found great success with memoirs. The Christian market has had a few successes with memoirs but generally hasn't figured out what to do with them.
    Just to be clear, a memoir is a story written in first person and explores how a person inwardly responded to outside forces (think Eat, Pray, Love) as opposed to an autobiography or inspirational story, which explores more how outside forces came into a person's life (think of the pilot of the plane that landed the jet in the Hudson River in Manhattan or the ship captain who chose to be taken captive by the pirates so his crew could be set free). If it's more autobiographical or inspirational it needs to be a big story that captured media attention when it happened or has some other aspect that makes it really significant. (I'm sorry to say that being a story about abuse or battle with cancer is unlikely to make the manuscript stand out from the plethora of other such stories. I don't say this to demean what might have happened in a person's life but just to say that publishing--like all media--is looking for the extraordinary story.

  5. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.




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