Sisters book publisher small in size, large in impact
Last updated 11/9/2021 at Noon
Deep River Books is headquartered out of a small, second-story office on Hood and Pine that is easy to miss driving or walking by. Passersbys wouldn’t guess that the classic mom-and-pop business has published some 550 titles, written by roughly 400 authors. The books, Christian and inspirational in theme, are sold worldwide. Some have been translated into Portuguese, Korean, and Spanish, among other languages.
The Christian book market is around $1.2 billion annually, some 10 percent of total book publishing. Mom and pop in this case are Nancie and Bill Carmichael, who have resided in Sisters Country since 1979. They have five children and 16 grandchildren. Son Andy — nicknamed Roo — is now the publisher, giving Bill and Nancie more time to dote on grandchildren, but they both remain intimately connected to Deep River.
Each is an accomplished author in their own right, with a combined 15 books still in print. They describe the business as hybrid publishing, neither a vanity press nor a Simon & Schuster. Their authors often have a stake in the book includng an agreement to purchase a set number of copies and/or to actively promote the book in their blogs, seminars, speaking engagements, social media, or on their websites.
A number of their authors from all over the U.S. — although surprisingly none from Sisters — count ministry as their primary vocation. Deep River finds them and develops them into writers, some catching on with readers. “We are no different than the biggest publishers in the business,” Bill Carmichael said. “About 25 percent of our books are financial successes and 75 percent eventually are removed from print.”
Some books have been on the backlist since 2001 when Deep River Books began. The Carmichaels got their start in magazines, as founding publishers of Good Family Magazines which included “Christian Parenting Today” “Virtue,” and “Parents of Teenagers,” with 350,000 paid subscribers followed by over one million readers.
At the time they had 30 employees in Sisters. Bill saw the erosion the internet was having on magazines and they sold the titles, which eventually landed in the Christianity Today stable, the global media ministry cofounded by Billy Graham. They turned to book publishing with apparent success. The firm’s name stems from a passage in the Gospel of John: “Out of the heart will flow rivers of living waters.”
“I wanted to spend more time in the creative realm than managing staff,” Carmichael said. “We have less than a handful of salaried employees, yet worldwide we have some 50-60 freelancers working for us.” Bill Carmichael explained.
There are the editors, manuscript evaluators, compilators, proofreaders, cover designers, typesetters — some as far away as India — and sales representatives.
Deep River’s books are distributed by Baker & Taylor, a major international company with thousands of titles. The company contracts with three to four printers. Amazon accounts for 55 percent of their sales. Barnes & Noble is part of the mix of outlets, as well as independent bookshops, primarily those who specialize in Christian titles.
“It all begins with a manuscript,” Bill Carmichael said.
Fewer than 10 percent of submissions make it to the editing desk, and fewer still to print. Deep River Books runs on words and is in constant pursuit of authors, not all of whom have ever given thought to writing professionally. Finding them and nurturing them gives the Carmichaels their greatest sense of success.
Roy Goble, author of “Junkyard Wisdom,” had this to say about Deep River: “I’ve always loved to write, and for years had considered a book project. But I was relatively unknown. I’ve never run a large company, or led a
big church, or built a huge Twitter following. So, most publishers — and agents for that matter — paid scant attention to this former junkyard kid.”
A conversation with Bill Carmichael changed that. The book had modest success, yet Goble found it life-changing. “It also taught me a lot about the writing process, the publishing industry, and the marketing side of being an author. They were all lessons that led me to a second book deal, with a traditional publisher.”
Feeling like you have words to share but don’t know how to get started? Do not drop into the Sisters office. Email your proposal to
[email protected] They accept proposals by email only. When sending your initial query/proposal, you do not need to send your entire manuscript. Send a synopsis (one page or less), an outline (two pages or less), and two or three sample chapters. Send them in a common font (Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana), double-spaced, in a Microsoft Word document (a .doc file). Include a brief resume about the author.