Friday, March 19, 2010

The Changing Face of Christian Publishing

On Saturday I was privileged to speak to the DFW Ready Writers--a local chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers. I had a great time eating Mexican food at La Hacienda Ranch with Lena Nelson Dooley, Janice Olson, Lynn Gentry, and about twenty-five other Christian writers. Many of these folks are published authors several times over; others are just getting started and have found an encouraging atmosphere in this delightful group.

They had invited me to come and talk about "The Changing Face of Christian Publishing." In that presentation I covered what I consider three of the important changes currently happening in our industry:

1. Consolidation. Bigger publishers are acquiring smaller publishers, creating huge publishing conglomerates, like Thomas Nelson, and reducing the number of places where we, as writers, can present our works for consideration. Also, large bookstore chains are buying smaller chains or independent stores, creating huge selling/distribution vehicles, resulting in Christian superstores that sell everything from Christian soup to nuts. Consolidation has its advantages and disadvantages, which we discussed in more detail.

2. Crossover. While crossover books rarely happened in the past, now it's becoming more common. Christian publishers are creating products for the general market, and general market publishers are trying to capture the Christian spending dollars by publishing books for that market. That has allowed Christian books to reach more seekers and non-Christian readers and even to now regularly appear on general market best-seller lists, such as the New York Times. Once again, there are positives and negatives about this change in our industry that we discussed.

3. Branding. Publishers are now creating "brands" around their most prominent authors, and then building powerful marketing and promotional programs around them. Instead of publishing six books by six different authors, publishers now often create five derivative products from one author's major trade book, such as a gift book, a devotional, a Bible study guide, an audio book, and even a children's book. The advantages to that for the publisher is that an entire line of companion products based on a best-selling author creates a bigger presence and attracts more attention in the stores than one product can.

Also, the publisher can advertise the entire line of products with basically the same promotional dollars they previously had to spend on one product. This spreads the promotional dollars out across six products, thus raising the profit level of each product. Smart . . . for the publishers, and you can't blame them for making good business decisions, especially in this economy. However, it also means that instead of six authors' voices being heard, now only one is heard. And that's a sad thing for the readers, in my opinion. We discussed the ins and outs of the branding trend in detail.

Other Topics In addition, we talked about such topics as the industry's new "core inventory" program, the limping economy's impact on Christian publishing, traditional vs. individual publishing, various printing options--regular press runs vs. print on demand--a 3-step plan for creating a stronger social media presence, and what the future may hold for Christian publishing.

The Ready Writers also asked that I record my presentation to them, which I did. And it occurred to me that, perhaps, some of you might also like to hear the more complete discussion of our changing industry. If so, the 50-minute CD is available for just $15, plus shipping and handling under the tab "Changing Face of Publishing" on my Web site:

I would be honored if you find it insightful and helpful in your writing career.

Now, please excuse me, but I have to go finish painting my guest room. (Can you hear me groan?)

Blessings and joy!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary, we just hooked up on FB. Thought I'd drop by and say hi. I like Ted Dekkers stuff. When I have more time he has a couple more books I'd like to read.

Stephen Tremp