Keeping the Faith
“The average on returns is about 30 percent for us,” says Matlins. “That percentage is a little lower in religious bookstores and a little higher in major chains, but either way we must inspect each returned book, which is time-consuming and expensive. Finding a way to change this requires a great deal more attention and focus on getting more of our books sold.”
Jewish Lights produces books based on “Jewish wisdom traditions” for people of all faiths and backgrounds. Skylight Paths publishes books for seekers and believers of all spiritual traditions ‘who are walking together trying to find a way,’ the company’s motto.
Vying for shelf space—especially for back-listed books—is also difficult, adds Matlins. This could be a result of competition from larger publishing houses.
Zettersten concedes that being a part of the Warner Book Group warrants a fair share of space. “And our salespeople embrace our books and have the same passion as with other Warner imprints,” he says. “I can see where acquiring space might be more difficult for smaller publishing houses, though.”
Another dilemma in the bookstores is a significant shift in the channels of distribution. Mark Taylor, president, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Ill., says independent bookstores—both Christian and general—are feeling intense pressure from the big national bookstore chains.
“One of the challenges of working with big-box stores is that the rate of returns tends to be very high,” he says. “Those accounts often order far more inventory than they will realistically need, and then they return the excess inventory. By that time, the publisher often has no choice but to shred the returned books. We are in the process of trying to fine-tune our sales efforts so that together we can anticipate more clearly the number of books they will need.”
Tyndale House publishes Bibles and both fiction and nonfiction Christian books. Its Bible line is built around the modern translation called the “New Living Translation.” Some of its best-selling trade books are “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn and the “Redemption” series of novels by Karen Kingsbury.