Publishing to a Higher Power
Meanwhile, Baker says his company competes regularly with large houses for contracts with quality authors and often loses.
“When I’m in a magnanimous frame of mind, I must concede that the intense competition is actually a sign of health in our industry, a signal that the value of Christian books is recognized broadly,” he says.
He says that some small, faith-based publishing houses also have advantages over his company in this competitive marketplace.
“... We also lose prime authors to small, well-focused houses. These specialty publishers provide a community affinity that Baker, for all our breadth, apparently can’t duplicate,” Baker says. “Some writers make a priority of this affinity, in the same manner as they may select a home or a church.”
These niche publishers can’t compete with the sales muscle and marketing services of larger houses, however. Baker also can promote its divisions individually to offer the appeal of a smaller, niche publishing entity. So, it sometimes can tap the best of both worlds.
“We do so [compete] by taking either advantage of our cumulative strength, or we promote one of our six unique divisions. This depends on the setting. We promote our size when we’re compared with smaller publishers; we can surpass them in services,” he says. “On the other hand, we promote our division identity when required to serve a particular market, such as Baker Academic to the academic community or Bethany House to the fans of Christian fiction.”
Keeping an Eye on the Internet
Baker seems fairly certain that his company isn’t losing many readers because of the Internet. He says he doesn’t feel threatened by e-books and that they are unlikely to either supplant book publishing or significantly enhance it.
“With all the fanfare around new media, we overlook the capability of the printed book to outlast other trends. There is nothing particularly sacred about wood pulp; this is a reflection of human behavior more than [medium],” he says. “By nature, book buyers are tenaciously loyal to the printed page; other media has only marginal impact on this preference.”