Evangelical Publishers Focus on Emerging Markets
“Consumer-Centric Publishing” was the theme for this year’s Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) Publishing University, established to help member publishers deliver focused training from a Christian publishing perspective.
ECPA chose this theme for the second annual event, held in Bloomingdale, Ill., outside of Chicago, to enhance the publishing professional’s understanding of their customers’ needs. ECPA divided the conference into six educational tracks—advanced management, editorial and content development, marketing and sales management, production and prepress management, information technologies and systems, and publishing 101.
The conference featured four plenary sessions designed to help the nearly 400 attendees understand the Christian consumer, the markets in which they shop, and how to structure their internal operations to meet those needs. Also included in the program were two keynote sessions focused on the current evangelical landscape, featuring Gallup consultant and researcher D. Michael Lindsay, and Barrie Rappaport, manager and chief analyst with Ipsos Book Trends, who discussed its recent survey on the buying habits of Christian book readers.
WHAT DO AMERICANS READ?
Rappaport’s keynote, “Christian Consumer Reading Trends: Who’s Buying Your Books?,” focused on the reading patterns of U.S. households and consumer buying patterns. The recent Ipsos report found that 50 percent of American households read at least one book a month, while those who read Christian books (37 percent) also read books on other topics. Of those who read Christian books, 44 percent read books on other religions, and 32 percent of households that read Christian books read three to four books a month compared to 29 percent of readers of general topics who read three to four books a month.
The report also found that those households that buy children’s books will also buy Christian titles.
CAPITALIZING ON YOUR AUDIENCE
One plenary session, titled “Defining Your Consumer Centric Opportunities,” hosted by Ken Peterson, director of acquisitions and development, Tyndale House, focused on defining and recognizing the Christian market, the demographics of the customer and what trends have driven the market over the past five years.
Peterson noted that the Christian book store is a creation of the baby-boom generation—suggesting that as baby boomers grew older they began to seek guidance, often spiritual, on life’s meaning. Often Christian literature won’t appeal to a younger audience, he added.
Peterson described some of the market changes that have increased the visibility of Christian titles, including more titles topping best-seller lists, and retailers stocking more Christian titles. The challenge of the latter development, Peterson said, is that as more distribution channels open up for Christian titles, Christian publishers need to learn the buying trends of a wider audience about which they previously knew little.
Some of the strategies to connect with this alien audience, Peterson said, is to publish books that create impulse buys and books that focus on pop culture.
The ECPA is planning the association’s third annual Publishing University Nov. 12-14. For complete details, visit www.ECPA.org.