Market Focus: Saving Religious Books
Now, Kuyper and Norris agree, the shrinking distribution channels, known colloquially as struggling and disappearing independent bookstores, and that little annoyance—the recession—can take much of the blame for the current profit slump.
Keeping the Faith
Despite dropping a bit in the top 10 book categories he tracks, Norris says, religious titles “easily” will remain within that ranking due to quality, “long-tail” works such as Baker Publishing Group’s “90 Minutes in Heaven” by Don Piper and “The Five Love Languages” by Gary D. Chapman.
Tyndale House Publishers of Carol Stream, Ill., continues to see strong sales in its devotional and fiction lines, says COO Jeffrey W. Johnson.
“Probably if there was anything that we’ve personally been doing a little bit more, it would be personality-driven and particularly connections with sports figures,” he says.
Those nonfiction works that are selling best include: “The Winners Manual” by Jim Tressel, The Ohio State University football coach; “Don’t Bet Against Me!” by Deanna Favre, the wife of former New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre; and “Quiet Strength” by Tony Dungy, a former NFL coach.
“People … are seeking … answers,” Linder says, adding that this is especially true as a result of the recession. “But they’re seeking authentic, faith-based answers. And in their search, there is a huge opportunity for religious publishers to create products [with] real answers to real problems.”
On the flip side, four words—“escapist fiction” and “everything else”—summarize the market for Altie Karper, managing editor of Pantheon and managing editor and editorial director of Schocken Books, Knopf/Doubleday’s imprint for Jewish literature, both owned by Random House. In a down economy doubled with free Internet entertainment, the only titles selling well at Schocken are “escapist fiction,” says Karper. So what’s not selling well? “Everything else,” he says.