Market Focus: Saving Religious Books
Linder believes publishers will dovetail that with dropping backlist support after titles, say, fall below sales of 1,000 a year.
“Amazon will continue to encroach on the major bookstore chains as the primary retailer of backlist titles,” says Dwight Baker, president of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Baker Publishing Group. “This trend will alter how we launch and sustain our titles. The bookstore chains are the more important sales channel for establishing our new titles. Meanwhile, Amazon is growing more essential for long-term, backlist availability. I see curiously little overlap between our top 10 titles at Amazon and at the bookstore chains. This separation implies that we urgently need both sales channels and that customers use each channel with different demands. This split will continue to widen.”
At the same time, titles can remain in print forever with print-on-demand. “Rather than having books in inventory sitting there, [publishers] might use more of a print-on-demand strategy for those books,” Linder suggests. “So now their money isn’t tied up in the inventory, which improves their cash flow. And better cash flow means a healthier company, and a healthier company means a healthier industry.”
Baker opines that another trend is taking some of the pressure off of the religious book industry. “Vanity publishing lowers the bar for new authors, and it raises the bar for commercial publishers,” he says. “If a self-published work generates some energy, we commercial publishers will later appear, offer a contract and accept responsibility for broad distribution. It’s not an either/or decision for new writers. We all can get the best of both options.”
Then there’s planning for the future.
“It’s not simply going, ‘OK, we’re producing a book,’” Johnson says. “We also have to consider the e-book side. We have to consider, ‘Did we do it on the audio side, and is that downloadable?’ … Now, these other avenues are still a very small percentage of our business. But the opportunities are definitely expanding in ways that you can deliver your content.”