Focusing on Faith
According to Johnson, all this has lead to increased competition for shelf space and “mind space,” making the market far more complex than it was just a few years ago.
Analysts say recent purchases and restructurings, coupled with the lack of a blockbuster religious title last year, actually contributed to a decline in the number of titles released in 2006. Preliminary reports from the Bowker Books in Print database, provided by Bowker’s Simba Information Inc., indicate the number of new religious titles dropped to 12,598 in 2006 from 15,671 the previous year—a 19.6-percent decline.
“You can interpret that figure one of two ways,” says Simba Senior Analyst Michael Norris. Religious publishers, like other publishers, generally “need that major category to drive the industry,” he says. Also, title output may be dropping in some categories as publishers find ways to draw more sales out of a fewer number of titles, Norris adds.
“I think that’s actually a healthy thing for religious publishers. They’re paying attention to editorial content and quality, not just throwing out titles,” he says. “They’re always in the process of learning what works.”
Trevor Overcash, operations manager at AMG Publishers in Chattanooga, Tenn., agrees. Since 2005, AMG—which specializes in evangelical trade books and Bibles—has “backed off a little” on the number of titles released in order to focus more on quality and sales quantity. The effort, he says, has been driven by a biannual analysis of what’s selling.
“We’re being more aggressive with the way we market those titles. The key word that we’re using in the last couple of years is ‘focus,’” says Overcash.
The same holds true at Waterbrook. “If anything, we’ve drawn back in the last couple of years,” says Kneedler. “We want to produce and publish books that backlist well. It gives you a good foundation and longevity in the marketplace.”
- Amg Publishers
- Baker Publishing
- Bethany House Publishers
- Bowker Books
- Deeper Faith Resources
- Evangelical Christian Publishers Association
- Hachette Book Group
- Islamic Society of America
- Jewish Lights and Skylight Paths Publishing
- Multnomah Publishers
- Oxford University Press
- Random House Inc.
- Simba Information
- The Book Industry Study Group
- The New York Times
- Time Inc.
- USA Today
- Warner Faith
- Waterbrook Press