What’s Working, What’s Not
October 4, 2007 | Written by admin
Devin wrote to ask me, "What’s working in publishing these days? And what’s not working?"
As you know, I love questions where I get to (A) make lists, and (B) act like an expert on everything. So here goes…
What’s Working in Publishing
1. Christian Fiction. Working big time. There are all sorts of new sub-categories in bookstores, we’re seeing new authors all the time, and there are new opportunities. The fastest growing segment of publishing three years running.
2. Agents. Yeah, so I realize this can appear self-serving. But it’s true — most publishers now require an agent to represent your work. That’s led to a plethora of new agents.
3. Creative Nonfiction. We’re seeing fiction techniques used to tell compelling nonfiction stories. Jon Krakauer and Sebastian Junger have completely renewed this genre.
4. Health and Wealth. It might sound like the same-old, same-old, but publishers continue to produce a bunch of books that tell you how to lose weight and manage your money. In an affluent society, these are the two evergreens. (Followed by "how not to screw up all your relationships.")
5. Multi-media. Several publishers are trying to find ways to creatively get their projects noticed. They’re relying on blogs, videos, interactive events, and trying to tie things to music and movies and games. It’s still a growing area, and not everybody has figured out how to make this work yet, but it’s the future.
6. Celebrity. More than ever, celebrity status is driving book sales. Blockbusters are making all the money for publishers.
7. Spritual Memoir. I don’t know if this genre has legs, but we’ve seen a number of successful books offering a fluid re-telling of the life-shaping events an author has experienced, in addition to the principles for living that arise from them. It’s a fact: everybody is looking for peace with God.
8. Online Sales. Last year the major publishers saw online book sales match the sales through smaller, independent brick-and-mortar stores. That’s a huge shift. The big box stores (Wal-Mart, Costco) and the major chains (Borders, Barnes & Noble) still provide big selections and move a ton of books, but the online sellers have figured out their niche.
And, since I know Devin was particularly interested in CBA publishing, let me offer two thoughts directed solely at "things that are working in CBA"…
9. Charismatic Messages. Ten years ago the major Christian bookstores wouldn’t even carry books written by charismatic pastors. Today most CBA stores couldn’t stay in business without selling books by charismatics. Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Tommy Tenney, Paula White — these are the folks paying the bills for Christian bookstores.
10. Improved Craft. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the improved writing we’re seeing in Christian books, especially in Christian fiction. The training and resources available, the growth of good writing conferences, and the availability of online groups that foster talent have helped create a wave of better writers.
What’s Not Working in Publishing
1. Gift Books. Don’t send them to me. The days of Thomas Kinkade paintings are over.
2. Men’s Books. Quick! Name the one that’s selling! Um…right.
3. Children’s Books. It’s a tough market right now. And if you do religious kids books, you’ll find it extraordinarily tough. Except for Tommy Nelson and Zonderkidz, everybody seems to have backed out of this market.
4. Homeschooling Books. Popular though this choice may be, the publishing side has devolved into an ultra-small niche.
5. Holiday-themed Books. Yeah, a few will sell. But the overall feeling is that Christmas has been over-published, so we’re looking at a couple years of seeing few new titles.
6. Bibles. No growth, slow sales, and stores complaining that customers have too many options.
7. The Bush White House. It ain’t working. Hey, I’m a Republican who voted for the guy, but I was promised shrinking government and a sliced federal budget. Instead we get record deficits and more American servicemen getting killed in what amounts to a civil war. So there aren’t exactly a plethora of pro-Bush books on the market, in case you haven’t noticed.
And again, to focus specifically on CBA…
8. Fiction Marketing. While Christian fiction is a growing category, it’s become clear that CBA houses are still struggling with finding an approach to marketing fiction that will actually work.
9. Pastors. For years CBA shelves were filled with books from pastors and speakers turning their sermons and series into books. It was the meat and potatoes of every CBA store. Um…when was the last time you purchased a book like that?
10. CBA. As an entity, this one is struggling. Stores are closing. People are trying to figure out the focus of the association. This year was apparently the last winter convention. Next year may be the last summer convention (since book publishers are planning their own alternative convention). Ouch.