What the Future Holds in Publishing
October 15, 2007 | Written by admin
So after talking about what’s hot and what’s not in publishing, several people asked about what’s coming — what does the future hold in publishing. Some random thoughts from a guy who does NOT have the gift of prophecy…
1. More Agents. In ABA, publishers have long insisted all projects be represented by an agent. In CBA that’s becoming the norm as well. It professionalizes the relationship. It used to be you could get your book published with a CBA house without an agent. These days, that’s tough to do.
2. New Distribution Patterns. The biggest change happening in publishing is the move away from independent bookstores to big box stores. Mega-stores used to not carry Christian books — now you’re apt to find them at Wal-Mart, Costco, and Target…in addition to the extended selection at Borders and Barnes & Noble. Last year online bo0k sales equaled the sales at independent stores. Expect that to grow.
3. Interior Design. No more pages of simple text. Now we live with boxes, call-outs, and doo-dads. We’ll see more of that in the future, and more of an emphasis on short sentences and short paragraphs. Consider it the curse of USA Today.
4. Postmodernism. Actually, I HATE even using the term, since it seems like most people don’t know what it means, but throw it out anyway in hopes of impressing their friends. But take a look at the philosophical framework that upholds the writings of younger authors, and you’ll see their way of perceiving the world is completely different from writers of ten years ago. This is a sea-change in the way people view the world, science, history, politics, and religion.
5. A Social Conscience. Remember when "the social gospel" was considered to be a compromise, participated in only by liberal Lutherans and Episcopal congregations? No more. Part of the emerging church is an understanding that people of faith are called to have a redemptive effect on the world. This is leading to a rise in volunteerism. Will it mean Americans will finally recognize and show concern for the rest of the world? Naaaah. But we can hope.
6. The Influence of ABA. HarperCollins owns Zondervan. Random House owns Waterbrook and Multnomah. Simon & Schuster owns Howard. Hachette owns FaithWords. Penguin started Praise. Harlequin started Steeple Hill. And every old-line CBA publisher still in business is focused on selling books into the general market. The business of publishing Christian books has completely changed in the past ten years. That’s a trend that will continue.
7. Delivery Systems. I won’t read an entire book on a computer screen…but my kids will. And my grandkids will be asking, "You mean books weren’t always electronic images?" Think about the changes that will bring to the publishing industry.
8. Changes in Readership. Christian books used to be aimed at nice church people, who were all white, all basically middle-class and climbing, and all staunchly evangelical (charismatics, mainline denominational types, and people of color need not apply). No more. Nobody cares about denominatons any more — we’re seeing a worldwide explosion of unaffiliated mega-churches, house churches, and new groupings. We’re also seeing Christians who view their faith as something much more fluid and relational, more grace-based, and considerably more concerned with social justice. What we’re NOT seeing are people who accept the "check the right boxes on this questionnaire and you can be a Christian" approach.
9. More Speed and Specialization. We’re seeing more speed with books, with words, with due dates, with deliveries. And we’re seeing more specialized publishing decisions, as the internet makes it possible for a publisher to sell you exactly the type of books you like.
10. Christianity Lite. Less than a year ago, I made a joke that we would one day see Paris Hilton offering her deep thoughts on spirituality. Um…last month, that was no longer a joke. Yikes. Maybe I do have the gift of prophecy.
Of course, the one thing that’s not on my list, and that I wish was on my list: That Christian bookstores would once more become Christian bookstores, instead of Christian Gift Centers and Religious Junk Bazaars. Say it with me: No more cutesy Christian crap! No more Jesus Soap-on-a-Rope! No more framed Thomas Kinkade prints! Death to Precious Moments Statuettes!
I have seen the light…