Skins

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Horse1Sales conference at CBA all this week, that hallowed time of torch-passing that happens with the turn of the season. It always makes me ponder afresh the end of Ecclesiastes.

But one thought had us talking around the tables last night–the fascinating strategies different-sized publishers employ. And today, looking through the various reports and news items that came through this week, a distinct thought caught my attention.

There’s no arguing that big publishers must publish big books. And it just so happens that the best way to ensure big books is to offer readers a big, recognized name. A PW religion spotlight this month points out 3 of the heavyweights currently defining Christian publishing–and no, Warren and Wilkinson are not included (also check out Lauren Winner’s comments on the not-so-secret tradition of the big "spiritual prosperity genre"). This publishing reality is a major cause of the tug-of-war between publishers ("Big books make publishing more smaller books possible.") and authors ("Big books crowd out smaller books in the marketplace.")

But another strategy I find particularly compelling is republishing old titles. Publisher’s Lunch mentions a report today from The Wall Street Journal about 2 "reprint publishers" who are finding success re-releasing fiction hits from years ago. Some of you original writersgroupies will recall my interview with small, indie press Brook Street which employs a version of this strategy to lesser known titles from better known authors.

To me, in the big toy chest of publishing strategies, repurposing old books seems like some of the wisdom of the long-suffering skin horse. Recycling old ideas is a bit more difficult to get people excited about; they don’t seem quite as exciting. But the “real” toys know that the best ideas are the ones that have lasted and stood the test of time.

Remember Ecclesiastes again–everything "new" is merely old in disguise.

Or another metaphor: there’s some tasty old wine out there if you look for it. So why not put some in a new skin and make it your own? Take a look around and see what important, timeless ideas you might add to Christian publishing.

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