Think like a publisher!

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So we’ve covered the essential difference between the CBA and ABA markets, that being money and the latter’s unencumbered love of. But what about the similarities? What are the universal principles that guide publishing as an industry?

In the aptly titled Inside Religious Publishing, Les Stobbe, says Christian publishing philosophies can be particularly volatile, shrinking and expanding to fit market predictions and analysis. My own observation about this is that it’s somewhat like those poor tiny countries in the Olympics who only have a few lanky athletes they have to shift around to different events just to fill up the roster. The guiding principle of a workable philosophy is not to go too narrow and miss a potentially huge audience, but not too broad either or you can’t effectively handle potential bestsellers—let alone give all your other books the attention they deserve.

So let’s say you’re a publisher and you only want to publish bestsellers (a perennial favorite witticism at book conventions). What’s your strategy? Not too easy, is it? You’re stuck between the polar extremes of the guiding principle. This is why, depending on the size of the house, each publisher will have its own ideal annual book list. If the publisher is made up of 2 editors, it may be anywhere from 5-25 books. If it’s 200, expect upwards of 1500-2000 books, which brings to mind the famous verse in Ecclesiates: “Of the publishing of many books, there is no end.” (Okay, so I’m paraphrasing.)

If I were you, I’d publish a few strong, stand-out titles and aim to fill an untapped niche to distinguish yourself. After that, I’d stick to the handful of authors you can count on and keep them happily pumping out the good stuff.

I’m going to be taking a few days off to visit a conference in Denver this weekend, so I’ll be back on Monday. If I’m up to it, maybe I’ll give a little report on the conference from my hotel room, though it’s usually not wise to assume I’ll be awake enough by the time I get around to it. Talk to you soon.

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