Can The Local Church Help Save Christian Publishing?


Traditional publishing is not what it used to be.  The digital revolution has now reached book publishers and for the first time ever, electronic titles outpaced hardcovers on Publishers everywhere are downsizing, and even long-time NYC headquarters are being moved away from the city to cheaper rent  in nearby Connecticut.  Christian publishers are not exempt from this industry-wide shake up. I’ve sat through many meetings, taught seminars and have consulted with several different Christian publishing houses. I believe the Church is going to play a key role, if the role, in keeping publishers afloat.  However, publishers better deploy the right strategy or they won’t prevail.

Christian publishing church strategy

Over 56 million people attend a Christian church  (excluding Catholics) every week in America. That’s a lot of resources needed for preachers, teachers and small group leaders,  and a lot of money for publishers and content providers. With the digital revolution flattening the distance between authors and end-users, the church is literally a gold mine of opportunity for publishers. Every week, Christian content consumers look at their churches for guide in their search for resources.

In this month’s edition of FastCompany Tony Hawk talks about his successful ride not as a sport’s figure or cultural icon, but as an entrepreneur who controls a very lucrative brand. Speaking about one of his greatest challenges in working with corporate types, Hawk says:

“The real problem is that some people put in charge of product development and marketing aren’t beholden to their products–it’s just their job. But passion really shines through.”

Tony’s assertion resonates with my experience in marketing to and for churches. It always amazes me that people who have never worked on a church staff, some of whom don’t even attend church regularly are in charge of product development or marketing efforts of church-related resources. There are serious differences between a small church and a mega-church dynamics when it comes to product development and sales strategy. Like any other sector, if you are not actively engaged, or as Tony said it, “beholden” than you’re not likely to be successful.

If you came to me and asked me to market you widget that helps ordinary violins sound like a Stradivarius, my first question would be: where can I find the most violin players? It’s a simple and obvious question. You know where this is going.

But even if Christian publishers understand the need to reach out to churches, they will not break into that market by deploying the same tactics they do for their trade products. They will not likely succeed if they put their church strategy on the hands of people who often don’t attend church, much less understand mega-church dynamics. If Christian publishers are going to be around in the near future, they’ll have to successfully address the church market opportunity. And they won’t make it happen by buying a full-page ad in Publishers’ Weekly.

Have you ever had someone try to sell you something they obviously knew nothing about? How did that make you feel?

  • Pingback: Maurilio Amorim » Can The Local Church Help Save Christian Publishing? | HolyCMS()

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Maurilio Amorim » Can The Local Church Help Save Christian Publishing? --

  • Rick Stone

    Well said Maurilio. It's interesting that those in Christian publishing aren't more involved in church strategy. But like anything else, you have to make that a priority and commit resources in order to make it work. You're right, if you don't have the right people leading it, then you might not get the right results.

    • Maurilio Amorim

      That's some of the problem, Rick. You must have the write talent pool for a church strategy to work. What I find most often are people who don't understand the church world.

    • As Gary Collins pointed out in Good to Great, you need the right people in the bus.

  • Carl Williams

    M, I had a guy trying to sell me a computer that knew less about it than I did. I had done my homework online and when I asked a few questions it was obvious that he didn't know anything about the product. Imagine a PC user working at the Apple Store. Not good.

  • Greg Smith

    As a Pastor I feel like Christian Publishers that are not own by denominations are compromised since they're often part of large non-Christian conglomerates and denominational houses are irrelevant because they don't have to be competitive. Christian content needs a new champion.

  • moneyministry

    God's work is a sole proprietorship. God owns it all. And, God has not given His permission to anyone, not even to Christian publishing houses, to sell any tiny part of His work.
    Our side, as His workers, is to share His precious priceless free gift.
    His side is to provide as He knows best.
    The majority of today's Christian leaders have made a total mess of both sides. They have stopped giving the free gift and have switched over to generating revenue. And they wonder why the church is failing.

  • I think the question should be "Should the Publishing Industry be Saved?"

    The local church could also use their power/influence to help independent authors rather than continuing to fuel to middle man concept that's been used for so long. Perhaps rather than holding on to the past, like churches so often do, we should consider paving the way for the future.

    • There are several churches who publish their own materials. It's difficult, however, to do church and publishing well.

  • Tom

    There totally needs to be brand evangelists in charge of product development and deployment. Without them, products die off.

    IMO, there's another elephant in the room. The church and publishers need to embrace of technology, including the distribution of content, like books. There are still too many bottlenecks "in the middle" of the whole process of selling a book. With the advent of the Kindle and iPad, electronic books are finally taking off and are helping to clear out the bottlenecks.

    If the industry can go to a model that embraces electronic books (instant delivery with very few direct variable costs), and also JIT publishing (no inventory needs to be carried), it can win. The distribution costs are cut drastically, and the barriers to publishing new books are dropped.

    Another "win" in the above scenario is that more books can be published with the lower barriers to entry that are in place.

    Having books sit on shelves is a waste of time and resources for publishers, and everyone else involved in the process.

    Twitter: tflann

    • The more people adopt electronic readers, the easier we can work through the non-inventory and distribution issues. My children are already comfortable reading digital displays only. At the end of this revolution, good content will be the winner.

  • Great post, Maurilio.Great post, Maurilio.

    "If Christian publishers are going to be around in the near future, they’ll have to successfully address the church market opportunity."

    Community is the operative word. The publishing industry as a whole has forgotten the value of the reading community and its diversity. It is unfortunate that Christian publishers, who should not emulate the industry, does. We are to be beacons of lights, examples for our peers. Until we embrace the entire Body of Christ, have the passion to want to connect with the members that make us what He wants, we fail. New marketing labs & technology can help us find these niches sooner, but how we approach and satisfy them will come down to passion and respect for them.

    • Thanks Dee for your comment. It's hard to be altruistic about the body of Christ when you're under a corporate mandate to hit certain profit marks.

      • Yvonne Thigpen

        Profit marks aside, where is the seed money o convert? Technology is expensive. Conversions need to be done properly.

        • Technology, like any initiative, is only expensive if it does not bring results. Any investment should be measured on return to investment. There's always a risk by reaching into new streams of revenue, but you can also save a lot of money by not doing anything and watching the ship go down.

          • Yvonne Thigpen

            If "investment" funds still exists after this harsh recession, your investment philosophy is true. That's a big IF.

Share “Can The Local Church Help Save Christian Publishing?” by Maurilio Amorim


Delivered by FeedBurner