Mainstream “Christian” Publishers Lack Social Media Contacts
I have to hand it to Baker Publishing Group and HarperCollins Christian Publishing: They understand the Christian market intimately and have excelled in using bloggers to help get the word out about their products. I’ve said this before, and it’s with a mix of appreciation and bewilderment, but I have received more review books in the past 5 years of blogging than all the previous 35 years in retail put together.
Looking back, I would have liked to have balanced those two publishing groups out with a few more InterVarsity titles, but I understand their need to network through more academic writers.
With Hachette (FaithWords), Simon & Schuster (Howard) and Penguin Random House (Waterbrook) books have been few and far between. I held out the greatest hope for Hachette, who were also offering us blog contests with one book winner on each side of the border (in one case) or three book winners in the U.S (in one or two other cases). Publishers don’t seem to be doing that as much anymore. We also had promised titles from Hachette which never showed up (as we did with Tyndale House; otherwise not mentioned here.)
I noticed that Tim Challies had a review of Eve by Paul Young, but his readership gives him a profile large enough to land on every publisher’s radar, and is said to receive several boxes of review books each week, many of which are only afforded a short mention. I’d be curious to read Eve, and wonder if the performance of certain books in my store is not very closely linked to the items I review at Thinking Out Loud. The book is not selling well at all in our store, despite the popularity of The Shack.
We do a lot of hand-selling of product, and titles which I have read and authors that I am passionate about clearly do better. Video is also helpful. At least once a week, I’ll tell a customer to go to YouTube and type “Francis Chan balance beam.” It’s a short video clip that shows Chan’s own passion for the things he writes. (In addition to getting video links for newsletters and Facebook, I’ve also mentioned the serious need for more HTML content for store sites and Facebook pages.)
My retail connections often help with HarperCollins and IVP, and the store receives a box of Baker titles several times each year, though most of these are fiction, which doesn’t serve me at all. (My other staff members do appreciate them, however.) I can get David C. Cook titles on request, and Martin Smith is great to work with, as is Mark Hildebrand at HCCP.
Some of the HarperCollins titles that I’ve reviewed here are not mentioned at all on their Book Bloggers website. I have to presume that certain titles are simply not flagged for social media exposure, but I’m not sure why The Comeback by Louie Giglio is in this category. Can you?
I’m sure authors are flattered when a major like Hachette or Random House approaches them about doing a title with them. They get their product into a wide variety of avenues; everything from box box mass marketers to airport gift shops. I’m sure they are able to promise much more sales volume; though there is also the risk of much greater return volume.
But Thomas Nelson, Zondervan and Baker Publishing Group understand the Christian market. If one of them had Joyce Meyer, they would never allow the first edition hardcover situation that exists in Canada, which would probably double or triple her Canadian sales. Agencies like Graf-Martin can better work the nuances of the Canadian market; but on both sides of the border, the Christian publishers (and remember that TNI and ZDV operate with autonomy) seem to best ‘get’ how to work Christian social media.
Research Department: Is anyone out there aware of a good podcast for Christian retailers?
Footnote: When was the last time you were on a Christian website and saw an actual, old-fashioned album review? What Christian publishers have found so useful, Christian music companies have completely ignored. Perhaps with so much Christian radio today, they don’t feel the same need to send out CDs (or free download links) to reviewers.