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Arguing Hachette ITPE Restrictions on a Basis Other Than Price

December 27, 2019 1 comment

If you scroll this blog, you will see frequent references to the need, in the Christian book market at least, for Canada to be considered International Market, not American Market. Regular readers here will know that when it comes to International Trade Paper Editions (ITPEs) stores in Canada receive cooperation from HarperCollins (affecting Thomas Nelson, Zondervan and occasionally HarperOne titles) Tyndale House, and Baker Book Group. That means we’re forced to take hardcover first editions from Simon & Schuster (Howard), Hachette (FaithWords) and Penguin Random House (Waterbrook and Multnomah).

In my personal experience, customers in Canada would rather wait a year, and when that year passes and the title undergoes a trade paper conversion, the momentum is lost and the customer has forgotten their original impulse.

But scrolling through a UK website over the holidays I realized something which is particular to Joyce Meyer. While I’ve long argued the foreign titles have better cover art — just look at Timothy Keller as an example — it would appear that the foreign market may not be as enamoured with having a full jacket picture image of Joyce Meyer on the cover. Consider these:

Her picture appears on five of these, but in a much reduced form.

I know that her sales are strongly personality-driven, and I’m sure her literary agents insist on the bold portrayal on her U.S. editions. But they scale back on the image for these overseas editions, and I would argue that whatever decision(s) led to that graphic change, it needs to happen here to offer greater appeal to the Canadian customer as well.

I could better sell the books pictured above than the books I currently carry. With several decades in the business, I am most convinced of this.

Canadian customers have a different personality and don’t always appreciate that in-your-face style of marketing which is so common with FaithWords titles by authors such as Joyce, Joseph Prince, Joel Osteen, etc.

So there you have it: An ITPE argument for Canada that isn’t based on price.

What are the odds that anyone at Hachette Book Group or FaithWords is listening?

When an Author Changes Publishers

It’s that moment that, just when you’ve got a number of customers hooked on a new author, they jump ship and land with a publisher who only releases first editions in hardcover across North America.

U.S. industry people simply won’t get what I’m writing here, but Canadians are a frugal people. They’ll wait the year for the trade paperback conversion and by then they will have forgotten they meant to buy the title. Momentum lost.

This time it was John Mark Comer, a keep-your-eye-on young pastor from Portland. I’m a fan. His new title is with Waterbrook, and it’s hardcover only on both sides of the 49th Parallel, and at $23.99 US (for only 224 pages), it’s just too rich for my customers even if I discount it.

Furthermore, Waterbrook-Multnomah is simply not forthcoming with review copies. I have these three blogs. One reports new releases. One reviews the book. One prints a short excerpt. The posts link to each other. It’s a triple win for publisher who will work with me. But after three distinct attempts, I could land neither an advance manuscript copy, and Advance Reader Copy, or a peek at the finished book.

Waterbrook (Penguin Random House), Howard (Simon and Schuster) and FaithWords (Hachette) don’t get it. I once spent nearly an hour on the phone with a Hachette sales manager (or VP of sales, I don’t remember) suggesting he take just one, single, Joyce Meyer title and release it here as an ITPE and then compare the numbers.

Couldn’t do it. Or wouldn’t do it. When will they learn we’re not the 51st state?

I’m not asking for these giant publishing houses to change their overall policies. I’m suggesting they see the Christian market differently; reconsider where faith-focused titles are concerned; or at least be willing to experiment.

The ITPEs do exist. Check out Eden books in the UK or Koorong and you see them. But literary agents (who are basically lawyers at heart) see Canada and the U.S. as a single market, except where it suits their purposes not to.

Fortunately Thomas Nelson (HarperCollins) and Zondervan (HarperCollins) don’t see it that way. Thank goodness.

But I’ve written all this before.

I hope they offered John Mark Comer a great deal. And I hope they are able to make good on their promises.

Joyce Meyer’s Canadian Sales a Fraction of the Potential

Living Courageously - Joyce MeyerEvery time a new Joyce Meyer title releases in hardcover, I am reminded of the discussions I had with Hachette Book Group’s people in New York City about five years ago concerning the use of International Trade Paper Editions (ITPEs) in the Canadian Christian market. I don’t know who set up these talks, and of course it was all done by telephone, but I know one of the calls was nearly an hour in length as I explained how Thomas Nelson and Zondervan and a number of other publishers make it a regular practice to offer A-list titles in ITPE in the Canadian market, as they do in Europe and Australasia and South Africa.

The books do exist. Joyce Meyer’s forthcoming title is listed at Koorong at $18.99 Australian dollars and a paperback edition of You Can Begin Again is currently on sale there for $15.99 Australian.

My belief is that the U.S. first-edition hardcovers cut into the sales potential here in a big way. Yes, some people are willing to pay, but my guess is that this could be as little as a quarter (25%) of what the sales would be if the ITPEs were available. Of course, there are royalty issues and the whole problem whereby literary agents have deemed Canada simply an extension of the U.S. market, hence the price fluctuation with changing currency rates. But sales are sales, money talks, and I have a hard time believing that HBC would rather stand their ground and let sales dollars evaporate that do the logical thing.

Hachette Books, Joyce Meyer Ministries, if you’re reading this; you’re shooting yourselves in the foot. Canada is not the 51st state. This is its own market with its own spending patterns. Joyce, you have a reputation of having books that are always too expensive for many of the people you say your ministry exists to serve. It’s an absolute travesty.

And if asked, in my humble opinion, it’s a travesty on both sides of the border.

In the meantime, if you care, open the Canadian market to these titles. Better yet, pick just one of Joyce’s forthcoming titles and see the difference for yourselves. I dare you!

Religion Reporter Turns Author

Doing the weekly link list for Christianity Today, and always looking for new stories for Thinking Out Loud, I make a daily practice of visiting Religion News Service in general, and the page of senior columnist Jonathan Merritt in particular. So I was intrigued to see that he has written a book for Hachette Book Group’s Faithwords imprint and even more so when I noted that John Ortberg had written the foreword. The book is releasing in hardcover in April at $20 U.S.

Jesus is Better Than You ImaginedPublisher marketing:

Is the God who created us better than the God we’ve created? After following Jesus for nearly two decades, Jonathan Merritt decides to confront the emptiness of a faith that has become dry, predictable, and rote. In a moment of desperation, he cries out for God to show up and surprise him, and over the next year, God doesn’t disappoint… Jonathan shares vulnerable, never-before-shared stories of how he learned to encounter Jesus in unexpected ways.

  • Through a 60-hour vow of silence in a desert monastery, he experiences Jesus in silence.
  • When a friend dies of a rare disease, he sees Jesus in tragedy. Through confronting childhood sexual abuse, Jonathan discovers Jesus in honesty.
  • In an anti-Christian-themed bar, he finds Jesus in sacrilege.
  • And when he’s almost kidnapped in Haiti by armed bandits, he experiences Jesus in the impossible.

Though Merritt finds himself in places he never dreamed of, he doesn’t lose his way. Instead, these experiences force him back to the Bible, where he repeatedly offers fresh, sometimes provocative, interpretations of familiar passages. Along the way, he throws back the covers on the sleepy faith of many Christians, urging them to search for the Holy in their midst. Pointed and poignant by turns, Jonathan helps readers open their hearts to a mysterious God and a faith that sustains, guides, and most importantly, surprises. His fearlessly honest story invites us all to discover the messy mercy and crazy grace of a sometimes startling Savior.

Recently named one of 30 leaders reshaping Christian leadership by Outreach Magazine, Jonathan has become a popular speaker at conferences, colleges, and churches.

I’m hoping our publicity rep at HBC will send us a review copy for Thinking Out Loud, and for clarification, this is actually Jonathan’s third book.

Social Media Publicity Gambit Floundering

February 15, 2013 7 comments

John (not his real name) gets about six visitors to his blog every day. Despite some rather dismal stats, John is currently reading book number ninety-four as a member of numerous blog book review programs he’s signed up for. It’s doing wonders for his personal library, though the manager at his local Parable store is kinda wondering what happened to him.

Nobody ever really asks for stats. Only one organization, Graf-Martin in Canada had the good sense to ask bloggers to share the size of their readership. There isn’t a single book publicity program for bloggers that teaches them how to ‘tag’ their stories to attract additional readers, or how to register their URL with search engines. So bloggers of all shapes and sizes enjoy a bounty of free stuff in the hope that it will do something to spark sales, including people like John who intersperse the book reviews with pictures of his new truck, which isn’t really new, but is new to him.

As someone who has benefited greatly from these programs in the past five years, I wish to herewith advise Christian publishers everywhere that you are totally wasting your money.

Meanwhile, as I’ve mentioned here many, many times; retail frontliners have an almost zero chance of every getting one single free book in the course of a year, unless they attend a trade convention. (Though in fairness, David C. Cook Canada has a program with Baker Books that allow staff to share advance copies, but sadly — for me anyway — the program is almost complete devoid of non-fiction titles.)

But things are about to get worse — far worse — for blogs like my own Christianity 201 (which publishes excerpts of books I’m sent ) and Thinking Out Loud (which publishes reviews of books I’m sent) and Christian Book Shop Talk (which concentrates on the trade and marketing angle on new titles) as the programs are cutting back.

First of all, it’s becoming just about impossible to get an actual print book sent to a Canadian address. Since I don’t have any interest in reading electronically, I’ve already told a couple of the publishers to take a hike. Shelf-naked I came into the book business 37 years ago, and shelf-naked I shall leave.

But now Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program has handed me the greatest insult of all. They suspended my account because I haven’t reviewed any of their books in over 90 days. Here’s a suggestion, Thomas Nelson: Publish some decent books every 90 days. Seriously. (I did in fact offer a title I would be willing to be consider, but was told yesterday, basically, ‘Tough luck, you missed out;’ despite my attempts to parade out my reader stats as a kind if trump card.)

You know what? The social media promotion gambit was an idea that had merit. And my store is filled with dozens upon dozens of titles that I would never have carried were it not for the buzz that was created in the Christian blogosphere. Furthermore, many of the authors were originally nothing more than bloggers like myself, and through their various iterations online — blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — I feel like I really know these people, even though we’ve never met. Heck, I can name their spouses, their children, their favorite restaurant.

And now, as the industry contracts, industry hirelings who know neither the publishing industry they work in nor the Christian blogosphere where they are paid to toss out freebies are suddenly all busy shooting themselves in their collective feet.

So to the golden age of social media publicity in the Christian publishing industry — 2007 – 2012 — I say, Rest in Peace.  You were Christian publishing’s last great idea, and last great hope; and your loss is about to be reflected by sales at both physical and online sellers.

~Paul Wilkinson, former book reviewer


For the record, Thinking Out Loud is currently ranked #7 out of all Christian blogs in North America for incoming links from Google, the number one search engine.

The Shack Author Discusses Cross Roads

Paul Young sits down with Jim Henderson to introduce his new title Cross Roads — it’s on the cover as two words, not Crossroads — which has a huge one million copy first printing in hardcover at $24.99 US/$27.99 CDN. Scroll to November 12th here to read our complete review.

More at Jim Henderson Presents.

Hachette Book Group Launches New Faith Imprint

With a number of Christian based titles already in release under the Faithwords imprint, and numerous inspriational titles at Center Street and Walk Worthy Press, one is tempted to ask out loud why Hachette Book Group (HBC) felt the need to add a fourth imprint, Jericho Books, to the list.

The key possibly lies in the second paragraph of the release, below:

NEW IMPRINT FOR NASHVILLE DIVISION

 (Nashville, TN) Hachette Book Group is pleased to announce the launch of a new faith-based imprint called Jericho Books.  Jericho Books is an imprint of the Nashville Division of Hachette Book Group and will be led by Wendy Grisham, who will serve as Publisher and Vice President.

The mission of Jericho Books is to seek new, innovative authors who reflect a growing change in the church. These non-traditional voices will appeal to the fresh perspectives in today’s culture and provide an avenue for those exploring political and social issues as they relate to faith.

Non-traditional voices.  Who are the current “non-traditional” voices?  One might think of Brian McLaren.  Or Donald Miller.  Or… oh yes, Rob Bell.  Methinks all the energy generated by Love Wins have caused HBC execs to say, ‘Hey, there’s a market here waiting to be tapped for greater potential.’

Think about it.  We have Love Wins earning reviews, discussions and debate both online and in major media.  It’s the biggest thing in Christian publishing since The Shack.  And equally controversial.  Did Bell’s book pave the way for more “non-traditional” titles to launch?  Timing is everything. 

The first title releases summer 2012.

Not All ITPEs For Sale in Canada

Actually, the headline/picture combination is somewhat misleading.   The particular paperback edition — pictured at right — of Philip Yancey’s What Good Is God is rather a representation of the sale of foreign rights more than an ITPE (International Trade Paper Edition) produced by the North American publisher.    Hachette sold the rights in this case to Hodder & Stoughton.

But it’s a good time to ask how long, in a tough economy, the North American Christian publishing industry can continue to support the practice of first editions in hardcover.   With authors like Yancey, David Jeremiah and Chuck Swindoll switching in 2010 to Hachette, where first edition hardcovers are de rigeur, the prospect of affordable Christian books just got far worse for both American and Canadian customers, since Hachette won’t do ITPEs for Canada.

(And I know this after spending the equivalent of several hours in 2008 consulting with one of the Hachette Book Group VPs in New York concerning the vast potential of increasing Joyce Meyer’s sales in Canada should they switch the paradigm; consulting for which I agreed to be paid in product — plus a few advance reader copies — neither of which was never shipped.)

But Christian publishers are not exempt from extreme profit taking.   I have taken much abuse both on and off my personal blog, Thinking Out Loud, for suggesting something is seriously wrong when a book designed to help people out of financial catastrophe — Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover — persists year after year in hardcover at $24.99 U.S.  You want to help those people out Dave?   Tell your literary agent hounds to back off.

Beth Moore — the Baptist equivalent of Joyce Meyer — is equally locked in hardcover.    Because her customers and bookstores already pay through the nose for her Lifeway product, they figure her clientele have no bargain sense.   (Perhaps they should get Ramsay’s book!)   But I’ve already dealt with the issue of Moore and Meyer in this post.

On the other hand, Ramsay’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, is usually fairly consistent at doing trade paperback conversions after the first edition has celebrated its first anniversary in hardback.

As long as U.S. publishers are convinced that Christian consumers will shell out the bucks, they’ll keep churning out the clothbound editions.   Of course, this also allows them to cut massive deals with Amazon, thereby continuing to erode the sales base which built their respective customers.

But someday, when the present book-selling model breaks down, publishers will start asking some hard questions that they will then wished they were asking now.

CT Notes Yancey Title Pre-Release Outside the U.S.

In an article more likely to be found in Publishers Weekly or Christian Retailing, Christianity Today published an online piece about the decision to launch Philip Yancey’s What Good is God? outside of the United States.

FaithWords is poised to release Philip Yancey’s What Good is God? on October 19, bolstering the launch with an array of national advertising, online promotion, and social media interviews.

However, the U.S. publicity push lags behind Yancey’s first related appearance—a book signing at Livraria Cultura in downtown São Paulo on September 6, the day the title released in Brazil. Ten days later, Hodder & Stoughton released the book in the United Kingdom.

continue reading here

For my own review of the book itself, click here.

Hachette Wins Most Obnoxious Phone System Award

October 7, 2010 1 comment

It’s relentless.

Each time you telephone Hachette Book Group to place an order or check account status, you must first be subjected to a rhyming off of every publisher imprint the company carries, just in case you’ve forgotten since the last call.  (I think I could do the list right now by memory, but it would lose something in print, since I have no idea how to spell Phil Apache Publishing… but I’m sure it’s not what I just typed.)

Since the company carries several lines, this litany goes on for about twenty-five seconds — or maybe it just seems long — which is forever by telephone system standards.    (Perhaps they want to encourage electronic ordering.)

Since this is so ingrained in their corporate culture, change is unlikely; but perhaps they could break it up periodically with a list of their top fifteen authors, or their top fifteen titles.   At least we’d get to hear something different.   As it now stands, by the time I get through, I’ve forgotten why I called.   Probably something to do with the FaithWords imprint, which, now that I think about it, I’m not sure is on their list.   I’ve usually backed away from the phone for part of it anyway.

So what supplier’s phone system drives you crazy?

Footnote:  Better to light a candle than curse the darkness?  For my money, the award would go to HarperCollins Canada who always have a real live (and mostly cheerful) person directing calls.

Stylistically, Philip Yancey’s Newest Is Entirely New Genre

I’m not only a seller of Christian books, I’m also a consumer of them, and for me, the product highlight of any given year is the release of a new title from Philip Yancey.   I am very biased here, he is my favorite Christian author.

The new release, What Good Is God? is not disappointing.   I am only halfway through, but since starting two nights ago, I am having great difficulty setting the book aside for things like work, meals or sleep.

We often speak of books in terms of page count, but Yancey offers more value per page than any writer I know; earlier this morning I noted to myself that each page is a book idea in itself.

I will review the book at Thinking Out Loud probably on Friday or Monday when I’ve turned the last page (and might just post it here as well) but I wanted to give my fellow retailers a heads up on a couple of features about this book, which stylistically, is like no other I’ve seen.   Customers may ask you, so read the next two paragraphs carefully.

First, the title may send reader expectations in the wrong direction.    Again, being at the 50% mark in the book means I’m not fully appraised of how he is going to wrap this up, but I was expecting something from the title which is a response to The New Atheists; a very popular theme currently.     In many ways, the answer to the question the book’s title asks is found in the way that the Christian God infuses every area of life, especially those places of hurt and pain.   This is Reaching for the Invisible God meets Where is God When it Hurts.   Or maybe The Bible meets your morning newspaper.

Second, this book both is and isn’t an anthology.    Let me explain.   There are several different sections to the book which are comprised of two chapters each.   The first is Yancey’s reflections on a particular part of the world to which he has traveled — there’s thousands of frequent flyer points accumulating here — and that section is more flowing, more continuous.   But the second chapter in each section is the transcript of an address he gave to a particular audience.   Those second chapters are where the anthology comparison kicks in; but somehow in a way less disjointed than The Bible Jesus Read.

Included are speeches to business leaders in China, sex trade workers and the people who minister to them, the student body of Virginia Tech after the incident on campus a few years back, his old Bible College, a Charismatic church in South Africa and members of the C. S. Lewis Society in Cambridge, England; plus a few I haven’t yet reached.   Speeches you would never get to hear, and would never be drawn to read were it not for the set-up in the previous chapter.

Philip Yancey is undoubtedly the one author I would most like to meet. I can’t wait to move further into the book much later today.


What Good Is God? – In Search of a Faith that Matters (FaithWords) hardcover $23.99 US/$26.99 CAN; October 19th release

Publisher’s Weekly Notes Christian Author Publisher Shuffle

With two articles this week dealing with Christian book scene, we turn our attention again to Publisher’s Weekly.   This is just a teaser from a much longer article, which you can read here.

In the religion category, evangelical Christian authors dominate as moneymakers, racking up impressive sales and commanding top dollar. Lately, in the midst of a faltering economy, many top evangelical authors have been in play, leaving their longtime publishers for new houses. Chuck Swindoll, Frank Peretti, Philip Yancey, John Maxwell, Dave Ramsey, Charles Stanley, John Eldredge, Beth Moore, David Jeremiah, Ted Dekker—all are marquee names in the Christian market, the kinds of authors no publisher would want to lose. So why the big moves?

…Howard and FaithWords are two places many of these authors have landed. Both publishers have deep pockets and offer authors the prospect of a higher profile in the general market, where sales of Christian books have increasingly migrated over the past 15 years.

…Many of these authors were formerly published by Thomas Nelson, leading to the perception that Nelson is bleeding top authors. Zettersten notes obliquely that “the recession and financial straits of certain competitors” gave FaithWords the opportunity to sign marquee names.

Mike Hyatt, CEO and now chairman of the board at Nelson, disputes that view. “A lot of smaller publishers for strategic reasons are willing to pay a premium to gain visibility,” he says, noting that house-switching is not a new phenomenon: “I’ve seen [that strategy] off and on over the years. It’s a shortterm solution, but the long-term result can be un-recouped advances.”