Saturday, May 4, 2019

Is Religious Book Publishing Dead?

Fake news has been with us for a long time. A century ago, after Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) had been out of the country several months on a speaking tour, an American newspaper published his obituary, asserting that he had died penniless in London. A correspondent for the New York Journal contacted him for comment. The author acknowledged that his cousin James Ross Clemens had been near death in London a couple of weeks earlier, but had recovered. “The report of my illness grew out of his illness,” he said in a laconic note. “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Publishers of religious books find themselves in a similar predicament these days. Hundreds of bookstores have closed, including nationwide chains such as Family Christian Stores and Lifeway Stores. Major Christian trade shows have folded. Christian authors seldom appear on late-night talk shows anymore. With such visible changes, some people assume that Christian book publishing is dying.

If you hear that, take a look at the facts.

January’s statistical report from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) showed that religious book sales have increased more than any other category, up 8.1% from a year ago.  Click here to see details.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing, not because people have stopped reading, but because they can find more books online. The largest physical bookstore can display just a tiny fraction of the new books published each year—nearly 305,000 new titles in the United States alone. Click here to see how our publishing output compares to other countries.

Then there’s self-publishing. First-time authors now have new technologies to publish their own books. Amazon says that more than a thousand authors earned over $100,000 each in royalties through Kindle Direct Publishing in 2017. Not all were Christian authors, to be sure, but many were. Click here to see details.  

So if someone tries to discourage you from writing because they think books are dying, give them a benign smile. As Mark Twain would say, that report is an exaggeration.

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