Photoqueen, Lynette, and C.J., concerns about sales are definitely a part of the equation. Okay, a BIG part. But not for the reason so many think. It's not about just making . It goes far deeper than that. I'll delve more into that in my next series of posts. And Kathy, I hear what you're saying, but the issue is more about fiscal responsibility than a comfortable bottom line. If publishers don't make a profit, they don't stay in business.
Lynn, I agree. Francine's books are the epitome of powerful fiction, Christian or otherwise. She delivers true-to-life stories with depth and TRUTH.
Nicole, most marketing teams really aren't ineffective. Every house I've worked at has had a cracker-jack team, B&H included. They've found ways to do great marketing with minimal funds. If you want to pinpoint a marketing problem, it's that: Minimal funds. I've said for a lot of years that the way publishing houses assign marketing dollars is backwards. Books selling like hotcakes don't need as much marketing. They're selling already! We need to put more substantial money behind new books to build them. And why do marketers get a way in anything? Because they know their segment of the market better than anyone. I WANT marketing on my team, helping make wise decisions. As for the chasm between pub boards and fiction readers, well...yes. But that's because it's not their job to be tuned in to those readers. It's the editors' job. We're the bridge for that chasm. With returns and refunds, though, you're right on the money. If a reader isn't sure s/he will like a book, pick it up at a library first. Retailers aren't lending books, they're selling them. And returns to publishers? Huge issue. Returns are killing some publishers...more on that later.
Kathleen and Courtney, great wisdom in this: build name brand trust, earn the right to take readers off the beaten path. That's what Francine did. By the time readers had finished her Mark of the Lion trilogy, they were ready to follow her anywhere. Gave her great freedom--and great responsibility--as a writer. Courtney, the beauty is that you can still let your voice come through loud and clear, even as you're building that trust in your readers. In fact, you need to do that. Because it's your voice, your true voice, that will touch hearts.
Tricia and Cara, absolutely. We need to spill our hearts, and do so in authentic, well crafted ways. It's not easy, but it's so worth it! Michelle, yes, we need to speak our readers' language, and to be vulnerable. It doesn't help anyone to write books that don't address real issues in real ways. And Kelli, you're right: publishers ARE doing all of that now. They are putting out wonderful, highly crafted books that deal with real issues in honest ways. And publishers definitely are taking more risks than ever before--maybe not as much as we'd like, but it is happening. And backlist? Oh, Kelli, RIGHT ON! Backlist is what sets the Christian market apart from the general market. Backlist keeps us alive. So are we doing all we could with it? Are we being wise and strategic? Wait for a future post to see!
Rel, contrary to what you might think, bad press doesn't put publishers off. Shoot, I've seen sales and marketing people tickled all shades of pink by bad press. After all, you know what they say: Bad publicity is still publicity. And if it stirs up some controversy, all the better, because that means more and more media outlets will pick up on it. But if bad press is accompanied by poor sales...well, that makes it especially hard to convince the finance folks it's worth the risk. So the key seems to be jumping on whatever publicity we get and making it work for us.
Well, I think this post is PLENTY long, so I'll save the rest for the next one.