Good News or Bad?

Sales of Christian products have “flattened” this year. Simply put, this means Christian book sales did not increase this year. After a decade or more of growth, Christian book sales have basically remained the same the past couple of years.

Industry experts do not really know why sales have remained flat, nor do they agree on their perceived reasons as to what has led to this stall in sales growth. Here are some of the speculations the industry experts provide:

  • No new blockbuster titles (like the Left Behind series and The Purpose Driven Life)
  • A glut of Christian products
  • Products that do not interest younger Christians

I believe that there are cycles to every industry and to product sales. Many industries have experienced either a flattening or a dip in sales in the past two years due to the recession. We should not think that Christian book sales are exempt from economic impact when the economy suffers.

As for Christian book sales flattening, I think much of this is due to the economy. However, I believe that all three of the above reasons given by industry experts come into play.

Blockbuster titles drive sales of other Christian books. Often, someone will go into a store to purchase the blockbuster title and come out with an additional title or two that caught their eye while in the store. Hence, a Christian bestseller can help sell more Christian books as a whole. Since the industry has not had such a title in a couple years, Christian book sales, as a whole, have been impacted.

Interestingly, a glut of Christian products can lead to fewer bestselling titles. I believe that one reason Pilgrim’s Progress was such a Christian classic and bestseller was that, for so many years, consumers only had a handful of books to choose from. The more titles people have available to them, the more purchasing gets dispersed, and the harder it is for one title to rise to the top.

In addition, the industry has been chided for years for publishing “fluff” instead of “meaty” Christian titles. For example, a couple years ago, one of the major Christian publishers contracted with Britney Spears’ mother to write a book on Christian parenting. Now, Britney Spears is hardly a good example of what one wants a Christian parent to produce. I am sure the publisher felt that the author’s name would sell many copies regardless of the content. The publisher ended up deciding not to publish the book after it came out in the news that the mother was allowing Britney’s pregnant teenage sister to live with the father of her baby. Such a parenting book would definitely have fallen into the “fluff” category of Christian titles.

I do not believe that the flattening of Christian book sales is negative news. Rather, it is fairly positive news. In these years of recession, Christian books have continued to sell.

I believe the market is primed for small publishers willing to publish “meaty” Christian materials that appeal to those seeking a deeper understanding of and closer relationship with God. These books may not become bestsellers, but they will definitely find an audience.

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