One of the dirty little secrets of publishing is that publishers often do market research by publishing books.
If a publisher wants to know what customers are interested in reading or buying, doing full-blown market research can be expensive. You probably need to get professionals involved with focus groups or surveys with all manner of scientific, sociological number crunching. It can easily cost $20,000, $30,000 or $100,000 for even a modest project. Because of this, often publishers will cooperate through a trade association or other umbrella group and buy in to a project.
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What do those in the upcoming generation think of Christians, and of evangelicals in particular?
In the book Unchristian, to be published by Baker in October 2007, David Kinnaman presents the results of his research on this question. (Is this industrial espionage? Nothing so sinister. I was at a conference where Baker handed out a sample chapter to all attendees.) Kinnaman found that over 85 percent of those aged sixteen to twenty-nine think we are antihomosexual, judgmental and hypocritical. As Kinnaman says, “We have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for.”
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One of the most dangerous problems a publishing house (or any business, organization or church) can face is success.
For a publisher, that success could take the form of a massive bestseller. What’s wrong with selling one, two or ten million copies of a book? Isn’t that what every publisher wishes for? Money solves so many problems, doesn’t it?
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Here’s a typical publishing news item, this one from www.comicbookresources.com posted on February 18, 2007:
“Thomas Nelson Incorporated and Realbuzz Studios would like to announce an exclusive multi-year contract to release a minimum of 26 manga titles, immediately making Thomas Nelson the market leader of faith-based manga content. ”
Regularly we hear about a publisher employing a new marketing strategy, a new way of handling fulfillment, a new internal structure or a new line of books. Whenever someone in publishing hears something like this, the temptation is to say, “Oh, we ought to do that too.” There are several reasons to resist such urges.
Continue reading “The Imitation Temptation”