Despite the rumors concerning of the demise of Christian books, bookstores, and especially Christian fiction there is news that tells a different story.
There were a couple statistics released this past week that show signs of encouragement!
General market sales:
According to the U.S. Census Bureau. Bookstore sales hit $698 million in the month of June 2015 compared to $672 million last June. That is a 3.9% increase. Skeptics will claim that the June 18 release of Grey by E.L. James inflated the numbers. But if must always cut out the “exception” then we need to cut the exceptions out of every statistical comparison.
Christian market sales:
According to Nielsen Bookscan religious fiction sales in the first 25 weeks of 2015 saw a 6.4% increase over the same period last year. This is a major reversal of the downward trend that caused a lot of consternation earlier this year when reports of 2014 numbers were unveiled. The silver lining is the lack of a major bestselling release in the Christian market that could skew the numbers. It is overall growth.
So what? What does this mean? In some ways it is like a good investor. A good investor does not panic when the stock market takes a dip (like it did last week). They remain confident in their investments and until other factors come about the good investor tends to hold on for the ride or see a downward trend as an opportunity, not a disaster.
In the same way it is important for an author to avoid the tendency to react emotionally to bits of bad news or react strongly to news that isn’t very encouraging. Instead it is wise to remain confident in their ability and until other factors come about the professional writer tends to hold on for the ride or see a downward trend as an opportunity, not a disaster.
Did I just write the same sentence twice? There is method to the madness. The point is to keep looking for opportunities that can open at a moment’s notice.
Books are still selling. A lot of them…every day…every hour. Readers still want entertainment, inspiration, or education in their books and they always will. You are a content provider and your words could be the ones that are read by tomorrow’s reader. Unless you give up and quit today.
Meanwhile let’s see if we can focus on a bit of good news for a change.
Great way to start Monday!
Been thinking a lot about my mission as a Christian writer. I have to remind myself it has little or nothing to do with trends, sales, or bumps in the market. For me, today, I have to return to the knowledge that it’s obedience to the mission that will ultimately stabilize me as a writer and future novelist, not what the market is saying. I will pay attention to what the biz is up to, but this good news is proof that we just have to press forward in obedience to the mission. Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic, but I think many of us get distracted by the numbers. They are important, but shouldn’t’ interfere with our vision for publication. Thank you, Steve, for sharing this happy news.
Love your response Jan! “Obedience to the mission.” Perfect. It’s not dramatic at all, and I’m making it my new mantra. 🙂 It keeps everything in perspective and our writing vision centered.
Thanks, Holly! Blessings!
Sound Bite for me:
Obedience to the Mission,
There is no stopping the fire inside.
So just do my day with readjusting.
Patience they say.
Faithful I discover.
No matter what.
Looking for His face in my day.
Finding peace Today.
This is heartening news. I do have a question, however. When I surveyed what the Walmarts in Roswell, NM and Albuquerque stocked in the Christian romance genre in March, 2014, I found about 10-15 offerings ranging across historical, contemporary, and Amish genres with a variety of authors and several publishing houses. I found similar variety in our Edgewood store. Today, I find Edgewood and Albuquerque stocking no more than 5, with Kingsbury dominating, occasionally a Coble contemporary, a Brunstetter or Wiseman Amish, and occasionally a Witemeyer western historical. One or two novella collections may also offered. Paltry picking compared to less than a year and a half ago! Any insights into what is going on here and whether this is going to improve as well?
I have a strategic question as well. It is possible to order a greater variety at the Walmart.com site with a request for free store pickup. Would ordering with store pickup be likely to stimulate those who decide what to stock in a store to begin stocking Christian trade novels again?
There is no way to officially or definitively answer your question. It is a picture of a couple stores among the 5,000 Walmart locations in the U.S.
There is a consistent re-merchandising of their stores. Shelving units change, product placement change, etc.
Special ordering with in-store pick-up will not make a difference unless it is done 1,000 times in 1,000 locations for the same book.
We have to realize that big box retail is, in essence, product agnostic. They really don’t care if it is a widget or a wadget or a woodgit. If it sells enough to justify the square footage devoted to its retail space it is a success. And they may do it again.
That is why one week you might see a bacon fryer in a particular spot, but the next week it is a household cleanser, and the next month it is a spare tire for your car. Product agnostic.
I have noticed distinct differences in specific items within broader categories that the local Walmarts stock. For example, the one closest to the university has a lot more books for both adults and children, and the more rural ones stock more ranch wear. The clothing styles and color selections differ somewhat in Minnesota, central Texas, and New Mexico. It’s clear the local manager has some discretion in how much of what he puts on his shelves. I was just wondering if that would extend to books and if we might be able to locally influence the selection. Smaller-town Walmarts might be more likely to respond. It would be an interesting experiment to try if I could mobilize enough women to help with it.
When I was the national book buyer for a chain back in the 80s there were significant differences in certain regions. We had one very large store on the west coast that couldn’t sell fiction in any meaningful way. Even the bestselling Janette Oke would sit in its display untouched. Whereas a smaller store in the mid-South would sell ten times the amount of fiction as that store in the West.
And yet it wasn’t that cut and dried. Other stores in the West sold fiction like gangbusters. It was just that one store that, for whatever reason, did not have a constituency that bought fiction in large quantities.
I did hear that years later that store’s demographic changed after the store relocated and along with it the fiction sales dramatically increased.
Yes, some stores will have certain regional emphases. There is a certain amount of discretion on the part of local management. But whether a group of dedicated fans could affect the daily inventory shelving decisions remains to be seen.
Imagine the implication of that. What if a group of dedicated anti-whatever people banded together and targeted a particular store to carry inventory that reflected their brand of interests. It could turn into a PR nightmare for that store, depending on which viewpoint ended up as the emphasis.
I always appreciate the upbeat tone of your posts, Steve. And the analogy to being a good investor makes a lot of sense. We can’t let a season of downward trends discourage us from writing the things God’s given us to write.