Book Business

Rumbles in CBA

News broke late last week that key staff people in CBA (aka Christian Booksellers Association) are no longer working for the association. In what appears to be a purge, Curtis Riskey, president for 11 years, is no longer working there. Other key people are either no longer with the organization or are on their way out. In addition the chairman of the CBA board resigned last month.

According to an article posted Friday (click here for the entire thing) there has been no press release or news of succession. There are also reports of bills left unpaid.

Without more information, we can only speculate what this means. The only conclusion is there are rumblings of change afoot.  Hopefully, there will be an update shortly.

What Does This Mean for Authors?

The Christian retail market has had a difficult decade. Beginning with the economic downturn and recession in 2008 and following, plus the meteoric growth of online purchasing, the brick-and-mortar stores have suffered.

Within the bookselling industry, we’ve seen the recent bankruptcy (twice) of Family Christian stores, the demise of the Berean chain (with whom I worked for 11 years), and more. Earlier this year the Lifeway Christian Stores dismissed their chain’s buying team and have made moves to reduce their overall inventory.

This is nothing new. The entire retail industry is in turmoil, not only Christian bookstores. Despite this, publishers have learned, and are learning, to pivot and find new places to sell their books. Thus, trouble in the management of the association does not affect the day-to-day efforts of publishing. The stores are still out there and open for business.

It does cause me to reflect on the industry as a whole. For example, one major problem for the Christian industry is there have been relatively few breakout books for nearly a decade. (I define “breakout” as a title that rises to the top of the bestseller’s list and stays there for a long time, selling millions of copies.) A look at the recent bestseller’s list (click to view the September list) bears this out. Still in the top 10 are Jesus Calling, a devotional, published in 2004 and The Shack, a novel, published in 2007.

The list  includes other long-time bestsellers like The Five Love Languages, Boundaries, The Total Money Makeover, Love and Respect, The Purpose Driven Life, The Love Dare, The Case for Christ. In addition, the list is replete with authors who regularly appear: Max Lucado, John Maxwell, Karen Kingsbury, Wanda Brunstetter, Beth Moore, and Joyce Meyer.

This could suggest opportunity for authors. Finding the next big book is the constant work of editors and publishers. Could there be a gem waiting in the to-be-read pile on my desk or the desk of an editor? We can hope.

Meanwhile, a lot of books continue to be published and continue to affect people’s lives. It would be easy to frown and focus on the negative. Unfortunately, that leads to despair. Rather, believe in God’s sovereignty over all things. That tends to put it all in perspective.


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