April 20, 2018

Christian Publishing Initiatives Expand | PubCrawl

Francine FialkoffHarperCollins Christian Publishing (established when HarperCollins, longtime parent company of Zondervan, acquired competitor Thomas Nelson in 2012) is moving more strongly into the library market. Earlier this year, the company appointed Tracy Danz, a Zondervan veteran and former publisher of general trade nonfiction, to the newly created position of director, library sales and marketing. “We’re putting a focus on libraries we didn’t have before,” Danz told LJ.

Danz said that a consumer survey done by the company last fall found that libraries are the third most common way that consumers found out about new books, after bookstores and friends and family. “If libraries are key to discoverability, we need more resources directed at the library market,” said Danz. That includes greater visibility at library conferences, so more HC Christian Publishing adult marketing staff and authors will be at shows starting with the American Library Association conference in Las Vegas this June, as well as author events in libraries, both in person and via Skype. Danz is working closely with the experienced HarperCollins adult library marketing team, led by Virginia Stanley.

“Our expectation is to see [sales] growth in libraries that exceeds our general business forecast,” said Danz, “in the following categories: digital, kids, fiction, trade best sellers, and audio.” To that end, Danz said, HC Christian Publishing is working on making digital editions of all its titles available to libraries through OverDrive. It also broadened the range of audiobook CDs sold to libraries through Brilliance (Brilliance no longer sells downloadable audio to libraries).

As for Christian fiction in libraries, “a lot of it is patron- and homeschool driven,” said Danz. It’s also less overtly faith-based. “The lines are blurred for romance, and parents think the books are ‘safe,’ so we pull in middle school and high school readers, too.”

Nonfiction, too, is broader than ever, said Danz, and is expanding into new areas. Thomas Nelson has plans to do biographies of Winston Churchill and David Livingston, as well as cookbooks. “Conglomeration generates efficiencies but also enables greater concentration on specific areas,” like libraries, said Danz.

WestBow adds Zondervan

In other HarperCollins Christian Publishing news, WestBow Press, the self-publishing arm of Thomas Nelson (and Author Solutions), expanded its services in January to include Zondervan.

Since its inception in 2009, WestBow has published over 4,000 titles, according to Pete Nikolai, director of publishing services and manager of WestBow Press.

“Each month I send a list of top WestBow titles to the acquisitions teams at Nelson and Zondervan, as well as to several agents,” said Nikolai. “The information shows sales of each title in a variety of channels and provides links to reviews.”

“We’re looking at it more intentionally as a pipeline for Zondervan,” said Danz.

Among authors picked up by Thomas Nelson and other traditional publishers are William Sirls (The Sinner’s Garden), Sharon Garlough Brown (Sensible Shoes, IVP Bks.), and Annie Downs (her first adult novel, Let’s All Be Brave, is due out in July from Zondervan).

“We are seeing a wide variety of self-published titles selling well,” said Nikolai, from biblical studies to fiction to books on marriage, “indicating pockets of interest…but those pockets are unpredictable, so WestBow [can] serve as a valuable indicator of ­opportunities.”

Amazon Adds Christian imprint

In late January, Amazon launched a new Christian book imprint, Waterfall, to be housed at Brilliance Publishing, based in Grand Haven, MI. Audio publisher Brilliance, which was acquired by Amazon in 2007, already has a foot in the self-help and personal growth market with Grand Harbor Press and its Christian audiobook titles, said Mark Pereira, Brilliance president and publisher.

“It was natural for us to extend [further] into print publishing,” he told LJ. “Our main focus [at Waterfall] is to publish books that entertain and inform readers with a transforming message.” That includes “Christian Living through spiritual refreshment and personal growth [in nonfiction]…and stories in the romance, mystery, and suspense genres.”

Among the imprint’s lead titles are successful self-published author Cherie Hill’s When You Need a Miracle (Apr.) and The Quiet Revolution (Jun.) by Jay Hein, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under George W. Bush.

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Francine Fialkoff About Francine Fialkoff

Francine Fialkoff (ffialkoff@gmail.com) spent 35 years with LJ, and 15 years at its helm as Editor and Editor-in-Chief. For more, see her Farewell Editorial.