Saturday, 17 October 2009
Faith 'n Fiction: Publishers and Branding
My Friend Amy's faith 'n fiction topic has saved me from staring blankly at a 'new post' screen!!!!
This week Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publisher announced a new division for self publishing. They named this new endeavor, Westbow Press. This was a bit of a shock for those of us who remember books on the shelves by some of Christian fiction's most accomplished writers published under the Westbow imprint of the past.
When asked about this, Michael Hyatt responded that readers don't pay attention to imprints and publishers. To be honest, I found this rather insulting and it also made me question why publishers would try to brand themselves if readers don't really care anyway. Even before book blogging and reading book news every day, I paid attention to publishers. I figured if a publisher published enough different sorts of books that I liked, than I would like a lot of their stuff.
This really holds true today. I have favorite publishers in Christian fiction and in the general market. There are publishers I know I will read new authors from and other I'm less likely to pick up.
How about you? Do you know who the Christian publishers are? Who are your favorite publishers or imprints? Do you have certain perceptions of the kinds of books each publishing house brings out? Tell it like it is...even if you have no idea what I'm talking about!
I don't know whether I would go so far as to say I feel as insulted as Amy does....but I am definitely surprised. I've been reading Christian Fiction since I was 9 years old and I do take notice of the publishers. I will admit to being oblivious as to what an imprint is....but I'm familiar with my publishers. I have a overwhelming number of Bethany House books on my shelves. I notice when an author changes publisher mid-way through a series ~ I've even asked an author about the change! I know when I see the 'etc' circle at the top of the spine it's going to be a NavPress book. I know that B&H books are going to be pretty fantastic, because Karen Ball is one of their editors and I have a deep respect for Karen's work as an author and as an editor. David C Cook makes me giggle a little inside because the publisher name could be an author's name!
Of course that's barely a handful of publishers, but you get the gist. The apparently unaware reader is more aware than Thomas Nelson give us credit for. If I am inclined to notice these things, you can be sure there are many, more discerning, readers doing the same. Publishers do become synonymous with the style and genres they publish. In the past, Westbow has published the likes of Angela Hunt, Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. I wonder then, how they will distinguish this new self publishing 'Westbow' from the old. After all, there are many Christian Fiction readers who will look at the publisher and have some expectations. Surely there are some creative people in the publishing industry who could come up with a name that does not set the reader up with the high expectations that one rightly has when they pick up Angela, Ted or Frank's books.
Don't get me wrong though. I think having an avenue for self publishing could be really helpful for new authors, when they are wanting to write something that none of the big publishing houses are interested in, at the time. I'm sure black and white sales figures will help authors who want to break into the Christian Fiction arena. If they have a good self publishing record, they will no doubt become more attractive to the big boys in the industry. It will also allow the reader access to more than what the publishing houses are prepared to publish. I'm just not so sure it's a good idea to use a name with a reputation already attached to it.
What do you think?