Colorado Springs Publisher Overview
With great interest, I read this well-written article from Lynn Garrett and Cindy Crosby titled, “Evangelical Publishers Flourish in ‘The Springs’” which appeared in the November 20th issue of Publisher’s Weekly. I’ve been a subscriber to this publication for years and in recent months, they’ve been improving this educational portion of the magazine. Because I used to live in Colorado Springs and even work for one of the publishers mentioned, I enjoyed their detailed analysis of the various publishers. Like much of publishing, things continue to evolve and change and it was good to get some update. If you read the article carefully, you can note some of these changes. For example, they interviewed the publisher at NavPress Paul Westervelt and last I heard they were still searching for whoever was going to take this position. Without any fanfare, this type of information is inside this article.
Here’s a few words from the article which provide a bit of a bellwether to another publisher, Cook (where I used to work as their acquisitions editor) “The past year has brought new top leadership and reorganization to Cook, which has 336 employees in its four locations, 225 of them in Colorado Springs. Cris Doornbos took the helm as president last fall after 22 years at Zondervan. Senior v-p and publisher Dan Rich came on board in May, and Don Pape took over as publisher of the book division two months ago. In the past year Cook published some 150 titles— “to many,” said Rich, who is rethinking the company’s acquisitions strategy. Echoing many publishers these days, he said, “We’d like to do fewer better.” Its bestselling title last year was Cracking Da Vinci’s Code—which has sold almost 350,000 in the U.S. alone—but that was a unique opportunity that will be hard to duplicate. The plan is to cut down to 80 titles this year and 60 in 2007, and, Rich said, “We’re looking for more marquee authors to do books that will appeal to pastors and other leaders and help shape the future of the church.”
If you don’t know, this paragraph indicates a philosophy change which will take time to execute. Several years ago, the philosophy involved producing many different titles in a single year and consistently selling a certain amount for each title. I understand from some of my publishing colleagues that it is possible to have a successful publishing program with this model. I confess that I don’t understand it in many ways because essentially you overload your editors and run a lot of books through the publishing house. The authors and literary agents aren’t pleased with the results of such a program because most of the books have modest (read small) sales numbers. Many publishers have a different philosophy of publishing fewer titles and selling them deeper into the marketplace. It’s the philosophy that Dan Rich said above as the new philosophy. I understand these changes will not happen overnight but will take time to implement. Why? Notice the quotation above about marquee authors? Many authors who sell in large volume will be hesitant to work with a publisher who has a track record of mostly modest sales. It takes time to change the perception of any publisher.
Some of you might be asking if this change is good for authors. From one view, it’s less opportunity for your book to be published because the publisher is planning on less books. That’s one view. Also it means that writers need to work harder on the ideas they propose to show the publisher the sales potential of that particular idea. I’m undaunted with the reduced list because it means the books which are selected are expected to sell more copies (which is always good for the author in the long run). It means if you are going to succeed at this publisher, you will need to sharpen your book proposal and rejection-proof your submission giving it the absolute best chance of success. It will take hard work and imagination and creativity to succeed. These elements are something that many people aren’t willing to put into their proposals but if you do it, then you will find a publisher for your work.