Christian Book Publishing and Religious Books

A strange thing has been happening in the religious book market. Even as religion is undergoing a renaissance in America, well established Christian book stores have been closing their doors. I've seen this in my own hometown, where a store that had been in the same location for at least 30 years failed, even as the number of Christian day schools in the area grew. The phenomena has been widely written on, and the blame is often placed on church bookstores, but I think that it's also due to an influential Christian publishing company entering the mainstream with cross-over hits, and getting their books stocked in Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. There's also the Internet effect, which allows low overhead operations to stock very selectively and sell direct to customers.

While this phenomena is having an impact on how a traditional Christian publishing company must operate, it really doesn't effect how you'd go about self publishing a Christian book. The question you should answer for yourself before you even start the journey is "Why?" My first adventure in self publishing was a religious book, not devotional or theological, but a collection of memoir and historical fiction written by my great-grandmother in Biblical Hebrew, which I translated to English. The work took me three years, and I spent around $10,000 publishing the books, and later gave them away when I couldn't sell them. The motivation was never truly commercial, it was something I started on and felt I had to finish, and I'm happy now that her works are available online for anybody with an Internet connection to read.

So why is a Jewish guy writing about Christian self publishing? Because when I write about self publishing in general, I hammer away one principal point, that the whole business is about selling and if you can't make a profit you're just playing at being a publisher. That just doesn't apply to religious books. If you're writing as an expression of your faith, then it's something you might feel compelled to publish, even if you don't know anything about the business and lack the time, resources or desire to learn. Just remember that being part of the flock doesn't mean you have to get sheared, and giving your hard earned money to an outfit that claims to be a Christian publishing company doesn't mean that they adhere to Christian values, even if they talk a good game.

If you believe your calling is to start your own publishing company to spread a message AND earn a living, then read through the 60 plus posts I've already made about self publishing on this blog and most of it will apply to Christian self publishing as well. However, if you just have a book you want to make available to readers on a limited budget, you're better off trying to comparison shop the subsidy presses, and don't be taken in by a company just because it has "Christian" in the name. Prices range from around $199 to $799 for publishing with distribution, with very little real difference in the services rendered. Do not pay extra for marketing services; if you really want to sell books, you'll have to do it yourself. Almost all of the subsidy presses use Lightning Source to print all of their books, and Lightning Source provides access to Ingram distribution and Amazon, so the basic service is the same, whichever one you choose. There are some differences in customer service, cover design, speed, and there's a whole Yahoo! group dedicated to helping print on demand authors.

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