So I have decided to dive in to the deep end of the pool. After several years of writing this blog I am now going to try my hand at writing some books. As a publisher who sees new book proposals on a weekly basis, I know that this is a risky venture. Nearly 300,000 new titles are published in English each year in the USA and the average book only sells about 300 copies in that same year. Anyone who chooses to write needs to do it with both a passion for their subject and a pragmatic perspective on what is possible. The initial books that I am going to work on are for a very specific audience and birthed from a particular burden I carry.
For a while now I have been concerned that Christian retailers have been closing their doors too quickly. The realities of tough economic times, a changing market and increased competition have driven many committed Christian business people to shut down their operations. Over the last decade many more Christian stores have closed than have opened. Even those committed to keeping their stores going have a difficult time finding successors when they reach retirement age. Not nearly enough younger entrepreneurs are considering investing in Christian retailing as either a viable business or a worthwhile ministry.
Today, we are at a tipping point and something has to be done. My first book is tentatively entitled, The Bookstore that Matters, and will be part memoir and part manifesto. I firmly believe that a bookstore that matters to its local community can survive and even thrive. Running a Christian bookstore is a high calling and a business worth committing your life too. If run properly, it will attract people, impact the community in significant ways and actually help in transforming lives in the here and now and for eternity.
My new book will draw on my own personal experience of running a Christian bookstore with no prior experience and no special training. Just as in the book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, some bookstores can go from simple single digit growth to significant increases in impact and sales. I know because I saw it happen. We do not have to accept the standard wisdom of the pundits and the naysayers. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can see miracles take place in our day and time, even in a Christian bookstore. It is time to begin a new revolution, a new movement of Christian book pioneers and innovators.
So why am I so urgent about this? Something strange is going on. While the number of independent Christian bookstores continues to decrease, independent secular bookstores are on the rise. For the past five years in a row, the American Booksellers Association has reported a net increase in its membership. This should not be. During this same period of time, many Christian publishers have been purchased by secular companies and now the vast majority of Christian books and Bibles are published by people that do not name Jesus as their Lord and Savior. (Please Note – There are a large number of dedicated Christians still working for the companies owned by these new corporate parents.) While this may not seem to have had a dramatic impact yet, it will in the years to come. We are already seeing the ripple effects of this with the recent news of Waterbrook/ Multnomah pulling out of their membership from the NRB (National Religious Broadcasters).
Independent Christian Bookstores are as important as independent Christian publishers and possibly even more so. No one is going to share the truth of the gospel with a lost soul in Barnes & Noble or the local ABA bookstore. No one but the Christian bookstore is going to stock a wide variety of resources for the local church and make them available when it is too late to get the same products from Amazon before Sunday. When these stores are closed it really does matter. The trees are falling in the forest and people can hear it. So who is going to respond to this crisis?
I hope that my book will be an inspiration to a new generation of young Christian entrepreneurs and to the current generation of Christian retailers that are thinking about giving up. Pray for me as I begin this endeavor. In order to carve out the time needed to make this happen, I will be taking a blogging hiatus for the summer. Keep your eye on this space for news of my progress and periodic updates on the book. This fall, I hope to be able to share much more about the release plan for the book and how soon you will be able to purchase it. Oh – while you are waiting, why not go to your local Christian bookstore, buy a book and be an encouragement to someone who has dedicated their life to this great cause.