"Christian" business models?

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  • Realistically, if you are in a job which is usually considered a caring occupation, OR if you are in a standard occupation in a "caring organization" like a church, people are going to react really badly to "I'm sorry, it's out of office hours and I can't schedule your funeral right now, no." "I'm sorry you're in emotional crisis, but this is my day off." "You need to call Pastor X about the brand new flood in the basement, because I'm on vacation." People just do react badly, and they don't see that it's the third time that day you've been asked to take "just five minutes" (lie) to deal with something off-hours.

    And since people tend to self-sort themselves into jobs that fit their personalities, it's probably a bit harder for your average person in such a job to say "Hell no, call someone else." They probably care about the person and about the organization that is going to get a bad rep if they insist on their very reasonable need for time off.

    So I don't think it's fair to say to them, "This is 100% on you, and you need to tell people where to stick it" or similar, on pain of being called a self-exploiter. That just puts more burden on the person already in the hot seat. Better to set up baffles to prevent those conversations ever happening--have the office phone forward calls elsewhere (yeah, where? I know) or else have a policy of paying overtime for the hassle.

    It might be a bit different for people in my family's situation, where we went into it knowing and accepting that it would be a 24-hour 7-day lifestyle, and that we would have not a salary, but a stipend uncoupled from the amount of work we did. But we went into that very specific occupation with open eyes and a willing heart, knowing that there were sound reasons (which we admitted as sensible) for the freaky arrangement. And we had other options.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited March 6
    Christian book sales hot? I'm pretty sure that's not the case this side of the Pond. I don't imagine it would be the case in the USA and Canada either other than for books by big name speakers and so on.

    Which Books Are Selling

    The Association of American Publishers (AAP) recently released its analysis of book sales for 2018. Here is what they found:

    Nonfiction books, both Adult and Children’s and Young Adult, experienced the largest percentage revenue growth for publishers over the past five years. Adult nonfiction revenues grew 22.8 percent and Children’s and Young Adult nonfiction revenues grew 38.5 percent from 2014 to 2018. Unit sales for Adult nonfiction and Children’s and Young Adult nonfiction grew 20.9 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively, over the same five-year period.

    Publisher revenue for adult fiction was flat (0.4 percent) at $4.40 billion in 2018, while Children’s and Young Adult fiction grew slightly (1.6 percent) to $3.72 billion.

    Religious presses’ revenue grew 14.7 percent in 2018 to $1.22 billion with 75.7 percent of that revenue coming from print formats.

    Downloaded audio remained the fastest-growing format, with 28.7 percent year-over-year revenue growth from 2017 to 2018 and 181.8 percent revenue growth over the past five years.

    eBook sales were down 5.2% from 2017.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited March 6
    Realistically, if you are in a job which is usually considered a caring occupation, OR if you are in a standard occupation in a "caring organization" like a church, people are going to react really badly to "I'm sorry, it's out of office hours and I can't schedule your funeral right now, no." "I'm sorry you're in emotional crisis, but this is my day off." "You need to call Pastor X about the brand new flood in the basement, because I'm on vacation." People just do react badly, and they don't see that it's the third time that day you've been asked to take "just five minutes" (lie) to deal with something off-hours.

    And since people tend to self-sort themselves into jobs that fit their personalities, it's probably a bit harder for your average person in such a job to say "Hell no, call someone else." They probably care about the person and about the organization that is going to get a bad rep if they insist on their very reasonable need for time off.


    It might be a bit different for people in my family's situation, where we went into it knowing and accepting that it would be a 24-hour 7-day lifestyle, and that we would have not a salary, but a stipend uncoupled from the amount of work we did. But we went into that very specific occupation with open eyes and a willing heart, knowing that there were sound reasons (which we admitted as sensible) for the freaky arrangement. And we had other options.


    This is very accurate -- many people go into book publishing because they love reading books, are passionate about close language work and want to be involved with making books. When publishing houses hit tough times economically, publishing projects get cancelled and often editors want to get those books out to other readers.

    That has always been one of my crunch moments and I suspect it is the same for other editors and translators. 'Will anyone edit, translate or publish this text if I turn it down?' So I do the work for reduced rates and don't always regret it because books do get a readership and sometimes the success they deserve because the editor took a chance when the publisher wouldn't.

    When I'm asked to read manuscripts for assessment, I know I have to argue very hard for an unknown author or niche project to get onto the publishing schedule. I have to motivate for it much harder than the author or even the agent because publishers want safe, predictable books. The marketing team, if there is one, wants books that can be easily labelled and sold as a popular trend. So I fight for the inclusion of an eccentric book I care about and inevitably the publisher asks if I would take it on for less than the going rate. That's often how publishing does work. One reason I'm not making a distinction between 'Christian' or commercial secular publishing is that they're not in my experience very different. They're both driven by the same market forces and niche readerships. The publishers aren't unethical or sexist or exploitative, they're just risk-averse. They have to do what is best to keep their small business afloat and they want guaranteed profits in an industry that doesn't guarantee anything. If the publication does better than expected in terms of sales, they may come back and reimburse the editor or offer to take on another more risky project. Some of us have built careers around making high-risk manuscripts more acceptable and marketable, and that is a labour of love not reflected in a bank balance.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    @MaryLouise do the less likely niche books which you've managed to sell to your publisher actually sell well enough when they hit the market to make a profit and justify your advocacy?

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Second post:

    Going back to the OP, how Christians conduct themselves and organise their affairs, whether they behave with honesty, integrity and love towards each other, those who work for them and those they deal with is fundamental to the credibility of their faith. That applies to churches and organisations as well as individuals and to business and civic life as much as church life.

    That should be obvious. Alas, it isn't usually.

    In churches, by the way, it ought to be a lot more important then whether one has the right theology, identifies with all the fashionable ideologies and has the 'correct' pattern of ministry, threefold orders, apostolic emulation of how things were run in the New Testament etc. or whatever.

  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    Enoch wrote: »
    @MaryLouise do the less likely niche books which you've managed to sell to your publisher actually sell well enough when they hit the market to make a profit and justify your advocacy?

    This is an interesting one, @Enoch, and says something about the nature of publishing as a dream-chaser. Some years ago, I advocated for a manuscript rejected by more than 300 other publishers internationally and locally. I worked on it on and off, it was cancelled, then revived -- I worked on it again for no payment -- and finally published. One single positive review caught the attention of readers and it outsold every other book on the publishing lists that year. After that I could do no wrong even though many of my other 'hunches' and choices didn't do nearly as well. So, I'd have to say many of the books I've published haven't done well in terms of sales but most didn't do too badly and some have become belated minor 'classics' and done well in reprint. And editors do become more astute at seeing possibilities through the years, so we're less likely to recommend books just because they appeal to a fellow eccentric.
  • RuthRuth Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    Going back to the OP, how Christians conduct themselves and organise their affairs, whether they behave with honesty, integrity and love towards each other, those who work for them and those they deal with is fundamental to the credibility of their faith. That applies to churches and organisations as well as individuals and to business and civic life as much as church life.

    That should be obvious. Alas, it isn't usually.

    People in churches don't behave markedly better on average than others. Lay leaders tend to adopt the labor and business practices they're familiar with from their own jobs without thinking about whether those practices are ethical, moral, or loving. Church leaders seem no less likely than leaders in other organizations to cross lines they shouldn't--my personal knowledge includes several clergy who carried on relationships or had sex with people in their congregations, and of all the clergy I have worked with, worked for, or known well, exactly one of them has never told me something that broke confidentiality. The child sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church got a lot of publicity and destroyed a lot of people's faith, but similar things happen in smaller denominations; Christianity Today reports 1 in 10 young Protestants in the US leave the church because of abuse, and 23% of churchgoers ages 18-34 know someone who has been sexually harassed at their church.
    (https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/may/lifeway-protestant-abuse-survey-young-christians-leave-chur.html)

    I could go on and on -- the groping during the passing of the peace I reported as a young woman that the pastor brushed aside as a man's overfriendliness, the co-worker pushed out of her job one year shy of being old enough for Medicare, the coup led by an associate minister at the church I grew up in that split the church in half, the multiple times I've seen lay church leaders make a member of the clergy miserable so they'd leave ...

    If the credibility of the faith rests on how Christians comport themselves, it goes a long way to explain the declining numbers of Christian adherents.
  • Interesting figures, Gramps49. Eutychus is in France so things are likely to be very different there.

    I'd still be interesting a breakdown of those figures you quote into genres within religious publishing and by author. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a relatively small number of titles- including the Bible - that accounted for the lion's share.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    @MaryLouise do the less likely niche books which you've managed to sell to your publisher actually sell well enough when they hit the market to make a profit and justify your advocacy?

    I'm obviously not MaryLouise, but when I worked for a publisher, we figured that one of a hundred books we published would do well enough in the market to cover the costs of the other 99. Which was satisfactory. Because, of course, you can't usually predict just which book that's going to be.
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    In churches, by the way, it ought to be a lot more important then whether one has the right theology, identifies with all the fashionable ideologies and has the 'correct' pattern of ministry, threefold orders, apostolic emulation of how things were run in the New Testament etc. or whatever.

    I long ago decided it was easier to analyse churches, "revivals", and "ministries" in relatively simple ethical rather than sophisticated theological or (worse still) pseudospiritual terms, but this approach is often met with blank looks among Chrisians in my experience.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited March 6
    Interesting figures, Gramps49. Eutychus is in France so things are likely to be very different there.

    I'd still be interesting a breakdown of those figures you quote into genres within religious publishing and by author. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a relatively small number of titles- including the Bible - that accounted for the lion's share.

    Yes, the United States is a horse of a different color. :smile: Sorry I do not have that breakdown available.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    In terms of Christian and secular publishing ethics, one also has to factor in global outsourcing which is where freelance writers and editors like myself have to negotiate very unstable and tricky arrangements. Many English-language publishers and media groups outsource copy-editing, website content or design work to freelancers in the developing world, in Mumbai, Manila, Johannesburg or Singapore. The rationale for this is sometimes the need for consultancy expertise in topics relating to, say, constitutional law in southern Africa or experience working with human-rights organisations, but more often it relates to potential cost savings due to foreign currency differences.

    (Simplified version for those who might want to know more about this.) This morning's rate of exchange between the US dollar and the South African rand is 15, 3518, or roughly US $15 to a single rand. If the outsourcing US or Europe-based employer is free to pay in dollars at South African (or SE Asian) rates, this would be a considerable saving in outlay costs. If the outsourcer pays slightly more than the going rate in India or Kenya, the freelancer doesn't benefit much but it is still acceptable and a competitive rate. If, however, the exchange rate fluctuates considerably between the initial agreement and the final payment of the agreed fee (if for example the dollar-rand exchange had increased to $25 to a single rand in July 2021), the freelancer could gain considerably more -- or less depending on what the rate is on the day the payment goes through. Predictions for the coming year show the dollar as strengthening, so freelancers might do very well -- or if employed by UK companies, they might lose out due to the pound declining with Brexit fall-out. Freelancers based in the developing world rarely have any of the job security or protections afforded to inhouse staff in the outsourcing country. There is a great deal of jumping through legal loopholes, of course. IME, secular corporate organisations are less naive and more aware of the implications of outsourcing than small presses or Christian publishers. The latter are just following common practice.
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