f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 4 of Our Publishing Tour—The Industry Itself

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Day 4 of Our Publishing Tour—The Industry Itself

Ah, acronyms—our capitalized little friends. Today we’re going to talk about CBA as an industry and an organization…and hopefully nobody searching for the Continental Basketball Association, the Canadian Bar Association, Cheslock, Bakker, and Associates, or the Brilliance China Automotive stock symbol (CBA) will find us accidentally.

CBA stands for Christian Booksellers Association. I don’t think they’re terribly excited about the word “booksellers” in there anymore since stores tend to sell much more than just books, but this thing is decades old by now and there’s not much hope of changing. According to their website, CBA is:

“CBA is the international trade association of Christian retailers and product suppliers. It serves more than 2,500 U.S. member retail stores, and more than 1,000 stores in 40 countries with member chapters in 16 countries. These stores provide Bibles, Christian books, curriculum, apparel, music, videos, gifts, greeting cards, children’s resources, and other materials.

CBA also serves nearly 700 member publishers, record companies, gift companies, and other resource suppliers.”
The host on international conference annually—it’s in lovely Atlanta this year—and some other annual meetings. I believe CBA helps sets standards across the industry for various things (bar codes for instance). They also act in the interest of their member stores, trying to promote retail growth and limit the impact of the major chains.

I’m pretty sure every major publisher in the industry is a member of the CBA. The President/CEO is a gentleman the name of Bill Anderson. His email is right out in the open on the site, which makes me think he probably doesn’t answer it himself.

CBA also publishes a monthly trade journal called CBA Marketplace, one of two trade periodicals in the industry. Marketplace talks about all aspects of the industry, highlights changing times for stores, and does some reviewing of books, CDs, etc. They also publish the bestseller lists. There are an incredible number of categories measured. Worth perusing, if you’ve the time.

Offset from CBA as an organization is ECPA: Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Again, I’ll let them speak for themselves. (Warning: it sounds a lot like the CBA description.)

“The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association is an international, not-for-profit, trade organization serving its industry by promoting excellence and professionalism, sharing relevant data, stimulating Christian fellowship, raising the effectiveness of member houses, and equipping them to meet the needs of the changing marketplace.
They hold their own regional meetings and also provide training sessions for people in the industry. They sponsor the ECPA Gold Medallion Awards—a very nonsensical awards in my opinion, given to books mainly for selling well—and also participate in sales tracking/info. gathering. Pretty much every Christian publisher is a member of this organization too though I can’t specifically say what benefits we reap. Mainly it’s industry awareness.

For more industry awareness there’s also a Society of Christian Editors. They don’t seem to have a webpage but they do have an annual meeting as well, discussing all the topics editors like to talk about—namely what insane person sent in what insane book idea. You think I’m kidding, don’t you?

Finally among industry groups there are two writers guilds. There’s the Christian Writer’s Guild started by Jerry Jenkins. It hosts writers conferences and hooks writers up with “mentors.” You have to pay, but you don’t have to actually be talented to join. They ran some big writing contest a while back offering a $50,000 advance to a first-time novelist, but I never heard the outcome. On a personal note, I tend to be wary of paying to join critique services or submission services but all such choices are up to you.

The other writers guild, ChiLibris is invitation only and requires that authors have published two novels in the CBA industry. They have an annual retreat that coincides with the CBA annual conference. The group is mainly about fellowship and encouragement as we all write our little stories. Yours truly is a member as are many of the novelists you come across in a CBA bookstore as it’s nearly impossible to only publish one book in this industry.

Two more industry related topics to discuss.

First, Christian Retailing. Like Marketplace this is a trade journal. And I just discovered they completely renovated their website. Hallelujah! They other one drove me nuts. CR is published twenty times a year and typically provides a great deal of the same industry coverage as its competitor. It’s owned by the Strang Group (publishers of Charisma, New Man, etc.) In general, they’re seen as the news source of the industry, often getting into the business side of things. Marketplace is more of a trend/retail management magazine that plans its issues and topics pretty far in advance.

Christian Retailing Online offers a free newsletter that you may want to sign up for. It comes out twice a week.

Finally, the Christy Awards. I’ve interviewed Donna Kehoe, who chairs these awards. They were started by a bunch of the ECPA publishers to bring awareness of fiction in front of retailers. Their website is down lots now, so I can’t send you there but there’s now been four years of these awards. They’re given in genre categories of: Contemporary, North American Historical, International Historical, Mystery, Science Fiction, Allegory, Western, Romance, and First Novel. I actually took home one of these for “First Novel.” Much like the Grammy Awards in the same category, winner’s of said award are often never heard from again. :)

The Christy Award finalists (three in each category) will be announced soon. My publishing house has a very strong record for being honored with these awards, taking home about 33% of the awards so far. We’ll see how we fare this year. I don’t think the awards are perfect for a number of reasons, but it’s a good step in providing recognition for books that stand above the crowd a little. And as the quality of writing across the industry improves, the awards will become more meaningful yet.

Here’s a wonderful article written by Andy Crouch of Christianity Today and Books & Culture on serving as a judge for the awards in the contemporary fiction category and having to finish 34 books.