f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Evolve or Die

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

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Evolve or Die

You’ve heard perhaps that the largest retailer of Christian books in the world is now not a Christian store but the biggest company in the world: Wal-Mart. On some levels that makes sense. We’re not a huge industry so if the biggest corporation in the world pays attention to your product they’re going to eat bite off a pretty good chunk without trying very hard.

The concern among CBA stores of course is that Wal-Mart is able to buy at a better discount, offer the lowest price on the most popular titles which often forces Christian book stores to the brink or past the brink of existence. Independent book stores faced it with Barnes and Noble and Borders. Small coffee shops face it with Starbucks. Local Mexican joints face it with Chipotle.

But…

How many Christian books is Wal-Mart offering? There’s the rub.

Wal-Mart is taking on the cream off the top. They want Rick Warren and Ted Dekker and Beverly Lewis and the Left Behind boys and Dee and Lori and Karen and Terri and Francine and Tracie and all the other women writers.

What the CBA bookstore has to offer its customers is breadth and selection. The assumption moving forward has to be that readers—while they love the bestsellers—are going to search out other authors to sample. Wal-Mart won’t stock them. Target won’t. Sam’s Club will have less than Wal-Mart.

The real variety of choices will come at Lighthouse Books. Or whatever your CBA bookstore is called. For up-and-coming authors, for smaller novelists, for folks who’ve bestselling talents but simply haven’t hit it big…this is the pitch that needs to be made to CBA bookstores. We’re the ones who are loyal to you. We’re the ones to whom you should be paying attention. Sure Tim and Jerry are still going to move books in your store. But what you have to offer that can’t be bought for a better price down the road is my novel right here. We need each other. (At least until you sell enough of my novels so that I can be sold in Wal-mart too!)

(Disclaimer: This may be utterly wrong. If you've got more business sense than me--which is likely as I've met lemurs with more business sense than me--please correct my logic.)