This Publisher Evidently Didn’t Get the Memo

I hear publishers and booksellers complaining all the time about how bad the book publishing industry is. Gas prices are up. Retail traffic is down. Books are simply not moving. One pundit remarked, “Flat is the new up.” Evidently, Dwight Baker and his team at Baker Publishing Group didn’t get the memo.


For the fiscal year ending April 30, 2008, Baker reported sales up 16% to $57.9. Yes, they had a huge hit with 90 Minutes in Heaven, but, according to Dwight, their sales growth was “much more comprehensive” than this one title. In fact, the company experienced growth in all divisions: Revell was up 26%; Chosen, 25%; Baker Books, 15%; Baker Academic, 13%; Brazos, 10%, and Bethany House, 9%.

I think in large part you get what you expect. If you buy into the assumptions that we are in a recession, consumers aren’t buying, retail traffic is off, and books aren’t selling, then guess what? That is probably what you will experience. Call me a incorrigible optimist, but I am not buying it. I believe in growth, and I am planning for it.

Kudos to Dwight and his team at Baker for demonstrating that great companies can find significant growth, even in tough environments.

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  • Karen Robbins

    I am an optimist too. I have always had the opinion that the economy suffers terribly just before a presidential election only to miraculously improve right after–no matter who is elected.

  • Alicia Meese

    Well, add my name to the “Incurable Optimist Club”!

    It really bothers me that EVERYONE is raising their prices because of the cost of fuel going up. It’s like they are using that as an excuse to charge more; significantly more! I was hoping that shopping at the Farmer’s Market would be a way for our family to avoid the raising costs of food, but instead the local farmers are raising their prices as well.

    We will somehow need to change our social-economic status to keep up with these higher prices on fuel & food.

    Hey! I know, paint is going up in price because of the gas prices, right? Anyone need their house painted?? ;o) Actually, dh is quite busy and not home much because of all his work. He probably needs to raise his prices due to the rising cost of fuel….

  • David Foster

    Thank you. It seems we forget that what we did when times were “good” is what we do when times are “tough” or else what we did when things were good maybe the very things have created the times where in!

  • marina

    I agree with you – there’s a lot of hype, mostly media-fueled, which is bringing with it a Y2K sort of panic. One of my husband’s clients (very successful guy) yesterday told us he is going to start stockpiling beans and rice and dehydrated meals because the economy is crashing down all around us and he (and we) should be prepared. This mindset is and always has been frustrating to me. I’m also shocked every time I go to the grocery store lately – prices seem to have stealthily nearly doubled. I don’t have a solution – optimism almost seems Pollyanna-like at times – but I’d rather err on the side of faith and hope and know that God has a solution and a master plan that we can all implicitly trust in spite of challenging environments and circumstances. Sorry for the manifesto. It’s early in AZ and I really shouldn’t blog ’til after 8am!!

  • Lawrence W. Wilson

    Mike, thanks for giving kudos to Baker, your “competitor” in the Christian book business.

    You reinforce my strongly held beliefs that publishing is not a zero-sum game and, more important, we can all succeed in spreading the gospel.

  • Kyle Chowning

    Mike. Back in the Summer, you wrote about this statement,

    “Mike, what is it about your leadership that led to this outcome?”

    Not only has this made a significant impact on me, I believe that a statement like this separates those who lead by taking responsibility and those who lead by blaming outside influences.

    Of course your optimistic in trying times. It’s what responsible leaders do. Blaming those “external” factors is an easy out. The truth is, we can all do better. The question is, how?

    Twitter: @chownage

  • Brian Warshaw

    Very nice article, and an encouraging one in these “times of trouble.”

    Kyle C., if you’re not a nerd like me, you won’t get this, but your e-mail address made me think of a clever way to talk about a UNIX command.

  • Brian Warshaw

    I meant your twitter id…

  • Dee

    Great news. Last year was a great year for me as a niche book blogger. My Affiliate sales quadrupled especially with Amazon and Faith. More people were buying books online. I expect with the rising gas prices for online sales to increase.

  • Dee

    Also, I have found that many readers don’t know that there are tons of contemporary Christian fiction available. Most of my subscribers are looking for multicultural, since their favorite stores are closing. and their church bookstore has limited shelf space.

  • Andrew Neufang

    I agree. You do get what you expect. But most people only believe it when it comes to bad things. When people expect bad, they are not surprised when the bad stuff happens. So, why do people think it strange that when good things are expected, good things happen? As for Christian publishers doing well when others are seeing a down turn in their business, that shouldn’t come as a surprise either. The Bible has many accounts of God’s people prospering in famine times.

  • Shamilla Yeary

    Thanks for this encouraging post. I head up a small publishing company and I of late, have been concerned, especially when I am about to place a large order or when I okay a large print run. But you are right, if we expect good sales, then that is what we will get after all, I put my hope and trust in a power bigger than any recession. Thank God for the optimists among us.

  • Jake Myers

    When the lights are out, people buy flashlights and batteries no matter what they cost. When people, living in a dark world, realize that light is available so they won’t stumble they just need to know where to go to buy it. They will if they have enough money. You only have to convince them that light is better than dark.

  • Jason


    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you…

    Earlier today, I enjoyed a great e-mail exchange after reading a book a new-to-mentor sent to me (Todd Duncan). I wrote about what I call and “expectation focus;” reading your entry today reminds and reinforces:

    I tend to experience what I focus on the most!

  • John Young

    Very kind of you to give notice to a Dwight and his family over at Baker.
    Truth is the economy is off a bit. But what Baker is selling is what is value for the buck. So are you Mike. We’re going into summer and pretty are looking for something to either distract or inspire. We can’t forget that.
    I’m not sure if it matters but 2 things Baker does differently than TNP
    (1 They have few hardback releases. Last year for the first time in publishing history they took one of their tradepaper titles and released a hard back version: 90 minutes in heaven.
    (2 They do not have big marquee names generally. Leman is big and is their current #1 seller but Kevin doesn’t even use an agent when making deals so he is, I’d say, fair and unlike many big names, Kevin will heavily participate in his marketing doing interviews at 8am or 10pm. Just an amazing asset.
    I know paperback market is a different crowd from the hard back market but since we’re being honest, note that Penguin is having a huge year again with…cheaper priced paperback hits.

  • Michael Hyatt

    @John Young: Good comments. The paperback thing is something we need to take another look at.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller

    If you buy into the assumptions that we are in a recession, consumers aren’t buying, retail traffic is off, and books aren’t selling, then guess what?

    Mike, I think there’s a lot of truth in this. Consumers hear on the news that consumers have cut back in their buying, and think, Uh-oh! I’d better cut back in MY buying.

    It’s the old argument—does the media report or create whatever is going on in society?