Is Cash King?

By Ramon Rocha, MAI Director of Publisher Development
ramon rocha
Publishing leaders face a lot of pressure to build a successful Christian publishing business, let alone survive. Many of us have been tempted to cut corners, compete with cutthroat strategies, renege on promises, and even sacrifice integrity for financial gain.

In order to survive, is it okay to compromise by selling bestselling not-so-biblical books on topics like the prosperity gospel? People want these titles! If you don’t publish or sell them, your customers will go elsewhere. Are you prepared to lose sales over popular books bordering on questionable interpretations of biblical truths?

When I was new at OMF Literature some 17 years ago, my bookstore sales manager told me that we’d been selling many copies by a particular preacher. Some customers had complained that the author’s teachings were not sound. But this popular televangelist’s books were selling like hotcakes! After examining one of his books, we decided to pull them all off our shelves despite the high demand. The Lord honored our decision. Our total sales grew in spite of that financial loss.

Ask yourself: “Will you sell any book as long as it sells well? Will you compromise a principle just so you can meet sales targets? Are you bordering on selfishness and greed? Are you getting obsessed with growth at all costs? Will you do anything just to show a profit at the end of the fiscal year?”

Is it true that “cash is king”? You cannot operate without cash. We must be good at cash flow management, ensuring we have sufficient financial resources to pursue our ministry and business.

At the end of the day, Jesus is King! He is the One we should please. His will and purposes must be done. Everything in our publishing should be subservient to Him. Our loyalty and allegiance to Him and His cause take top priority over all else: content, cash, systems, programs and relationships.

What have you been tempted to do to survive or thrive in writing and/or publishing? What have you learned that might help others? Please comment here.


Publisher in Benin finds himself “in the right place”

Christian publishing in French-speaking Africa is expanding thanks to young leaders like Georges Late LW12Georges Laté, production manager of InterVarsity-related Presses Bibliques Africaines (PBA) in Benin. Laté describes his publishing journey in an interview with MAI staff intern Nicki Consoli.

Q: How did you get involved in Christian publishing? After completing my studies in marketing communication and journalism in August 2008, I answered the call of God to join the team of Éditions PBA as a marketing and sales person. In that moment, I had no idea that I would become publisher.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as a publisher? Every one of our challenges is big, but I would cite three of them: a lack of basic training in publishing, the low purchasing power of our readers and potential readers, and the lack of a reliable international distribution network.

Q: How have you tried to expand your publishing reach into all of Francophone Africa? Prior to my arrival, the PBA team began launching new books in different African capital cities. Authors were invited to give a conference on one of the topics in their books. This was to attract potential readers and give the author the opportunity to promote their books. I am also in the process of building a partnership with Livre’Afrique to assist us in distribution, and have initiated a partnership with the 19 IFES French-speaking Africa national directors for official representation in their countries.

Q: What is your vision for developing local authors? I identified those who showed an interest in writing. We have already held two writer workshops to give them basic training. We also created an online forum to continue discussions with them and for them to share their writings for corrections.

Q: How have you seen God’s guidance in choosing what to publish? We are very selective in choosing what to publish so that it meets our editorial standards. So far, God has helped us to choose the titles that will affect and positively transform our readers. The numerous testimonies from readers are a sign of this success. Our primary goal is to publish books that will transform students and graduates for life. Until now, God has guided the publishing committee and me in sorting the manuscripts.

Q: What has been your most successful book published so far, and why? This is Découvrir la Volonté de Dieu (Finding God’s Will) by Colin Hamer. This book, translated from English, is a blessing to the evangelical church in Africa today. The theme is relevant and addresses one of the main challenges for the African church. We launched it in Benin and Burkina Faso in 2013, and it has attracted many readers. We are planning a discussion for readers to meet and talk about this book.

Q: Are you involved in other ministries besides publishing? How do you manage your time between these multiple ministries? Yes, before coming to PBA I worked with Radio Maranatha, where I still lead a youth radio program. I am also the leader of a local students’ church. I work full-time in publishing and serve at the radio and church on weekends.

Georges and Monnelle Late

Georges and his wife, Monnelle, have not yet started a family but “pray that God gives us twins.”

Q: What gives you the greatest satisfaction in your publishing ministry? I get testimonials from readers who were healed or enlightened by reading one of our books. It gives me joy and a sense of being useful to my generation. I am also very happy to be in publishing because I read and learn a lot about God and His message to mankind. I think I am in the right place.

Georges welcomes your comments and input. Email him at [email protected] or visit the PBA website.

MAI provides training for global Christian publishers with two goals:  1) to help them become financially self-sustaining, and 2) to encourage them to find and publish more local authors.

Tan’s Pursuit of Publishing with Passion

Improve your sales strategies with tips from our next webinar, “Selling Online,” featuring CEO Aleks Tan on June 20. (See details below.)Aleks Tan

In his 20s, Aleks was known as the “PowerPoint Guy” who helped prepare presentations for the CEO of OMF Literature. A self-described “fly on the wall,” he strove for excellence. Find out why 12 years later Aleks is CEO of OMF Lit, the largest Christian publishing house in the Philippines.

Q: How did you invest in your career growth?
I did not. Well, at least not consciously. Although I did not plan on a career in book publishing, I believe I am where I’m supposed to be. When I was starting out, I just did what I asked to do as excellently as I could—and a little bit more. I researched and learned and did the job. Cliché as it might sound; passion does yield very good returns.

Investing in career growth is mainly the responsibility of the professional and not his or her organization. There are books (lots at OMF Lit!), and there are online resources like TedTalks and YouTube. In this age of accessible information, crowd-sourcing, and free content, there is really no excuse to stay ignorant or professionally stunted.

Q: Tell us about your experience with networking.
I am terrible at networking. I need to work harder at this, especially in my role as CEO. Initially, I did not place much importance on attending industry events (unless I had a part in the program) and cocktail parties where people traded business cards. Now I am more excited about one-on-one meetings to explore ideas, synergies, and intersections of purpose. I try to be more open and accessible. Networking has its value—even for a very introverted industry like book publishing.

Q: What have you learned from your setbacks?
I’ve made the mistake of expecting people to be like me—in the way I think, work, and act. Of course, modeling is key to leadership. But cloning and forcing people into a mold are another thing. It isolated me from the power of diversity and synergy. My people felt they were always trying to measure up to my standards.

The Lord revealed to me that this expectation stemmed from pride, self-reliance, and insecurity. I am learning to appreciate the differences among my managers with an eye for helping them grow professionally and use their God-given talents, and, yes, make mistakes and learn from them. These words of Martin Luther King, Jr have helped me as a leader: “Whom you must change, you must first love.” Love, I am learning, is the key.

Q: Any closing advice?
Wherever you find yourself working, be grateful, be a blessing, and be mindful of something much bigger than your paycheck—the Kingdom of God. Wherever you are, work for the Big Boss.

>>Learn more from Aleks Tan in MAI’s free upcoming webinar, “Selling Online,” June 17. Register online now.

>>Check out Aleks’ blog or Tweet him @aleks_tan

This interview was adapted by MAI intern Cristina Krahling from the original article by Mighty Rasing, with his permission. Read the complete interview.

Avoid dead books; clear out your cemetery

By Ramon Rocha

cemetery image

This visual had the most impact on Christian publishers and booksellers at the Cote d’Ivoire workshop where I spoke recently. I gleaned the idea from Edward England’s book, “An Unfading Vision”.

Dead books are dead missionaries not able to come out to spread the good news. In several countries where I have led training, dead inventory is a major problem. Somewhere, somehow, sometime in the past, wrong decisions lead to an accumulation of slow moving titles over the years. You may have overestimated the demand? You were too excited?

Publishing can be profitable but the risks are high. You want to have the right titles at the right quantities at the right time at the right places. Inventory management may reflect how well or poorly a publishing house is run. Learn to move that “dead” inventory in your warehouse and avoid the problem in the first place.

Move your dead inventory
1. Date your inventory
. Aside from aging your inventory in your management reports, color-code the sagging pallets or the dust-covered cartons of books in your warehouse. For example, put a red card on each carton that arrived in your warehouse 10+ years ago, orange for 9 years, yellow for 8 and so on. When you do your MBWA (management by walking around) at least once a week, you will be reminded of how long you’ve been storing dead books.

2. Prepare a marketing plan for each title in your cemetery. The objective is to resurrect and release them to accomplish what they were supposed to do.

3. Slash the price substantially, even below cost. Try “bundling” with other books. If you still can’t sell them, donate them (assuming they do not contain heretical teachings).

Avoid the cemetery
1. Analyze and think through all the titles in your publishing list with your team.
Ensure good, justifiable reasons exist for why you will invest time and money on each new and backlist title you will sell.

2. Publish within your means. Do your revenue and expense budgets far before the start of the fiscal year. Determine with your finance manager how much money you can set aside for new titles and reprints for the coming year using your projected monthly cash flow. Measure actuals versus projections and adjust accordingly.

3. Print only what you can sell in six months to one year. If that’s 500 copies, then so be it, even if the unit cost is higher. It is always better to reprint later than to be stuck with dead inventory. There is always a temptation to print a lot more to get a lower printing quote.

4. Get as many advance orders as possible. This will ensure specific quantities earmarked for certain customers. This is part of the marketing plan you have supposedly drawn up especially for each new “flagship” title.

5. Use print-on-demand (POD). Books printed using POD with offset quality still cost a lot. But prices are expected to decline in the coming years. Research availability in your area.

6. Publish ebooks. Start with your current bestsellers. You will not only save trees but gear up for the wave of the future and will be able to distribute globally.

7. Learn from your mistakes. Pray hard, work hard and avoid a cemetery of dead inventory.

What other ways you found effective in moving dead books and avoiding slow turnover? Leave us a comment here.