Could Use Some Feedback Please

Don Kistler

Puritan Board Sophomore
Friends, we rely on book sales to exist. And without them we won't be around much longer. We've sold next to none of our last 4 titles. Even the BOGO offer has only brought in 8 sales. Are we not publishing things of interest to Puritan lovers? Can I please get some feedback on my concerns? Thank you.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Dr. Kistler,

Are you referring to sales on the website alone, or through other distributors as well? I was not aware of a BOGO offer, but I'm not on here very often. It has probably been quite a while since I last visited your site. My mainstays for Reformed and Puritan books are RHB and CVBBS. I will take a look.

I am sure one factor is certain sites that have ebook versions of some of the books available for free. Some will be satisfied with that.

The used market is probably also bigger now than it ever has been. Since Northampton hasn't been around for that long, I'm thinking it is not as big of a factor in your case. But if I can get a good deal on eBay or Facebook or anywhere else on a lightly used or like new book, I'll typically do that before buying new.

Another factor may be that some may have a "limit" on how many Puritan books they are willing and/or able to digest. I think there must be dozens if not hundreds of Puritan reprints in print now, (or which were recently in print) from Banner of Truth to SDG, RHB, Northampton, the books that C. Matthew McMahon publishes, and maybe some others. I see some low budget CreateSpace or similar paperbacks of some of these books too, although perhaps not for some of the newer titles that were more obscure.

I'm glad that you published Pink's "Studies on Saving Faith." I had read part of that in Baker's "Practical Christianity" years ago, but realized later that Pink's "Saving Faith" series in "Studies in the Scriptures" was much longer than the excerpt that Baker included in that book. I think they may have omitted more from it than Banner did from "Sovereignty." As good as "Practical Christianity" is, I wonder if AWP would have approved.

I don't think it is one of your last 4 books, but RHB had "Moses' Choice" at $10 or $15 forever and I never got around to ordering it. Then it recently went up to $27. Bargain hunter that I am, perhaps I should order "Faith" instead since they still have that one at $10. With only a handful of exceptions, I think I've acquired all of the SDG reprints of Burroughs. (I think Hosea is the only one that has recently been in print that I don't have.) Perhaps I should get started with Northampton. I was eyeing "Moses' Choice" since I already have "Moses' Self-Denial."
 
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Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
This is the BOGO offer to which he refers:

Folks, sales have been slow during the pandemic (make that abysmal) so we're pretty inventory heavy right now. From Monday June 21 through August 31 we're making this offer. Buy any book and get a second book absolutely free. We pick the free book based on what we have a lot of. There is no limit to the number of books you can get. Buy 2 get 2 free. Shipping is still a flat rate $8. No titles are withheld from this sale offer. So you can do your Christmas shopping early or build your own library. Great gifts for your pastor's library or someone you want to introduce to the Puritans.

As that great Reformed theologian Dan Whitney (otherwise known as Larry the Cable Guy) says, "Git 'er done!"

Don Kistler
northamptonpress.org

 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
My comment about marketing was simply because I actually didn't know these works existed.

Many authors try to attend podcasts and events to market their books beyond just the deals. Not sure if you have connections but getting on something like Reformed Forum or Mortification of Spin would help you sales for sure. Its only bringing awareness that your books exist. I didn't know these works existed and need to think more about which one I would purchase.
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
I'll echo Robert's comments. I only say this because you've asked very frankly for feedback so I'll share my honest thoughts. Having quality content is only part of the battle - (though in a perfect world perhaps it would be all that is needed). I think marketing is also key. Today you have a number of quality publishers putting out quality material. Northampton Press puts out good material, but I suspect most people don't know about the good material you're putting out! Two tangible things come to mind.

1) Quality of presentation: The cover art/presentation of most of your books strikes me as being dated. Again, in an ideal world perhaps this wouldn't matter but in the world we live in it does. I know it costs money to get quality graphic/cover design done, but it's also money well spent. When I scroll through the catalog none of the covers jump out at me as being particularly attractive. In fact, I'd have to already really want the book to buy it because the presentation just doesn't grab me.

2) Quality of promotion: I think small presses can struggle because you've got to have a significant platform (social media, podcasts, etc...) to penetrate this very saturated market. I don't know what your current marketing capabilities are, but I suspect there may be room to grow. All of this takes time, savvy, and money. And of course without sales I'm sure money is in short supply. Perhaps this is one of those "you have to spend money to make money" scenarios, but I won't pretend I have the expertise to say that when I'm an outsider to the market. Perhaps @Regi Addictissimus can speak with more authority on the subject, but these are just my perspectives as a consumer.

None of this is a criticism of the fine work you do. I'm sure the quality of content is second to none. Sadly, quality of content also needs quality of presentation and quality of promotion to succeed in today's market. I wish the best for you in this important ministry!
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
The relatively few people who have an almost fetish-like fixation with the Puritans will likely gobble up anything from any Puritan author… But most of us who admire the Puritans without adoring them get to the point where we’ve read enough Puritans to know the Puritan answer to any issue. (Kind I’d like listening to Dave Ramsey - listen to him for a little while and you basically know his answer to any financial question.) So as for me, I have all the Puritan works I care to have.
 

moral necessity

Puritan Board Junior
I tend to buy more volumes and sets than individual selections.
Perhaps if these were compiled into the "The Works of __________" or "The Sermons of __________"

Just a thought...

Blessings in the work you are doing for the Kingdom!
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I tend to buy more volumes and sets than individual selections.
Perhaps if these were compiled into the "The Works of __________" or "The Sermons of __________"

Just a thought...

Blessings in the work you are doing for the Kingdom!

I finished volume 1 of The Works of Christopher Love yesterday, which SDG had originally planned to publish as a five-volume set. I think it is a real shame that this project was never seen through to completion. (Yes, I know that there were good reasons for not doing so at the time.)
 

Don Kistler

Puritan Board Sophomore
Daniel, I've published several more volumes of Christopher Love's material since then, just not as part of a "Works" set. So far I've published "Grace," "The Zealous Christian," "The Penitent Pardoned," "The Dejected Soul's Cure," "A Treatise of Effectual Calling and Election," "The Mortified Christian," "The Natural Man's Condition," and "Christopher Love: Preacher of God's Word." Some of those are SDG reprints and a few are Northampton Press reprints. For 2022 I have scheduled a volume of his sermons that contain most of what remains.

"The Sinners Legacy" - 4 sermons from Lamentations
"The True Israelite" - 2 sermons from John 1:47
"The Omnipresence of God" - 5 sermons from 2 Chronicles 16:19
"Christ's Ascension Into Heaven" - 7 sermons
"The Christian's Main Garrison" -2 sermons from Proverbs 4:23
"Christopher Love's Last Sermon" from Job 30:23

I've also got his 15 sermons on 1 Corinthians 7:30-31 titled "The Christians' Directory" in the cue.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
Don, an endeavor like this is likely going to be mostly a labor of love. I've published Puritan ebooks for over a decade now and I've never made anywhere close to the amount of money and time I put into it (one on the Sabbath sold something like 5 copies at 30% royalty of $0.99 each total over 4 years of sales). But I think of it as preserving for a future generation.

Personally, I own more books than I will likely finish in my lifetime. Between P&R, Banner of Truth, RHB, the market really is saturated. That's a blessing but it also means there's not really any money to be made. And if you want any kind of distribution, it has to be through someone (like RHB) that people are already familiar with. At least that's the conclusion I came to grips regarding my own efforts, a while back.

Despite that rather disheartening outlook, I do want to thank you for your labors! I have at least one copy of one of your books.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
It appears your books are not available via Amazon or ChristianBook.com, or even from notable Reformed-interest retailers like Westminster Books (who are, admittedly, very selective, so I understand you may have tried to get them to offer your books and failed). In the current marketplace, I don't think you can expect much if you are not utilizing these outlets.

Publishers tend to need these powerful retailers. My own publisher has a much bigger online presence than you do, and still only a small fraction of customers who buy my books get them directly from the publisher. The three retailers I mentioned are where most sales come from—well over 90 percent, last time I checked.

So, you could try to increase your exposure as a publisher: mention your books on this board and others, keep an active blog, send regular emails to past customers, travel to conferences where you sell your books and build up a customer base, etc. These are things other publishers do, and they find them worthwhile. But you will always be limited if you are not using the big retailers. They are where the power currently lies in the book-publishing industry.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Daniel, I've published several more volumes of Christopher Love's material since then, just not as part of a "Works" set. So far I've published "Grace," "The Zealous Christian," "The Penitent Pardoned," "The Dejected Soul's Cure," "A Treatise of Effectual Calling and Election," "The Mortified Christian," "The Natural Man's Condition," and "Christopher Love: Preacher of God's Word." Some of those are SDG reprints and a few are Northampton Press reprints. For 2022 I have scheduled a volume of his sermons that contain most of what remains.

"The Sinners Legacy" - 4 sermons from Lamentations
"The True Israelite" - 2 sermons from John 1:47
"The Omnipresence of God" - 5 sermons from 2 Chronicles 16:19
"Christ's Ascension Into Heaven" - 7 sermons
"The Christian's Main Garrison" -2 sermons from Proverbs 4:23
"Christopher Love's Last Sermon" from Job 30:23

I've also got his 15 sermons on 1 Corinthians 7:30-31 titled "The Christians' Directory" in the cue.

I am aware of that, Don, and I own some of these volumes. I think that we can all agree, however, that it is a pity we do not have the 5 volumes of Christopher Love's Works as a complete set.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
It appears your books are not available via Amazon or ChristianBook.com, or even from notable Reformed-interest retailers like Westminster Books (who are, admittedly, very selective, so I understand you may have tried to get them to offer your books and failed). In the current marketplace, I don't think you can expect much if you are not utilizing these outlets.

Publishers tend to need these powerful retailers. My own publisher has a much bigger online presence than you do, and still only a small fraction of customers who buy my books get them directly from the publisher. The three retailers I mentioned are where most sales come from—well over 90 percent, last time I checked.

So, you could try to increase your exposure as a publisher: mention your books on this board and others, keep an active blog, send regular emails to past customers, travel to conferences where you sell your books and build up a customer base, etc. These are things other publishers do, and they find them worthwhile. But you will always be limited if you are not using the big retailers. They are where the power currently lies in the book-publishing industry.
(The following is addressed to Dr. Kistler as much as it is to Jack)

I think you're absolutely right about selling the books on other sites. But outside of maybe Puritan Paperbacks, the impression that I've gotten is that WTS Books isn't interested in selling a lot of Puritan reprints. They seem to have much more of a focus on contemporary authors. Puritan reprints is much more of a focus for Reformation Heritage Books and CVBBS, both of which sell Dr. Kistler's books. (The CVBBS site looks "old" even after a redesign, but they are very much still in business. They provided me with excellent service on a recent order.)

I don't think Christian Book sells the Soli Deo Gloria or other RHB reprints either, or at least not very many of them. But since they supposedly sell "Everything Christian" I don't know why that would be. But I'm a whole lot more knowledgeable about the used book market than I am about new books and publishing. It may be that the large sites want the books at a cheaper price than some smaller publishers are willing or able to accept, especially for titles that don't figure to be bestsellers even under the best of circumstances.

I continue to be dismayed when I hear Bible-believing Christians say that they buy EVERYTHING on Amazon. Just as Walmart did back in the day, they've got people assuming they are always the cheapest. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rarely do I find Reformed and other Christian books of interest to be cheaper on Amazon than they are somewhere else. Sometimes the difference is big enough that you might save even if you have to pay shipping somewhere else. And other sites will sometimes have free shipping promos or will offer free shipping if you spend over $35 or whatever.

One Amazon option is to set yourself up as a Third Party seller and sell the books that way (and fulfilling the shipping yourself just as you would with orders from your own site) rather than having Amazon sell them directly if there would be an issue with that for one reason or another. I've seen smaller publishers do that with eBay as well. Joining Facebook (even as a "Page" for your business, if that's possible) and promoting the site in Reformed and similar groups is another avenue. Sending an email newsletter is too. I didn't see that option on the Northampton site.

Another challenge with Amazon, is that the book can get "buried" amidst various other editions, usually low quality. This is more of a problem with more well known authors such as Pink, Watson, or Burroughs. For example, I knew that I had seen this book on Amazon before. But I could not find it until I searched by ISBN instead of the title and author. I see now that the seller is Book Depository, but that is a company that Amazon owns. I had thought previously that Amazon was selling them directly but maybe I overlooked that detail. (I've been thinking of ordering that one For what it's worth, but I'm unsure of the durability of a massive paperback like that.)

The Puritanboard is great, but it seems that most of the people who would have gravitated here in the past are simply on Facebook now, and it's been that way for a decade or more. Creating a profile and having to log on to a separate site is more than many people are willing to do. The volume of posts on this board is way down from what it was 10-15 years ago. So doing some kind of marketing on FB would be another avenue. Joining Facebook (even as a "Page" for your business, if that's possible) and promoting the site in Reformed and similar groups is another avenue.

Sending an email newsletter is an option also. I didn't see that option on the Northampton site. I'd think that would be a way to keep in contact with previous customers unless maybe that is done with "snail mail."
 
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