Book Review | The Baker Book House Story by Ann Byle

This coming weekend, I’ll be attending the Baker Book House staff appreciation party with my wife. I’ve been working for the bookstore for a full 10 years now, and I can’t imagine working for a better business.

9780801016585In my time at Baker, I’ve picked up on bits of trivia here and there, but I never knew the full story of the company prior to reading Ann Byle’s book, The Baker Book House Story. And it is a really good story.

Starting as a used book shop during the Great Depression, Herman Baker’s bookstore has grown to become a destination bookstore as well as one of the top Christian publishers in the world. Through it all, Baker Book House and Baker Publishing Group have remained family owned and loyal to the ideals of their founder.

I know that books like this don’t have a wide appeal to people who either don’t work for the company or who are unfamiliar with Christian publishing, but I really think this is a good book on its own merit.

Reading The Baker Book House Story has impressed upon me the great honor that it is to work for the Baker family. If you live in West Michigan, appreciate a good success story, or simply want an uplifting, quick read, pick it up and spend a pleasant afternoon with your nose in this book.

And if you just happen to start shopping at my bookstore more loyally afterward, I couldn’t blame you.

When a book doesn’t sell.

Publishing is a hard process.

When writers write books, they hope for a publisher’s attention. And even when a book idea grabs an editor’s attention, it must then pass through something call a “pub board” meeting where other editors get to vote whether the book will actually be approved for publication or not. And even when a book is published, it relies on the publisher’s sales and marketing teams to get it some attention in bookstores or on the internet. The sad truth is that a lot of books will have one print run and then be promptly forgotten by all but the author.

Harsh, eh? Well, I’m just pointing out that some books don’t sell well. But what then? What happens to the book that no one wanted?

In many cases, the books are sold to bargain book distributors at crazy low prices. I’m sure that a lot are recycled. But there are a few possibilities for a book to make it to a bookshelf again.

  • The author of the book may buy up the stock from the publisher and hand-sell them to stores or through their website.
  • The author may buy the rights to the book and try to sell it to another publisher, assuming that the first publisher was not a good fit. This is a legitimate thing that happens from time to time.
  • Or the publisher may try to re-release the book with a different title.

This last point is the one that I want to talk about. You see, I was sitting in on Baker Publishing Group’s sales conference recently and there were at least three books that I noticed being republished with different titles.

For example, there’s a book coming out next June entitled Sharing Christ with the Dying. Its old title was May I Walk You Home?. And there’s Becoming the Dad Your Daughter Needs, which is the reincarnation of That’s My Girl. Do you notice a pattern?

9780800720254The reason these books are being given another chances is because their original title wasn’t clear enough. The publisher is hoping that by re-titling these books, people who are looking for a guidebook on witnessing to the dying or how-to book on parenting to girls will more easily find their products.

There’s just something strange to republishing a book called You’re Born an Original–Don’t Die a Copy with a new title, since the content will be identical to the original.

As readers, would you be more inclined to pick up a book with an interesting title or one with a rather obvious title?

Recipes for Writers (& Other Busy Folk) | Shredded Pork Soft Tacos

If you are looking for a meal that will taste great AND require almost no prep time, try this. It is honestly the best taco meat recipe I’ve ever tasted.

PrintMy wife and I eat this meal fairly regularly as we both work full-time and have two kids who require attention (not to mention our other interests). It comes from Don’t Panic–Quick, Easy, and Delicious Meals for Your Family by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell & Bonnie Garcia, published by Revell Books, an imprint of Baker Publishing Group.

Shredded Pork Soft Tacos

Meat

  • 3 lbs. country-style pork ribs
  • 1 T. oregano
  • 1 T. coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 t. kosher salt

Tacos

  • flour or corn tortillas, warmed
  • tomatillo salsa (a green salsa that goes great with pork)
  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • cheese
  • sliced avocado (optional)

Recipe Yield – 8-10 Servings  |  Prep Time – 5 minutes  |  Total Time – 6-8 Hours

Directions

Place ribs in crockpot. Sprinkle seasonings over meat. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until meat is tender and can be shredded with two forks. Remove bones and extra fat from meat.

Assemble soft tacos using tortillas, salsa, and favorite toppings.

Hint – No extra liquid is needed when cooking these ribs!

Nutritional Information (per serving of meat): Calories 406.0; Total Fat 29.3g: Cholesterol 118.3mg; Sodium 545.7mg; Total Carbohydrates 0.7g (Dietary Fiber 0.4g); Protein 32.6g

On Answering Why?

In a recent post, Chad Allen (Editorial Director for Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group) told some of the history of the company where I work.

In 1939 Herman Baker was twenty-eight years old. He had a young family and a steady job working for his uncle, Louis Kregel. Everyone would have expected him to continue in that job, providing for his family and moving up the company ranks.

It was, after all, the Great Depression. Herman was lucky to have a job at all, let alone one in the sweet spot of his passion—books. If I was his friend back then, I would have told him to relax, to enjoy his work and his family.

And what Herman Baker actually did would have floored me.

He quit his job, loaded two hundred books from his own library into a storefront, and placed a sign in the window: “Baker’s Book Store.”

The rest is history. Seventy-some years later the company Herman founded is called Baker Publishing Group, and it is one of the largest Christian publishers in the world.

Chad goes on the search out why Herman did this. What motivated him? And how can we follow what motivates us in the same way?

It was an excellent post and has had me thinking about my own career path.

I love my job. I love the people I work with. I am proud of the things that I do and am ecstatic that even while working retail, I have a consistent schedule with weekends off. But I fell into this job.

I applied to Baker Book House while rising through the ranks at Eddie Bauer, partly because I wasn’t passionate about selling nice clothes, but I knew that I loved books and music. Before that, I fell into a job at Eddie Bauer when I went there to buy a shirt that would be part of my uniform for working at a video store in Middleville. I quit the video store because the management grossly mistreated their employees. I got the video store job just to have something after I discovered that the job that I thought I had at the YMCA camp reverted to the Summer Camp Director after the summer was finished. And before that I was in school full-time with summer jobs at lumber warehouses and in restaurants.

Every step was another happy accident of employment. Now I’ve been at Baker for 8 years, and it has easily been the best job I’ve ever had. The management takes wonderful care of its employees, the work is different everyday, and I feel like I’m doing something needed, that I wouldn’t be easily replaced. But what motivates me?

At the moment, what motivates me in my job is the fact that I am able to provide for my family, that I have time with them, and that I am near to the publishing industry, into which I hope to break soon. So I do think I’m right where I am supposed to be. All the same, thanks Chad for helping me think it through. I am obviously cut from a different cloth from Herman Baker, since I am such a fan of stability over risk-taking, but I am thankful for his risk back in 1939.

Baker-Herman_19291

On the Publishing Process

I attended the Baker Publishing Group Sales Conference yesterday.

One of the perks for working for an indie bookstore that is owned by an indie publisher is that a few of us from the store get to sit in on these quarterly events. If you are scratching your head as to what a publishing sales conference is, let me start at the beginning.

An author writes a manuscript (okay, that isn’t the very beginning, but let’s start from there). The manuscript is submitted to an acquisitions editor at a publishing house. Sometimes manuscripts are submitted by authors, sometimes by agents, and sometimes they are requested from authors by publishers. Once the editor has the manuscript, he or she reads it. Of the many manuscripts that are read, only a few are selected to be presented at a pub-board meeting. Of the few presenting, fewer are approved by the pub-board. Those lucky few are given a good editing, cleaned up by the authors, and placed in the publishing queue. The art department starts designing the manuscript’s interior and cover. The marketing department starts getting to work on endorsements, reviews, ad placements, book tours, social media promotions, and print promotional materials. Once designed, the finished manuscript is sent off to the printer. The number printed is estimated by similar projects. All the bills are paid by the accounting office. Sales people sell the book into the retail channels (online retailers, big-box retailers, chain retailers, and indie retailers). The books are delivered to the publisher’s warehouse, where they are separated into the quantities ordered by the different retailers and shipped out by the publisher’s shipping department. The books find their homes in stores (etc.) where booksellers like me hope someone will pick them up off the shelf, read the back cover (written by a copywriter from the marketing department), and buy the book. The reader reads the book and lends it to his or her friends who all decide that they need a copy of their own. Books that don’t sell at retail are returned to the publisher and resold to select retailers (like the Bargain Books chains) to be sold as remainder copies for a fraction of the original price. Once all book sales are tabulated for a given time, royalty checks are cut to the authors. Sometimes this amounts to the equivalent of a low-paying job, rarely it amounts to much more (for every Harry Potter, there are ninety-nine books that don’t sell).

So, I kind of went off there about the entire publishing process (and even then, I’m sure that I missed quite a lot), but I wanted you to see all of the hands that touch a book before it even gets to the store bookshelf. The sales conference that I got to sit in on yesterday happens after the manuscript is sent off to the printer but before they are sold into the different retail channels. The conference exists to showcase the publisher’s offerings for that quarter to the salespeople so they can knowledgeably sell their products. The books that were presented yesterday won’t be showing up in stores until next summer and fall.

Why do I go to these sales conferences? I go because I work in marketing and church relations for the bookstore. By being there, I can make plans as to how to market them in my store and which books I will make sure to present to my church accounts. Plus, it is fascinating to see the publishing world from the inside. And it is encouraging. I have confidence, after seeing some of the things that are being published, that my writing stands a chance. I know that there are many rounds of elimination before publishers settle on which books to publish, but even then some stinkers sneak through. I just need to be better than those, right?

I love working for the bookstore, and I love being a step in the process to getting good books into people’s hands. I can’t wait until one of those books being presented in meetings like yesterday’s is mine.