Thanks for joining us on Season 6 of The Flourishing Culture Podcast, brought to you by The Best Christian Workplaces Institute. You’ll learn how to build a flourishing workplace culture that drives the ministry impact of your organization, your church, or your company brought to you by the Best Christian Workplaces Institute. Now here’s your host, BCWI CEO, Al Lopus.
The leaders in Christian publishing have had to adapt to many changes over the past years. Even if you face different issues in your own sector, we can all learn from those who have thrived, even during challenging times.
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I’m delighted to welcome Jeff Crosby. He is the President of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, known as ECPA. Previously Jeff was the publisher at InterVarsity Press.
Since the very beginning of your work at BCWI, IVP was surveying its employees for engagement. What it did for us, is that it helped us to understand where our employees actually were rather than where we hoped or thought they were in terms of engagement.”
In this episode, you’ll hear about:
- What people are reading these days and some of the key trends in Christian publishing (02:25)
- “Books categorized as ‘Christian Life’ – that is, that help readers faithfully live out what they believe – has seen the single highest growth over the past year in terms of units sold.” (03:00)
- “In terms of key trends in publishing, I am seeing a great deal more emphasis on the design of books, especially interior designs. We live in an image-saturated world, and books are increasingly emphasizing beauty in cover, interior, and typographical layout and design.” (04:37)
- “A second trend that stands out is connected to how books reach end readers. Historically, publishers utilized retail bookstores and, since 1995, online retailers like Amazon and Christianbook.com. Increasingly, however, publishers are marketing and selling their books directly to end readers – they have to, due to the massive number of bookstore closures over the past 20 years.”(05:41)
- What is on the horizon for publishing? What sort of innovations does Jeff see coming in the next few years? (07:53)
- “The proliferation of audiobooks which, in the Christian publishing world, we’ve never seen to this extent before. And the quality of narration, musical elements, and other production values has increased significantly.” (8:07)
- “Moving away from technology to the actual content – books – that are published, I believe you are going to see more and more Christian publishers emphasizing books by authors of color and written for a diverse audience.” (10:02)
- “This will require innovation in terms of staffing; recruiting and welcoming more people of color into decision-making and senior-level roles.” (10:20)
- Here at Best Christian Workplaces Institute, we are focused on employee engagement as a key to excellence. You were a leader at InterVarsity Press for many years before moving to ECPA. What are some ways that you have seen that investing in employees led to organizational success? (11:43)
- “Since the very beginning of your work at BCWI, IVP was surveying its employees for engagement. What it did for us, is that it helped us to understand where our employees actually were rather than where we hoped or thought they were in terms of engagement.” (12:18)
- “But the elements of engagement that the BCWI lifted out in the survey and in our management debriefs afterward gave us an objective snapshot of the company, and helped us prioritize areas that we could address over the course of the following 12 months.” (13:07)\
- We attempted to be honest with our staff, sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly in terms of our scores, and transparently indicated what we intended to work on. (13:29)
- “Then, importantly, we reported on what we did – we kept the change in front of staff. It was not a single moment in time.” (13:44)
- “Among the more important shifts we made, at the strong encouragement of one member of the senior leadership team, was corporate-wide one-on-one meetings with all staff, regardless of their role, their level. That helped us increase our engagement significantly.” (15:37)
- Of course, gig workers are a growing part of the economy, so we aren’t always working with employees but with people supplying a particular skill. This is especially true for some aspects of publishing such as design and editing. How can an organization develop great relationships with the various people who contribute to their overall success? (20:44)
- “This is one of the very reasons that ECPA as a trade association exists! We help provide forums for networking and relationship building that leads to healthy and productive work with free-lance partners and gig workers.” (21:24
- One aspect of the work of ECPA is equipping leaders in publishing – both those already at the top levels and emerging leaders. Share with us some of the work ECPA is doing to train and mentor the next generation of publishing leaders. (24:23)
- “In tandem with our training event (presently online) called PubU, we have formed what we call an Emerging Leaders scholarship program whereby younger or newer professionals to our industry are able to come to this training event at a greatly reduced registration fee AND they are paired with a seasoned mentor who will be in a learning relationship with them for the following 12 months.” (25:35)
- “Secondly, we have a new initiative called ‘Open Doors’ that is still in development but will happen in the new year. It’s designed to specifically create mentoring opportunities for people of color and to open doors for them to the publishing profession, which has historically not reflected the diversity of the U.S. population” (26:41)
- Talking about the next generation of leaders of course implies succession. You have recently gone through this process at IVP. How does a leader know when it’s time to pass the reins and move on – and not overstay their season of influence? (28:12)
- InterVarsity Press is known for seeking out diverse voices. What are some ways you will bring that emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion to the broader publishing industry through ECPA? (36:36)
- ECPA is not just for U.S. publishers but has a global reach. What are some of the developments in publishing that we can learn from in other parts of the world? (39:45)
- “At ECPA, we have scores of international members, and we attempt to hear from them, learn from their unique challenges and opportunities, and have a reciprocity in relationships, resourcing each other.” (41:13)
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