the road ahead

Readers and Bestsellers
January 24, 2009, 5:42 am
Filed under: business, ministry, spirituality


In this post I want to discuss the reading preferences of those people who buy Christian books at Christian retail stores by looking at the ECPA top ten bestseller list.

The question I want to answer is . . . What does the ECPA top ten bestseller list tell us about those who bought books in Christian retail stores?

This ECPA list consists of 10 books representing several distinct categories, including marriage, fiction, Bible characters, parenting, general devotionals, women, men, and prophecy. Of the titles on the list, six are 2008 releases, two are from 2004, one is from 2007, and one is from 2006.

Two of the books deal with marriage, one title focuses on women’s issues while another discusses men’s issues. One book is a devotional, another deals with biblical characters, and one book looks at biblical prophecy and the end times.

After studying this list, the biggest takeaway for me is that readers bought these Christian books based on personal needs and interests. This certainly isn’t the only way to interpret why these books made it onto the bestseller list, but it is what stood out to me.

What do you think? Do you see anything else that I am missing?


9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I noticed that #1 came from a movie and fiction book. And #6 is connected to a popular TV show. There’s a connection to other media.

Comment by Darla

Pardon my ignorance, but I’m confused by the “Pub Date” listed for the books. My copy of Wild at Heart, for instance, shows a copyright of 2001, not 2006. I saw several such examples in the top 50 on the list. My first reaction to the list was that most of the books were not “new” — but then I couldn’t prove that because I couldn’t trust the listed “Pub Date.”

Comment by Stephen Caldwell

I notice that almost all the top 10 authors are already quite notorious and well-known. They have a ton of name recognition to draw from, and they are almost all in-demand speakers at high volume events. And those who we haven’t heard of got to capitalize on mass marketing from movies their books were attached to.

Comment by Jen Hatmaker

I agree. People are often isolated in their personal struggles – especially when shame, regret, or fear is involved. People need extended exploration of how faith and the complexities of many issues intertwine to create hope and change.
Sallie Culbreth

Comment by Sallie Culbreth

Hi Mike – good discussion here, interesting take-a-ways. To Stephen’s question – pub dates that appear newer than a title most likely indicate different binding (the newer date most likely being a paperback for a book that was previously released in hardcover).

Comment by Michael Covington

Most of the books deal with the reality of the kingdom of God available now through trust in Jesus. In that way they all fill the void that churches and religions don’t.

Comment by Bill Heatley

These books reflect very much the personal nature of the faith journey….

Comment by Director of Direction

I see another element at work. In my experience as a bookstore manager, I watched customers head straight for the best-seller shelf when they shopped.People like to see what others are reading. When stores display the top-ten books from the list, it acts like an anonymous word-of-mouth. People often buy based on recommendation, so in this way the list generates more sales.
Marketing done by publishers also drives sales. Other worthy books may go unnoticed because they lack the same publicity. All of this speaks to the power of advertising a top-ten list has, and its influence upon consumers.

Comment by Kathleen Kohler

A combination of issues make the top ten possible. Marketing:create the buzz sell the book. Need:take the pulse of the market and meet the need of the heart. Church: we are off mission for most part not speaking to the deep life transformational nature of the gospel. People want help they will go where they can find it.

Comment by Sal Sberna

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