May 18, 2024
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The Business of Jewish Books

Book publishers haven’t had it easy lately, and Orthodox publishing houses certainly share in the fate of their secular counterparts, given the limited market that has only become more constricted over the years. Theories abound as to the cause of the shrinking market, even overlooking the reading-on-the-screen factor with many blaming the proliferation of libraries and others the decrease of those willing to pick up anything heavier than one of the weekly newspapers or magazines.

And with the book publishers, the writers suffer as well. Many of the Orthodox publishers that have been around for decades have passed the increasing publishing costs to the writers, thus penalizing authors for the slackening market. After finishing a book that may have taken months or years to write, authors find that the only contract offered by frum publishers (if any) is one that demands upfront fees of thousands of dollars for the “privilege” of having their books published or distributed by a name-brand publisher and includes royalties that have been steadily reduced over the years.

The Orthodox market was ripe for change and, finally, with the advent of the Jewish Children’s Book Club located in Monsey, New York, there is a new and innovative way to publish. JCBC realized that what the market needed was not escalating prices on all ends but someone to think outside the box. Taking the opposite approach of other publishers and through an innovative model, JCBC raised authors’ royalties and reduced nearly all the other costs associated with publishing, including the actual price of the books sold.

What makes the JCBC model unique is the print-on-demand technology. Working with Amazon’s CreateSpace, books are only printed upon being ordered, so there are no up-front printing or warehousing costs, saving the publisher vastly on the investment and passing on the savings to the consumer.

With traditional printing, the author makes 10 percent royalties on average (or even less in some instances) with the very real possibility of making next to nothing when the publisher lowers the price of the book at the end of its first sales season—and this after investing thousands of dollars. When publishing with JCBC, the author pays only minimal costs for a book that will be added to the JCBC catalog, which is distributed in Torah Umesorah schools, and sold through JCBC’s website. Although authors are required to list their book exclusively with JCBC for one year from catalog publication date and allow JCBC to distribute on their behalf, most of the other publishers demand the copyright for books that they can put out of print or drop the price of whenever they choose. JCBC, on the other hand, will allow the author to choose if they want to continue their author-member status, or market the book on their own, and the copyright remains exclusively with the author.

JCBC manages to produce a not only sterling product, but one that has earned the Torah Umesorah Seal of Quality. The seal guarantees that the book meets the highest standards for content and is suitable for an Orthodox audience.

Today, the Jewish Children’s Book Club continues to work hand in hand with Torah Umesorah and has launched its second successful season with repeat writers choosing to publish their books with the Jewish Children’s Book Club as a first choice over any other publisher. JCBC markets directly to Jewish families by offering children an opportunity to purchase an ever-broadening variety of books through Torah Umesorah schools as well as through the JCBC website.

JCBC books are all original books based on Orthodox Judaism and Torah values. The books are suitable for ages 4-14. Books in a variety of genres—fiction, nonfiction, humor, biography, historical fiction, contemporary literature, Holocaust, Jewish thought, children’s activities and also educational and parenting books—are part of the catalogue.

“It is a joy to get published with JCBC, as authors benefit from the brilliant suggestions provided to make the finished products even better than we ever imagined!” says Bracha Goetz, author of 36 children’s books, who recently put out both “Vhere’s Velvel” and “The Courage Club” with the JCBC.

Finally, authors are getting the chance to succeed in a market that has too long left many writers and illustrators as well feeling disheartened, disillusioned and unwilling to continue to expend the effort. And this can only be good news, because if writers and illustrators can be encouraged by a newly revived market, the sky is the limit for high-quality books.

For further information, or to submit a manuscript or illustrator’s portfolio, email JCBC at [email protected] or go to their website at www.jewishchildrensbookclub.com.

By M. C. Millman

 

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