UK-based Christian Literature Centers (CLC International) has been publishing books for almost 75 years. According to Gary Chamberlin, CLC European regional director, “It’s in our DNA and an integral part of our mission to make evangelical Christian literature available to all nations so that people may come to faith and maturity in Christ Jesus.”
Through the decades, the Lord has not only enabled CLC to open 180 Christian bookshops worldwide, but He also has blessed CLC’s publishing in 20 countries and 19 languages. The company’s goal is to have 2,700 quality titles in print by the end of this year.
In 2013, CLC International began an ambitious project to double its publishing in 10 years, growing from 2,061 titles at the end of 2013 to 4,150 titles by the end of 2023. The plan to reach this goal is to help some countries begin publishing while encouraging others to increase their number of titles. The CLC countries that publish the most are South Korea, the U.S., the Philippines, Colombia, India, France, and Myanmar.
“We’ve already held several professional training sessions with experienced people from the Christian publishing industry and are also working alongside these countries in their first publishing projects to assure a high-quality product, which will be a blessing,” Chamberlin says.
Each country is independent; many of the larger countries such as South Korea, Colombia, and the United States decide their own publishing projects autonomously. Chamberlin says, “CLC is in a unique position because we’re present in 48 countries and 98 percent of our workers are nationals, not foreign missionaries or workers. Our dedicated staff members already know the distribution channels in each country, not to mention the language and customs of their own nation. This puts them in a strong position to effectively market their titles.”
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
One of the biggest challenges is securing rights for higher-level authors at an affordable price. “We find that often the rights are just too high for certain markets and that some publishers have unrealistic expectations regarding possible sales in various countries,” says Chamberlin. “Unfortunately, there are some significant and noteworthy titles that could easily be translated into multiple languages, but the rights are just too expensive.”
Another challenge is that margins are lower and tighter for smaller countries, because print runs need to be very low. According to Chamberlin, it isn’t feasible for countries that have small evangelical or Protestant populations to print more than 500 to 750 copies, which could take well over five years to sell through.
Despite the challenges, “our greatest opportunity is potentially publishing titles in multiple languages. Obviously, this is appealing to U.S. publishers and authors since the vast number of titles are translated from English. CLC can potentially publish a book in three to 15 languages in a relatively short period of time, as we did with Francis and Lisa Chan’s book on marriage,” says Chamberlin.
Outside the English market, physical books are still the desired format over e-books. In addition, print-on-demand (POD) is seeing a growing interest. CLC does POD in Kenya, the Philippines, and Myanmar. POD allows local, national authors in the Philippines and Kenya, for example, to print just 50 to 100 copies of their book for a local market, fulfilling a need where importing books is difficult and just too expensive for the local population.