1 What's your company called?
Church House Publishing, or CHP for short. We are the publishing imprint of The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, based at Church House, Westminster.
2 What do you publish?
CHP aims to equip the Church of England for worship, ministry and mission by means of print and digital resources. Lynchpins of the list include the Common Worship series of official services and prayers, Crockford’s Clerical Directory (a kind of ‘Who’s Who’ of Anglican clergy) and the Pilgrim course, a major discipleship series launched in 2013. Bestselling individual authors include Paula Gooder, Stephen Cottrell and Steve Croft.
3 What's the story of the company?
Church House Publishing was first used as an imprint in 1985, the year that saw the groundbreaking Faith in the City report published. CHP had grown out of the Church Information Office, formed in the 1950s. Some of our individual titles come from a much longer lineage: the Church of England Year Book dates from 1883, and Crockford’s from 1858—it’s now in its 104th print edition and has been online for over a decade. CHP really came into its own in 2000, when the Church of England first published the Common Worship series, printing more than one million items for the launch. Since 2009 we have worked with Hymns Ancient and Modern, who provide a lot of our publishing services, but the imprint is still owned and directed by the Archbishops’ Council.
4 How's business?
Where we’ve taken risks recently we have seen significant rewards. CHP publishes six smartphone apps, and I can’t think of a comparable-sized religious imprint that has as many. We’ve seen more than 250,000 downloads in five years, and apps like Daily Prayer are used by our core customers every single day. We invested heavily in free online support for our series of Pilgrim books, and we sold more than 100,000 copies within two years. And most recently we took a risk in publishing Matt Woodcock’s Becoming Reverend, a humorous and gritty memoir of training to be a vicar while struggling to become a father. It has already been serialized in a national newspaper and is our fastest-selling single title in years.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
The incredible variety of genres and formats that each year’s publishing schedule contains means I am always learning and doing things differently from last time. And the fact that our primary aim is missional, not financial, means we can choose projects primarily on the basis of the impact they might have on the work of churches and parishes, rather than on the bottom line.
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
Digital developments have brought so many opportunities for publishers, but finding sustainable business models for digital resources when so much is available for free is a challenge. We’ve discovered some models that work well—most of our apps work on a free trial basis, with an option to subscribe—but I don’t imagine for a moment that we have reached a place of anything like stability in the digital marketplace.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
Be clear about who your customers are. Be focused about which products you choose to develop for them. And be flexible about how you will market and package it to them as the industry and society continue to evolve.
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
The IPG team and fellow members are a great support for small, specialist outfits branching out into new areas. Someone else will have encountered a comparable challenge and / or worked with a supplier or consultant who can help you negotiate territory that is unfamiliar or risky. And there are some handy discounts for members, too.Visit the Church House Publishing website