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Review of Zondervan's Christian Travelers Guides series from Simba Book Publishing Report

Zondervan Targets Niche Of Travelers
Who Don't Care Where The Best Bars Are

This spring Zondervan Publishing House will release the first four titles in its new travel series, filling a gap that has left Christian travelers stranded in a world of books that don't cater to their special interests. Series creator and general editor Irving Hexham decided to write the guides after years of frustration over the lack of Christian content in traditional travel guides. After pitching the series-and facing rejections-for eight years, Hexham convinced Zondervan to take a chance on the books.

The debut titles-on Great Britain, Germany, Italy and France-are due in Christian and secular bookstores in April. If successful, the series is likely to spawn other entrants into this niche market. In recent years, specialized series have sprung up to serve the needs of gay and lesbian travelers, families exploring the country from behind the windshield of an R.V. and people who can't leave town without their pets. But devout Christians have largely had to settle for general guides, said Ernie Martin, chairman of the Christian Booksellers Association's board of directors. "I'm a little tired of the travel guides that take you to the best bars. Christian travelers choose destinations that are a little different than where the population at large tends to be going," Martin said. "For instance, you are not going to see one of these guides on Las Vegas."

This may be the most ambitious endeavor in Christian travel guides to date, but it is not the first effort by a religious publisher to serve the niche audience. Amy Eckert, co-author of The Christian Traveler's Companion: The USA and Canada-published last March by Fleming H. Revell Co.-said that several guides have been published over the last few years. But she complained that many of those guides focus solely on travel to "holy" destinations such as Israel. Eckert-whose second book, this one on Western Europe, is due out later this month-said the Zondervan series will begin to satisfy a need for Christian travelers.

If each book manages to sell at least 10,000 copies, Zondervan will likely extend the series, said Jack Kuhatschek, the senior acquisitions editor who worked on the guides. "We'll keep doing these books as long as there is a need for them," Kuhatschek said. On tap are guides to the Netherlands, the Mediterranean, Greece, Spain and Portugal, Turkey, Austria and Eastern Europe. The publisher is planning to run print ads in Christianity Today and Christian History. But the biggest concern isn't promoting the books-it's getting them into consumers' hands.

In the national chains and secular independent stores, the guides will probably be placed among the Frommer's, Fodor's and Let's Go travel guides, but retailers in the Christian Booksellers Association have little experience selling travel guides. "This is the first time we'll have these type of books," said Martin, also the owner of Whittemore's bookstore in Needham, MA. "Do we put them in our Christian living section? Maybe with our gift books? Those are our closest things among the categories that we use," he said. "Maybe we'll have to change our thinking about categories."

Republished with the permission of Simba Information