David Moberg has worked in Christian publishing since 1975 and played a crucial role in bringing Thomas Nelson and Zondervan together under the HarperCollins Christian Publishing umbrella. Moberg started his career working in marketing at Eerdmans Publishing in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he remained for eight years before forming a marketing agency that specialized in publishing. Seven years later, he joined Word Publishing in Dallas as v-p of marketing. Thomas Nelson acquired Word in 1991, and Moberg eventually relocated to Nashville as executive v-p and publisher of the company, which was later renamed W Publishing. After HarperCollins acquired Thomas Nelson in 2012, Moberg was named senior v-p and group publisher, and while overseeing both Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, he helped form what is now known as HarperCollins Christian Publishing.
“Nelson and Zondervan were strong competitors for many years, and obviously it takes time to work through all of the various integration issues,” Moberg says. “Six and a half years later, we are fully integrated and very collaborative across all of our publishing divisions.”
Looking back on his 43 years in the industry, Moberg points to such challenging trends as shrinking retail space at Christian bookstores, consolidation among religious publishers, and shifts toward online and direct sales. On the other hand, faith-based books are more visible today than ever, he says. “Religious publishing has emerged from being a niche business to one that is now more integrated into the general secular bookselling market.”
A key to survival for all publishers, Moberg notes, is building relationships—with authors, sales reps, and retailers, and, most importantly, with consumers. “The publishers who will survive and thrive will be those who learn as much as they can about their customers,” he adds. “They will be innovative. They will see themselves as content distributors in whatever format the consumer desires.” And Moberg says he is optimistic about publishing’s future: “I think the most exciting days of publishing are still ahead of us. And thank God the print book still reigns supreme.”
Moberg will retire in June and pass the reins to Nelson Books senior v-p and publisher Brian Hampton. Moberg hints, however, that his career in publishing may not be finished: “Once you discover that you have ink in your blood, there’s nothing else that is quite as satisfying as being in the world of books and publishing, and hanging out with people who care about books. So we’ll take some time and see where that ends up.”