Integrity Inc., a $52-million Christian music corporation based in Mobile, Ala., has tapped publishing veteran Byron Williamson to head a new division, Integrity Publishers. "It's a big leap, but not a sudden leap," Jerry Weimer, Integrity's chief operating officer, told PW. "Long since we've considered ourselves to be a Christian media company, we've been looking and waiting for other types of things to be involved in. We waited until the timing was right. Byron's coming together with us was just the right timing."

Integrity Publishers' book program will be consistent with the corporation's mission statement, Williamson said—to create products that will "help people worldwide experience the presence of God." Under that broad umbrella, he foresees the house publishing titles in the Christian living, biblical studies, marriage and family, inspirational/devotional and even fiction subcategories. Williamson plans to launch the first list of 18 to 20 titles in the fall of 2002 and expects it to grow to 50 or 60 titles a year by 2005.

Williamson said he is looking to bring new as well as established authors to Integrity, adding that his noncompete clause with Word has expired. Williamson resigned as president of Nelson/Word publishing group in mid-1998 (News, July 27, 1998). He had been president of Word Publishing when Nelson acquired the company in 1992.

Integrity Publishers, in Nashville, will hire a dozen or more employees over the next few months, Williamson said, filling positions in product development, marketing and sales management. "We will be distributing product into every imaginable chain of distribution," he said, "mass merchandisers, ABA [stores], as well as Christian channels and international channels. One of the great things about Integrity is it already has the infrastructure in place, including warehousing."

Integrity Music distributes its products into 161 countries and has subsidiaries in Australia, Singapore and the U.K. Nearly 15% of Integrity's volume is international, and the company is growing by double digits—14% from 1999 to 2000. Half of its sales are made through the retail market, and direct mail generates nearly 31% of revenues. "We're already working on projects that would allow us to market book products through all the direct channels Integrity has established," Williamson said.