After 65 years as Baker Book House and a fiscal year that saw a 63% growth rate, the Grand Rapids, Mich.—based publisher has changed its name to Baker Publishing Group in an effort to better define its role in relation to its six divisions. Spurred primarily by the acquisition of Bethany House Publishers in fall 2002, the significant growth in the last fiscal year—following on the heels of a strong decade of growth—has both stretched Baker's resources and kept the company jockeying with Multnomah for the position of fourth-largest CBA publisher. "It's been a very satisfying year—and a very stressful one," president Dwight Baker told PW. "We're finally looking into daylight."
That stress showed up in the form of distribution problems that were corrected with the opening in December of a newly built, high-tech warehouse on site. Before that, the company leased various storage facilities throughout the city, which "tested the patience of our accounts. We were given a grace period to consolidate, and we pressed that to the limit," Baker said. Since December, accuracy rates and speed of delivery have improved, and the cost of doing business has dropped, according to marketing director John Sawyer.
In a structure that Dwight Baker called "unified diversity," the six publishing divisions serve different markets: Chosen Books for charismatics; Baker Books for Reformed Presbyterians; Brazos Press for mainline Protestants and Catholics; Baker Academic; and Bethany, with roots in the Methodist traditions. "We serve a broad range of denominations, and that's one of the keys to our success," Sawyer said. "But there was some overlap from one division to another, and they would both be going after a similar type of author or project. We've tried to more clearly define the different groups to emphasize their particular strengths."
The privately owned company also launched a corporate Web site, as well as individual sites for each imprint. For booksellers, new features include downloadable marketing tools, title information, images, information on promotions and specials, and an opportunity for dialogue and other resources; the media section features a database of authors considered experts on various topics. "We looked at our constituents—readers, authors, booksellers, media—and tried to determine how we could best serve them," Sawyer said. "We have a long way to go, but we've made a good start."