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Insights from Hawthorne Publishing

Book sales during the Pandemic

Nancy Baxter, Senior Editor Hawthorne Publishing

Book sales have always done well during times of crisis, though one can’t say those sales are always in bookstores. Bookstores, like other businesses which have had to close or open on a limited basis, have needed to use ingenuity to survive and many have been able to do that—some not.

Barnes and Noble stores used the opportunity to rearrange and redecorate their stores, which they had intended to do anyway. They have “temporarily” removed the comfortable chairs scattered throughout the stores. One manager in Williamsburg Virginia says, “Those chairs will be back, but we don’t know just when.” The new look is intended to combine comfort and modern taste, but not neglect traditional bookstore ambiance.

Our own sales at Hawthorne Publishing are slightly down on the backlist titles, and our two new books are just ready for posting, so we can’t say what the traditional ordering patterns are for our “from the Hawthorne website” sales.

One thing we see for certain is how old-fashioned book marketing can affect a title, even in this day of Zoom and virtual massive advertising and Amazon’s glitzy marketing to the customer.

We employ some of all of this, but our basic market is Hoosier afficionados—people who have an interest in Indiana history, from our mainline website and catalogues. Orders continue to come in, but slower than usual, possibly because our greatest market is Indiana libraries and they have been closed or only recently opened again.

Most interesting and impressive are sales of one book from our small Winds of Change Division, which features books of a spiritual nature. We have featured “popular history” books from several denominations with a focus on the Christian Science congregations across America and the world. There have been major sales for one title from the UK and Europe through specialty bookstores there and continuing sales of hundreds of this title throughout the pandemic, just from the website.

What is it? The title is Cracking the Camouflage Ceiling: Progress through Faith Persistence and Progress During the Early Integration of Women in the Military by Chaplain (Colonel) Janet Yarlott Horton. This story, which I helped develop and edited, is by one of the first three women chaplains in the U.S. Army. Colonel Janet joined the army in the 70s, when women were just being admitted to the armed forces, and she and the other “faithful few” females both in the chaplaincy and the armed forces in general faced strong opposition and outright hostility on the part of both enlisted men and officers. The stories Colonel Horton tells are surprising in their intensity, as officers sneered at her, kept her from rightful recognition, chased her down the road, and even spat upon her.

But this is a story of courage, perseverance and trail-blazing. And of faith; each chapter of the book is headed with a Bible quotation, or sometimes a quote from Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the study handbook of Christian Scientists. Colonel Horton became an example for other women, particularly in the chaplaincy, as she patiently stood for principle and military protocol and procedure when issues arose. Prayer became customary for solving problems with men and officers; after all, Janet Horton was a chaplain.

There is much to learn about the chaplaincy of the armed forces in this book. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim chaplains serve and often work together. No denominations are emphasized or observed, and the training of all is to be able to serve different faith traditions.

Interesting is the variety of postings where she served, including Indianapolis’s Fort Harrison, with a final posting at the Pentagon. Janet Horton was present but out of her office on the other side of the facility when the plane hit the Pentagon on Nine Eleven. Her office was one of those hit. Her story of all the Pentagon chaplains entering at the end of the day to accompany the mortuary corps into the burnt-out Pentagon is touching and inspiring.

This book has been predominately sold, surprisingly, by a method known by booksellers for some two-hundred years: word of mouth. More on that in the next blog.

Click back to order Colonel Janet Horton’s book Cracking the Camouflage Ceiling.