Sales soar for Loyola Press’ Pope Francis book
BY FRANCINE KNOWLES Religion Reporter May 8, 2014 1:32PM
Pope Francis' book "The Church of Mercy" sold more than 50,000 copies in its first two weeks on the market.
Updated: June 10, 2014 6:51AM
The Pope Francis effect appears to be blessing business at Chicago-based Loyola Press, where sales of the pontiff’s new book, “The Church of Mercy,” exceeded 50,000 in its first two weeks on the market.
The book, the first collection of writings from Francis’ first year as pope, already has become one of the non-profit publishing house’s best-sellers, said Steve Connor, director of adult spirituality books at Loyola Press. The book went on sale April 20, Easter Sunday.
“We’re a small Catholic publisher,” Connor said. “Most of our books probably sell between, 5,000 and 10,000, and that may not be within a year because it’s a very niche market. But a book like this, to do this amount, is just really exciting.”
Loyola Press, a ministry of the Chicago-Detroit province of Jesuits, won the rights to publish the U.S. edition of the book. While strong sales had been expected, the quick start still surpassed expectations, Connor shared.
“We thought it was going to be a good seller largely because it is the first book that is taken from Pope Francis’ homilies, addresses and writings,” he said. “Most of the other books out there are compilations of things that he did when he was cardinal of Buenos Aires. It was stuff that already existed.”
The book, which describes Pope Francis’ vision for the church, got unsolicited, but favorable help from Parade magazine.
“Parade asked if they could excerpt it on Easter Sunday,” Connor said. “They have a wide distribution. Every major newspaper uses Parade magazine. I think the story out there was this [book] is something different about Pope Francis and his message of mercy.”
Connor credits Francis’ appeal among Catholics and non-Catholics alike with driving sales.
The book is reaching “a larger audience than just a Roman Catholic audience,” he said. “I think people are fascinated by his spiritual leadership. People are hungry to find spiritual leaders that can speak to our human experience and help us to know how to be merciful, how to be joyful and how to treat each other with dignity and respect.”
Loyola Press was the first publishing house to enter a bid to publish the U.S. edition of the book. Being first placed it in a desirable spot among competitors. Once you have the first bid in, in publishing terms you have “the floor, which meant you can go back and make a final bid,” Connor explained. “We did that and secured the rights. We really don’t know who else was bidding. We assume that it was probably some publishers like ourselves and also some of the larger houses as well.”
Loyola Press’ best-selling book to date is “The Gift of Peace” by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Connor said. More than 100,000 copies were sold, and it became a New York Times best-seller.