At the very moment that buzz among publishing industry professionals in New York City early yesterday afternoon was dominated by talk of Rebecca Saletan‘s resignation, Michael Hyatt, the CEO/president of Nashville-based Thomas Nelson announced via Twitter that the world’s largest Christian publisher (and one of the ten biggest publishing companies in the U.S.) was eliminating 55 positions, or about 10 percent of the workforce. “There are no words to describe the emotion,” he said, promising to write about the decision at his blog later in the day.
When that post came, Hyatt described the layoffs—the second round at Nelson in the last year—as “purely a result of the slowdown in the economy,” motivated by the sales reports for September and October. (Thomas Nelson is not a member of the Association of American Publishers, but it may be worth noting as a point of comparison that the AAP has reported an 8.9 percent decline in the sale of religious books during the first nine months of 2008, including an 11.8 drop in the month of September alone.)
Two posts on Hyatt’s blog take on a new significance in light of this announcement. In one, he listed ten positive side effects of a recession, including the idea that “it makes you realize you can’t take anything for granted; the very next day, he cited a prayer for adverse times, asking God that, “in unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by thee… [and] give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day and all that it shall bring.” Yesterday, reflecting on the gloomy retail market, as well as a broader sense of uncertainty, Hyatt reflected, “the one thing I do know is that the world needs our message of inspiration now more than ever. As a result, I remain optimistic about our prospects once we get past the current economic crisis.”