National Lutheran News

Augsburg Fortress may be turning a corner

ELCA publisher finally turning a profit

During the dark days of the early- and mid-1990s, some observers wondered whether the ELCA’s publishing house, Augsburg Fortress (AF), might be headed for oblivion. Sales were down and AF conducted what seemed to be an endless series of staff layoffs.

There may be light at the end of this tunnel. Between 2004 and 2005, AF experienced a $1 million increase in product sales, exceeding its sales goal for the period by more than $2 million. It was the first time in ten years that had happened.

AF’s president and CEO, Beth Lewis, said the upturn was due to wide acceptance of popular new products, including “The Lutheran Course,” based on the best-selling new Lutheran Handbook (which has sold 116,000 copies so far).

John Rahja, CFO for the publisher, said AF managed its expenses while building sales and achieving greater productivity and efficiency.

Part of the cost management is attributable to scores of employee layoffs. The publisher has also trimmed back on Augsburg book titles, while maintaining the profitable Fortress line.

Lewis said core materials, which serve Lutheran congregations, are selling well again, which helped create a positive bottom line. The publisher is also hoping to profit from sales of the new Evangelical Lutheran Worship resource, due out next fall. The ELCA has not introduced a new hymnal since Lutheran Book of Worship (the “Green Book”) appeared in the late 1970s. Sales of that publication generated millions of dollars for the then ALC and LCA publishers.