Despite the challenges of COVID-19, BJU Press has continued its regular schedule, and the increase in virtual schooling has created an increase in curriculum sales.
Laurie Wilson, communications manager for the press, said prior to COVID-19, many processes such as writing, reviewing and editing for content development were done manually with physical files and copies of materials. “We had to push a lot of those processes electronically and digitally because people were working remotely,” Wilson said, “and folks did an absolutely amazing job shifting to that.” Like the University, Wilson said BJU Press used Microsoft Office 365 to continue their work online.
“I’m very proud to say, 90% of our projects were able to either be completed early or remain on schedule even despite COVID, which was a major accomplishment,” Wilson said.
Briseydi Rouse, a graphic designer for the content and development department of BJU Press, said COVID-19 has not affected her job as much as it has other employees because she can do her job anywhere she can have a computer.
When we were first sent home, it was just an odd transition I think being at home, but otherwise it was nice because my job just allows me to keep doing the work I need to remotely,” Rouse said. “I will create a content design . . . from the cover to the feel of the book, and I work with the writers to find the correct illustrations and the correct images, and then . . . I try to find my own illustrators to work on the book.”
Rouse advised graphic design students to be open to opportunities at the press. “I’ve gotten to really enjoy the process and the creative freedom I have at the Press,” Rouse said. “It’s a fun opportunity, to be able to design for education.”
BJU Press is primarily a publisher of Christian educational materials, including textbooks and supplemental digital teaching aids like PowerPoints and videos for teachers. While their primary market is private Christian schools, BJU Press also produces educational materials for homeschooling families.
Due to COVID-19 and many families making the shift to online learning, Wilson said the press had a huge influx of homeschool orders. BJU Press saw an overall increase of 44% in sales compared to 2019. “There’s a couple of buying models that we have for homeschool. A homeschool family can either buy a single subject or a complete grade of all subjects.” BJU Press saw a 72% increase in single subject purchases and a 58% in complete grade purchases. Wilson said they saw a 17% increase in orders overall for both homeschool orders and private school orders.
Wilson said normally, the buying season for BJU Press begins around February, with the sales season ending in August. However, this year, Wilson said their sales season was pushed back into the year as Christian schools were trying to gauge what they would be doing in the fall semester with COVID-19. Wilson said this led to a massive influx of sales in August.
“Inventory was flying off the shelves because we’re trying to pack orders and get them distributed, and that’s our warehouse,” Wilson said. “We actually had to hire around . . . 50 to 70 temps to work down in the print division in the warehouse to manage all of that influx of orders.”
Wilson said while these temporary workers were boxing up orders, BJU Press cycled some of their regular workers out of fulfillment to work in binding, wrapping and more so that the Press could get products on to the shelves or in boxes and shipped to customers. Most temps were volunteers from within the press or were BJU faculty, staff or students hired for a short amount of time.
Many opportunities are available for graduates or student workers at BJU Press, according to Wilson, particularly in content development. BJU Press also offers a few graduate assistant positions. “We have a huge need for designers, so that’s people doing either page layout for our printed products . . . or that’s graphic design talent in our marketing area,” Wilson said.