Augsburg Fortress
One Mission Blog - reflections on the ministry of publishing

ELCA Church Council Presentation re: AF

April 6th, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

I was delighted to be invited by the ELCA Church Council to spend 15-20 minutes providing them with an overview of our business/ministry of publishing.  Here is my presentation.  Questions are welcome!

Ten Things You May Not Know About AF ELCA Church Council April 2014[1] ENABLED





Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

Small, but mighty website upgrades

March 27th, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

If you have been watching AF over the past several years, you know that we are constantly trying to improve all aspects of our business.  From creating better resources for congregations and higher education, to providing outstanding free webinars for our customers,  to providing more streamlined service for our customers, and more!

A few days ago, I received an email from our Director, Digital Resources and Publishing Systems Mark Stahura sharing a small but important upgrade to our sparkhouse website.  This improvement helps ensure better communication between you, our customers, and our Sales & Service team, ultimately leading to better service for you!

Here is Mark’s email:

“The Contact Us form was intentionally minimal. Too much so, it turns out. Sales & Service was receiving many inquiries that were cryptic because they didn’t know where the customer had been before clicking on Contact Us: the customer might write “Is there a bulk discount?”

The old form also didn’t ask if the customer wanted a response, and didn’t offer a place to put an order number.

We launched a new “contact us” form on the site this morning. The email that this form generates goes to Sales & Service, and includes all of the information the customer provided, plus the URL of the page they had been on before going to Contact Us. This form is less extensive than the one on, but more extensive than the old one on

This will eliminate needless confusion in helping our sparkhouse customers find and purchase what they need.

Kudos to webmaster Steve Larsen for quick work building this, and also for applying design standards to make this version even better looking than that old one!” 

As you might imagine, I offered my kudos to these colleagues, too!

And, here’s another one:  Recently a number of clergy noted that when they put a particular item into the search box on our website they didn’t find what they wanted.  The example used was “communion kits.”  That’s because in 2008 based on sales trends and our need to focus this ministry of publishing on just that…publishing…we stopped carrying these items. But, because they had ordered them many years ago from us, they expected to find them.  In response to this customer concern, we have added a “did you find what you were looking for?” query on our site after a customer makes a search.  It looks like this:


If yes, great! If not, you have the opportunity to provide us with feedback on what you were looking for but didn’t find and your contact information. We can then be back in touch to assist you.  Or, if you are using a search term that we haven’t used in our thousands of tags on our thousands of items on our website, we can add it for future searches.  Here’s what that looks like if you say “no”:


These are the types of small, but mighty improvements that really make a difference!

We want to be good partners in ministry providing you with the types of resources you need for your ministry and excellent service.  Please continue to share with us how we can improve our offerings.  While we won’t be able to accommodate every single request, I promise that we will do our best to listen and to meet your needs as often as possible.




Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

ELW Braille Edition to publish this summer!

March 10th, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

We are excited to announce that the Evangelical Lutheran Worship Braille Edition will be published this summer!

Creation of this 8 to 9 volume work of the words to all the service music and hymns has been quite a complicated process taking the fine work of many people across the ELCA.


Because of the unique nature of this resource, we can only afford to publish it upon the receipt of orders for a minimum of 20 copies. We need your help to get the word out so that we make certain that those who need to use this resource are aware of it and that we build up the 20+ copy backorder so that we can publish it on or about July 1!

In addition to new content, there are some new features in this ELW Braille Edition as compared to the old Lutheran Book of Worship Braille Edition.  In the LBW, the Braille was created end-to-end, so there were no page breaks between hymns, for example.  As you might imagine, this was a bit cumbersome and not particularly user-friendly!  The ELW Braille Edition, by contrast, which will be in 8-9 volumes, includes only one hymn per Braille page so that it will be easier for the sight-impaired reader to select only those hymns that are needed for a given worship service.

Our sale price for the ELW Braille Edition is $375 for these 8-9 volumes.  While this might seem expensive, it is our manufacturing cost as quoted from the manufacturer one year ago (our guess is that these costs have gone up, but we will absorb that increase for at least the first printing).

Who purchases Braille editions of a worship resource such as this?  Sometimes it is the visually impaired person him or herself who purchases a copy.  Sometimes, the congregation purchases a copy of the Braille edition for that person’s exclusive use.  When $375 is too much for the individual or a small congregation to afford, we have found that there is almost always a local donor from that congregation or synod who is happy to underwrite the cost on behalf of the worshiper or congregation.

Again, please assist us in getting the word out about the availability of the ELW Braille Edition so that we make certain we exceed that minimum of 20 backordered copies.  Thank you for your help!





Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

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