Are All the Faith-Focused Music Distracting People from Reading?

Plugged In

Have your store sales been slower during the first quarter this year? Part of the reason might be the large number of faith-focused movies: Noah, Son of God, God’s Not Dead, Heaven is For Real, Irreplaceable, and more forthcoming this year including Mom’s Night Out releasing early in May.

When you factor in tickets, popcorn and possibly parking or paying a babysitter, many of your store customers may subconsciously — or consciously — feel they’ve met their Christian media obligations for the entire calendar year. Or maybe movie nights have simply drained their pocketbooks.

Furthermore, the brain becomes hardwired to accept visual media as a substitute for written media. Watch enough movies, and that becomes your habit; you find yourself checking the theater listings instead of wondering what new book titles or music albums have released.

Don’t get me wrong; I am happy to know that the message of these films is being taken to a much broader marketplace — some say that theaters are the new sanctuaries — and I’m not forgetting the eventuality that these films will be available for sale in my store on DVD. I’m just saying that this is another competitive force which is distracting attention away from what are the latest book or CD releases that we need to consider, and yet another reason to temper our buying and restocking impulses.

AFN Alleges “Deception” Over New Waterbrook Title

God and the Gay ChristianThe website of the American Family Network (Don Wildmon) is charging Waterbrook Multnomah with “deception” and ‘selling their souls for mammon’ in the publication of what they see as a gay-friendly title. And that’s just the headline of the story.  The book in question is God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships by Matthew Vines.

A strongly-worded article attacks the publisher, the author, and the author’s organization, The Reformation Project, which states its purpose as, “…we strive to create an environment Christian leaders will feel the freedom (without feeling forced) to take the next step towards affirming and including LGBT people in all aspects of church life.”

Part of the article’s contention is that by releasing the book under the Covergent imprint, the company is masking the association with Waterbrook Multnomah, when in fact they all share the same staff. A teaser for the article on another page states, “Christian publisher Multnomah playing a shell game by printing counter-biblical books under another name.” The article also links this to the recent public relations disaster at World Vision, which also hinged on the question of being both gay and Christian and working for a ministry organization.

You can read that article here. (OneNewsNow uses code which prevents us from copying and pasting any of the actual content. Strange. Never encountered this before.) The article has also appears at

Publisher marketing for the $22.99 (US) hardcover includes an endorsement from Rachel Held Evans, and continues:

As a young Christian man, Matthew Vines harbored the same basic hopes of most young people: to someday share his life with someone, to build a family of his own, to give and receive love. But when he realized he was gay, those hopes were called into question. The Bible, he’d been taught, condemned gay relationships.

Feeling the tension between his understanding of the Bible and the reality of his same-sex orientation, Vines devoted years of intensive research into what the Bible says about homosexuality. With care and precision, Vines asked questions such as:

- Do biblical teachings on the marriage covenant preclude same-sex marriage or not?
- How should we apply the teachings of Jesus to the gay debate?
- What does the story of Sodom and Gomorrah really say about human relationships?
- Can celibacy be a calling when it is mandated, not chosen?
- What did Paul have in mind when he warned against same-sex relations?

Unique in its affirmation of both an orthodox faith and sexual diversity, God and the Gay Christian is likely to spark heated debate, sincere soul searching, even widespread cultural change. Not only is it a compelling interpretation of key biblical texts about same-sex relations, it is also the story of a young man navigating relationships with his family, his hometown church, and the Christian church at large as he expresses what it means to be a faithful gay Christian.

No, it’s not “likely to spark heated debate;” the heated debate has already begun.

But the watchdog websites fail to realize that in their total disdain for the book, all they succeed in doing is drawing more attention to it. That’s how we found out. And by not allowing us to copy and paste any of their content, their arguments and concerns are lost to people who don’t click through; meanwhile the publisher marketing blurb gets a free ride.

UPDATE: World Magazine in an article titled Can a Divided Publishing House Stand? points out that this is the same publisher that owns John Piper’s Desiring God. Meanwhile, Charisma Magazine titles their article A Shameful Day in Evangelical Publishing.


Clarification on Regal Acquisition by Baker

Following our report here two days ago about Gospel Light selling Regal Books to Baker Book Group, the Publisher’s Weekly story indicates that Gospel Light is retaining the Regal name; the titles will be assigned to Baker, Bethany and Chosen without creating a new division.

…Under the terms of the deal, Baker will acquire Regal’s backlist, frontlist, and forthcoming books, some 625 print titles, Dwight Baker told PW. “The Regal brand will remain with Gospel Light, so we will not add to our divisions. Regal works will be folded into our four trade divisions–Bethany, Revell, Chosen, and Baker Books.” … “From an editorial perspective, we would have difficulty distinguishing Regal from our current trade divisions anyway, so this agreement does simplify matters,” he said.

This sounds similar to InterVarsity Press’ (IVP) acquisition of Biblica Books, where all the titles were reassigned IVP 978083 ISBNs.

Read the full story at Publisher’s Weekly.

Previously Published As

Yet another one…

Rachel Held Evans Titles

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Aggressive Discounters are Nothing New

Crossings 2007

In the world before Amazon, both Christian bookstores and their mainstream counterparts faced off against the aggressive discounting of the Doubleday Book Club. The company became a powerhouse in 2000 when it merged with Book-of-the-Month Club and operated 17 different specialty clubs including crafts, sci-fi, cookbooks, kids books and Crossings, a club dedicated to Christian books with advertising in a variety of Christian magazines.

Crossings printed its own hardcover editions. The sign-up agreement stated, “Member editions sometimes reduced in size to fit special presses.” Most people thought it referred to the trim size of the books, but “size” can also mean word count. Sometimes charts and images were excised as well; so the disclaimer could have read, “Member editions are sometimes reduced in word count to appease literary agents to whom we are paying lesser royalties.” Okay, maybe that would have been awkward. There were stories of minor characters being deleted from fiction works, and when a publisher whose material we could access (Inspirational Press)  decided to publish a 3-in-1 book by Barbara Johnson according to a similar paradigm, we were told the completed book was delayed while the equivalent of 100 pages were cut; approximately 33 pages per title in the omnibus.

The thing that irked Christian bookstores was the sign-up incentive. In the example shown above and below from 2007 — which really isn’t that long ago — customers got a NKJV Study Bible plus three books of their choice for only 99-cents. The minimum obligation from that point was easy to reach, and some people would then cancel only to rejoin months later and get more 99-cent hardcover books.

Needless to say, some booksellers were thrilled when Doubleday entered receivership. If you’re new to our industry, you’re probably glad you missed that particular form of competition, but alas, we’re not out of the woods just yet. The Doubleday Book Club has resurfaced online; you choose two books for $5.99 and receive a free gift as well; then you need buy only two more. Will a religious book division be far behind?

Crossings 2007 2

Footnote: Crossings produced a number of imitators, some specializing in books for pastors and academics, and some, like the club operated by Word almost indistinguishable from their Doubleday counterpart.

Baker to Acquire Regal from Gospel Light

Baker Book Group announced today that Gospel Light Publishing has entered into an agreement to the assets of Regal Books to Baker, in order to concentrate resources on its curriculum, VBS and Christian Education product.  Regal publishes current authors Dennis Rainey and Gene Getz, and classic writers Henrietta Mears and A.W. Tozer. The company has a large roster of writers with strong name-recognition among Evangelicals.

Both divisions of Gospel Light are currently represented in Canada by Foundation Distributing, while Baker Group Book — which includes Bethany House Publishers — is distributed in Canada by David C. Cook.

Full press release at Baker Book Group.

Currently Reading

Yawning at TigersI’m just wrapping up Drew Dyck’s Yawning at Tigers (Thomas Nelson) which releases in May.  There’s a couple of Canadian connections here; Drew was born in Alberta and has written for Faith Today magazine. He currently is managing editor of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today.

The book deals with the holiness — or general awesomeness — of God. It’s extremely well-written and each chapter is packed to writers and printed works you would be familiar with. If your store highlights Canadian authors, this book would fit in that section.  If you don’t the book is strong enough to stand on its own!

Click the image to read more at Thomas Nelson’s consumer website.

Further Proof That Leaders are Readers

Part of the InterVarsity staff culture is IVP books…

IVP Encyclopedia of Christianity

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John Ortberg’s Care and Feeding of the Soul

This review was written for Thinking Out Loud, but in deference to my friends in brick-and-mortar retail, is being held until a time closer to the street date.

Reviewing John Ortberg’s Soul Keeping has been like getting back in touch with an old friend. Although I never heard John live at any of the times I was at Willow Creek, I am a huge fan of his writing. Media such as the If You Want To Walk On Water You Have To Get Out of The Boat DVD small group series revolutionized my thinking about how video-based resources can revitalize home Bible studies.

Soul KeepingSoul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You (Zondervan) is truly five books in one.

From the first chapter, you realize instantly that this book is in part a tribute to Ortberg’s friend and mentor Dallas Willard. The impact that Dallas and his wife had on John cannot be overstated. The book may well whet your appetite for reading works like Hearing God, The Divine Conspiracy, Spirit of the Disciplines, or Renovation of the Heart.

Second, the book betrays — more than I’ve seen in previous Ortberg books — his training in clinical psychology. I learned much about how we’re wired from reading this, and there are sections I intend to re-read.

Third, the book is very autobiographical. Married life for John and Nancy hasn’t been the stuff of Christian romance books. They have had their tensions and stresses. There is a raw transparency here that I truly appreciate, and thereby John “earns the right to be heard” with equal authority to his academic training.

Fourth, this is very much a doctrinal book, filled with scripture references and an understanding of the distinction between words like will, spirit, emotions and soul.

Fifth and finally, this is very practical how-to type of book that therefore belongs both in the Christian Living section of the bookstore, and the Self Help section. If you miss the advice this has to offer, you need to start back at the beginning.

I really hope that this book becomes infectious. It has so much to offer on so many different levels.

Why Your Store Facebook Page Isn’t Working as Well as it Did

facebook-logo-289-75This article by Brandon A. Cox was originally written for churches, but it applies to parachurch organizations, missions and your bookstore, if your store has a Facebook page.  The article is long, but has six practical tips that you can tweak to apply to a retail Facebook page. Here’s the first three paragraphs, the link is at the bottom.

The gospel did okay before Facebook, and will do just fine without it. But plenty of churches and organizations like mine have found Facebook to be an incredibly useful tool for getting the word out about Jesus and His people. We’ve devoted time, energy, and even financial resources to gathering a community of fans who read posts, click links, and pass things along to friends.

Now however, Facebook is changing in ways that are bringing the pain to brands of all kinds, including churches and Christian organizations. In short, they’re changing their algorithm so that the content posted by pages doesn’t get seen by many fans. (Hat tip to Jim Gray for the links.) You may have assumed that you see 100% of the updates from any page you’ve liked. It hasn’t been that way in years since Facebook’s normal layout shows people what they deem “top stories” as opposed to all the most recent updates from your friends.

Pages have been posting updates that only get seen by 30 to 40% of their fans, at best. More recently that percentage has dropped to 10 to 20%. And it’s eventually going to be 1 or 2%. One of our daily devotional posts used to see about 1,500 eyes and get about 20 to 30 likes. Now one of our devotionals will still get 20 likes but only see 500 eyes, and it’s about to get even worse. Why? It’s simple. Facebook wants brand managers to pay to sponsor or “boost” their posts to be seen by their fans.

Is that fair? It depends on whom you ask. At the end of the day, it’s all up to the people who own the business called Facebook, but most brand managers feel quite cheated right now because…

[...continue reading here...]

More Supplier Direct Marketing to Consumers


David C Cook Canada Direct Marketing

I have to admit, in hindsight, it seemed too good to be true. Most Sundays find my wife either leading worship from the piano or backing up other worship leaders on bass. As a former worship leader myself, we both enjoy articles about modern worship trends, so when David C. Cook Canada offered her a free CD for signing up for a newsletter, we took the bait.

This week, we found the hook in the bait. She’s being offered 25% off three CD titles. That’s really the meat of the e-mailed newsletter. When you think of the vast number of worship-related articles that are published each week on various worship-themed blogs and websites, they opted instead for a mini-devotional (their words, not mine) and then the pitch for 25% off new releases by Paul Baloche, Rend Collective and Kari Jobe.

I let them know what I thought of all this:

…If anyone in our area on your list buys a CD through you, then you are stealing sales from us.

Everything that undermines the local bookstore, whether it’s Amazon or betrayal by our own suppliers, brings our entire industry one step closer to complete shutdown.

This is basically what it comes down to these days. Distributors want to see the numbers they have all grown accustomed to. Jobs depend on it. So it’s sales by any channel and at any cost.

The irony is that just before I saw the e-mail, I took David C. Cook’s dealer survey. As I also told them,

This afternoon I was asked to do a survey about ways David C. Cook can help us in our ministry; but apparently there is little concern for how David C. Cook can hurt us in our ministry.

This type of marketing hurts. Technology allows the company to swoop in like vultures and grab sales in our territory before we know — if we ever do — what’s happened.

But we’re Christians, so we’re all expected to smile and be gracious about it.

Cameron’s Bookstore to Close: Another Longtime Store Closing in a Major City

Cameron's Bookstore

Through their past work with the Canadian chapter of the Christian Booksellers’ Association, the Cameron family were more than just bookstore operators, they were advisers and friends to an entire industry. So this week’s announcement on the store website is more than just the closing of a single store, it is really the end of an era:

Dear Customers,

It is with deep regret that we inform you that we will be closing the store June 14th, 2014. We thank you for decades of wonderful customer interactions and many happy memories.

Fifty-two years ago Glen and Dorothy Cameron opened a small store in the basement of their home, founded on a dream that started when they were dating. The dream became a reality, and grew bigger than they could ever have imagined.

Times have changed as have our customers’ shopping habits. While we still consider the products that we sell to be life-shaping, the ‘Local Christian Bookstore’ is no longer the primary place to purchase them.

The plans for the next 3 months are exciting! We will be offering you the best selection of Christian resources ever – at outstanding prices.

Be sure to watch your email and home mailbox for some very special sales events. Our first big event is coming up April 24th with our Spring Warehouse Sale. We’ve purchased several skids of new products at deep discounts and it’s at this event that we’ll share more details of our Grand Finale Sale to follow!

Thank you for 52 years of business and friendship. We have loved being part of your lives and we look forward to connecting with you over these next 10 weeks.

Stuart Cameron and the entire staff and family

This means that so far in 2014, we’ve heard of the closing of three iconic stores in three major cities: Hull’s in Winnipeg after 97 years, Speelman’s in Toronto after 52 years, and now Cameron’s after 52 years.

Audio Product Will Appeal to a Wide Range of Bible Readers

Parallel Audio Bible

Every once in awhile, in addition to writing the news here, we get to make the news! Such is the case today as we unveil a product that I’ve been working on for nearly 12 months: The Parallel Audio BibleUsing technology that has sat idle since the days of quadrophonic sound, the PA Bible uses four distinct voices — two male and two female — each speaking the text at the same time. You simply — as you would at a social gathering, or in the church lobby — lock on to one speaker and within seconds, your brain automatically tunes out all the othersjust like it does after church when Mrs. Forthright is exchanging some exceptionally juicy gossip about the choir director.

Furthermore, this advanced technology allows us to produce customized combinations so that we can take orders for which ever audio combination you desire. So…imagine a family heading on a long car trip: Mom likes the ESV, the teenage son likes The Message, the preteen daughter likes the NLT and Dad is an NIV guy. You simply start the audio playing and everyone is satisfied simultaneously. (Channel assignments may require an adjustment in who sits where, and who ends up driving. If your preteen daughter is not licensed, some audio rewiring of your car may be necessary.)

The audio is available on CD, mp3, and because of general industry acknowledgement of its resurgence, vinyl records. (Note: Vinyl LPs may be incompatible with some car audio systems.) Stores wishing to carry the product will appreciate the automatic shipment program, where product will be shipped each time another edition of the 118 possible combinations is manufactured; and will especially appreciate the extra discount made possible by a non-returnable policy.

So don’t be the last one in your market to offer this product. Sign up today! 

Parallel Audio Bible — Many Translations, One Product

(Note: Due to varying text lengths between translations, this product is not available in The Amplified Bible or The Voice.)




Create Website, Blog and Facebook Elements from Newsletters

Just as we’ve done below, you can take news items you get from suppliers by email — particularly David C. Cook Canada and HarperCollins Canada — and paste them into store newsletters, blogs, websites and Facebook pages. They look professional and they save you time.  Use a program like Irfanview (available free online) to do screen captures and resizing. If you do pay someone to look after your social media, they might be able to create a sharper image than what I’ve done here by using a more sophisticated graphics program.

Another thing we’ve done recently is take a wall space at our entrance and create a kind of bulletin board for pages from supplier catalogs.  It’s true that in the fine print there is often reference to “your customers” but I find the customers themselves usually don’t read that far.  You get to feature items you want customers to be aware and things they may not see.  One of the pages on our wall is for a product we don’t even carry, but would love to order.

Welcome to the New

This image is from today’s Christian Retailing newsletter:

Harbinger Decoded DVD


Target Marketing

Steven Furtick did this book promo just for Mary Kay representatives.

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