Reminiscing with Philip Yancey

The Golden Age of Publishing

This article appeared earlier in the month both at Books and Culture and at Philip Yancey’s blog. It keeps being mentioned so I thought I would include the opening section here as a teaser and then let you click whichever source you prefer to read the whole thing.

Philip YanceyI have lived through the golden age of publishing, first with magazines and then with books. I began my career at Campus Life in 1971, and in ten years saw our circulation leap from 50,000 to 250,000. Like many magazines, Campus Life eventually bit the dust as advertising dollars migrated to flashier (and cheaper) online sources and consumers no longer responded to direct mail offers and renewal letters.

For almost four decades (yikes!) I’ve worked as a freelance writer, feeling enormously blessed to make a good living by writing about issues of faith that I would want to explore even if no one bought my books. Every year my royalties go down, though with more than 20 books in print I can still pay bills and find publishers willing to sponsor new books.

The changes in publishing, especially Christian publishing, stood out sharply to me when I stopped in at the largest annual Christian book convention in June. At one time 15,000 attended that trade show, a convention so large that only a handful of cities could accommodate it. Now less than 4,000 attend, and in Atlanta it occupied a corner of the huge convention center. A couple hundred delegates attended a luncheon in which I participated on a panel with Ravi Zacharias and Ryan Dobson; ten years ago the same luncheon would have filled a thousand-seat banquet hall. Though name authors had book signings, the only lines I saw were for two stars of Duck Dynasty.

Book publishing is going through massive changes. Almost every month bookstore sales fall below the total from last year … and the year before. Of the 5,000 Christian bookstores in the U.S. open in the 1970s, barely half that number have survived. What happened? …

to continue reading click either of the two links in the introduction

Regal Acquisition by Baker Leaves Database Confusion

Switching the ISBNs on Regal, the trade line of curriculum publisher Gospel Light, makes sense following Regal being acquired by Baker Book Group. But customers, online vendors, distributors, brick and mortar stores, and curators of databases are dealing with the transition with titles often showing as out-of-print or discontinued when they are not.

barcodeThe solution? First: Check to see of the publisher is indicated as Regal or Gospel Light. Next: Look for a secondary, updated, or superseded listing before giving up. Finally: If you have the option to do so, print new barcodes for product still in your system.

Problems like this are minor but sometimes frustrating. Some stores still have Biblica Books product in their stores after the line was acquired by InterVarsity Press a year ago. In a grocery environment, where sales volume and the issue of best-before dates mean product has to move through the system quickly, this becomes less of an issue. Many times a product is resized before a new code is introduced.

In my own store, barcode scanning is impossible because, as an outlet store, we often have the same title as both a regular-priced item (often acquired in the months following first release) and as a sale-priced item (when acquired in the overstock or remainder market).  Of course, many stores simply use a generic code at this point, which appears on the customer receipt as “SALE BOOKS  $9.99″ as a general category.

In Canada, we also have the issue of currency conversion. Sometimes stock is replenished before existing stock has fully run out, so you have the same ISBN at a conversion of 1.1000 X US sitting next to stock converted at 1.2000 X US.

Finally, to add insult to barcode injury, some other retail sectors are now re-barcoding their stock with numbering unique to their company to avoid the situation where customers come in with smartphones, scan the codes, and comparison shop with online vendors, or simply use the physical store as a showroom for an online purchase that’s been predetermined. By changing the numbers, the process shuts down somewhat.



Toronto Based Apparel Company Offers Bold Designs

Live Christ Clothing

We were recently contacted by Live Christ Clothing, based in Ajax, Ontario and offered to run their press release so more people would hear about this Canadian based clothing company. They have designs that are available in a variety of child, youth, ladies and men’s sizes on various types of garments.

Live Christ Clothing is excited to announce the official launch of its faith based apparel company and online store ( Live Christ is more than a brand; it’s a lifestyle. Amidst a culture that promotes various ideologies, the message of Live Christ Clothing is bold and unmistakable – to truly live life, you must live Christ.

Established by Philippians 1:21 [“to live is Christ”], the vision of Live Christ Clothing is to inspire others to find life and live life. With its always-intentional design philosophy, Live Christ Clothing is sure to capture attention and create opportunities for its customers to share their faith.

Live Christ Clothing provides products for the entire family including men’s and ladies t-shirts, hoodies, polos, track jackets, youth t-shirts, kids t-shirts, infant onesies and select accessories.

With its bold colours, unique designs and inspiring biblical messages, Live Christ Clothing offers a distinct blend of faith and fashion.

Live Christ Clothing, originally founded as FUGEN Apparel, is a family owned and operated company based in Toronto. Through its clothing, inspirational blogs and Live Christ campaigns, Live Christ Clothing is destined to advance the message of God’s kingdom.

Categories: Uncategorized

Richard Rohr on St. Francis

When the current Pope chose the name Francis, it ignited a lot of interest in St. Francis of Assisi.  Eager to Love, a new book by ecumenical teacher Richard Rohr was the top of the Spring Arbor Top 100 book list for Tuesday.  I always enjoy reading this list (if I remember) each day to see what other stores are buying.

Eager to Love - Richard RohrFrom the publisher marketing:

…Francis found an “alternative way” to follow Jesus, one that disregarded power and privilege and held fast to the narrow path of the Gospel. Rohr helps us look beyond the birdbath image of the saint to remind us of the long tradition founded on his revolutionary, radical, and life-changing embrace of the teachings of Jesus.

When yesterday’s top demand list is sorted by release date, these are the ten newest titles appearing on the top 100. This list is not a ranking, as Eager to Love is #1

Controlling Husband: What Every Woman Needs to Know Welch, Ron Fleming H. Revell Company 06/17/2014 13.99
Family of Jesus Kingsbury, Karen Howard Books 07/01/2014 19.99
Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity Hatmaker, Jennifer NavPress Publishing Group 07/01/2014 14.99
Blood on the Altar: The Coming War Between Christian vs. Christian Stearman, Gary Defender Publishing 07/15/2014 19.95
Warden and the Wolf King Peterson, Andrew Rabbit Room Press 07/27/2014 22.99
We All Need Forgiveness Mayer, Mercer Thomas Nelson Publishers 07/29/2014 3.99
Being Thankful Mayer, Mercer Thomas Nelson Publishers 07/29/2014 3.99
Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds Wilkin, Jen Crossway 07/31/2014 12.99
Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi Rohr, Richard Franciscan Media 07/31/2014 21.99
Thank You, God Wigger, J. Bradley William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 08/01/2014 16.00


Why the Books Christian Bookstores Carry are not at Your Local Library

Although approaching this from a different perspective than that we might take as booksellers, it’s interesting to see how Mike Leake frames the problem with the realistic plight of Sam, a young man looking for answers:

“Maybe there really is a God.”

Young Sam has had this nagging sense in his heart for a few weeks now. But he’s always been an intellectual, so he’s not the type of guy that just goes on feelings. So he does what he always has done when he wants to find the answer to something—he goes to his local library.

libraryThis time he’s going to study the claims of Christianity against the claims of new atheism. He’s a little more familiar with what the new atheists teach. But he figures he had better check the books out anyways. It’s a familiar section for him and so he quickly pulls some of the more popular books off the shelf. He loads Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and a couple others onto his arms.

Next he finds himself in a rather unfamiliar territory—the somewhat scant section in the library on Christianity. A few faces seem familiar—these are guys that he’s seen on television, so he figures they must be the best representatives.

On top of his books on New Atheism he’s loading himself down with books by Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, another book called the idiots guide to Christianity, a book written by one of the popes, and a book about the history of Christianity.

Christianity doesn’t stand a chance.

No Fault of the Library

This is not the fault of the librarian. She picks books based upon bestseller lists, professional reviews, and requests from patrons.

The books that are most popular in Christianity (sadly) are usually not intellectual or scholarly treatments. Truthfully they are more akin to self-help books than anything to do with the gospel. But most librarians don’t know this. They often have meager budgets and so if they are going to stock something in the non-fiction section then they need to be sure that its something that will be checked out. If Joel Osteen is a best-seller then it’s a pretty safe bet that somebody will want to read it.

But none of this bodes well for people like Sam trying to learn the truth about Christianity. We need to help our librarians and young learners like Sam at least be able to give the gospel a fair shake…

[...continue reading at Borrowed Light...] 

The disconnect between what’s in your local library and what’s in your local Christian bookstore is always a nagging question.  It’s the same question that plagues the Canadian market where stores like Chapters or Indigo don’t stock Christian bestsellers as do their counterparts at Barnes & Noble. Consequently, there are no filters for what constitutes entry into the “religion” section and customers might get seriously sidetracked into books that are cultic or not even Christian at all.

Writers Push the Envelope of Medical Possibilities

In 2010, David Gregory’s futuristic The Last Christian introduced a world where core memory transplants were a medical possibility.   In 2012, James Rubart’s Soul’s Gate broke down the wall between the visible realm and the spiritual realm. And based on the cover and a few things I was able to grab online, Ted Dekker goes all sci-fi in the 2014 young adult release Hacker, which involves hacking into the most sophisticated computer ever produced, the human brain.

But Colleen Coble? Somehow, I found it a stretch to imagine the historical fiction writer delving into a complication from a transplant that I doubt most mystery writers have even considered:

Seagrass Pier Colleen Coble“Cell memory is really true,” says Colleen Coble, whose new book, Seagrass Pier (Thomas Nelson, July), features Elin Summerall, a heart transplant recipient who has violent flashbacks she soon realizes are memories of her donor’s murder. Coble has experience with the phenomenon: “A friend had a transplant and aspects of her personality changed from that moment.”

Seagrass Pier, the second (sic *) book in her Hope Beach series, pits Elin against a stalker who wants to put a permanent end to her flashbacks. Though others discount her story, Marc Everton, an FBI agent on leave who doesn’t know he’s the father of Elin’s daughter, believes her.

The book is a return for Coble to contemporary Christian fiction, which she says is her real love, and a sign of how much Christian fiction has evolved in the past five years. The early days of prairie stories and perfect characters are over, Coble says. “There is a huge ability [now] in Christian fiction to write imperfect characters, to write about all of us. There really is no forbidden topic; we don’t have to shy away from anything.”

Continue reading this story at Publisher’s Weekly.

Colleen is quickly emerging as one of Christian fiction’s most prolific writers with a strong back catalog and many new series titles already scheduled.

*Note to retailers: Publisher’s Weekly’s story has an error. Seagrass Pier is actually book three in the Hope Beach series. Readers might want to start with Tidewater Inn (July, 2012)  then move on to Rosemary Cottage (July, 2013) and then read Seagrass Pier.

Canadian Christian Author Releases Tenth Title

Riptide - Eric WrightWith the release of Riptide: Idyllic Island, Deadly Peril Grafton, Ontario’s Eric Wright reaches the ten book milestone, with a title list consisting of several fiction and non-fiction genres and works issued through publishers in Canada, the US, and England.  Riptide is the retired pastor and missionary’s third suspense novel.  Here’s the book’s info from his website, :

Ashlyn Forsyth believes she and her husband Craig have come to idyllic St. Simons Island to restore romance to their flagging marriage. Then, without warning, Craig hands Ashlyn, divorce papers. In shock, Ashlyn watches him drive off with a female colleague from his office. She soon discovers he is being pursued by the Russian mafia and investigated by the FBI for money-laundering.

Abandoned on St. Simons Island, Ashlyn faces not only emotional turmoil but financial ruin, the shipwreck of her career, harassment by the FBI, and pursuit by the Russian mafia. Even as her ordered life plunges into chaos, she finds herself increasingly attracted to Remy Jeandeau, a shrimp boat captain.

Will she find the spiritual resources needed to overcome adversity? Will attraction blossom into romance?

The 328-page paperback is available at $15.99 US to trade bookstores from Harbourlight Books through Ingram using ISBN 9781611163018 and also available through consumer websites in Canada and the US in print and eBook.


Christian Bookstores Caught in the Battle of Gay Perspectives

Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service — who himself came out a few months ago — notes the tension building in the world of Christian publishing over the gay issue.  Here’s a sample:

To read the article in full click the title: Christian bookstores are the next gay-marriage battleground.

New Podcast Majors on Publishing Topics

The Happy Rant PodcastThe Happy Rant is the latest Christian podcast and features Stephen Altrogge, Barnabas Piper, and Ted Kluck

Self-described as “talking about things that don’t matter,” there have been six episodes so far and each one has contained at least one section that discusses issues in the Christian book industry. Sometimes, as in Episode 5, they have some fun with it, such as this look at alternative study Bibles we’d like to see. (Didn’t Mad Magazine do this premise?)

The Andre the Giant Study Bible
The Zangief from Street Fighter Study Bible
The Tootie from Facts of Life Study Bible
The Other Girl from Facts of Life, The One Who Is a Christian Speaker Study Bible
The Crease from Karate Kid Study Bible
The Dwight Schrute Study Bible
The “The Situation” Study Bible
The Chaz Marriot Study Bible
The “Platform” Study Bible
The Pete Rose Should Be in the Hall of Fame Study Bible
The Lloyd Dobler Study Bible
The U2 Lyrics Study Bible
The Mike Seaver Study Bible
The Super Bowl Shuffle Study Bible feat. William “The Refrigerator” Perry
The Twitter Every Word Is Hashtagged and Every Name is Squigglied Study Bible
The 1986 Mets Featuring Daryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson Study Bible
The Joyce Meyer Study Bible

or this suggestion, “I want a Minnesota Sports Fan Study Bible which basically consists of Job, Ecclesiastes and Revelation.”

They also discuss ghost-writing, the quality of Christian fiction, and the problem with book cover design.

To listen to the podcast, click this link.

New Titles Update

Upcoming Christian Books

One of the blessings of doing Thinking Out Loud is that increased readership has led to increased generosity on the part of several Christian publishers. I probably got more books in the year after the blog started growing than in 36 previous years on the retail side of things.

Unfortunately, not every book gets reviewed there, but I wanted to mention several.

Before we begin, you’ll notice four books for men in this list. Men’s books don’t sell well in the Christian marketplace, so this emphasis is a bit of a surprise especially when you consider that all four are from HarperCollins Christian Publishing group. Hopefully the men’s-interest market can sustain all this activity happening at the same time.

The Hope Quotient – Ray Johnston (Thomas Nelson) — More than just a motivational or self-help book, this California pastor has packed this book with charts and graphics as well as supporting scripture references and comes at a time when many people feel hope is lacking. The HQ test allows readers to test their own Hope Quotient.

Rare Bird – Anna Whitson-Donaldson (Convergent) – The real life memoir of a mother whose 12-year old son was washed away in a nearby creek following a freak rainstorm. This book releases in September from Convergent. To get a taste of this, check out this post on her blog, The Bridge: One Terrible Night. Releases in September.

Small – Craig Gross (Nelson Books) – The founder of writes celebrating the ordinary and the insignificant. While the book is general in nature, Gross incorporates story from his rather unique ministry. This book is releasing in August, and unlike the others listed here, I’m already one-third of the way in, so we may end up doing a full review on this one. (Trivia: This is a must-gift book for anyone who serves their local church as a greeter!)

Overrated – Eugene Cho (David C. Cook) — I didn’t list this one on another version of this article at Thinking Out Loud earlier in the week because I intend to do a full review on it. If you had a market for Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma, this book by the founder of the One Day’s Wages charity will fit into that same social justice/social concern category. This book connected with me on a number of different levels.  September release.

7 Ways to Be Her Hero – Doug Fields (W Publishing) – The author of the classic Purpose Driven Youth Ministry and teaching pastor for the last 22 years at Saddleback is back with seven steps men can take to improve their ability to be a husband. He’s already got my attention with Step #1: Don’t Say Everything You Think. Oh, oh!

The Dude’s Guide to Manhood – Darrin Patrick (Nelson Books) – The chaplain of the St. Louis Cardinals names twelve different characteristics that can be developed in any man of various stages in life.

Be The Dad She Needs You To Be – Kevin Leman (Thomas Nelson) – One of the foremost experts on family dynamics, prolific author and speaker Leman really needs no introduction as he delves into the relationships between fathers and daughters. There is much practical advice here; fathers of girls might want to keep this book handy.

The Good Dad – Jim Daly (Zondervan) – The President of Focus on the Family comes into many of your homes via radio each and every day, though often while the Dad in the family is at work. (I’m betting at least 70% of Focus listeners are female). The book is somewhat autobiographical as Daly didn’t have the benefit of great role modeling.

Love Well – Jamie George (David C. Cook) – The subtitle is Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck and encourages the reader to move beyond the paralyzing effects of fear shame and hopelessness. This book releases in August.

Losing Your Faith, Finding Your Soul – David Robert Anderson (Convergent) – This book is releasing through the “edgy” imprint of Waterbrook/Multnomah, so it is no surprise that it deals with going through that period of life when lifelong faith assumptions start to unravel and beliefs about God, faith and church are in flux. The Connecticut Episcopal pastor deals with times we experience a “shift in our spiritual foundation.”

Nobody Knows: The Harry T. Burleigh Story – Craig von Buseck (Baker) – That this book is in hardcover adds to the mystery here. The book is subtitled, The Forgotten Story of One of the Most Influential Figures in American Music. In this case, we’re talking about the original American music form, Negro Spirituals.

Crash the Chatterbox – Steven Furtick (Waterbrook) — After getting downright giddy about Furtick’s first two books on this blog, you would think I would have done anything to get my hands on an advance reader copy of his third book. But alas, I’ve allowed myself to become jaded by all the online attention being given to Furtick’s $1.75 million (U.S.) home. I may get to this book yet, or read it privately without doing a review. I guess I’m just too disappointed in how this author’s journey is playing out, and it’s unfortunate because I had high hopes.


The One That Got Away: You Don’t Win Every Supplier Fight

Forgive and forget.

Let bygones be bygones.

Accept the things you cannot change.

Several years ago we lost a fight with one of our suppliers. We were dealing with a number of personal and family issues, and when the shipment arrived, I didn’t even realize something was wrong until days later. See if you can figure out what went wrong here:

Old CMC DealThose of you who have been around for awhile will remember this as a deal from a supplier that today has been absorbed by another company. The offer was made in the summer of 2006.

Did you spot the problem?

Yes, I forgot to check the little box requesting the actual application of the $4-off coupons to the product. The CDs and DVDs shipped at list price with no further discount to the customer and were put on display that way.

I was dealing with a number of other more-important problems at the time, so I sent an email requesting the stickers be sent with the next order.

Days later, I discovered an email response that they had “run out” of the coupons in question, and we would not be receiving them.

Tough break, Mr. Retailer.  Maybe you’ll be more careful next time you’re faxing forms.

We never won this battle.

…Years later we are down to one store. All the stock from three stores has been consolidated and the surplus this creates is in storage. While going through that storage over the winter, guess what we discovered? Hillsong CDs and DVDs. Especially DVDs. Far too many. Too many for a major dealer in a megacity, much less our little company. I remembered there had been an incident involving a particular purchase, but didn’t give it much thought.

We shouldn’t dwell in the past, right? Time to move on.

…And then, on the weekend, the order form showed up in a stack of papers and the memory whole thing came flooding back.

This was 2006. I can’t tell you the number of deals that company offered that we simply passed on after that. To this very day, we pass on many of the “backlist specials” that are offered because somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, there is an incident where the supplier simply didn’t fulfill their promise.

As a company policy, we don’t do returns. We get extra consideration from several of our suppliers for buying one way or sales final. The ones that don’t give us that get fewer orders. So we pride ourselves in getting it right the first time.

The mistake was ours. We didn’t check the little box.

Would an extra $4 off have moved these CDs and DVDs to a greater degree?

I think so. Especially after prices started following. The coupons had no expiry; the deal could have existed in perpetuity. 

But we never got to find out. I should also say that we already had a good quantity of existing stock on these items, we bought aggressively back then and we bought for three stores. We currently have about 60 DVDs too many and untold numbers of CDs.

Much of our surplus stock from the closing of the other stores will eventually be given away to missions, but the DVDs don’t work outside of North America. We might eventually use them for skeet shooting next time we’re out on the yacht.

This is also a good example of a customer relations blunder by the supplier in question. Eventually, they shuttered their doors and any hope of settlement vanished.

Anyone want some Hillsong DVDs??


Categories: Uncategorized

Why Our Mission Matters

Daniel Webster (1782-1852):

“If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, then error will be. If God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendency. If the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will. If the power of the gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of this land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end.”



Send the Light’s Take on Church Furniture

I am a regular reader of Send the Light’s New Releases page.  Each day I scroll through the list to make sure I’m not missing anything.  This week, there was no avoiding the large number of products from Eagle One.  There are a total of 1,505 items. Some of which may catch your eye, such as these bar stools:

Bar Stools at STLI decided to visit the manufacturer’s page and yes, they are bar stools in the traditional sense of the word. Send the Light also lists a bench that sells for $10,720.00 and a metal table for $3,414.00 and you’ll also see a number of Adirondack chairs (what we call Muskoka chairs here in Ontario).

I wrote to Send the Light for clarification as to what was going on with this, and they assure me this is a legitimate line of “outdoor church furniture,” no doubt perfect for churches with a “summer at the cabin/cottage” theme going on. There are also a couple of Recycling Centers for $1,906.00 and for the less environmentally-minded, some trash receptacles.  There is a moveable message sign, large picnic tables, and there is actually a podium which I suppose could be used as outdoor church furniture.

While we couldn’t spend a lot of time researching this subject, we did dig around to note that even with a dealer discount, there are online vendors offering the same product from the same manufacturer for far less.

So…today’s question is: What do you think is the market for bar stools in your store?

Categories: Uncategorized

Why We’re in Business

AMARILLO, Texas (BP)– Victoria Cano was getting ready to close the LifeWay Christian store one Saturday in Amarillo, Texas, when she noticed a woman entering the doors.

As is her custom, Victoria asked the woman if she needed any help.

The woman, who was hearing impaired, came up to the counter and motioned to Victoria, asking for paper and pen. Victoria found them for her, and after a minute, the woman passed the paper back with a note on it.

“She asked if I could help her find a book about accepting Christ,” Victoria said. “I nodded my head and wrote back, asking if it was for her or for a friend.”

The woman pointed to herself.

So Victoria led her to a section of the store with books on prayer and began to make some suggestions.

The first few were workbooks on prayer, but they didn’t seem to fit what the woman wanted. She then began writing another note, this time with a more specific request.

“She said what she wanted was a prayer to God, asking Him into her heart,” Victoria said…

continue reading at Baptist Press

Categories: Uncategorized

ICRS 2015 May Be The Last Big Party

Buried in the bottom paragraph of this Publisher’s Weekly is a suggestion that the next International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) may be the last one at a major venue:

Next year’s ICRS in Orlando, Fla. (June 28-July 1), will fulfill the last of CBA’s long-time contracts for large convention centers, and Riskey hinted at a significantly different show in 2016, though he would not provide specifics. “I’m soliciting ideas from everyone,” he said. “We have to serve diverse needs, and I’m open to all ideas for what [my constituents] want the show to be.”

Attendance was up 2%, but many exhibitors had greatly downsized display booths. Read the whole story at Publisher’s Weekly.

Categories: Uncategorized

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