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, CountryWindow.ca :

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 XXXChurch.com 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.”


HT: DailyEncouragement.net

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

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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

Fiction Publishers Have No Respect For Their Customers

I’ve previously ranted here about the situation where the publishing industry came up with an excellent solution to maintaining book series and keeping non-catalog titles available, namely print-on-demand; and then utterly and completely abdicated that solution in favor of the ease and convenience of eBooks.

Yesterday once again I had to disappoint a customer who was collecting a particular author only to discover she had books 2, 3 and 4 but book 1 was not going to be available anywhere other than yard sales and thrift stores.  I know this person, she’s a loyal customer and she deserves better. Should she have verified availability of the whole series first? She has no idea how the business works. If anything, she trusted us not to be selling something that would cause her frustration.

This time the culprit was Barbour Publishing. Barbour, I really hate this. I hate the utter disdain for the very people who keep you in business. I hate the management ethics that create these situations. I hate the refusal to go public — you and every other publisher — to answer basic questions about why eBooks trumped print-on-demand; questions as to why services like Lightning Print and Expresso were deemed unworthy of support.

But that’s just today. The week before it was Tyndale House. And the book was only three years old. The week before that it was Baker/Bethany. It’s often Baker/Bethany. They don’t answer e-mails. They don’t return phone calls.

It’s no wonder that many well-established authors are now producing their own books in-house. We’re preparing an article on this subject and collecting anecdotal evidence of some writers even parting company with their publisher mid-series. Did they jump or were they pushed? To the consumer it doesn’t matter. They made a time and money investment in the author’s series and now they want to see it through to completion.

I would love to sit in the board rooms of the publishers where these dumb, dumb, dumb decisions are made. I’ve worked in this industry at the wholesale level — five times for three different companies — and I know how easy it is to forget about the very real people who have to buy the books for the system not to collapse.

So publishers, listen to me: Not everybody is going to buy an eReader to complete a series. That market is as saturated as it is ever going to get. All you’re doing is turning customers off the reading they enjoy and driving them to other leisure time pursuits.

Furthermore, if you have 6,000 each of books 2, 3 and 4 floating around your warehouse and through remainder vendors, you might want to bring book one back to press even if the series didn’t meet expectations. That’s your name on the spine and on the title page and you want people to experience customer satisfaction with your brand. 

Authors, please hear this: Not everyone is going to order books online. I have customers who won’t use a credit card in-store, much less online. Whatever your issues were with the major publisher you were with, if you’re going to go it alone, make sure the books exist with distributors at full trade discount to stores.

And let’s not, for one minute, think that this situation does not apply equally to non-fiction. When you factor in all the development and set-up costs, print-on-demand costs you relatively nothing and offers you gigantic public relations gains. 

I personally believe that five years into the future, your love affair with eBooks is going to end and you’ll wish you had honored your print consumers a little better, especially when the easy fix was always camped outside the door.


Dear Thomas Nelson; Dear Waterbrook/Multnomah

Dear Thomas Nelson:

I have five copies of Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage in my store which has now been shown to have plagiarized the writing of other authors. The author is also alleged to have been involved in manipulation of the New York Times bestseller list. I can no longer stock or sell this title with confidence but I am well beyond the normal return window. I am asking you, as a gesture of good faith, to send me five copies of some other merchandise at the same retail value in order that I remove Mark’s book from inventory.

Dear Waterbrook:

I have four copies of Steven Furtick’s Greater in hardcover in my store. I had great admiration for this writer and gave his first two books growing reviews, but now find his ministry to be greatly tainted by his building of a $1.75M house as well as widely reported related issues surrounding his book sales. I can no longer carry this product with confidence and am asking you, in good faith, to send me four copies of some other merchandise at the same retail value.


Larry Willard Update

Larry WillardMonths after the accident, it’s refreshing to have an update on Larry Willard from Larry Willard. Larry was a guest last Saturday on The Drew Marshall Show and the audio for that 28-minute radio interview has now been posted online. Drew writes:

A few months ago, Larry and his wife were involved in a fatal head on collision. Although both he and his wife survived, their injuries were horrific. Larry shares his journey through recovery – physically and spiritually.

For the most part, Larry talked about the accident, but near the end, he spoke candidly about challenges facing our industry and on how the weather for Christmas 2013 impacted retailers across Canada and the northern United States.

To listen go to: The Drew Marshall Show 2014 archives and select the show for June 21st (at the top as I write this). You’ll also notice that Frank Schaeffer was a guest on the same show — a most interesting interview.  Scroll down to the Journey segment where you’ll see Larry’s interview identified. You then have two links, one to listen-on-demand, and another to download the interview. You can also listen now at this link.

(If you keep scrolling to the week before, you’ll see interviews with singer Gary Chapman and worship leader Brian Doerksen.)

It was good to hear Larry’s voice, and we wish him and Faith Family Books in northeast Toronto God’s richest blessings.



Categories: Uncategorized

Ravi Zacharias Receives Lifetime Achievement Award by CBA

Ravi Zacharias Lifetime Acheivement Award Christian Booksellers Association

The Christian Booksellers Association presented Christian apologist and author Ravi Zacharias with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2014 International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). Normally we wouldn’t run a simple photo story like that here, but what actually caught our attention was the number of times this quotation from Ravi got Tweeted; it must have resonated with many people:

“Show me a person who is accountable before God, and I’ll show you a person I can trust.”

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