Same Sex Wedding Cards, Familiar Caption Headers

The cards below accidentally ended up in the bookstore at Brigham Young University, a school of the Mormon (Latter Day Saints) faith. They were quickly removed, but not before pictures circulated.

If the caption cards look too familiar to readers here, that’s because Dayspring, the Christian line of individual greeting cards that has a near monopoly on the Christian bookstore card business, was purchased by Hallmark in 1999 (see Wikipedia) and the headers all come from the same source.

But this begs the question, if BYU is to be considered a “Christian” college, shouldn’t the bookstore be stocking the Dayspring line instead? (Perhaps now they will.)

Hallmark Same Sex Cards

Categories: Uncategorized

Christian Book Shop Talk Blog: Now in its 7th Year!

who do I talk

 

Seven years ago I began this with the idea that what we do in Christian retailing can be confusing and foreign to outsiders and sometimes you just want to dialogue with people who can relate. The first post was appropriately titled, “Who Do I Talk To?” Unlike my two primary blogs, this was launched specifically with Canada in mind, and we’ve kept a majority Canadian readership, though the issues are often far greater.

Comments emailed directly to me now well exceed comments posted on the blog. Not sure why, but appreciate the contact either way.

As a writer, I now get more review books sent to me because of Thinking Out Loud than I ever did as a retailer. As a consequence, I am continually falling more and more in love with the world of Christian publishing. (And, it must be said, the One about whom our industry writes.)

I am both an industry insider and an industry outsider. I deliberately avoid industry gatherings for reasons I won’t get into here. It suits my personality to simply labour in the trenches in a small(er) town. I’m down to one store now, but we’re committed at the very least through Christmas, and if the opportunity for growth happens again, we have all our store fixtures and some stock in storage.

The first eight months of 2014 have been rough for Canadian Christian bookstores, but we’re seeing glimmers of hope. There’s a new bookstore opening in northwest Toronto next week, and we’ll have more on that here on the blog on Tuesday.

In the meantime, have a great Labour Day weekend.

Categories: Uncategorized

MEV Marketing is Confusing, Misleading Hype

August 27, 2014 1 comment

I really don’t want to give space here to something I have no intention of giving shelf-space to in my store. But I wrote this to be read in a broader forum, and thought I’d let readers here see it first.


Another new Bible translation hits the bookstores next month. Yes, I know what you’re thinking; do we really need another translation? Personally, while I love the variety of options available and feel they bring much clarity and understanding, I would say there are dangers in over-saturating — or more accurately over-fragmenting — the market.

MEVThe MEV is the latest arrival. It stands for Modern English Version, but that name must somewhat frustrate the creators, who wish all the KJV-related names — NKJV, KJV21, etc — weren’t already taken; as this is the market they are going after. They describe it as “the most modern of the KJV.” What does that even mean?

There’s nothing wrong with seeking to present a new translation to people who have been stuck on a particular version for a long period. The CEB (Common English Bible) has been marketed to the same demographic that currently uses the NRSV. I have no problem with that. But the people stuck on the KJV are really, really stuck. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Anyway, amid the hype was six consecutive pages in the September, 2014 issue of Christian Retailing magazine, a book industry trade publication. The first two were really an advertisement, and the next four pages were an attempt to convince bookstore owners and managers to buy in, both literally and figuratively, to the MEV.

I should say here that Christian Retailing is owned by the same company producing the MEV, Strang Publishing. This conflict-of-interest is rather old news however, as the company’s books, most published under the Charisma House banner, always get inordinate space in the trade magazine. I suppose any of us would do the same.

Still, the four page article contains a number of assumptions that lead to a type of flawed logic as to where the MEV fits in and how retailers can expect it to perform in term of sales.

The MEV is a direct successor to the KJV

The marketing strategy here is clearly to target conservative Evangelicals and convince them it’s time for a change, so you can’t read much about the MEV without encountering the words “King James Version” in the advertising. The home page refers to the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) as producing it, but that group’s website clearly indicates their association is with the NIV. The MEV landing page also says that the group used the KJV as its base manuscript. Does that mean it was not translated directly from original languages? If that’s the case, this is really no different a situation than Ken Taylor restating passages from the American Standard Version to read to his kids at night, and thereby creating The Living Bible which was roundly dismissed by many Evangelicals as a ‘paraphrase’ a term used derisively with no direct equivalent in linguistics. (If you restate something written to make it understood by another group, you are in effect translating.)

One writer took it this far:

This fall, the torch of the KJV tradition will be passed to a new version of the Bible: the Modern English Version (MEV).

Obviously, it makes sense to him.

First, I would argue that each and every English translation since 1611 (or if you prefer, 1789) is a successor to the KJV.

Second, I think that, in the past 400 years, if anyone deserves the credit for having worked within the KJV tradition, that would belong to The Voice Bible. Think about it:

  • high respect for the KJV translation process (see The Story of The Voice, Thomas Nelson)
  • similar use of poets, playwriters and songwriters (i.e. stylists) working alongside theologians
  • use of italics to represent short phrases added to the text to bring about clarity of meaning

Appeal to the popularity of the KJV

Three times the article refers to an ABS study that states that 34% of “church leaders” favor the KJV. Church leaders over age 60? Church leaders in rural churches in the deep south?

This also begs the question, if the KJV is that popular then what hope does anyone have in breaking into that market? Or to put it another way, if the KJV is adequately serving the needs of over a third of U.S. church leaders, for a 400-year-old publication, it’s doing really, really well. So why bother?

The enemy we face

Several times the article talked about the decline in morals, church attendance, etc., and the increase of skepticism. This is a common approach used mostly by televangelists. We identify a common enemy and then we stress the need to do something. If we can only get this particular Bible into the hands of the unsaved and unchurched, then we can reverse the trend toward agnosticism and atheism, right?

In a way, this is a form of checkbook evangelism. Social decay is all around us, therefore we need to print more Bibles. Wait; no, we need to print new Bibles. And maybe you personally don’t need this, but obviously you need to support what’s happening.

Recognition of the challenge faced in introducing the translation

The article stressed to booksellers that this isn’t a commodity that can simply be put on a shelf and expected to perform. It derided the “point and shoot” mentality that has taken over Bible departments, where if you want a particular version, you’re simply told, ‘Aisle three, left side, bottom shelf.’

The publishers are clearly looking for more engagement with customers on the part of the bookstore staff on the front lines. The industry term for this is hand-selling. It means basically, ‘This is going to take some extra effort on your part to get this product noticed and understood.’

But this comes at a time when stores face mammoth challenges to stay afloat. The trend is toward self-serve, and favors products which outline their purpose and features in the blurb on the back. Furthermore, I would argue that Charisma Media is asking retailers to do what every single book, Bible and music publisher would like to see. They all want their products to get more attention.

Show me the money

As you can expect, the article much hypes the MEV’s potential, but at the end of the day, I’m not sure much is gained. For example:

MEV passage comparison - John 3 16I really can’t judge the motivation of the creators of this project, but I do know it’s a matter of pride among Christian publishing conglomerates to have a Bible in their stable of products. Tyndale has the NLT, NavPress has The Message, Baker Books has God’s Word, Crossway has the ESV, Broadman has the HCSB, and HarperCollins Christian Publishing has the NIV, NKJV, NCV and The Voice.

I guess that’s what you do.

Now we wait to see if the marketing works out the way Strang/Charisma is hoping. Time will tell.

YourMusicZone.com Album Listings No Longer Being Updated

We use it ourselves for getting song title info and remembering to stay on top of new releases. But today, the absence of new titles at YourMusicZone.com caused us a bit of angst, as customers came seeking the new Thousand Foot Krutch CD and the album by Brian Doerksen’s new band, The Shiyr Poets. We  had a hunch that a few releases were missing, as the monthly listings seemed to be shrinking over the summer.

However, other parts of the site, such as the news page, continue to have fresh stories; furthermore the news page regularly exceeds similar Christian music news pages in the U.S.

The new release thing is frustrating though, as we share it with customers at least once a day. The benefits include identical pricing between the site and our store and opportunities to hear 30-second excerpts from a few songs.

The two CDs mentioned above are also missing at YourChurchZone.com

Categories: Uncategorized

Saturating the Market with Overstock is not Counterproductive

remainder book publishingSome Christian publishers’ products turn up on remainder websites and overstock lists more than others. Baker, Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, etc. all spring to mind with occasional appearances by Waterbrook, Broadman and FaithWords.

Other Christian publishers are conspicuous by their absence: David C. Cook, InterVarsity, Tyndale, NavPress, etc.

As a retailer I want to promote frontlist product, but at the same time, we live in price-sensitive times where anything that gives that bookstore an edge is helpful. So offer both an outlet store presence and a full-service bookstore presence in our community. The right blend is crucial. That’s been the key to survival.

The publishers who do offer us overstock have made a friend. Several friends actually, as customers discover new authors and book brands.

And — I can’t stress this enough — many of the overstock titles end up being reordered at full price as word-of-mouth promotion raises awareness.

To those publishers who are willing to toss out a few bestsellers as overstock, we thank you. To those who divert any overstock to other channels — especially one or two online vendors — raise this topic in the boardroom or at least consider bringing back the yellow-tag SuperSaver concept that was more popular a few years ago.

 

ESV-Only Movement Emerging

Important Editorial

The people who read the NLT, NIV or the NKJV may have their preferences, but they generally aren’t the type of people to tell you that their translation of choice is the only game in town. But increasingly, we’re seeing ESV readers of various ages and denominations being adamant, dogmatic and even militant about their choice. It’s easy to see an ESV-Only group emerging and emerging quickly, with most coming from Reformed or Calvinist Baptist backgrounds.

Action Bible ESVThat whatever market forces have compelled David C. Cook Publishing to release The Action Bible, a comic-book format Bible for children in an ESV format, available this January, is genuinely disturbing.

One of the joys of operating a children’s book department is that the story of Noah’s Ark is Noah’s Ark regardless of your particular doctrinal slant. We have Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness customers who aren’t too enthusiastic about the rest of our store, but will gladly embrace just about anything in our kids book section. I always tell customers that, “The distinctions really disappear as you browse these shelves.”

For Cook, obviously there is enough profit at stake to justify striking a new edition. But where does this end? How many of Christian publishing’s top titles now have the potential to be offered in ESV-friendly editions with all the references changed?

Retailers need not worry about this. Increasingly, Reformed and Baptist customers are buying through their own channels. In some markets, such as ours, they abandoned mainstream Christian retail a long time ago.

Are there circumstances under which I might stock the new edition in January? Yes, if there were repeat inquiries I might do this, but it would be at the sacrifice of inventory levels on the regular edition — the one that heretofore has been good enough for everyone else — so the publisher is going to be no further ahead.

 

 

Christian Authors Abandon Majors for Boutique Publishing

Over the past few months, we’ve noticed a trend whereby well-known authors who were once signed to major imprints are now releasing books independently with distribution provided by Ingram or Send the Light.  Here are a few examples:

  • David and Neta Jackson (the Yada Yada series) have utilized their Castle Rock Creative moniker for their new Windy City Neighbors series [Note: see comments for a clarification]
  • Robin Jones Gunn has released the Christy and Todd – The Married Years series under their own Robins Nest Publications
  • Francis Chan’s new book, releasing next week, You and Me Forever is listed exclusively with Send the Light, with Claire Love Publishing the designated imprint
  • John Bevere’s last two books on the Holy Spirit and on Marriage are exclusively with Messenger International, along with some curriculum by John and Lisa

The Francis Chan situation interests me as a blogger, because normally, I would review his books, but clearly there is no way of doing this short of trying to track down a contact.  This means social media on the title may be lacking, and many in his fan base may be unaware of the release.

Love Well is Refreshingly Honest

Love Well - Jamie GeorgeI’m only about 80 pages in, and so I don’t want to offer a full review, but I am thoroughly enjoying Love Well: Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck by Jamie George (David C. Cook). I had been sent an Advance Reader Copy of this book, but what got me pulling it out of the stacks was this interview on 100 Huntley Street that aired on Friday:

9781434707284 $14.99 US/$16.50 CDN

Dove Award Nominees

From the website Hear it First, a full rundown of the top songs, albums, performances, producers, etc. in a variety of categories including rock, Southern gospel, rap, pop, inspirational, bluegrass and country! Click here to read.

GMA-Dove_Logo-Color

2014 DOVE AWARDS NOMINEES

Song of the Year – Cat 1

“Fix My Eyes”for KING & COUNTRY, (writers) Seth Mosley, Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone (publishers) CentricSongs/2 Hour Songs/Warner Tamerlane/Kilns Music/Shankel Songs/WB Music Corp/Method To The Madness

“Hello My Name Is”Matthew West, (writer) Matthew West (publishers) Songs of Southside Independent Music Publishing/External Combustion Music/Songs for Delaney/Warner/Chappell Music, LLC

“Hurricane”Natalie Grant, (writers) Natalie Grant, Matt Bronleewe, Cindy Morgan (publisher) SeeSee Bubba Songs/Tunes Of R And T Direct/Razor & Tie Music Publishing, LLC/Sony/ATV Timber Publishing/Forest For The Trees Music/Checkpointchicky Music/Seems Like Music/Music Services

“I Can Trust Him”The Perrys, (writers) Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey, (publishers) PsalmSinger Music/DaySpring Music/Songs From The Inside

“Lord I Need You”Matt Maher, (writers) Christy Nockels, Daniel Carson, Jesse Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, Matt Maher, (publishers) sixsteps Music/Sweater Weather Music/Thankyou Music/Valley Of Songs Music/worshiptogether.com songs/EMI Christian Music Publishing

“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”Hillsong UNITED, (writers) Matt Crocker, Joel Houston, Salomon Ligthelm (publisher) Hillsong Music Publishing/EMICMGPublishing.com

“Overcomer”Mandisa, (writers) David Garcia, Christopher Stevens, Ben Glover (publishers) Ariose Music/9T One Songs/Meaux Mercy/LarryDavid Music/Capitol CMG Publishing/Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing/D Soul Music

“Revival”Karen Peck and New River, (writers) Kenna Turner West, Karen Peck Gooch, Don Poythress (publishers) Christian Taylor Music/ClearBox Rights/Integrity Worship Music/Eight Oaks Music/Karen Peck Music

“Say Amen”Brian Free & Assurance, (writers) Jason Cox, Michael Farren, Kenna Turner West, (publishers) Christian Taylor Music/Winding Way Music/ClearBox Rights/Farren Love and War Music/Wordspring Music

“That’s Why”Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, (writers) Ernie Haase, Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey, (publishers) Ernie Sig Sound Music/Hefton Hill Music/PsalmSinger Music/Universal Music-Brentwood Benson Songs

 

Artist of the Year – Cat 6

Casting Crowns, Beach Street Records/Reunion Records

Hillsong UNITED, Hillsong Music

Lecrae, Reach Records

Mandisa, Sparrow Records

NEEDTOBREATHE, Atlantic Records

Switchfoot, Atlantic Records

 

New Artist of the Year – Cat 7

1 Girl Nation, Reunion Records

Andy Mineo, Reach Records

Ellie Holcomb, Full Heart

Hillsong Young & Free, Hillsong Music/Sparrow Records

Love & The Outcome, Word Entertainment

 

Worship Song of the Year – Cat 19

“Future/Past”John Mark McMillan, (writer) John Mark McMillan, (publisher) Meaux Jeaux Music/Raucous Ruckus Publishing/CapitolCMGPublishing.com

“Lord I Need You”Matt Maher, (writers) Christy Nockels, Daniel Carson, Jesse Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, Matt Maher, (publishers) sixsteps Music/Sweater Weather Music/Thankyou Music/Valley Of Songs Music/worshiptogether.com songs/EMI Christian Music Publishing

“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”Hillsong UNITED, (writers) Matt Crocker, Joel Houston, Salomon Ligthelm (publisher) Hillsong Music Publishing/EMICMGPublishing.com

“Open Up The Heavens”Meredith Andrews/Vertical Church Band (writers) Meredith Andrews, Jason Ingram, Stu G., Andi Rozier, James MacDonald, (publishers) Word Music, LLC/Sony/ATV Timber Publishing/Open Hands Music/Stugio Music Publishing/Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing/HBC Worship Music/Sony/ATV

“The Only Name (Yours Will Be)”Big Daddy Weave, (writer) Benji Cowart, (publisher) Word Music, LLC/HowieCowie Publishing

 

Contemporary Christian Performance of the Year – Cat 3

“Fix My Eyes” - for KING & COUNTRY, Fervent/Curb, (producer) Seth Mosley

“Hurricane”Natalie Grant, Curb Records, (producer) Bernie Herms

“Lord I Need You”Matt Maher, Essential Records, (producer) Paul Moak

“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”Hillsong UNITED, Hillsong Music/Sparrow Records, (producer) Michael Guy Chislett

“Overcomer” – Mandisa, Sparrow Records, (producer) Christopher Stevens & David Garcia

There are 42 categories altogether. Information is also at the Dove Awards site.

Knowing Who Is Your True Competitor

Canadian suppliers in the Christian book trade, such as David C. Cook, Foundation, Augsburg and HarperCollins may feel competitive pressures when stores “buy around” sourcing product from U.S. suppliers who often process orders within the hour. However, the true competitor isn’t seen in that model.

Rather the competitive pressure comes from vendors selling direct to consumers who promise product in their hands and at their doorstep often within 24 hours. Distributors: If that’s what retail frontliners are facing, that’s what you are facing.

Now comes word that Barnes and Noble is experimenting with same day shipping in the U.S.

That’s the direction our industry is going, and for the independent retailers who read this blog, that’s the direction our Canadian suppliers at the very least need to be perceived as moving toward.

Categories: Uncategorized
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