Dollar Starts the Week Stable

The Canadian dollar started the week where it left off on Friday. Though slowly losing value against its U.S. counterpart over the past several months, exchange rates are relatively stable.

The graph below shows the cost of purchasing U.S. dollars. Today’s close was 1.1284 .

image 1020

Categories: Uncategorized

Ottawa’s Salem Storehouse to Close in Early 2015

Salem Storehouse

In a 12-minute interview with CHRI-FM’s Brock Tozer, Doug and Linda Sprunt remember the early days 33 years ago, and then explain the reasons why Ottawa’s only Protestant Christian bookstore will be shutting down after Christmas.

Click here to listen.


Categories: Uncategorized

The Rise and Fall of Christian Influencers

This was written to appear tomorrow at Thinking Out Loud; I thought that those of you who deal with the work of Christian authors would enjoy reading it first.

image 1017


I started immersing myself in the Christian blogosphere at least a year before beginning to write my own, so I’m guessing it’s been at least nine years now. During that time I have unfortunately been made aware of the different tribes that exist among my fellow believers, and the degree to which tribal convictions isolate us from each other. While I enjoy the exchange of ideas that can pleasantly take place among those of divergent views, I have also seen firsthand the dismissive attitude that plagues attempts at conversation between people of differing doctrinal positions.

Despite this, there has been another feature of my personal ‘Christian internet story arc’ that involves people of all stripes, and that is the world of Christian publishing. Regardless of rapture views, Bible translation preferences, opinions on predestination, or positions on a variety of gender issues, popularity online usually precedes a book deal.

I have the luxury now of sometimes receiving books unsolicited, but most of the review books I get are things I have specifically requested. For that reason, my library is filled with authors who, at the time, I had enjoyed reading online and wanted to be in a position to promote their published works to others. Always, the books fulfilled expectations since the writing in question was already a known commodity.

Often it is the case that an author’s first book is the best. It says all the things they have most wanted to say. It is often birthed in the heart of the writer before any deal has been signed and there is any sense of deadline. At minimum, the author is offered a two-book deal, and while some authors just keep getting better and better with each new release, with others, the second book now imposes a commitment that must be met, a homework assignment that must be completed.

At the same time, the author is now devoting more of their attention to the book writing and dealing with the enhanced profile that has come with having a title in print. So the blog writing, the thing that brought them to the attention of publishers, often begins to suffer.

In other cases, to paraphrase Andy Warhol, their fifteen months of fame run out, and the attention has turned to newer voices. If they are pastors, their church growth possibly plateaus, if they are musicians, their new album doesn’t generate the same sales.

As a teenager I had one particular nerdy hobby: I would compose my own music charts. Working from the charts of other radio stations with a bias toward the music my friends and I liked, I sat the keyboard weekly and compiled my own Top 40 that was seen by a very select few each week and stored in a number of 3-ring binders. There was no direct benefit to me or anyone else, though I must say that I was faithful to it, just as now I try to be faithful to the blog on a daily basis.

I quickly learned the dynamics of charts. As the “last week” position was typed next to the “this week” ranking, it was obvious that some songs were still gaining traction while others were starting to wane. This of course, was in the days before SoundScan where titles now enter the chart at #1 and then begin a slow descent.

Today, I don’t bother trying to track book sales with the same diligence, though I do compile a chart for the Christian retail store I am involved with at least twice a year. But it is clear that there are always rising stars and falling stars both in micro terms of individual titles and the macro career of certain authors.

As I type this, we’ve watched another development take place in the plummeting of a particular pastor’s influence and credibility. While it saddens many as it should, there are others waiting in the wings to take his place.  Whether you get 15 months of attention, or only Warhol’s 15 minutes, the celebrity hunger in all of us keeps us scanning the horizon for the next big thing.

In Psalm 75 we’re told it is God who doles out promotion, honor, exaltation, lifting up. I don’t know why certain church plants go from zero to ten thousand in two years while others never receive the attention that results from significant metrics. I don’t know why great books languish on the shelves and end up in the remainder bins while others seem to crack the bestseller lists effortlessly.

I also know that within me is a desire to jump on the bandwagon only because sometimes that seems consistent with the idea of coming alongside where the Holy Spirit is moving. But is that always the case, or does human effort dictate what becomes Christian celebrity?

In show business there is saying that “The people you meet on the way up are the people you meet on the way down.” (The original suggests kindness to those people you meet, because of the eventual re-acquaintance.) It’s exciting to watch stars rise, it is sometimes painful to watch them fall. Both are taking place all the time, and sometimes there is a comeback or a second career.

The current chart status of a Christian celebrity is in no way a measure of their spiritual life, but their changing relative influence is part of watching an endlessly shifting landscape.

Mark Driscoll Resigns

Mark Driscoll - Not many of you should be teachers

From Huffington Post to Christianity Today, the story of Mark Driscoll’s resignation as pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle was becoming fairly common knowledge by Wednesday afternoon.  Religion News Service (RNS) reported:

Mark Driscoll, the larger-than-life megachurch pastor who has been accused of plagiarism, bullying and an unhealthy ego that alienated his most devoted followers, resigned from his Seattle church Tuesday (Oct. 14), according to a document obtained by RNS.

..continue reading here..

Elsewhere on their site, RNS included the full text of the resignation letter:

By God’s grace I have pastored Mars Hill Church for 18 years. Today, also by God’s grace, and with the full support of my wife Grace, I resign my position as a pastor and elder of Mars Hill. I do so with profound sadness, but also with complete peace…

…I readily acknowledge I am an imperfect messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many things I have confessed and repented of, privately and publicly, as you are well aware. Specifically, I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit…

…Prior to and during this process there have been no charges of criminal activity, immorality or heresy, any of which could clearly be grounds for disqualification from pastoral ministry. Other issues, such as aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context, and I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission to lead people to a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ…

read the full text here

For Christian retailers, the story began with charges of plagiarism earlier in the year, but this led to a host of other allegations concerning the management of the Seattle multi-site churches. For many years a leading voice among the “Young, Restless and Reformed” movement, Driscoll had books published with Tyndale, Crossway, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson.

Categories: Uncategorized

Time for a Re-Think

October 14, 2014 4 comments

The situation I described here on Friday concerning Christmas catalogues in my own store opened up a much larger can of worms. The original blog post was only the first three lines. Then the other paragraphs were added to fill out the rest of the story.

Now, we’ve decided to review every single part of every department and decide what it is we want to be doing as a business. If I were to guess, this is where it’s heading after Christmas:

  • Greeting cards will be a thing of the past. At $1.00 for a single stamp, people aren’t sending cards, and younger generation customers never did. (We do have the option of going with a dollar-card format, and might do that, though we have to pick up the inventory in the U.S. at present.)
  • We will continue with music for at least another six months only because we have so much hidden inventory tied up in loyalty coupons. (By this I do not mean coupons on product, but coupons that have already been redeemed while we really don’t have anything we need because those shelves are overflowing.) (To work, we would actually need to reconcile coupons on a weekly basis; a store simply can’t afford to be out of things while waiting for a quarterly redemption.)
  • Books will move to a situation where eventually, every new release title will be a special order. Our store is filled with things which simply did not fulfill expectations and our order book is crammed with things people actually want, but things it would be unwise to carry in inventory. We’d like to stop ‘tithing’ to the publishing industry and instead give to our local church, like normal people.
  • Giftware purchasing will end, except for Abbey Press. I don’t know what their secret sauce or magic formula is, but their product moves.
  • Some individual departments will disappear. We’re already selling health books at 40% off.  We had a 30% off month in our biography section earlier this year; though I hate to get rid of all those great stories.
  • We’re done with flyers, catalogues and supplier promotions.  

On the other hand, we see growth in our remainder and overstock book and DVD market. We simply never have any problems of any consequence with the nearly ten suppliers (almost all American) we use in that genre.


Categories: Uncategorized

Lee Strobel’s Case for Grace

Categories: Uncategorized


October 10, 2014 1 comment

If any store doing the Christmas Joy catalogue is interested in an extra 500 unimprinted catalogues, please let me know as our staff are debating dropping the catalogue in view of the price changes.   

This is one of the ridiculous situations that emerges when Canada’s book prices are indexed to the U.S. dollar. Decades ago, literary agents (i.e. lawyers) forced this situation where Canada is a extension of the U.S. book market.

However, Canada is distinct where they choose not to give us U.S. SuperSaver items, while at the same time allowing us to have the foreign ITPE editions of key bestsellers, which to this writer, represents an admission that we are indeed a foreign market. 

Still, the production of an advertising flyer or catalogue creates an implied contract to provide the items to the dealer at the specified price. I think that would stand up in court. No judge would accept, “The U.S. dollar changed by one cent since we printed the catalogue and we can’t absorb the difference.” 

And why do the dealers take the hit? Should not the U.S. publishers be propping up the distributor in light of the benefit of being in the catalogue in the first place?

Furthermore, my order didn’t get placed until after the price change, but before the extra 1% discount was granted. And what’s with that? They upped the prices by 5% but only changed the discount by 1%.

When our staff finalizes a decision on Tuesday morning, I’ll be pushing for tossing the catalogues into recycling.


How to Choose A Bible for Your Child

Although this is a promotion for a website that doesn’t really translate well for the Canadian market,, I would still consider using this Zonderkidz video on my store’s Facebook page or website.

Categories: Uncategorized

Why Publishing in Africa and China Matters to You

Post 1600If your store sells magazines, you might want to check out two adjacent articles in the October issue of Christianity Today.

On page 24, an article titled Why Your Bible Was Made in China deals with the curiosity that while three quarters of Bibles manufactured in the country are for export, the good book in Chinese is a restricted commodity. Chances are that many of the Bibles on the shelves in your store were made by Amity Printing Company:

Choosing a printer comes down to “quality and competitive price,” said Tim Bensen, a buyer at Tyndale House Publishers. “We print all over the world,” he said. “Amity does good work.”

Printing Bibles is more difficult than printing other types of books, and requires a certain amount of expertise, he said.

Randy Bishop, director of Bible production at HarperCollins Christian Publishing, agrees. “Bibles have more steps in the production process,” he said. “However, the main feature that makes a Bible unique is thin paper. It takes a special expertise to print, fold, gather, and bind Bible paper.”

Along with providing skilled employment at above-market salaries, Amity maintains government standards in work practices and uses environmentally friendly materials, said Thorne. And the UBS share of Amity profits is used to subsidize Bible distribution in rural China, where Scripture is harder to obtain.

continue reading the whole article here

On page 22, a study of reading habits in three African countries reveals Africans Don’t Read African Christians.

The lack of prominent indigenous authors was also evidenced by the library holdings of five major Christian higher education institutions in Kenya, where only one African Christian (John Mbiti) ranked among the top 15 authors with the largest presence on the shelves. Kenyan Christian bookstores had a significantly different top 15, but only one African author (Dag Heward-Mills) cracked their lists.

That article is not online, but cites examples from bestseller lists in Angola and Kenya (where John Maxwell, Rick Warren and Joyce Meyer are mentioned) and Central African Republic (where Billy Graham is #4).

Are things any different in Canada? American authors totally dominate our bestseller lists, and despite historical affinity to the UK, the only British authors who chart well here are ones which have achieved recognition or are marketed through American publishers. The article concludes with the following paragraph, and I wonder if what it says is true for Canada as well:

African Christians are still teaching and learning from other African Christians, says Francis Omondi, canon of All Saints Cathedral in Kampala, Uganda. “[But] most of the reflections, experiences and learning over the years are not captured or documented,” he said. “Therefore relevant and contextual knowledge is not being retained in the community.”

This is post # 1,600 at Christian Book Shop Talk. Thank you for your support.

Five Principles of Inventory Management

A literary agent finds herself immersed in the pages of Christian Retailing magazine and looks at an article on “How to Plan Profitable Product Assortments for Your Store;” and then spins it for her book-author readers. Well, we’d like to spin it back to you, Christian bookstore managers, owners and staff:

1. Managing inventory is a live or die proposition.

2. Get rid of nonproductive stock as soon as you can.

3. The best sale a retailer can make is a special order.

4. Replenish core items often.

5. Seasonal items are cleared out long before the “season” is over.

Click the title to read the whole article: Think Like a Bookstore Retailer

(I have to add that I disagree with number five: “[S]top replenishing four weeks before the season ends.” Our community shops at the last minute, and we have to either satisfy that demand or risk losing them forever.)

HT: @TUnderwood

The Good News Cinema Style

Movie Titles Creed

Mike Morgan – For Heaven’s Sake (click image to link)

Categories: Uncategorized

Names You Should Know

Outreach Magazine is out with its latest list of the 100 Fastest Growing Churches in the U.S. and the 100 Largest Churches in the U.S. You can download a free 23-page .pdf copy of their latest data at this webpage, and learn how you can order the full magazine in single copies or in bulk.

Meanwhile, of interest here is this: Where church growth happens often book deals follow. Sometimes a publisher knows they can break even just with sales in the writer’s home church.

Some of these names will be new to you, and some will be familiar. Either way, these are names you should be aware of. Download the full report to get the church names, locations, website links and other stats. These are for fastest growing churches (in order in groups of 25). We’ll also did one for the largest churches at Thinking Out Loud.

Lead Pastors of 100 Fastest Growing Churches


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41 other followers