Archive for June, 2009

The Cost of Distributing Christian Literature: China

For doing what most of us do every day, this Chinese Christian faces three years in prison.

Shi WeihanBEIJING, June 30 /Christian Newswire/ — ChinaAid calls on the international community to pray and act on behalf of imprisoned Christian house church leader Shi Weihan. On June 10 the Beijing Court found Shi Weihan, age 38, guilty of “illegal business operation” and sentenced him to three years in prison and 150,000 Yuan fine (about $22,000 USD) for printing and distributing Bibles at no cost.

Photo: Shi Weihan

Six others stood trial together with Shi Weihan, and also received criminal sentences for “illegal business operation.”  Tian Hongxia, who worked for Shi Weihan, was fined three years in prison and 150,000 yuan. The other five sentenced were Li Fengshan, Zhou Xin, Cheng Xiaojing, Lű Yuequan and Li Zong, all shareholders and employees of Xinshu Printing Company Ltd. of Beijing, the printing company which printed the Bibles and Christian books. Their sentences range from one to two years with fines from 60,000 yuan to 120,000 yuan.  ChinaAid recently received the Criminal Judgment from Haidian District People’s Court of Beijing Municipality for Shi Weihan and the other six who were sentenced. Click here to read.

ChinaAid president, Bob Fu stated, “Most of the books Shi Weihan published were Bibles and Christian books. He distributed them free of charge, because the Chinese government does not permit Bibles to be sold in public bookstores, and there is a great need for them. We call upon Christian book authors and those who placed orders for printing Bibles and Christian literature to speak out for Shi and his family.”

Shi Weihan’s wife Zhang Jing and their two daughters, 12-year-old Shi Jia and 8-year-old Shi En Mei, are under tremendous pressure from authorities. Shi’s wife has hired Christian lawyer Li Fangping to represent him and to appeal the verdict. The appeal process could take up to one year.

Contact the Chinese embassy and request that Shi Weihan and the other six sentenced be immediately released, and that government authorities allow Bibles and Christian literature to be printed and freely distributed in China.

In Canada:  Mr. Lan Lijun, Ambassador to Canada; Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China; 240 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2N5.  Tel: (416) 964 7260

In the United States: Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong; 3505 International Place, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008   Tel: (202) 495-2000
Fax: (202) 588-9760

ChinaAid grants permission to reproduce photos and/or information for non-fundraising purposes, with the provision that is credited. Please with questions or requests for further information.

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Gosselin Books: To Remove or Not To Remove?

In light of the announced pending divorce between Jon and Kate Gosselin,
If you are a staff member of a Christian retail store,

  • We have not carried books by this author(s)
  • We will remove stock from display and return to publisher
  • We will allow existing stock to run out, but will leave it on display
  • We will keep stock on display and reorder new stock as needed
  • We will enlarge the display area for this product because of all the publicity
  • If you’re not a retail staff member of a Christian bookstore

  • I don’t think it’s appropriate to keep selling the books under the circumstances
  • I think the stores should let their stock run out
  • I think the books’ content is still valid and stores shouldn’t overreact
  • I think the stores should cash in on the publicity and create a larger display

  • Cast your vote in the comments section.

    Categories: Uncategorized

    Analysis: Slower Sales Creates Vulnerabilities and Irregularities in Charts

    When I first saw the headline, I thought it was referring to this item (below), and thought I’d either forgotten to place an order, or that they had released it really early. Neither was the case.

    veggie tales

    Portable Sounds, an album that is backlist for TobyMac, has toppled the new Hillsong United CD on Soundscan.   Meanwhile, another older item, Veggie Tales’ Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson’s Hairbrush has done the same thing to the Fireproof movie.    (See the Christian Retailing report.)

    Normally we don’t comment on the chart positions for an individual week.   Why is this significant?

    Simply because the data isn’t strong enough.   There are so few units of anything selling that the chart itself becomes vulnerable to wild fluctuations.    Backlist shouldn’t be trumping frontlist like this.   The Veggie Tales DVD may be foreshadowing the new release; the first time Veggie Tales has done a ‘sequel,’ so to speak.   There may be some price incentive being offered through some distributors or in some areas.   But Soundscan tells us exactly what customers are actually purchasing.   I can’t come up with a similar reason for the TobyMac.

    Essentially, what you’re seeing is what happens when Gallup or Barna does a poll and they don’t ask enough people.   With weak data, the chart itself becomes meaningless.    It’s accurate, it just doesn’t communicate anything significant except to say that our frontlist — absolutely all of it — isn’t strong enough to maintain a top chart position.   That’s really sad.

    Pictured:  New Veggie Tales releases August 1st; the first sequel of sorts in the series’ history.

    Note to publishers: We’re covering a lot of music and video here. It’s not intentional. Book information and review copies are always welcomed.   Or is music simply a leading indicator of what’s really going on at the store level?

    The Best Form of Virtual Reality

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    Radio Listener Polls May Predict Music Demand

    Chances are your local Christian radio station has a “countdown” show where they play the top requested songs in various genres.   These listener voting results can give you insights into what music is up-and-coming, long before any other data is available.

    Here’s the data from central Ontario’s Life 100.   The station is based in Barrie and has three additional repeaters, giving it coverage of much of Canada’s most populated province.     Unlike other Christian radio stations that reach into our area, this station is more closely wedded to the music our store actually sells.   Another station that also impacts much of Ontario plays a mixture of things; we don’t what it is half the time, and no customers ever demand it anyway.     Life 100 is the kind of Christian station that Christian bookstores want to have in their backyard.

    life 100 Top

    Categories: Uncategorized

    Canadian Writing Award Winners

    word guild

    Here are some of the winners announced in Toronto on Wednesday night.   We’ve listed the ones pertinent to book sales, the awards also cover everything from magazine articles to song lyrics.   You can read the whole list of winners here. (Click on June 18 – List of Winners or to read the rest of this article, click on Newcomers and Veterans Top Word Guild 2009 Awards.)  This version is highly edited.

    Toronto – A novel set during the Roman Empire and a series of articles from the anthology Hot Apple Cider were the most awarded publications at The Word Guild Canadian Christian Writing Awards this year. Awards were given in 30 independently judged categories, including non-fiction books, novels, articles, columns and poems published during 2008.

    The novel Christianus Sum (Latin for “I am a Christian”) won awards in three categories – best suspense, romance and historical novel – for first-time author Shawn J. Pollett of Golden Valley, Ontario (near Parry Sound). He had already won free publishing in last year’s Word Alive Press manuscript competition.

    Two Toronto poverty activists were also multiple award winners. Tim Huff won for Bent Hope: A Street Journal (Castle Quay Books) and Greg Paul for The Twenty Piece Shuffle: Why the Poor and Rich Need Each Other (David C. Cook). Huff, a social activist who has worked for 20 years with homeless and marginalized youth and adults, won the general readership category and shared first place in the culture book category with Greg Paul. Paul, who founded the inner-city ministry Sanctuary, also won the Christian living book category.

    Three articles from the best-selling inspirational anthology Hot Apple Cider (That’s Life! Communications) were also winners. Two awards went to “The Diamond Ring” by N. J. Lindquist of Markham, Ontario (inspirational and general readership categories) and the third went to “It Was Then That I Carried You,” by Angelina Fast-Vlaar of St. Catharines, Ontario (personal experience category). Both authors have previously published several books and won writing awards in previous years.

    British Columbia is home for two multiple winners. Author and singer/songwriter Carolyn Arends of Surrey, B.C., who was shortlisted in five categories – the most of any writer this year – won two awards, in the category “Book – Life Stories” and for her columns in Christianity Today magazine. Her book is Wrestling with Angels: Adventures in Faith and Doubt (Harvest House Publishers).

    Donna Dawson of St. Marys, Ontario, author of the suspense thriller Vengeance (Word Alive Press) and a writing instructor at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario, won for best contemporary novel and best independently published fiction.

    The black-tie gala was hosted by Herbie Kuhn, popular speaker and in-house announcer for the Toronto Raptors basketball team.

    The Word Guild also sponsors Canada’s largest Christian writers’ conference, Write! Canada ( After the gala, 250 writers, editors, agents and publishers were set to meet in Guelph, Ontario, from June 18 to 20 for professional development, networking and marketing opportunities.

    Newsweek: Has Christian Media Come and Gone?

    newsweekNewsweek’s Lisa Miller suggests that the demise of some Christian media, like Today’s Christian Woman magazine, is signaling the end of an era. Here’s some snapshots:

    “Not 10 years ago, the conventional wisdom as reflected in much of the mass media held that evangelical Christians led completely separate lives from everyone else. They went to separate colleges, they married each other—and they shopped at Christian bookstores, where they could purchase books, records, magazines and tea napkins produced and distributed by Christian-owned companies. Only secular people shopped at Barnes & Noble. So separate were the two worlds that Christian bestsellers rarely showed up on the New York Times bestseller list—and when they did (as with Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s Left Behind books), the secular media treated the authors and consumers as oddities…

    “…Now, though, Christian and inspirational stories are widely available in secular places…”

    Canadian Don Pape, now living and working in the U.S. is quoted in the story:

    “Even more important, evangelical Christians are less willing to identify themselves as a coherent group embodying one set of values. As a result, it seems Christians are more willing to take their parenting and relationship advice from secular sources. ‘This next generation, they can read a marriage magazine or a parenting magazine and filter it through their Christian world view without saying, ‘I need Today’s Christian Marriage or Today’s Christian Woman’,’ says Don Pape, publisher of trade books for David C. Cook, a Christian publishing firm. ‘I can pick up a music magazine and I don’t need a writer to say, ‘You will like this because it’s a Christian artist.’ I can do that myself. I think that’s one of the issues.'”

    Read the whole story, originally published on June 4th, here.

    100 Huntley Street Saga Yields More Questions Than Answers

    In Canada, as in the U.S., the U.K., and other parts of the world, local Christian book shops are a hub for news and information relevant to our community.   Here, the emerging subject of concern involves the removal from Canada’s daily Christian television program of the two hosts whose family name has been synonymous with the program for 32 years*; as well as suggestions that the reason is their involvement in a Ponzi scheme which may involve as much as $14.1 USD.

    If the Christian bookstore in your area is like mine, there have been people asking questions as well as people who are genuinely afraid to ask questions about the departure of Ron Mainse and Reynold Mainse from the daily 100 Huntley Street broadcasts.


    I know what its like to be afraid to touch the issue.   I became aware of what was happening a little over two weeks ago and the following Saturday, June 5th, with much fear and trembling, decided to post an allegory to the story on my personal blog.   In light of what we now know the story is about, you’ll find the story here.

    What I didn’t know is that the next day, the writer of the blog Bene Diction Blogs On (BDBO) posted a fuller disclosure of the story, complete with many secondary sources beyond the main source at our disposal, a May 21st story in the Hamilton Spectator.    I’ll get back to BDBO in a minute.    The Spectator is owned by The Toronto Star, but they didn’t run with the story, possibly for reasons suggested in my allegorical version of events.

    By last Wednesday, June 10th, I kept wondering why the media was so silent on this story.   I couldn’t think of a reason why Crossroads wouldn’t want to get this information out, and get it over with.    I didn’t want to be a voice in the wilderness on this, and I kept thinking maybe someone else knew a good reason not to publish.   I contacted the editor of Christian Week (who didn’t respond), FaithToday (who was looking into it) and the regional Christian Herald (who was very much on top of the story, but only publishes monthly.)

    After having already slept on it, I hit the publish button, expecting the world to end, but my blog continued to generate more traffic from references to Robert Schuller and the Vietnam War.    You can read my June 10th post here.

    A few days later, I learned that the voice of BDBO had posted the story at a blog called Religious Right Alert on June 6th.   It was nice to finally have some company, or more accurately, to rest easy realizing I wasn’t first with this after all.   That article is a good place to go next.   The tone of that story still paints the Mainse brothers as victims, though over the next week, the tide of opinion would start to turn.   (The Spectator story suggests this at the outset, but it’s easy to discount their source.)

    Bene Diction — as he’s known in the blog world — actually had the story on his own blog the day before.    Since then, that blog has been tireless in its pursuit of the story, to the point that, rather than list the posts individually — with more to come — you would be better served to read all of the information at BDBO, which is an exhaustive look into an area of investment (and crime) that most of us will never experience.   As in so many other areas of endeavour, it’s hard to keep information suppressed now that the blogosphere exists!  BDBO contains full transcripts of statements issued by Crossroads Christian Communications, as well as some that have been removed from their website in more recent days.

    The latest newcomer to the discussion — beyond the many comments posted at BDBO — has been The Miracle Channel.    The sense that I get is that anytime one of the ministry organizations buying time on their satellite channel is involved in something newsworthy, good or bad, they post this information as a public service to their viewers.   You can read their post from Friday, June 12th, here which also contains links back to the posts at BDBO.


    I’ve gone into great detail here about the evolving story, but haven’t actually spelled out the story itself.   Because everything is so sketchy, and so much is not known, I thought it would be better for you to read everything for yourself, so that when someone comes into your store and wants to engage a discussion on this — and they will — your answers are based on the best information currently available.   It may take 15-20 minutes to read it all, but I’m sure at the end, you’ll find it easy to draw some clear conclusions.   Right now, you won’t find much else anywhere online.

    Whether we like it or not, as Christ-followers we are still human and subject to the same celebrity curiosity that drives our non-Christian friends.   There are also a number of spinoff discussions coming out of this as well; one of the vital ones concerning how it is possible that discerning church leaders, surrounded by constant prayer, could be so greatly deceived.  Then there is the question of whether we should protect our leaders from media scrutiny or criticism or engage complete transparency from day one.

    For most of us in Canada, more traffic in our bookstores is currently generated by book and music exposure on 100 Huntley Street than any other media, including past influencers like James Robison, the Hour of Power, Benny Hinn and The 700 Club.    So what happens at 100 Huntley Street matters.   James Cantelon and Moira Brown are doing an excellent version of holding the show together, and hopefully, as viewers are enriched spiritually, donor revenue will not be affected by the present situation.

    Pictured (top) – The Crossroads building in Burlington, ON; also home to the CTS Television network.

    Pictured (lower) – Reynold Mainse, his wife Kathy Mainse, Moira Brown, Anne Mainse, her husband Ronald Mainse.    When founder David Mainse retired, he appointed Ronald (the younger of the two brothers) to be President of Crossroads Christian Communications, and his older brother Reynold to be director of world missions.   David and Norma Jean also have two daughters.   Elaine is married to Bruce Stacey whose animation company creates the God Rocks videos.   Ellen is married to Nazir Shaheen (spelling corrections welcomed) and live in the middle east.

    *32 years as of today, as it turns out!

    My Book With Donald Miller

    donald miller book

    It’s one thing to sell books, but it’s a whole other thing when you’re the writer of a book.  Check out the picture!    Notice my name as coauthor? You’re impressed, right? Wait ’til my family sees this.   They used a larger typeface for my name than I thought they would!

    How would you like to be the coauthor of Donald Miller’s new book.  Well you can.   Sort of.   Fresh off a blog and Facebook promotion for Andy Andrews’ The Noticer, Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson is at it again, and it’s not even April Fools Day.   You not only get to pretend to be Miller’s coauthor, but you get a webpage with your name on the introduction and your comments on what it was like to work with Donald.   You then blog it or e-mail it to your friends.  Great grassroots, low-cost marketing.

    You can read my page here.   Join the prank at Hyatt’s blog, here.   C’mon, you know you want to.

    New Release Tuesday

    New Release TuesdayHe’s one of my best and most informed music customers, and he’s also a youth pastor; so what he enjoys has the potential to be recommended to many others.   So I was a little surprised that he wasn’t aware of and told him to go online, sign up for the e-newsletter,  and note the new Tuesday releases appearing in the right sidebar of each weekly e-mail.

    In the weeks that followed, he kept asking me for things he said he was seeing on the site that I just wasn’t seeing on my computer, nor could I get them from CMC/Cook.   It turned out he had only heard about half of what I said, and had landed on a U.S. site, New Release Tuesday.

    This is a good site to know about, especially for music buyers, as there are always releases in the U.S. that aren’t part of the CMC/Cook family.

    They also have a page devoted to new book releases, which is excellent as far as it goes, but seems to only feature fiction releases.

    *U.S. Readers:  Check out YourMusicZone, linked above to see an excellent resource for Canadian consumers and stores.

    Hendrickson Moves Canadian Distribution to Cook

    Effective July 1st,  David C. Cook officially becomes the Canadian distributor for Hendrickson Publishers.   Their product lines include various commentaries and parallel Bibles.     Previously, their product was capably represented by Augsburg-Fortress Canada who will be selling off remaining stock while quantities last.

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    Christianity Today Music Survey

    Christianity Today Poll
    Do you buy Christian music?
    Yes, fairly regularly

    Yes, but generally just a track or two at a time

    Yes, but less than I used to because of the economic pinch

    Yes, but less than I used to because of the music.

    Yes, I’m buying more than I used to.

    Maybe, but I’m not sure what “Christian music” is any more.

    No, I don’t buy Christian music.


    Total Votes: 933

    Categories: Uncategorized

    Christian Music in Recession: A Full Report

    Christian Music Today Banner

    The boom of the 1990s might have actually done the music industry some harm. Once upon a time, artists—particularly in Christian music—never expected to make a living. They were in it with a passion for art and service. When some started to succeed, many saw Christian music as an opportunity to make money. A new economic expectation emerged, and the art and the passion were often diluted.  [EMI-CMG's John]Thompson thus sees a silver lining to the cloud of recession. “The lack of monetary benefit has filtered out some of the people who should not have been doing this in the first place,” he says. “If the people who are in it for the money are gone, it leaves more turf for those who had something a little bit loftier in mind.”

    That’s just one of the many insights in this exhaustive, five page report, published by a division of Christianity Today.    The report touches on five major areas:  Artists, Touring and Festivals, Record Sales, Record Labels and Radio; and then discusses ministry implications.

    New TunesdayOn record sales, the report says:

    Record sales are crumbling, even though music consumption is up 30 percent since 2004.  But album sales—the physical product, like CDs—are “about half of what they were 10 years ago,” says the GMA’s [John] Styll. “That is a function of people stealing music.” But it’s more than that.  Copying CDs is a major issue, along with the ubiquity of music on the Internet, through satellite TV and radio, and on portable devices. “It’s like All-You-Can-Eat music,” says Styll.  “People today don’t feel the need to own music.”

    On the bright side, Christian music is doing slightly better than the music industry overall, with a current sales pace 5 percent behind last year compared to an 11 percent lag in the mainstream.

    “Flat is the new up,” says Bill Nielsen, VP for merchandising at Lifeway, noting the phrase used to describe sales of recorded music.  “We hear this from nearly every key partner.

    When it comes to ministry,  Matthew West offers this:

    Recording artist West says many musicians are choosing not to tour during the recession, when that’s just what many listeners might need the most.

    “It’s the opposite of what needs to be happening,” he says.  “We need to be out there.” West did a 30-city fall tour to smaller crowds than usual, “but we feel like God had us there for a reason.  You’re on the road and thinking, How are we going to pay for this? But people are losing their jobs, they’re in the audience, and they need encouragement.”

    To read the full report, click here.

    How are things in your store?   Do you agree that the sky is falling, or is your music department holding its own against the tough economy?

    The Trials of Retail: A Rant in Four Acts

    Warning:  The following may contain elements of rant.

    She came in the store with a roll of coins and proceeded to start unrolling it.   “Stop!” I said, just in time.   Most people pay electronically; we’re a small store; it would take us a week to go through that amount of coin.   Besides, we have a notice up to this effect, suggesting people take their coins to the bank, or a large volume retailer like a grocery store or convenience store.    And — truth be told — this woman is the very reason we have the sign up.    It’s not the first time.

    Then there was the woman who came in with several small kids.   I asked her how she was doing.   “I’m really, really, sick;” she replied, before appropriately asking me where the health section was.    She was my third customer with a raspy cough, and true to form, these customers always leave without purchasing anything.    I think that they feel it’s a form of evangelism; only instead of spreading the good news, they’re spreading the bad germs.

    Then the supplier I have owed money to since mid-March called from the U.S. to verify my credit card details.    I’ve been trying to reach them since early last week when the Canadian dollar started to soar again.    Instead, I discovered they shut down their entire operations for ten days to go to Book Expo America.    Anyway, they said the transaction won’t go through until tomorrow.   I turned on the news on the way home and discovered the Canadian dollar lost almost two cents today.   Figures.

    And you don’t even want to know about my frustration today with Hal Leonard Publishing.   It turns out they have two product lines which sell items with identical titles.   One line is called “E-Z Play” and the other is called “Easy Play.”   Seriously.   They are completely different products. If you ever get offered a chance to sell something called Christian Children’s Songbook by them, just pass.    It’s not worth it.  Because there’s also a third item in that series.    Oh… and each item has FOUR numbers, the ISBN is different from the EAN, which is different from the UPC, which is different from the 7-digit Hal Leonard number.    (Which is different from the CMC number, assuming you get as far as verifying the actual identity of the product the customer wants.)

    I wonder what my wife would say if someday I told her I stopped at a bar on the way home?    I could pay for my drink with small coins and cough all over nearby patrons.

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    The Other Side of the Industry: Trying to Get a Book Published

    Because I have a manuscript on a topic that remains pertinent to issues facing some Christians, I am the object of much e-mail solicitation from self-publishers, print-on-demand publishers and others of that ilk.

    However, because I know how the industry works from the retail side, I’m looking for a publisher who will (a) see that the book is listed in CBD, as a matter of Christian credibility, and (b) see that the book is listed in Ingram and STL at a regular trade discount. I’m simply assuming the Amazon factor will take care of itself.

    Here’s what I’ve found.   These publishers are not interested in answering questions at all.   They know how to send bulk e-mail, but don’t have a clue how to respond to individual queries.   Their desire is that writers will simply upload their material and not become customer-service-intensive (CSI).   They find answering a simple request in terms of the details in the previous paragraph impossible.   And the fact that I have an illustrator who will supply the cover art, but want them to develop the final film for the cover just totally confounds their system, which is based on neat and simple packages. The very idea of it may already be crashing their computers!

    The real name that should be given to this genre is “cookie-cutter publishing.”

    Categories: Uncategorized

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