More Social Media Graphics for Your Store

Toronto Star Graphic

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Christian Music’s Legacy Continues

I type this with mixed feelings. I’m watching the K-LOVE Fan Awards 2021, which took place in Nashville and was broadcast by TBN on Friday night. Christian music is still a force to be reckoned with, both CCM and modern worship; but stores like ours are no longer part of the equation.

Downloads, streaming services, and other elements of our modern technology have cut brick-and-mortar retailers out of the process. Even as I’m watching, there is an advertisement for Glorify, a mobile app providing music and written content; and the more content people obtain through alternative means, the less dependent they are on traditional outlets, such as Christian bookstores.

As someone who was involved in the promotion of Christian music as early as 1975, I’m happy for the artists. Spiritually speaking, I am a product of what is now called CCM.  No regrets. But the days of going to the Christian “record store” are behind us, and that is something we’re unlikely to see return. We have to focus on our original core products, books and Bibles.

If you’ve got the time, enjoy the awards show, embedded below. Once it starts, double-click the YouTube logo to watch it there and bookmark it if you end up watching it in pieces, after all it’s two hours long. You’ll see some familiar artists and some which are new to you.



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What curbside pickup people are picking up

I think that our present situation penalizes people who don’t have a general awareness of available products and prefer to discover items through browsing. I posted this to our Facebook page last week and on our newsletter this morning. Did I miss anything?

When we speak of people doing curbside pickups for orders, some of you may ask, “What are these people ordering, and how do they know to order it?”
■ It was recommended by a friend [Readers: Be that friend!]
■ They read a previous book by that author
■ They heard it mentioned on a Christian television program
■ It was recommended by their pastor or church leadership
■ They asked our staff to recommend something specific
■ They listen to Christian podcasts
■ They noticed a favourite author/speaker often refers to that writer.
■ It is required reading for the book club or online course
■ It was in a previous store newsletter or Facebook post
■ They checked out reviews on book recommendation sites like Good Reads for a book on that particular subject.
■ They previously owned the book and want to purchase a replacement or a copy to give to a friend
■ It was written by someone whose music we sell on CD and DVD
■ They follow specific authors and ministries on Facebook…

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New Graphics for Social Media

Here are some graphics for your Facebook, Twitter, store email newsletter or non-BookManager website. I don’t use Insta so I don’t know about the proportions there.

There are a lot this time. Don’t try to read this on a phone. Use your tablet, laptop or PC.

This has been a much talked about hardcover release, especially among pastors, and the paperback is just days away. Penguin Random House, Parasource, Ingram and Word Alive all have it.

We did this one ourselves, and you could do these in under 60 seconds. Copy and paste the cover into your graphics program. Tell it you want a “tiled” image and go with 3 x 1. Convert the whole thing to grayscale. Then manually select the area of the middle book and hit paste one more time. Instant graphic. 60 seconds, guaranteed. This title has already released from Harper.

It’s not mine and I’m not a huge fan of this graphic. The copy underneath the header was getting lost so I enlarged it a bit, and also enlarged the book image and the author name. Oh well, it gets the word out. Order from Harper. It’s now been more than two years since we were promised by Harper that they would start producing “assets” like this stores could use online.

This is an item of ‘teaser’ artwork you can do with what you will. You could run a contest and ask people who they think the author will be! For the record, it’s from Beverly Lewis’ The Beginning, not releasing until September. Pre-order from Parasource for best terms.

I couldn’t remember if I shared this one previously. Apparently I had to blank out something at the last minute from the original graphic. By the way, graphics promoting this title are ubiquitous. If you don’t like this one, there’s dozens of others. Harper.

I liked this one because there was a story behind it. Skye was unpacking his box and seeing the finished version of the book for the first time! Parasource.

This is the young author who is also going to be replacing John Mark Comer at Bridgetown Church over the next few weeks. He’s been the #1 sermon download at our house for the past few weeks, and that’s saying something because he tends to run long. The book is from Zondervan and focuses on the Apostle Thomas. What was it they called him? Oh, right! Look for Tyler Staton from HarperCollins.

This one is still months away. I really wish it wasn’t such an expensive hardcover. That will not fare well in the Canadian market. Still, I want to read this as it contains biographical information not contained in his earlier writings. Penguin Random House, I think.

This author always does well. The graphic image was theirs, not mine. I think the summer thing is nice but overshadows the book cover a bit too much. Order from Word Alive.

We used this one before Mother’s Day, but this type of thing works anytime. So often we emphasize book covers, and people see names but not people. Try to get the pictures you use to be about the same size and proportions. My wife added the captioning, and then we argued about the typeface for five minutes.

I suppose the people doing graphic art for Hachette Book Group know more about selling books to women than I do, but I really hate the colour in this one. Interesting that Joyce’s picture no longer appears on the cover. I could do a whole article on that — and in fact I did — but it does bring the North American editions into greater conformity with her foreign editions. Word Alive.

I just threw this one in. You don’t stock it. You can’t buy it. As we learned in 2019 with Bible index tabs, some of the coolest graphic art happens in the indie market. Christian giftware suppliers are too big and too conservative to take chances. There’s one more of these as well from the same source. You’ll have to read my Twitter to track it down. Just look for the word mugs because the picture isn’t there.


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Bookstore Services a Variety of Toronto’s Ethnicity and Linguistic Groups

Several years ago, we did a story on Toronto’s Tyrannus Books. I know that for sure because I was able to find the picture we ran with the piece, but it seems to have vanished off the WordPress server.

We also thought the store had vanished, but last month a trained eye caught that they had simply moved across the road. They’re now at 67 Doncaster Road, a street running east from Yonge Street about a km north of Steeles Avenue, which is the Toronto border. So technically, they’re in Thornhill.

A cursory glance might cause the untrained to think the store is a “Chinese Christian bookstore” and those certainly abound in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area. But Tyrannus — their full name is Tyrannus International Family Books — actually serves some of the other Asian language groups with books and Bibles, but with an emphasis on Korean language titles. When I visited about four years ago, their stock of English titles was minimal.

It’s great to know that stores like this exist, stocking resources that remaining Christian bookstores would never know existed, let alone be able to access.

Oh…about that name: No, not prehistoric animals, but rather a reference to Tyrannus Hall where the Apostle Paul spoke.

If you ever felt the stores in your neighbourhood were a distraction, the woman in the bikini is promoting a laser clinic.

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Of the Writing of Book Review Requests, There is No End

To be fair, that’s out of 30,535 emails, and some of them were read on another device.

The number of emails in my in-box is increasing.

I’m not sure if it’s because of Christian Book Shop Talk, or because of Thinking Out Loud, but the volume of mail asking me to promote books is noticeably increasing.

Most if not all are self-published titles. I think it’s ironic that these authors are begging me to mention them, while on the other side of my email app, I’m begging major publishers to let me review their books, with a promise of a trifecta consisting of a trade mention here, a review at Thinking Out Loud, and a chapter excerpt at Christianity 201.

They aren’t interested.

In the meantime, I’m left with a collection of indie authors who, while they may be sincere and doctrinally orthodox, haven’t been vetted by a process that includes acquisition editors, proposal meetings, first draft editing, final editing and more. And decent graphic art. So much I could say about the last one. Yes you can judge a book by its cover.

Much of this mail includes a link to the book’s page on Amazon. I don’t know about you, but I think that sending an Amazon link to a trade bookstore is insulting and triggering. There. I said it.

If I have the time and inclination to pursue that, I always look very carefully to see if there is an ISBN embedded in the URL of the page. Often, there is a just a B-number and that means the book doesn’t have an ISBN and any other searching is going to prove futile. It can also mean the book isn’t in print at all, but they’re asking me to promote an e-book. To an audience of trade bookstore owners. Go figure.

Then I apply the ISBN to Ingram or BookManager to see if there is any trade distribution. Often the books have no availability to the trade bookstores. At that point, it’s game over as far as I’m concerned.

If the book is part of Ingram Publisher Services or Baker and Taylor’s equivalent (which often are listed at Parasource) I then check three things.

First, Is there a decent trade discount? Books which are 10% or NET are never going to get stocked in inventory in our stores. Shelf space is too precious. Orders, maybe. On a NET price item, maybe not. 20% or 30%, possibly.

A 25% discount at Ingram is an interesting case. It often means that the book has been published by an Amazon subsidiary. For some reason, a lot of their titles land at 25%. Do I want to support them indirectly? I take these on a case-by-case basis.

Second, I check the BISAC cateorgy or Ingram category or Dewey category. Is this even a Christian book? You’d be surprised at the requests I get — and now we’re including customer special-order requests — for books listed as new age or parapsychology with no reference to Christianity at all. Unless it’s for a pastor or seminary student doing research, this item isn’t going to find its way to my shelves.

Third, assuming discounts and categories work, I check the page count. It’s amazing how many books are doing well up to this point and then fail the content test. Generally I’m not legalistic about this, but I consider 10-cents US per page to be reasonable. $19.99 US for 106 pages means the book is overpriced. Or $14.99 US for 72 pages. It’s too high, and we haven’t even done the conversion to Canadian dollars. This particular check is often the reason why the discount is generous. Conversely, some books with shorter discounts offer a good volume of reading and assuming the US list price is not printed on the back, will sustain a higher-than-normal markup for a special order.

In terms of my email however, there is often a sixth sense that comes into play. Call it discernment. The book checks all the boxes, but I still have red flags in my head. A look into the online life and other works by the author often supplies clues that this isn’t a book I want our store to be associated with.

Having said all that, for some of you it’s a different process that involves customer reviews. For something you’re considering in inventory, that’s a good thing to research if you have time.

Another good question to ask is, What other Christian retailers are carrying this product? I have some go-to websites for this including Parable or ChristianBook in the US and Koorong and Eden Books overseas, especially if it’s a writer from outside North America whose books have impacted in far away places. North American Christianity can get really myopic.

Finally, I know there are some people who are thinking, ‘Don’t open the emails.’ Yes, the cream rises to the top, but only in a fair distribution system. Finding a hidden gem or two that will really work in your market gives you a competitive edge against anyone else your customer buys books from, but you need to follow up your decision to inventory the book with mentions on your store Facebook page, your store newsletter, and your store blog. Differentiating a genuine ‘find’ such as these titles is harder to do on BookManager where every book gets the same treatment, and that’s why I recommend having a store blog and using a newsletter and social media to especially create some buzz for a unique title.


Today’s title with apologies to Solomon in Eccl. 12:12

In Mainstream Domestic Stores, Home-Grown Authors Score Well

Each weekend I check out the Books section of the Toronto Star and being a chart-oriented guy, I always check out the four top ten lists. Two of the lists show fiction and two show non-fiction. Two show just Canadian authors, while two show sales ranking overall.

This weekend, checking out the non-fiction titles, I noted:

  • The #1 Canadian title is also the #1 overall
  • The #2 Canadian title is #3
  • The #3 Canadian title is #4
  • The #4 Canadian title is #7
  • The #5 Canadian title is #9

In other words, Canadian authors are holding their popularity quite well when ranked against those from the U.S. and other countries. (In fiction, it’s not quite the same since there were several big-name authors on the overall fiction chart; the #1 Canadian title was #6 overall.)

This got me wondering about Canadian authors in the Christian market. How are they performing? On the ECPA chart of the top 25 non-fiction titles, I didn’t see any Canadian names jumping out at me, but remember, The Toronto Star charts were concerned with how they’re doing here not there. Do we have a strong mechanism for tracking Christian author sales in Canada?

Some of my best Canadian title sales are for local authors. I’m guessing that’s true in your stores as well. If I had to rank the remaining ones, I think that, based on a 12-month performance, my list would look like this:

  1. Bruxy Cavey
  2. Mark Buchanan
  3. Mark Clark

That’s as far as I got. There just isn’t enough data to support a longer list that’s meaningful in my market.

There are some serious runners-up though which, while they didn’t do well in the last 12 months, have been repeatedly asked for in previous years: Ann Voskamp, Greg Paul, and Tim Challies. Plus, I’ve only recently introduced my customers to Darrell Johnson’s books and I’m waiting for awareness to kick in here for the newest by Sheila Wray Gregoire.

But it’s an uphill climb.

We do have a number of Canadian authors in our industry who are signed to U.S. publishers, and we’ve highlighted a number of the fiction writers here. And we do have a strong academic market with Regent College and the formation of a collaboration between Tyndale Seminary and the Canadian Bible Society.

However, it doesn’t compare to what I was seeing in my weekend Star book section. We could possibly go a lot further to develop more Canadian writing talent in the Christian market.

Here’s my store’s Canadian author list, in no particular order.

Could Competition Spark a Return to “Book Rate” Shipping?

Back in the day, during my two terms at InterVarsity Press Canada, we could ship one or two books via Canada Post for just 47-cents. Larger packages were a proportional bargain. But then, the government ended book rate, which changed the inbound costs stores incurred and the outbound costs if a store wanted to ship to a customer and they were willing to register for “Book Rate.”

But shipping in Canada to consumers wasn’t a big deal. Christian bookstores were ubiquitous and there wasn’t a driving need for delivery when a Christian store was usually within a short drive.

I eventually registered to use the rate for my own business, but there wasn’t the demand for shipping.

Fast forward to 2020. Stores in lockdown areas couldn’t open to the public. The number of stores was fewer. And then yes, there was that behemoth online vendor which starts with the letter “A” that was crushing the existence of small bookstores, including specialty retailers such as Christian bookstores.

In an April 23rd report in the Globe and Mail, a suggestion that it might be time — and it might be necessary — to bring back “Book Rate” in one form or another.

Independent bookstores across Canada would like to see federal funding help with their major shipping costs so they can compete with larger online retailers.

[Last month’s] federal budget included $39.3-million to support the Canadian book industry, and more than $32-million of that will go specifically to help bookstores increase online sales. The Department of Finance has yet to specify what form that funding will take, or how it will be allocated. Though the federal investment was welcomed by bookstores, many of the independents want to insure the money will go where it’s most needed…

The article interviewed retailers and added that,

…Books can be heavy to ship, but subsidizing that cost isn’t a new idea. Canada Post offers discounted rates to ship library materials, and More Canada, an organization of Canadian publishers, released a report this January calling for a reduced rate for Canadian stores…

But the article points out that any “cultural subsidy” could possibly be brought in under the banner of promoting Canadian authors, which is distinct from the idea of saving the stores themselves, stores which help make it possible for those Canadian authors — often not so high in the rankings of online vendors — to survive.

In the Christian market, we do have a significant number of Canadian authors, though a hefty percentage of the ones we actually carry in inventory and see noticeable sales turnover from are signed with American publishing companies.

Continue reading the full article at The Globe and Mail.


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HarperCollins Includes Curriculum Video Streaming with Participant Guides

The most interesting aspect of a move by HarperCollins Christian Publishing to bring what was called “Groupware” (a term they didn’t mention) under new branding combining both Zondervan and Thomas Nelson products was actually buried in the 5th paragraph of yesterday’s (4/27) press release.

In a nod to the continuing demise of physical DVDs, newly-published participant guides (another term not mentioned) will include direct video access:

With many new print study guides, purchasers will receive access to video streaming on any device, reducing the dependency on group leaders who generally purchase the video content and share it with study group members. This approach will begin with new titles including I Am Restored Video and Study Guide by Lecrae (July 2021), Nothing to Prove Video and Study Guide by Jennie Allen (July 2021), and Spiritual Warfare Is Real Video and Study Guide by Jim Cymbala (July 2021). 

This is unfortunate for dealers. Although HCCP Groupware videos had the lowest DVD pricing for any adult curriculum, it was offered to stores at full margin and thus contributed to retailers’ bottom line. Now, there is one less sale, and it’s one step closer to eliminating the retailer altogether if they start offering packages with online (eBook) participant guides and video access in the future. I’m wary of any trends which are bypassing the brick and mortar stores, no matter how forward thinking they appear.

The new entity is called Harper Collins Christian Resources. The company announcement also included the possibility of bringing material from other publishers into the newly created brand:

Creating resources based off of book content published by Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, as well as other Christian trade book publishers, HarperChristian Resources will publish video Bible studies, Bible study guides, small group study guides, ministry programs, and church campaigns in both print and digital formats. HarperChristian Resources will also acquire original projects from leading Bible teachers.

The company stated that the purpose of the move was:

…in order to streamline and strengthen HarperCollins Christian Publishing’s position in the Bible study market among ministries and churches.  




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Cross Country Publishing Merger Ends Up Meeting in the Middle

It was, geographically speaking, the most extreme merger in Christian publishing. Rose Publishing, maker of charts and pamphlets and teaching videos and anchored deep in the heart of Southern California was purchased by Hendrickson Publishing whose home base is New England. The distance was (and is) over 3,000 miles.

Now, four years later, the combined Henrickson Publishing Group is being acquired by Tyndale, who are located in the Chicago suburbs. It’s as though they’re meeting in the middle, so to speak.

A press release from the EPCA news site Rush to Press stated that, “The Hendrickson Publishing Group, including its Rose Publishing imprints, will continue to operate autonomously from their current locations but will work under a united mission with Tyndale…”

Regular readers here will note that each of the three companies has a flavour all their own. Hendrickson’s forté has been its academic division and acquisition and revival of classic titles which might be otherwise out of print. Rose is known for its multi-media approach to Christian education and being a progressive leader in introducing books using visual teaching including photos and infographics. Tyndale’s mainstay has been its fiction and NLT product lines.

The Hendrickson family is also the force behind

In 2013, Tyndale also took over the manufacturing, warehousing, marketing, sales, and fulfillment for NavPress, but that company remains a separate entity.

In Canada, Tyndale is represented by Word Alive only, but Hendrickson and Rose have been longtime vendors to Parasource. We haven’t heard if Canadian distribution will be impacted.

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Greeting Cards in Your Future?

I don’t know if I posted this picture here before or not, but today I found it in my files and decided to share it with our store Facebook page.

We live in rapidly changing times. Wedding cards like these have never been offered to us, but Dayspring (the Christian card company) is now owned by Hallmark (these are Hallmark cards) so who’s to say what’s in the future. As Christians, we have to find the most Jesus-like responses to things our parents never dealt with.

To that end, if you feel like commenting on this, before you type, bear in mind that even in our small town, and even among our customers, are people who might not see this the same as you, and craft your response accordingly if you feel you need to at all. My point here is just to remind us how we’re living in a time of accelerated social change, which compels us to live out the teachings of Christ in a way that would honour Him.

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Stores May Purchase Beth Moore Studies at Trade Discount

When is a book not a book?

When it’s “undated curriculum,” a brilliant invention of LifeWay many years ago which allowed it to sell things like the Experiencing God workbook, and the various Beth Moore “member books” to stores at a “short” (i.e. less than normal trade) discount off the MSRP, long after development costs had been fully covered.

Good news!

Those days appear to be over. Having left LifeWay, Beth Moore’s latest, a study on Galatians, titled Now That Faith Has Come is being published by her own Living Proof Ministries and the good news is that stores can order the workbooks through Word Alive at a fair, trade discount.

Participating churches and groups can download the video resources they require. (The workbooks are listed at Word Alive as being distributed through Tyndale House.)

ISBN: 9781735890906 | $26.99 CDN | Oversize paperback | 7 weeks | 240 pages | Book website

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