Who’s Got What: A Breakdown of the CBA Top 50 List

CBA Top 50 August 2016Just for fun, we thought we’d see how the current month’s Top 50 Book List from the Christian Bookseller’s Association in the United States breaks down by Canadian distributors. Hey, you have your hobbies, I have mine, and mine is being a bookstore nerd. Here’s what we came up with:

HarperCollins Canada   23
David C. Cook Canada  11
Foundation Distributing  8
Word Alive  4
Other* 4

*Titles which may also be available through Word Alive, or Ingram (Spring Arbor) or other sources.  Click the image to choose from one of ten different bestseller charts, we used the books-only list.

Note: 6 of the HarperCollins listings were different editions of Jesus Calling, so you could argue their true total is 18. (In our own store chart, we only give each title a single ranking.)


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Let’s Face It: Some Display Fixtures Don’t Work in Some Stores

I’m not sure if I would begin cleaning this up, or simply toss the whole thing in the dumpster and start over!

Card Display Fail


Birthday from CatI also have to admit, we don’t have the caption at right in our store. But alas, I didn’t get to see the card that went with this because… well, the reasons are obvious.






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Bethany House Re-Launches Intercessory Prayer

August 25, 2016 1 comment

Intercessory PrayerWhen I am given books to read, unless it is a proven author, I often wonder how the title will fare in the marketplace. Will it sell? So it was a bit unusual to offered a review copy of something with a cover that reads, “Over 600,000 sold.” With all the Regal Books titles which ended up at Baker, why the promotional push for this one in particular?

Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets is a book our store has always sold but I had never taken the opportunity to crack the pages. Its arrival in my mail this time is because of a re-launch of the title, acquired from Regal Books, by Bethany House, a division of Baker Books. I was a little unclear as to the reason for this. Although the cover changed, the price did not, and in comparing the two versions, the book seems to be entirely the same other than page number variance because of differences in typesetting. Nowhere do we find the words “Revised Edition” or “Updated Edition.” I won’t complain; I wanted to read this!

Dutch Sheets is a rather remarkable individual whose unusual and many times miraculous adventures in prayer are most inspiring. In many ways, the language and tenor of this book make it a very charismatic-friendly title, so similar to other such books I read early in my Christian life. But we’ve always stocked this in the prayer section, not the charismatic section. You could do both.

The book is strangely cessationist-friendly at the same time, which may account for its sales over the years. Sheets makes it clear that he believes in praying in tongues, but says he will refer throughout the balance of the book to praying in the Spirit. That terminology may still ring of Pentecostalism for many, but it represents an attempt to reach a broader audience and he does something similar toward the end of the book as well.

The book is really half testimonies and half teaching, and the Hebrew and Greek roots of familiar Bible passages are examined. Sheets says that a meeting takes place in prayer as we stand before God on behalf of situations or others in need of God’s intervention. Some of the exhaustive catalog of scripture verses won’t be looked seen in the same way after reading this.

Perhaps in moments of desperate or anxious prayer, we all become a little more Pentecostal; trying to see the hand of God move in the situation which presents itself. We want a miracle. Could it be that there are no cessationists in fox holes?

First published in 1996, this book has endured two decades and is a contemporary classic and a must-stock item in our stores.

If you think you've seen this title before, you have!

Copies of the older edition and older study guide are still available.

The full title is Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth. (Bethany House, 304 page paperback, $14.99 US/$18.49 CDN.) Discussion/reflection questions follow each chapter and there is a short leader’s guide at the back of the book. Also sold separately is a study guide which has also been recently repackaged. A repackaged eight-session DVD is releasing in a few days, with each segment containing 30 minutes of teaching. Finally, a youth edition is also available.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc



And Then We Were Eight

Happy Birthday

Christian Book Shop Talk

Today, Christian Book Shop Talk celebrates its eight birthday and enters into its ninth year of serving Christian bookstore owners, managers and staff; Christian publishers; Christian authors; and all from a uniquely Canadian perspective.

We thank those of you who faithfully read each day, and those who send comments, either on or, in most cases, off the blog; especially those of you who tip us off about stories or details we missed.

I especially thank those in the industry who share insider stuff with me, even though each information tidbit is followed by, “…but you can’t print that on the blog.” Sigh!

As we head again into our busiest season, we wish all of you God’s wisdom and blessing in your stores, and pray that all of us will be sensitive to the ministry opportunities which literally come through the doors each day.

Paul Wilkinson

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Christianity Shelves at Chapters Still Unfiltered

August 23, 2016 1 comment

Chapters Ottawa

This time it was the downtown Ottawa Chapters we visited, just steps away from the Parliament Buildings. It was there we snapped the picture above. Deepak Chopra in Christianity? It wasn’t the only such oddity. I can’t imagine being a shopper in that store and not having the information I possess. A person truly could end up reading just about anything. I pray that God gives the seekers in that aisle an unusual measure of discernment.

It’s also interesting how shoppers (or it could be staff) do some editing of the displays. As shoppers walk into the store, the first thing they’re supposed to see is a Donald Trump title, but someone had turned all the copies to face backwards. So much for that planogram.  Over the years, we’ve had staff members who have deliberately downplayed certain titles because they didn’t agree with them, or had misunderstandings as to what the product was about or why we had stocked it. One time I repeated came in to find copies of the same item behind the counter for no specific reason. If you find yourself readjusting the same title over and over again, look for frequent customers as a possible agent of cause, or a staff member with a doctrinal axe to grind. 

But back to our headline: Chapters desperately needs someone who doesn’t work for the Christian publisher’s distributors, who can step in and help them come up with a better categorization of their products. They need that person soon.





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Store in Former Salem Location in Ottawa Staying Until Christmas

Last week we had an opportunity to visit Inspirational Value Centre, the store which Foundation placed in the former location of Salem Storehouse in Ottawa. In addition to books distributed by the company — albeit it nowhere near an exhaustive stocking of the entire catalogue — there was product from David C. Cook, HarperCollins and Book Depot. We took a few pictures for you…

View from the front desk looking at the video display.

View from the front desk looking at the video display. In the background are the upper and lower levels.

Because the Salem fixtures were sold off, displays were constructed from scratch for the pop-up store.

Because the Salem fixtures were sold off, displays were constructed from scratch for the pop-up, now semi-permanent store.

This is not a full-service bookstore, but features key products in mass displays

This is not a full-service bookstore, but features key products in mass displays. The CD and DVD selection is quite limited.

The upstairs section features books and Bibles but is dominated by fiction titles at 7.99

The upstairs section features books and Bibles but is dominated by fiction titles at 7.99

In the background is another card display similar to the one in the foreground. The picture is a bit blurry, guess I was shaking because I'd never seen so many cards in a single retail store!

In the background is another card display similar to the one in the foreground. The picture is a bit blurry; guess I was shaking because I’d never seen so much boxed card inventory in a single retail store!

I had another picture of the store as seen as you walk in but it didn’t work out. The store is a backsplit, the lower level is now all Children’s products, which I didn’t photograph. As stated in the video caption, for serious book buyers the inventory is extremely limited. With few other options, the Chapters locations in the National Capital Region currently fill the gap. Because it’s not a full service outlet and everything is mostly cash-and-carry, the wholesale division doesn’t benefit from the customer feedback you get in a normal retail environment, as Scripture Press did when it owned the chain of EP Bookshops in Toronto, in terms of the type of content customers are seeking. For me, that type of data would be a major win for a wholesale distributor. (Clarification: The store is now accepting custom orders; see the comments section.)

Generally however, given the constraints of the history and uncertainty as to long-term sustainability, I think this concept works, but I don’t know the sales numbers or the overhead costs. At what point have you exhausted customer interest in a limited number of SKUs? The front facings on shelves are very much the antithesis of my own store, which is all about having depth of material on various subjects.

I’ll be the first to admit the balance is probably found somewhere in the middle.



Everything at STL is now 90%

Everything at STL is now 90% off. Keep in mind that shipping costs to Canada as a percentage will seem rather high. There are still good quantities of key titles. A great chance to put together your own sale, perhaps?

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Music Coupons Identify Older Inventory

Cook Loyalty CouponOne thing is certain, inventory containing Buy-5-Get-1-Free Loyalty Coupons from David C. Cook are at least 18 months old, the program having expired at the end of April, 2015.

We decided to play this to advantage this month, and have another plan in mind for that product for September. In the meantime, here’s what we came up with:

Backlist Music Clearance

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Giving Customers Added Value

I think this book title was poorly chosen. I wonder how many copies simply disappeared? In our store, we do have free books, and always like to include something extra in the bag when customers are leaving.

I think this book title was poorly chosen. I wonder how many copies simply disappeared? In our store, we do have free books, and always like to include something extra in the bag when customers are leaving.

We like to think the added value we give our customers lies in our care and concern as well as our product knowledge. Sometimes it’s nice to also put something extra in their bag.

After adding the receipt and the printout from the POS machine, they reach for their parcel only to be interrupted by me saying, “And our free gift to you today is…”

That gets their attention.

The free gift isn’t necessarily from us, but from the many ministry organizations we’ve partnered with who provide us with materials that not only can enrich their lives, but make them aware of what the organization does. Over the past few years this has included:

  1. In Touch Ministries (Charles Stanley) — These guys are great to work with and customers don’t mind binge reading devotionals from previous months, knowing the stature of the author in question.
  2. Our Daily Bread — They publish smaller supplemental booklets which our customers appreciate. There’s usually several over the course of a year. Right now it’s a little booklet by Luis Palau.
  3. The Gideons — We’re careful giving their Biblezines, as they are costly to produce and we don’t want to be witnessing to the already converted. But with the right customers, we know the Light Biblezine is the right choice.
  4. Faith Today Magazine — In our early days we did several giveaways of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s magazine, and decided this year to see if we could return to doing this. They sometimes have overstock of a print run, and have been really helpful.
  5. Canadian Bible Society — We automatically include a copy of the Where to Look in the Bible tract with each Bible purchase, but sometimes in conversation I will feel led to give this to other customers as well. We also use the little How Our Bible Came to Us booklet for customers who have an interest in various Bible translations.

Sometimes we will refer people to the organizations in question if they wish to defray costs. With Our Daily Bread, people hand us a dollar or two every now and then, and I’ll go online a few times a year and make a donation equal to or greater than the small donations we collect.

We also purchase blowout books from time to time that cost only 25, 50 or 75 cents and give these out to customers who make a significant purchase or regular price items. Some of these are actually fairly good books in fairly good condition. Customers appreciate the gesture and sometimes return and ask if they might purchase additional copies.

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Your Wholesale Purchases Make Christian Book Shop Talk Possible

Today we have some offers that small stores can take advantage of. Because shipping costs as a percentage of remainder book prices are higher, these are of greater interest to stores in Ontario. We can possibly arrange for a drop-off in East Toronto if you have a location in mind. Allow us several days for these or pick-ups in Cobourg. These are sold as pre-packs, but “do not include” requests will be considered. Great for stores wanting to bolster their remainder section and curated from about eight remainder sources, but not FDI or Books 4 Eternity, though a couple of FDI publishers are represented in a couple of the packs. Product is AS IS, may contain remainder marks and removable price tags. If the condition of any title is in doubt we’ll toss in a couple of extra books.

PACKAGE “A” — Older paperback fiction – 50 units – one per title. 2.90 per unit.

PACKAGE “B” — Older paperback fiction – 100 units – one per title on 80, 2 each of 10 titles.  2.80 per unit.

PACKAGE “C” — Better, more recent paperback fiction – 50 units – one per title.  3.90 per unit.

PACKAGE “D” — Better, more recent paperback fiction – 100 units – one per title on 84, 2 ea of 8. 3.80 per unit.

PACKAGE “E” —  Blowout paperback non-fiction – 50 units – one per title, on 40 2 each of 5. 1.99 per unit

PACKAGE “F” —  More recent paperback remainder non-fiction – 50 units – one per title on 38, 2 each of 6, 2.80 per unit

PACKAGE “G” —  Marriage and Family remainder paperbacks – 50 units — one per title on 40, 2 each of 5, 3.45 per unit

PACKAGE “H” — Older paperback non-fiction – 100 units — one per title on 80, 2 each of 10, 1.97 per unit.

PACKAGE “J” — Southern Gospel CDs — 50 units — mostly 2004 to 2014 — 1 or 2 per title, many name artists — 5.90 per unit (cap price, adjusted for lower list prices).

PACKAGE “K” — Kids and young adult fiction — 50 units — mostly 2003 to 2013 — 2.90 per unit.

We will wait 7 days from when this is announced to the time we assemble packages to maximize value to our customers.

Wholesale only to Canadian Christian bookstores.

Reply to Searchlight [at] nexicom.net



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Things to Do This Week: Give Staff Raises

For the past 18 months, my wife has been working for a retail franchise owner about whom it is said, “She doesn’t give raises.” Needless to say, my wife has given her notice, and leaves mid-September. There’s only so much of that a person can take.

Wage costs consist of the actual hourly rate you’re paying staff, plus the additional payroll burden aka employer’s share of deductions, plus any workplace insurance premiums based on staff wages. A small increase — like one of our employees who got five cents at another job — says, ‘I thought about raises, and decided this was enough.’ In that case, perhaps better to do nothing at all.

On the other hand, you’re probably spending money on other things. When my wife saw a $500 invoice for a piece of stockroom equipment which wasn’t needed, she realized the magnitude of the inequity. While you may find that objectionable, chances are that employees see other expenditures as gratuitous (examples might include an advertising expense, or new lighting) when wage increases are slow in coming.

At our store — for which, ironically, she is the bookkeeper — we try to give a 1% increase every 6th paycheque; in other words every 12 weeks. (This year, for the first time we’ve had some hiccups.) That means a 4.3% increase over the year, which is better than some union settlements. We also start employees above minimum wage. When our province announces a new rate, we basically ignore it, because we’ve already got a small cushion between their rate and what we pay. (We are required by law to post the rate sheet anyway, pending a minimum $500 fine for not doing so.)

Another good policy to have is a yearly review. This allows both employee and employer to get things said, out in the open, and then wage rates can be adjusted thereafter.

So… how long has it been since your staff got a raise? A desire to have employee retention demands that you consider this. Every day that staff members build their product knowledge base, and have increased history with regular customers means their value to you and your store increases.


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God’s Not Dead 2 Releases Today on DVD and DVD/Blu-Ray Combo

God's Not Dead 2 BillboardReleasing today on DVD, this is, by my count, the third movie in a highly successful franchise for Pure Flix Entertainment, if you count the first God’s Not Dead from 2014 and then 2015’s Do You Believe? Like Snakes on a Plane, the film’s intention is clear from the outset; you know what you’re expecting.

With Do You Believe? I remarked at the time that there were more characters, more plot lines to follow and a lot more on-screen action compared with GND1 . With God’s Not Dead 2, there is less activity. This is a more cerebral film providing food for thought for the skeptic as well as the already converted. In some respects, I felt this 2016 movie was more ‘preaching to the choir,’ though I’ll grant that its potential to impact the unbeliever is still present.

With the two previous films, I observed that one of the major wins was the ability to transcend Christian clichés and awkward screen moments. This time around, I decided that a certain number of each may be inevitable if one is going to portray authentic Christians doing Christian things.

There were also what some might consider gratuitous appearances by two Christian apologists, J. Warner Wallace and Lee Strobel, but their presence was essential to a major plot point, though it’s unclear how the lawyer in the courtroom scene in which they appear was able to snag them. (Gary Habermas and Rice Broocks also appear.)

Melissa Joan Hart realistically plays the central character in the movie, a teacher under threat of losing not only her job, but everything else in a punitive action hoping to curb the presence of Christianity in the classroom once and for all. Her crime isn’t so much quoting what Matthew attributes to Jesus as it is doing so from memory, with conviction and being able to cite chapter and verse.

Jesse Metcalfe is cast as her somewhat inexperienced atheist lawyer who might not get the whole Jesus thing, but understands clearly the issues the case raises.

Hayley Orrantia of The Goldbergs TV series is student who is the supposed victim in the legal case in which her parents are the plaintiffs. Other cast members include Pat Boone, and Duck Dynasty‘s Sadie Robertson. And yes, The Newsboys are back.

Boone also gets this line early in the film, “That’s the thing about atheism, it doesn’t take away the pain, it just takes away the hope.” Another key line is in the graphic above, a billboard which — in a real life imitates the film moment — was refused space at the Republican National Convention last month as being “too political and way too incendiary.”

Having fewer plot lines and characters to track than Do You Believe? made this more enjoyable, but with this third film in three years, I do wonder if the genre is being overworked. On the other hand, fiction is a great vehicle for apologetics — including some of my favorite books — and so I was fully engaged as the movie developed.

Note: If you’re watching the DVD, be sure to continue through the closing credits for what is either an interesting sequel-begging scene, or a nod to the composers who end their pieces with an unresolved chord.

Movie has been provided courtesy of Sony Home Entertainment Canada and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

I received a screening link, features on the full DVD include:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Man, Myth, Messiah with Rice Broocks
  • Between Heaven and Hollywood with David A.R. White
  • Visual Effects of God’s Not Dead 2
  • Filming in Arkansas
  • First Liberty
  • Trailers
  • English and Spanish Audio
  • English and Spanish Subtitles




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