Two Titles for People Who Wouldn’t Normally Read a Christian Book

Because of the popularity of Thinking Out Loud, I often receive books for which I’m not able to do a full review. Today I want to mention two of them, both of which would be suitable for giving away to someone outside your faith circle, as they’re both not preachy and just the right ticket to get conversations started. Both have brightly colored covers. Both have nine chapters. But both are somewhat peripheral to the Christian Living section of the bookstore.

They are however both aimed at vastly different audiences.

Life's Too Short - David DarkLife’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious by David Dark (IVP)

Some chapters grabbed me right away, so I again committed the sin of reading things out of order. David Dark would maintain that everybody — no exceptions — has a religion of some type. The book is a series of essays relating to entertainment, literature, and popular culture in general and how these intersect with belief and faith. (I passed the Doctor Who-inspired chapter on to my wife to read, and we discussed the two episodes cited, which she has seen, but I have not.)

Dark is a professor — one of his courses is “Religion and Science Fiction” — at Belmont University. He meets his topic with wit and humor and yet enough substance to satisfy any student of philosophy or religion, or the skeptic who questions the place of faith in the modern world. This is also great reading for people who are into next generation writers. Hardcover, 199 pages, releasing now.

Hands Free Life - Rachel Macy StaffordHands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better and Loving More by Rachel Macy Stafford (Zondervan)

Rachel Stafford is a mom to two girls and the author of the highly successful 2014 book Hands Free Mama and the blog of the same name popular with women. (Hands free means not holding on to the wrong things.) In this second book, she continues her style which is a mix of parenting stories told with transparency and self-help principles taught with conviction.

The sub-themes (3 chapters each) are Creating Lasting Connections, Living for Today, and Protecting What Matters. Each of the nine chapters also has three principles, and then ends with a “Habit Builder” to help moms live a life of significance. File this one in family, parenting and women’s interest. Paperback, 224 pages, released September 2015.

Click the book images to learn more about each title.


Top 40 Bestsellers at Searchlight

The last time I posted one of these, we had insufficient significant numbers for a top 40 chart and ran a top 30 instead. This time around we had enough unique active titles. This is what’s selling in my store; what selling in yours? Do you do a chart?

Searchlight Chart Spring 2016

Price Match Policy Contains Some Risks

This week we’ve had to honour an internet price-match guarantee in ways we did not anticipate. Normally, we price match to CBD, but sometimes they send an Amazon or Chapters link to us. There’s always some margin to do this though, right?

Not this time. The product was LifeWay which is a short discount item. I know there’s a sliding scale, and because you sell children’s Sunday School curriculum, many of you get about 24-28% discount on your dated and undated curriculum. But as a small store, in a small market, we get the basic 20%, and that’s before factoring in shipping costs. (Fortunately, this one shipped with a larger order than we usually are able to place, bringing the freight costs down from what’s normally 4-6%.)

On a good day, the A-zon price is higher than the Canadian list, but not this time. Perhaps A-zon hasn’t caught up to the many dollar exchange-rate price increases at David C. Cook Canada which include, with great irony, product from David C. Cook U.S. In any event, their price was a relative bargain to our customer. We had to take a beating on this one; so tight was the margin that we had to make sure the customer was going to pay cash or debit; a credit card would have wiped out remaining margin.

Once again, Beth Moore is off my Christmas card list. Not her fault? In that case she has a terrible literary agent, or is just a pushover, or has no heart for the actual ministry of the people who retail her products. First LifeWay gave us the term, undated curriculum which was an insult to booksellers everywhere. But then, they refused to return any of the product to regular discount after recovering curriculum development costs. To this day, the Experiencing God Workbook is still a short-discount.

At least with choral music, you may lose on the performance track or the orchestration, but you get to sell the choir books. With LifeWay there’s no such bonus, and may I add, absolutely no incentive for dealers to recommend this product. None at all. (A few years back, I sent a Canadian LifeWay rep back to her car with all the conference flyers she thought I would distribute.)

So as a result, most Canadian dealers don’t think of actually carrying any of this product in inventory, and as for me and my store, we continue to order the rock bottom, bare minimum amount of Broadman & Holman product.


Bethany House February 2016

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Amazon to Open as Many as 400 Bookstores

Amazon Seattle StoreA major owner of shopping mall properties is at the source of the story that Amazon is making a major move into physical retail space. Fast Company reports:

Amazon, the online retailer that killed off so many independent bookshops, is getting ready to launch its own brick-and-mortar book chain. According to the Wall Street Journal, the CEO of a major mall operator, General Growth Properties, revealed on Tuesday that Amazon intends to launch hundreds of bookstores…

…”We’ve applied 20 years of online bookselling experience to build a store that integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping,” Amazon Books VP Jennifer Cast said at the time [of the first store opening]. “The books in our store are selected based on customer ratings, pre-orders, sales, popularity on Goodreads, and our curators’ assessments…”

CNBC continues the story:

In November, Amazon opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Seattle. Described as a “physical extension of,” Amazon Books offers titles that have been chosen based on the e-commerce site’s own customer ratings and sales.

Amazon has promised that literature sold at Amazon Books will not differ in price from its online price tag.

Amazon reported a huge miss on fourth-quarter earnings last week. The online retail giant reported EPS of $1 per share versus a Thomson Reuters consensus estimate of $1.56 per share.

Update: A New York Times article downplays — but doesn’t actually deny — the scope of Amazon’s expansion.

…But the company’s plans for physical stores are modest, this person [who spoke on the condition of anonymity] said, especially in comparison with reports of an expansion suggested by an unusual source, the chief of a large shopping mall operator…

…A spokesman for Amazon declined to comment…

We covered the opening of the first store in an article in November 2015


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Why eBook Sales Stats are Absolutely Meaningless

This quote from a November article in The Book Insider says what I have been saying all along about eBook sales:

“I now have more books than I can read in a lifetime,” said Suzie Miller of Auburn, WA. She said she has downloaded more than 350 free eBooks using the service.

Downloaded? Yes.

Actually read? No.

Furthermore the article is all about $1.99 “finds” online. People are buying cheap books, reading only a chapter or two at best, or perhaps nothing at all, and these count as “sales.” (And what possible royalties are authors seeing at that price?)

The word-of-mouth factor fails entirely here. We know that a satisfied reader will tell five friends about a book they like of which four of the friends generally read in print.

However, the entire process breaks down if the reader doesn’t actually finish — or even start — the book.

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Christian Stores on Losing End of Latest MWS Album

MWS Cracker Barrell HymnsOnce again, an album that Christian stores might have been able to use to help stay afloat has been released as a custom premium sales item, restricted to a single retailer. In this case, the artist is Michael W. Smith and the vendor is the chain of Cracker Barrel restaurants. I guess every artist has their price.

As New Release Today reports, “The physical album is available exclusively in Cracker Barrel stores nationwide and all digital outlets.” The album has a powerful lineup of 16 songs.

When was the last time we had an exclusive?  Forgive me, Michael if I’m less than enthusiastic the next time our sales rep comes calling with a CBA project by you.

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The Triumph of the Used Bookstore

A few days ago author Scot McKnight noted this December article on his blog Jesus Creed; written by Michael Rosenwald in the Washington Post. Click here to read the full article, a short excerpt is below.

Used bookstores, with their quintessential quirkiness, eclectic inventory and cheap prices, find themselves in the catbird seat as the pendulum eases back toward print. In many cities, that’s a de facto position: They’re the only book outlets left.

While there are no industry statistics on used-book sales, many stores that survived the initial digital carnage say their sales are rising.

“It gets better and better every year,” said Susan Burwell, the co-owner of Reston’s Used Book Shop, the only used-bookstore left for an intellectually diverse Northern Virginia city of nearly 60,000 people.

Riverby Books D.C., a used-bookstore on Capitol Hill, closed last year after owner Steve Cymrot was hit by a truck and killed. His son Paul reopened the store in the fall — and didn’t hesitate. “The business side of it never gave us a moment’s pause,” he said. “We’ve never had better business.”

And it’s a business with good economics. Used bookstores can beat Amazon and other online booksellers on price, offering shoppers both a browsing experience and a money-saving one. Also, profit margins on used books are better than new ones — so good that many indies are adding used sections.

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Steven Furtick Returns

Regardless of whether or not your store has stocked Sun Stand Still, Greater, or Crash the Chatterbox, this is a particular endearing book trailer, especially if you’ve ever been in a position where you felt woefully inadequate to a particular task, but have seen that God can use you anyway. No word on whether the WaterBrook/Multnomah release, scheduled for early March will allow Canada to access the International Trade Paper Edition, but with a $19.99 hardcover U.S. list, this could get priced out of the market in Canada at current exchange rates. Canadian Christian market trade distribution is through Augsburg-Fortress Canada.

(Un)Qualified: How God Uses Broken People to Do Big Things 9781601424594

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Paper Books Soar: Portland

KATU, channel 2 in Portland proclaimed earlier this month:

Book sales soar in 2015: ‘People want to get away from screens’

… Annie Bloom’s Books … store manager Will Peters said … “A lot of people scribble in the margins. I turn down the pages. If you don’t like it, some people even throw it across the room which you probably couldn’t do with a device,” said Peters…

…”The thing that I’ve consistently heard back is that people want to get away from screens on their own time and that’s one way to do it,” he said…

Many culture watchers feel that societal changes tend to move from west to east; that trends in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Portland are indicative of what people in the heartland or east coast can expect. This is just one of many reports circulating that paper books are experiencing a resurgence.  

Similar trends are being noted in the UK. Back in October the website Quartz announced:

Throw away your Kindles: Paper books are making something of a comeback

Could the e-book revolution be coming to a screeching halt? Paper books are making a comeback, albeit rather slowly.

Britain’s largest bookseller, Waterstones, announced it would stop selling Amazon’s Kindle e-readers—sales have been “pitiful,” said James Daunt, the managing director of the retailer—and will instead be filling their display space with physical books.

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Many VBS Crafts Suitable for General Sales

You don’t necessarily have to order a particular publisher’s VBS kits in order to take advantage of some of the ancillary products available. Craft items like the one below — screenshot from Send the Light, but also available at Foundation — are an example of something that could prove useful to Sunday School, mid-week KidMin programs, or even homeschool groups. There are sometimes great deals in August, too; when surplus VBS-related product goes on sale. Remember, this is a pack of twelve, which lets churches stretch their budgets.

img 011916

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HarperOne Launches HarperElixer

While some of these titles may be a tough sell in the more Evangelically-oriented Christian bookstore market, here’s the 411 on a new imprint from the other religious division at HarperCollins from a newly-created website.

Harper ElixerWelcome to HarperElixir, a new line of books from HarperOne. If you are a seeker, you are in the right place.

HarperElixir books, handpicked with purpose and intent, are selected specially for you—those who are spiritual, magical, compassionate, and curious, those who want to find truth, meaning, miracles, discover the mysteries, and answer the call to go deeper and to find answers to fundamental questions: What is my purpose? Where am I going? How can I have more meaning in my life and relationships?

The HarperElixir team is dedicated to publishing books that celebrate the essence of the human spirit from ancient wisdom to modern life; that explore the wonders of the universe within and without, and that offer new pathways for healing and transformation.

The website suggests that initial offerings will fall into one of three categories: Religion/Spirituality, Health and Business.


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