Archive for December, 2008

Advice for the New Year

financial-armageddonSometimes good advice is just sitting on our own bookshelves.  With an uncertain economy in the days ahead, this wisdom from page 73 of John Hagee’s Financial Armageddon is worth considering by both store owners and individual staff members:

  1. Reduce Debt
  2. Create additional income opportunities
  3. Reduce overhead; tighten up the ship
  4. Strengthen your relationships with staff, customers, suppliers, business associates and financial institutions
  5. Distinguish and differentiate your product
  6. Diversify your services, your products, and your strategies
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Christmas Snapshots

December 29, 2008 4 comments

The Annoying One

These people are like family.  We’ve known each other for 19 years.  We shared a meal at their place in the spring and got together many times after that.    They needed four copies of Grace for the Moment by Lucado and because of cross-category filing, they were a bit scattered around the store, but between my staff member and myself, after twenty minutes we found three sale copies in great condition and one regular priced copy.  We phoned her back to tell her she was getting three at a great price and that we had all four.

She had already ordered them from Amazon.

I sent her back a one-line e-mail the next day;  “We lose orders to Amazon all the time, but this one really hurt.”     She said she tried to cancel the order within the hour, but Amazon said it was already packed and shipping.

The Funny One

Not as good as other years, but I took the call when the guy phoned to say he knew what his wife had asked for from our store:  “A Tri-Ology.”

“Who is the author?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Is it fiction or non-fiction?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Do you have a single word from the title of one of the books or the series?”


He had to call his wife and get the information all over again from her; this time he wrote it down and within an hour he got the “Tri-Ology” he wanted; the Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers.

Actually, he blessed me in another way.   We’re buying Interac rolls one at a time because we’ve been promised new machines since September.   When we almost ran out on the 23rd, he phoned minutes later and I recognized the name of his business on call display as being just around the corner.   He was glad to lend us one!   An answer to a prayer I didn’t have time to pray!

So…what were your snapshots of the busy season this year?   Did your suppliers come through for you?   Did you disappoint a few people or did everything you promised arrive on time?

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Merry Christmas and All God’s Best for You and Your Store in 2009

Who knew when we started this little blog the role it was going to play?   We thought we were starting a discussion blog; instead we became more of a daily news feed informing both our Canadian stores and American publishers of developments here.

In just a few short weeks we shared together in

  • The absorption of CMC Distribution into David C. Cook
  • The sudden bankruptcy of R. G. Mitchell Books retail and wholesale (with over 560 page views of that particular story; and still growing)
  • The reassignment of publishing lines formerly distributed by RGM
  • The Canadian dollar currency crisis, as our prices returned to 2005 levels in just two short weeks
  • The economic slowdown, which will be the issue in 2009 as already battered stores work through a tougher economic climate, and book prices rising as every other industry is cutting prices

Thanks for trusting me to supply you with news and sometimes strong opinions.   Special thanks to those who continue to post comments or send me direct e-mails.   We’ll keep the comments open for the foreseeable future.

Where can you help?   Please tell other store owners, managers, buyers and frontliners to join the list of daily readers.

Have a great day off today (Why are you reading this today??!?) and take a deep breath as we prepare for inventories, fourth-quarter reconciliations, vacation paycheques and the challenges of restocking in a tough economy.

We are making a difference in our various communities.

~Paul Wilkinson, Searchlight Books

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Our Words Matter

sticks-and-stonesSome of you are experiencing sales in your store this week on Ace Collins’ books Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas and Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. Last night, I finished the last chapter of his new book, Sticks and Stones: Using Your Words as a Postive Force releasing in March from Zondervan.

Each chapter deals with a different form that verbal and written words can take.   If you’ve ever sent an e-mail that didn’t get taken the right way, the last few chapters on the internet will be familiar.  Each chapter contains a couple of bullet-points dealing with the do’s and don’ts of each mode of communication.   Each chapter also contains anecdotal stories from Collins’ seemingly vast contacts in the entertainment industry.   Finally, adding a rather bittersweet quality to the book, each chapter contains examples of words used as encouragement both to and from people with terminal illnesses.

Much of this book is reminiscent of the “self-help” books sold in general market bookstores.   Although Biblical examples are also dropped in, the book is really an amalgam of a Christian book and a secular book; I’m not sure how “uniquely Christian,” this title truly is.  But it does meet a need.   I don’t anyone who hasn’t at some point said something they later regretted.  Conversely, I don’t anyone who hasn’t heard an encouraging word at some point in their life.

That’s what this book is meant to help us consider.   This title may take longer to carve out a unique market, but I would recommend placing an initial order through your HarperCollins sales rep.

Advance copies of books for review can be sent to Paul Wilkinson at Searchlight in Cobourg, ON

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Personal Finances and Charitable Giving

December 23, 2008 1 comment

decemberWe just put the last of our supplier cheques* in the mail.   If there wasn’t going to be any further December activity and the amounts were low, we paid all the current invoices as well.   That will save both a postage stamp and an accounts payable entry at the end of the fourth quarter.    We don’t pay ourselves a salary, so getting bills paid is of primary importance.   Many of our suppliers use a credit card for payment, and although that’s not due until the second week of January, we’ll start chipping away at that tonight when we download our bank numbers online.

So this is a good time to start thinking about our personal finances, and in particular, our charitable donations.   Not knowing exactly what our income is going to be makes it harder to figure out what we should be giving, but I don’t know anybody who, at tax time in April, looks at their receipts and says, “I should have given less.

Perhaps you don’t own the store or do the accounts, but you’re caught up in the whirlwind known as “retail.”   This may apply to you equally or more so.

So who can we bless this year?   Here’s some suggestions:

  • Our first responsibility is to our local church, the place we call our spiritual home, where we receive teaching, prayer support and fellowship
  • If there’s a “second” on the list, for many this year it is giving to relief and development in the third world, especially projects which are bringing fresh water wells to areas that don’t have potable water
  • Is there someone in your area who does student ministry who is lacking in financial support?   Consider urban missionaries and youth workers with Youth For Christ, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity and YWAM.
  • What about camp ministries?   Is there a Christian summer residential camp that is in need of funds for capital projects or to sponsor children in the summer?
  • What about your local Christian school?   Do they need money for capital projects, or are they operating at a deficit?   Here in Ontario, we have umbrella organizations like the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools that are also worthy of your support.
  • Do you have a local Christian radio station?   The various teaching programs are very efficient at soliciting donations, but the stations themselves often need additional support to pay staff and overhead.
  • Who is working with the poor in your community?   Is there someone providing meals, or transportation or moral support to people who are disadvantaged economically?
  • If you own or work in a bookstore, that means you love the written word.   Consider those who are putting the scriptures in the hands of people who don’t have them, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators.
  • You first considered your local church.   Is there another church in your community that is doing good but struggling financially?   This year we heard a story of one church putting another local church on their missions budget with a sizable donation.    We’re all playing on the same team, and what a wonderful witness this is to those who think we’re competing.

Giving shouldn’t be done in December just to get a receipt.   We give because we’ve been blessed, and because God commands it.     But December is  a good time to take stock of our personal finances and see what we can do to help others.    In fact, it may be there is a family in your community who cannot provide you with a tax receipt but needs a blessing this Christmas.   Consider also directly donating to someone who is in need.


*That’s  ‘checks’ for you Americans.   Speaking of cheques, much of this giving can now be done online on secure websites.

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Spring Arbor Daily Top 100 — Your Most Basic Information Tool


Every day, a brand new chart is available from iPage which tells you the top 100 titles in the Spring Arbor group that Ingram shipped out the day prior.    Though prone to the fluctuations you would expect from a daily chart — especially the ones on Sunday and Monday which reflect weekend ordering — their volume is so high that a top 100 is a fairly reliable barometer of things you need to have in stock.

To access the chart from any iPage screen, click on “Merchandise and Promotions” which is the second tab in the bar appearing below and to the right of the iPage logo.

Then scroll down to the final section “Industry Bestsellers” and click on “Spring Arbor Top 100 Sales.”

The top 25 appear first.   You can then click on any header to resort the list alphabetically, or by author, or even by price.   I always sort the list by “Pub date” and once sorted, immediately jump to page four, which contains the most recent releases.

Today’s surprise was that Ingram is already stocking and shipping the hardcover edition Ted Dekker’s Kiss with no StreetSmart laydown date restrictions.   Thomas Nelson says the book releases January 6th.   Canadian stores can purchase an ITP, and apparently Nelson has finally capitulated to stores hoping for an ITP of David Jeremiah’s What in the World…

Through iPage, we also learned several days ago that they had jumped the expected release date for the new Janette Oke / David Bunn novel, The Centurion’s Wife, which, as of Friday, was still not in stock at David C. Cook Canada.


Note:  If you’re interested, you can also check the listings for Ingram as a whole.   It’s interesting to cross index where some of the Spring Arbor titles meet up with the overall top 100 list.    Also you’ll notice in the Spring Arbor list some days where CDs and DVDs crack the book listings.

First Critique of The Shack to Release in February

December 20, 2008 1 comment

This article was also posted in my own blog today, linked at right.

findinggodintheshackWell, you knew it was bound to happen, but this is the first book about the popular novel that I am aware of, and you can bet it won’t be the last.  Finding God in The Shack is by Randal Rauser, associate professor of historical theology at Taylor Seminar, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.   He writes on theology, apologetics and popular culture.   The book is releasing in February through Paternoster Press, available through STL in paperback at $14.99 U.S.

The publisher marketing for the book (see below) appears to indicate a response to the book that is supportive of the The Shack‘s theological treatment.   That could upset people who are looking for ammunition to criticize the book, especially those who have been outspoken critics without actually reading it.   No doubt those titles will follow.

I am always skeptical as to whether or not books like this are written to allow further conversation on the themes in other popular Christian literature — I’m aware of at least six critiques of the Left Behind series — or if they are written from an opportunist vantage, trying to capitalize on the popularity of something else.   I know that’s unfair; nor are we to judge the motives of someone else; but as a bookseller, it’s easy to all that skepticism to creep in.

That said though, I do actually hope this is the first of many such titles, because there is so much discussion taking place now on theological matters that it is healthy and beneficial to allow those dialogs to continue, especially among those who have never considered weightier theological matters before.   The Shack has brought many new people to the theological roundtable.   One other Canadian who would be good to hear from on this would be John Stackhouse of Regent College, whose debrief of the book is the third of three radio interviews available online from the Haven Today radio program*.   Plus, I’m sure a number of American, British or Australian writers would be itching to weigh in on this.

(This book, plus The Shack itself would be a great basis for a small group study or book club study.)

Here is the publisher marketing for Finding God in The Shack:

What would it be like to lose your youngest child to a serial killer? And then to have God invite you out for a conversation at the very shack where the terrible deed took place? And then imagine that the door to that shack of horrors opened . . . and before you knew it you had been swept up in the motherly embrace of a large African American woman? This most unlikely of stories, as told in William Young’s The Shack, has become a runaway bestseller and it is easy to see why. The book brings us on a redemptive journey through the shacks of deepest pain and suffering in our lives, guided by the triune God of Christian faith. But even as lives have been transformed through this book, other readers have sternly denounced it as a hodgepodge of serious theological error, even heresy. With one pastor urging his congregation to read it and another forbidding his congregation to, many Christians have simply been left confused.

Aware both of the excitement and uncertainty generated by The Shack, theologian Randal Rauser takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the pages of the story. In successive chapters he explores many of the books complex and controversial issues. Thus he explains why God the Father is revealed as an African American woman, he defends the books theology of the Trinity against charges of heresy and he considers its provocative denial of a Trinitarian hierarchy. But at its heart The Shack is a response to evil and so Rauser spends the final three chapters considering the books explanation for why God allows evil, how the atoning work of Christ offers new hope for a suffering world and ultimately how this hope extends to all of creation. Through these chapters Rauseroffers an honest and illuminating discussion which opens up a new depth to the conversation while providing the reader with new opportunities for Finding God in The Shack.

*For the earlier two programs with the author of the book itself, use the same link and modify the last four digits to program 1661 and 1662.   See also the post on my personal blog a few days ago (linked at right, or direct linked here)  about an Australian radio show podcast, which I consider one of the finest treatments of the doctrinal issues presented in The Shack.

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Seasonal Music and DVDs Require Specific Backorder Cancellation

Here’s another reason for mourning the wonderful, efficient distribution system we knew in Canada as CMC.    In the past, CMC would automatically cancel backorders of seasonal music, on a region-by-region basis across the country.

I’ve been informed by someone at DCC that this is not to be the case this year.   There is no guarantee for stores in Western Canada or the Maritimes that seasonal product won’t ship out on Monday or Tuesday, with no hope of arriving on time.

So, for all of us, determine the day on which the actual shipping from Paris, Ontario would be too late for your store, and make the necessary cancellations, because DCC isn’t going to do it for you.   This is especially critical if you’re part of the Christmas music sales final special.

If you can’t send it back, you’re going to have it in storage until after Thanksgiving, 2009.   If it’s in storage, it means that your MONEY is tied up in the product also, unless you’ve got a great idea for a “Christmas in July” sale; in which case, please share it with the rest of us!

Don’t forget also about things like dated calendars, pocket planners, and any Christmas books you might still have on backorder.

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Am I Employees’ Boss or Am I a Fellow-Servant?

christmas-giftsDoes your store staff do anything special for Christmas?  Staff party?  Gift exchange?  Great big huge bonus cheque?     Staff in one of our stores went out for dinner on Monday night.    I think it’s good for the “boss” to honour the work the staff do, but I also think there is a sense in which we are co-labourers together working for a higher “boss.”    I don’t want the staff to think we’re treating them to a dinner because they worked hard “for us;” I want them to think we’re celebrating what we accomplished together in mission.

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Educating Your Customers

December 18, 2008 1 comment

When customers come in during the week before Christmas and make impossible demands do you,

(a) just say that it’s too late?

(b) ask if they’ll take the item even if it arrives after the holidays?

(c) suggest something that you do have in stock?

(d) try to explain the logistics of warehousing and shipping?

I always try to get into an explanation of how retail works in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, next year they’ll get their special order in on time.  I think I’m wasting valuable time and energy, though; the same people come in late the following year.

To my customers:

Here’s a bulletin just in:  Next year, Christmas will be on December 25th.   Plan accordingly.

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Ontario Children’s Author Pens First Teen Novel

guardians-of-the-lampJUDI PEERS’ new book, Guardians of the Lamp is a “historical fantasy” for teens based on life in Bible times.   Peers, who attends Auburn Bible Chapel in Peterborough, Ontario has had a number of books published previously, though this one is the first in a very different style of writing.   It is intended for sale in both Christian and general market bookstores; though for Christian teens, this book fits in very well with the writing of authors Chuck Black, G. P. Taylor, or Bryan Davis.

The story incorporates a time travel dimension, with the present section set locally in Peterborough, Ontario, at a time just before Christmas; and the rest of the book set in the year 1000 BC.   The hero battles against mythological creatures whose names we would recognize as being the objects of worship for the nations surrounding Israel in Old Testament times. (A companion study guide for individuals and groups will also be available.)  A Peterborough teenager did the inside cover art while a Cobourg teen stands in on the cover for Gavin Turner, the book’s main character. Despite the Christmas plotline, the book is intended for sale year-round.

The book retails for a very reasonable $12.95 and is available from Judi’s JACORN PRESS, which you can contact by e-mail at jacornpress[at]      Read more about the book in this Peterborough Examiner story.

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“It May Not Be Real, But It’s True”



Enjoy more Rev. Fun comics by clicking here.

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