Archive for February, 2009

Quebec Churches on Sale for $1

Today on THINKING OUT LOUDmy personal blog:

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Other Christian Product Outlets Where the Selection Barely Resembles Your Store

Compare your merchandise to their merchandise–


  1. The Religion section at Chapters*
  2. Any Anglican or Catholic Bookstore
  3. The online store at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship


  1. The Gospel section at HMV
  2. Any Anglican or Catholic Bookstore
  3. The online store at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship

catholic-bookstore-1Most of us sell products which perform well in Christian bookstores, but are somewhat foreign to people outside the Evangelical world.   On the other hand, other kinds of store are doing quite well, thank-you, stocking products that are equally foreign to us.

Visiting different kinds of stores can be (a) fascinating — to see so many products we don’t know exist, (b) intimidating — the feeling you get when you’re in a different kind of church, (c) humbling — to realize how much of religious publishing we  really don’t know all that much about, (d) eye-opening — to discover what it must feel like when people outside our comfortable circle find themselves in our stores.

catholic-bookstore-3Many of the products they sell get requested at our stores, too; but not all our staff associates are quick to pick up on what’s being requested.   It’s too bad we don’t get a peek at their top 20 titles in different book and music categories, at least we’d recognize the authors and titles when they’re mentioned.

The Toronto Airport website represents the best of Charismatic books and music.   Online ordering from sites like theirs and The Elijah List means that by default, many of us have abdicated the Charismatic customer.   Much of their music isn’t available from CMC or Ingram; even distributors like STL and Anchor carry a small percentage of the books at TACF.

Of course, if you really want to experience a different world of products, you can visit a Seventh Day Adventist bookstore, where food items make up part of the overall merchandise mix!

* The Chapters situation is rather unique to Canada.    Visit Borders, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million and you’ll find both a Religious and a Christian section, and you’ll find yourself in much more familiar territory.

Pictures taken at Broughton’s bookstore in Willowdale (Toronto) capture what stands out most to Evangelicals when they visit a Catholic bookstore.

Guest Blog: Sarah Bolme — March Is Small Press Month

An Invitation to Join the March Small Press Celebration

March has been designated the month to recognize and celebrate small press books and their authors. All too often, books by small presses get short shrift in the publishing industry because we are a society that is run on name recognition. While many small presses publish quality materials by great authors, these publishers often must work harder to gain attention for their books since most of their authors aren’t celebrities. As a result, Small Press Month grew out of the desire to provide greater recognition for the quality books that many small presses produce.

In a society where everything is becoming super-sized, it helps everyone to recognize that most things start small. Many booksellers were originally small Mom-and-Pop stores started to fill a need in the community. Large numbers of these have since been assumed by chain stores, losing in the process their individual identity and original appeal. Small Press Month gives booksellers the chance to remember their own humble origins and extend a helping hand to others that are in their beginning stages.

I encourage you to consider acknowledging and celebrating Small Press Month in your store. Not only will you be doing a good deed and lending a hand to small presses, but your store can also benefit from any activity you undertake to acknowledge small press books during March.

Nothing elaborate is required. Simply be open to any small press publishers or authors who approach you asking to put up Small Press Month posters in your store or requesting that you host an event for their book or author. You might even consider holding a small contest in your store. Have patrons nominate their favorite book by a small press and hold a drawing at the end of the month for a gift certificate to your store or a free book by a small press author (if you need ideas for a book to give away, check out the nominated titles for Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award 2009 at, and while you are there, vote for the book of the year). You can have each customer entering the contest leave their contact information on their entry form. You reap the benefit of adding more contacts to your own mailing list for future store promotions.

Sarah Bolme is the Director of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) serving small publishers marketing books in the Christian marketplace. CSPA is the sponsor of Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award which is voted on by retailers selling Christian products each year in March to celebrate Small Press Month.

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Photo Essay

February 23, 2009 5 comments


A spiritualist retreat centre bookstore.  I figured you’re not likely to drop in anytime soon.


Rare, Medium and Well Done bookstore in Chicago.   My rec room looks like this.


Strand Bookstore, Grenwich Village, New York City; one of the most photographed bookstores on the internet.


Carleton College Bookstore, Northfield, MN; Notice the lineup.


Store in downtown Oslo, Norway (hope the floor is clean!)


Christian Book Store (?) in Newark, NJ as it appears in a photoblog called Satan’s Laundromat.


Islamic Bookstore (but you knew that by the carpet, right?)


Largest Chinese bookstore in Yokohoma.  (I think I got the city right.)


Bookstore on wheels, interior, Bombay, India.  No windows, but apparently there are three fans.


Bookstore in a Church in the Dominican Republic.   This one really deserved a second picture, so with this we’ll close.   Let me know if you’d like to do this again.


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You Sell Books, But Did You Know You Could Publish Books?

February 22, 2009 1 comment

printing_pressI question the accuracy of a few of these entries, but this list of Christian books in the public domain is a great place to begin.    You could print an edition — possibly even print-on-demand — with your store name and logo.   You could print up an edition to give out during an anniversary sale. (You could even print up a Gospel of John and add a word to the first verse, but it’s already been done.)

But why stop at public domain?  As a retailer many years ago, we released five vinyl albums under our own label.   I’ve heard of some retailers more recently doing CDs for local artists.   So why not books?   You could initiate the publishing for a local author whose manuscript is worthy of your store, but who isn’t getting past stage one with publishers.    You’re already in the book business, your business name may even say “books” in it.   That gives you the right to negotiate directly with printers and binderies; and you can write off expenses as needed.

Think about it!

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We Didn’t Make Up This Picture…

This is from the blog, Writing on the Wall.   He wouldn’t name the bookstore but said, “It ‘borders’ on the ridiculous.’


If it makes you feel better, the picture was taken in the Children’s section.   Or maybe that makes you feel worse.

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Slower Release Schedules Compound Recessionary Effect

February 20, 2009 1 comment


Anytime over a year ago, most of us, if asked, would have said that there is simply a glut of product available to Christian retailers.     When the recession hit in the fall, Christian publishers and record labels responded by cutting back a number of planned releases.

Today, with a more robust economy in Canada than south of the border, many Canadian stores are asking, “Where are the new releases?”

new-tunesdayThis intensifies where music releases are concerned.   Since over 95% of what we sell in the music department originates in the U.S., their problems become our problems; and their problems were beginning long before we heard of Freddie Mac and Fannie May.

Simply put, we’ve returned to the 1950’s and 1960’s age of “the single.”  The issue isn’t so much music downloading; since legal downloading still grants the record companies, recording artists and songwriters proportionate royalties and revenues.   No, the problem is that people are downloading that one song which they’ve heard on radio or had recommended by a friend.   That means that only 99-cents U.S. is transacting, compared to $13.99-$17.99 U.S. just a few years earlier.

While no parallel situation exists for book publishers, the recession meant that a number of pending projects were either tabled or scrapped entirely; while aspiring authors face a more daunting challenge in getting their manuscripts marketed.

newreleaseslogoBut should this situation exist at all?   Historically, the Christian bookstore operated on a different paradigm:   While general market stores derived 80% of their revenue from frontlist (and only 20% from backlist); Christian stores often boasted a reverse situation, with 80% of their revenue coming from backlist, classics, perennials and only 20% from new releases.   And really, when you think about it, the Bible, our key product,  isn’t exactly “new.”

Over the last few years, through the introduction of branding, more aggressive promotion and publicity, and parallel marketing into the general market itself, we’ve slowly morphed into the mainstream bookstores’ way of doing things.   Our backlist is still strong, but we’ve looked more to frontlist to provide life and energy and we’ve become dependent on it for revenue.

Also in the process, our newer staff or part-time staff have lost the sense of connection with the backlist resources which are either (a) on our shelves, (b) available by order, or (c) no longer on our radar at all since they didn’t ‘perform’ in an industry-accepted number of ‘stock turns.’

Many years ago, someone gave me a little document published by — of all people — Farrell’s Ice Cream Shoppe, somewhere in the deep south.   It was called What’s the Best Book? and listed the top three Christian books for every category imaginable, as well as the top three commentaries for each book of the Bible.    That served me well in the late ’70s and ’80s until I discovered the Spring Arbor 80/20 Report which, for $20 US., listed the top 20% sellers in each of their categories.

Today, staff are trained, and sales reps visits are oriented, entirely towards frontlist, with a loss of connection to the great books available to customers.  We’re in a business of matching felt needs to resources; but we need to know those resources exist.

Unfortunately, if we don’t, more backlist will go out of print more rapidly.

~Paul Wilkinson

Religious broadcasters are also feeling the pinch.  Read a post about that on Paul’s blog, Thinking Out Loud.

The Customer is Not Always Right

February 19, 2009 1 comment

Got a story to tell about a strange customer interaction in your store?  You might consider   Here’s a sample from their bookstore section:

May I Recommend A Good Crime Drama While I Have You?

Bookstore | Kern County, CA, USA

(90% of the calls the bookstore receives are to ask our hours, check stock, or to ask when a book will be released. With that in mind, the phone rings one afternoon.)

Me: “Thank you for calling ****, how can I help you?”

Customer: “I need to know a release date.”

Me: “Sure, what is the title?”

Customer: *gives a strange number, not the type bookstores use*

Me: “What? Is that a title?”

(The customer gives the number again, and I am not finding anything like it in the computer database.)

Me: “I don’t know what you mean.”

Customer: “A release date! I need to know when my son will be released.”

(It’s then that I realize she means Booking, not Books.)

Me: “Uh, we’re a book store.”

Customer: “What number is this?”

Me: *gives the store phone number*

Customer: “I didn’t call that number.” *hangs up*

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I Can’t Begin to Imagine…


You should probably order some of these just in case…

Originally posted October 16, 2002 at

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The Holiday Nobody Wanted

It’s estimated that today’s “Family Day” cost small business $2 Billion in Ontario alone.   The holiday took place in four Canadian provinces, but at the end of the day, the CBC National News reported that British Columbia is not interested in joining the list of participating provinces, fearing a loss of productivity.     Amen to that! Now, off to the task of trying to do in five retail days what normally gets done in six.

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February 15, 2009 1 comment


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Canada’s Largest Province Considers Taxing Books

mcguintyOntario Premier Dalton McGuinty says he is in consultation with Ottawa about joining the Maritime provinces that use a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) instead of the present separate federal sales tax (GST) and provincial retail sales tax (PST).     Given the Ontario Liberal government’s track record, “in consultation” may mean it’s already a done deal.

While a harmonized tax means that stores could now claim “inputs” on the equivalent taxes charged for store expenses (or anything not purchased for resale under an exemption certificate based on a tax license) it means that items currently exempt of the provincial portion of retail taxes would become taxable.

This means that books would be taxable; this at a time that some groups believe that Canada should exempt books from all taxes in the name of advancing literacy and in keeping with what is done in some other countries.

This in turn would hit Canadian bookstores hard at a time when internet competition is already forcing the closure of stores both large and small across Canada and the U.S.   Because the provincial rate in Ontario is 8%, this means a $12.95 book would cost over a dollar more.

Stores in Ontario who wish to protest this decision really have no options, since this Liberal provincial government has a history of going against public opinion in the majority of its policy decisions.   Most recently, it upheld a plan to force construction industry business owners and their family members to be insured under the monopoly workplace insurance program, even as business groups were asking for the right of proprietors to cover their workplace through their own insurer.

The government previously rejected funding for Christian and private schools, and more recently introduced an additional statutory holiday — which takes place on Monday — which business and industry said would be bad for productivity. The Ontario Liberals also introduced radical minimum wage reforms which next month will push the provincial minimum wage to a place where many small businesses will be forced to either engage unpaid family members or simply shut their doors.

So really, adding a sales tax on books would be consistent with everything else they have done.

Photo: National Post (Best one we could find.   So to speak.)