Archive for October, 2009

Community Involvement: Visiting Other Churches

Part of the challenge of staying connected with the broader Christian community where you live is the challenge of being physically present in a variety of worship settings when most of your Sundays involve being present in your home church.

In order to maximize your visits to other churches, and in keeping with the spirit of the day (Halloween), here is the first in a series (maybe) of instructional videos to help you know what to do.   We begin with Pentecostal or Charismatic worship.

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Fifth Title from Windblown Media

October 29, 2009 1 comment

In a world where we often speak of “brands” in Christian publishing, it’s unusual to see a publishing imprint where many different voices seem to speaking to one central mission or sharing one common voice.

Windblown Media has managed to do just that, pushing a giant “pause” button on some of our nearest and dearest views on both the Godhead; and our views on the church — us — the way we interact together as the body or even within our families or marriages.

As with He Loves Me, The Shack, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, Bo’s Café, and now The Misunderstood God by Darin Hufford, readers are treated to a fresh perspective, one that is sure to bring about some agitation by those who would have us follow a God that is not a kindler, gentler deity.

The Misunderstood GodWhen I first flipped through the pages of The Misunderstood God, I was expecting something similar to the first half of Your God Is Too Small by J. B. Phillips. I came to that book about a dozen years ago for the first time, and was astounded by how much my own God perspective was informed more by comparisons to other authority figures than informed by scripture itself.

While some people might see books like this as a giant piece of chalk (or marker) about to write on the giant blackboard (or whiteboard) everything one needs to know in terms of their doctrine of God, I prefer to see this kind of book as a giant eraser, cleaning off all those false doctrines and wrong views we’ve collected over the years in order to make a fresh start. Sometimes, such an eraser has to scrub a little bit harder to get some of those off the board so we can start fresh.

In fact, the first half of Your God Is Too Small by Phillips does just that type of deconstruction — in only about 60 pages of this rather small book — before reconstructing in the second half; but it’s the first half of the book that really packs the greatest punch.

darin huffordBut a few chapters into The Misunderstood God I finally figured out that the deconstruction and reconstruction takes place here on a chapter-by-chapter basis, using as its motif, I Corinthians 13. I’ve heard people speak before on how the “Love is patient, love is kind…” passage can, if it’s true that ‘God is love,’ be read as, “God is patient, God is kind…” I had just never seen it before as the key to healing misunderstandings we have about the nature of God.

For a fuller version of this book review, click on my personal blog, here.  The book is available in the US and Canada through Hachette Book Group.   In Canada, the CBA market is also served on all Windblown titles through Crown Video in Edmonton.

For a quotation from the book, link back to this post at my personal blog  a few days ago.

For He Loves Me, here’s my review from December 16, 2008, a remix review from May 3rd.

For So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore, here’s my review from April 19, 2008.

For Bo’s Café, here’s my recent review from September 14, 2009.

he loves methe shackSo You Don't Want To GoBo's CaféThe Misunderstood God

Pictured: book cover, Darin Hufford, the Windblown Media family of titles.

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Cheryl Dunn’s Album a Worthy Addition to Your Country and Christmas Departments

Recording artist Cheryl Dunn dropped by my store this morning.   Considering that she lives just one town away, this may not seem significant; but given her intense touring schedule, I’m always surprised that she takes time out to both expand her library and support our store.

Therefore, I thought I’d return the favour.

Cheryl Dunn Christmas AlbumCMC is currently stocking Cheryl’s third album, a Christmas title called Emmanuel: White Christmas.   As the title suggests, this album is a healthy blend of music for those who come to the holiday season with more secular expectations, and those who want to see the sacred meaning of the season expresed in music.    In other words, the perfect album to have on the CD-player when family or co-workers drop by.

Cheryl’s musical style is probably most influenced by Nashville, but she’s also at home doing worship songs.  If you live in one of the few places in Canada where Cheryl hasn’t played, check out her website at where you’ll find her biography, a concert schedule (including forthcoming dates in Trinidad and Texas), and information on all three CDs.

And consider stocking the CD in your store.   Where else are you going to get Jingle Bell Rock and Winter Wonderland on the same album as O Holy Night and Gentle Shepherd?    You’ll also be supporting a Canadian artist who has an active ministry here, in the U.S. and in the third world.   [CMC order # 320372; 17.99]

You’ll also find a cut from Cheryl’s Christmas album on the new Various Artists title, Sea to Sea Christmas.  [332902]

Spring Arbor Where Art Thou?

Every three months I get a magazine in the mail called Bridges.  It’s a publication of Ingram International and serves as a quarterly reminder that technically, I’m an Ingram International customer and not a Spring Arbor customer, even though 99% of my purchasing is Christian titles.

It’s the only time I ever receive anything in the mail from the company.   I apparently am not on any lists for any marketing packages, they don’t sell my name to Christian publishers for direct mailings, and as for phone calls or e-mails, you can forget that also, with the exception of a monthly e-mail highlighting Catholic products, which I am considering unsubscribing from.

I asked once if they still do marketing packets, and they sent me one — about four years ago — but for all I know they don’t do that anymore.   Even getting a monthly backorder report seems like pulling teeth.

In contrast, I had an in-store, personal visit this month from STL Distribution.   Considering I’m not a huge account, I was truly impressed that they cared enough to fly someone up here to the frozen north, and have that person try to get to at least five stores per day over the course of a week.

Anyway, my copy of Bridges arrived yesterday, and now I think I may need to have a talk with my mail carrier to explain a thing or two.   The back page of Bridges was an advert for two titles on running your own marijuana grow-op.   Of course, this could be a sign that I need to start a fringe department, but at $29.95 US, Marijuana Horticulture seems a bit pricey.   Perhaps I could start of with Marijuana Grow Basics at only $21.95 US; but again, I think my sales to people at the Baptist Church would be quite limited.

Reflections on The ShackThe front cover of Bridges is advertising, and one of the titles was Reflections on The Shack: A Topical Discussion by Women From Different Walks of Life; part of a book series called “Powder Room.”     I clicked on my iPage and looked it up, only to discover it’s another attempt by Christian publisher Destiny Image (DI) to capitalize on another publisher’s hot title.    In fact, this is their second title to feature Shack cover imagery on their own cover.  (The other is The Love Shack by Don Nori.   There’s a difference between serious academics like Randall Rauser and Roger Olson debating Shacks‘s doctrines and these titles, plus it’s got to be especially embarrassing for a publisher to have to wade into the same waters twice to try to come up with some sales.)  Another DI book showed up in the Bermuda listings.

With this issue of Bridges coming in at scant 12 pages, I thought they’d leave out the international bestseller charts, but they showed up on pages 10 and 11.   Ingram gives us a peek into the top 15 titles it ships out to various countries.     Usually there’s a Christian title or two, but the only one this time around was The Joy of Knowing Christ by Pope Benedict XVI, which turned up on the Italy top 15.   Isn’t shipping books by the Pope back to Italy somewhat akin to taking coal to Newcastle?    I suppose there’s a good reason this expensive ($35 US) Kaplan Publishing edition is wanted there.

A Publisher Responds to U.S. Hardcover Price War

Walmart Books October 26

We all know how we feel about it.    But how do the publishers — the very people who have key staff people assigned to massage the likes of Wal-Mart and Amazon — feel about the current price war these companies are staging in the United States?

Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt gives you a publisher’s perspective on his blog post today.   Here’s a preview:

…This focus on driving down the price of the best our industry has to offer will hurt everyone, even the mass retailers who started it. When publishers are forced to further reduce titles, or new authors just don’t have the same incentive to succeed, the pipeline of new book titles will dry up. Where will the next crop of new authors come from? Who will be the bestsellers of tomorrow? The mass retailers have had the luxury of being able to skim the cream off the publishing milk pail without investing in the process that creates the milk in the first place. In my opinion, they are about to kill the cow.

Click here to read the whole article.

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Thanks for Reading

The graph below is the actual stats for Christian Book Shop Talk.   With peak readings of about 100 people daily — not counting the 400 daily the week of the RGM bankruptcy — and minimum readings of 40; this blog is much larger than my personal blog was when I started this one on the side.   I figured we’d get about ten readers daily, so I’m not complaining.

BookShopTalk stats - May - Oct

29% of readers are “regular” accounting for 51% of all visits.   On average 54% of readers are American, even though this was originally launched as a Canadian service with some posts having little applicability to U.S. bookstores.

I’d like to get more comments going back and forth, and more of you using the guest book and the product search page.    I’m also open to more guest posts.  Got a topic?   You’d be surprised just who reads this thing!  Use the contact page to submit an idea.    Thanks for reading!

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Tim Keller on Counterfeit Gods

From the author who brought us The Reason for God and The Prodigal God, Redeemer (New York City) pastor Tim Keller explains the motivation for his new title, Counterfeit Gods (Dutton, 2009). This title is available to Canadian retailers through Pearson Canada (Penguin Books)

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David C. Cook Wholesale Website Debuts Online

October 22, 2009 2 comments

Finally!    Every frustration I’ve ever had in dealing with one of Canada’s largest book suppliers vanished several weeks ago with the simple click of a computer mouse.   No more phoning for information.    It’s all there, all of it, and then some!

After several weeks of being allowed to preview and use the new Business-to-Business (B2B) website at David C. Cook Canada, the site is now open to every dealer who wishes to create a login and password.   Any dealer who hasn’t or doesn’t is missing out, big time.

Cook B2B Page Header

Two things are striking about this site right away.   The first thing you notice is the speed of the server.   The second thing you notice is that search criteria don’t have to be qualified.   You can be looking for a title by its first word, keyword, or key phrase; or you can know the author’s name; or you can have the ISBN or CMC music product number.   Doesn’t matter.   You just start typing in a single search window and the program figures out what you’re up to.

If your search is too broad, rather than display the results, it will tell you that there are, for example, 61 products found.   In other words, do you really want to display those, or do you want to refine your search with different criteria?   It doesn’t really matter, since those 61 items will be on your screen in a split second if that’s what you opt for.   (You can also save time by leaving out words like “the,” “and” as well as worrying about whether a word is plural or singular — just type the singular.)

If your 61 choices actually yield three or four items you’d like to add to your store inventory, you simply enter the quantity, toggle the ‘check’ box next to that quantity, and then, at the bottom  of the page, indicate you want to add all your checked boxes.   (However, if you’re only given one choice, you still have to remember to do all three — quantity, check box, add request — or the item will not make it into your cart.)

This could be a challenge for some people.   You don’t see your cart each time you add items.   If you need to, you can click on ‘current cart’ to see how you’re doing.   Otherwise, you’re good to input the next item.    You can also build multiple carts.  (If you know all your stock number or ISBNs, you can also use the Express Order feature to input several diverse items at once.)

The search results show your discount.   This is an item for another discussion, but currently Cook customers get varying rates of discount on books, curriculum and music.   So the discount you see may not be the same as another dealer gets doing the same search.

Requests for your everyday Dayspring card pockets can be added in the message section at the bottom, along with requests for CMC Music demos, but be sure to hit update/refresh when you’re finished writing comments or the request or comment is lost.   The comments will appear on the printed invoices of subsequent backorder releases from that cart, but the demos and cards will only ship once.

If an item is out of stock, you’ll know because you’re shown the warehouse quantities in real time.   If it is, the system will tell you how many other units of that item are committed to other accounts, and also give you an expected arrival date.    For example if you want 5 copies of the new Robin Mark album, and the system shows there are MINUS 70 on hand, but 120 on order, you know that your copies will be shipped after the arrival date shown.   (If it shows there are MINUS 140 on hand and only 120 on order, you know this title is really taking off; maybe you should order more than the 5 you planned!  By the time it arrives, you’ll have even more pent up demand in your local area.)

Clicking on the product number of an item will yield additional information, product descriptions, page counts and product images.   There are actually sound clips for a number of music titles.

The accounting side of the site allows you to see all your past backorders, all your past orders, and see a full statement.   Every item in all three screens is a link allowing you to view and print each invoice or report; and every item on each list is also a link allowing you to view some additional product data as mentioned above.    Invoices can be sorted by invoice number, order number or your purchase order number.

You can request a minimum threshold for backorder releases, although time-sensitive new music titles are currently complicating this aspect of the system.  Not being a Cook curriculum dealer, I can’t comment on how dated, quarterly curriculum is ordered.

The system does log you out if you’re not actively working with it.   That probably helps the system run quickly and efficiently at Cook’s end; and logging back in only takes a split second.   Shopping carts last indefinitely and don’t need to be revisited to keep them current.   (Of course, instock levels are subject to change from the time you first added items to the cart.)

The system doesn’t advise you if an item backordering has previously been placed on backorder for you.   This and the aforementioned card and demo ordering are the only features available by telephone that you can’t get online; but these and other ideas are on the ‘wish list’ for 2010.   They are also working on adding ‘forms’ so that if, for example, you’re doing the Foundation 72-hour sale, you could order the Cook items at your special discount online.   The forms may end up being used for other online promotions and specials, too.    In this tight economy, those special offers can’t happen soon enough.   And of course, you will still have to go through your sales rep for prepub offers on new titles you’re buying in quantity.

Also — and this is a big plus — if there’s something in the descriptions that is not to your liking, Cook’s IT wizard, Russ Koning, will do whatever is necessary to improve how products are either listed or tagged in the system.

Comparisons to the old R. G. Mitchell site will be many, and this site matches RGM Eworks feature-for-feature as well as improving on it greatly.   If you’re already up and running with the site, feel free to add your comments here.

As a wholesale customer who has expectations that are often considered too idealistic, I find absolutely nothing here to criticize.   This website is an unexpected early Christmas gift to retailers in Canada; and unlike other Christmas gifts I’ve been given, this one fits perfectly.

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The Season Known As Christmas Is Already in Progress

While some stores do rather strategic planning in the late summer, others are continuing to ‘ramp up’ their inventory position in anticipation of a busy Christmas season.

Those busy days will come, but in many ways, they’ve already started; in fact, for some customers, Christmas shopping is already a done deal.

The tendency is to forget that there are only so many days left in the year and you can only realistically sell so many copies of any given title between now and Dec 24th.

After today, there are 64 calendar days left to shop.   However, in our industry, most of us are closed Sundays, which leaves only 55.   With suppliers closed on Saturdays, that means there are only 46 working days for the people who provide you with goods, and in the case of Ontario-based suppliers,  most don’t ship the last 2 days (Ontario and Quebec) or 3 days (Manitoba and Maritime provinces) or 4 days (Western provinces).     That means that if it’s going to happen at the wholesale level, it’s only going to happen within as few as 42 working days.

Here’s some advice from someone who’s been at this a number of years:

  1. Buy aggressively only in cases where supply may become a problem towards the end for whatever reason.
  2. Buy carefully, even conservatively, but keeping a close watch on monitoring inventory; closer than you would the rest of the year.
  3. Watch for areas you might be going out of stock on categories as well as individual titles.   If everything suitable for a particular demographic runs out at once, you’re in trouble!
  4. Increase inventory of higher quality leather Bibles towards December 1st, then let stock slide back to January levels.    You want to make the Christmas sale to that discriminating customer, but you don’t want to have too much capital invested in this department at year-end.
  5. On the other hand, remember that the January customer deserves a decent selection of goods, too.   You’ve got to have, at the very, very minimum, a copy of each of your top 250 books always available for purchase after January1st.  (500 in larger stores.)
  6. If it hasn’t sold by December 12th, reduce the price then.   Don’t expect you’ll have enough traffic in January to catch your post-Christmas reductions.
  7. In Canada, rules like these need to be tempered by a close watch on the dollar situation; at least with books.   If the Canadian dollar starts to fall (and cost prices start to rise) be thankful you got the deals you did, and move on.   Make sure your pricing allows for flexibility if your payment is going to be made a later date, and therefore a later exchange rate.
  8. Staff are busy with extra volume and hours at the store and additional seasonal church and home activities.   Why not have your annual staff party in January?   (We did this last year!)  If the cost is something you want to expense in 2009, find a restaurant that will allow you to prepay the event.  (Without locking in a date if weather’s a concern.)
  9. Looking for bargain books for that January event?   Look no further than your own inventory.   Use the date codes on price tags to note inventory that didn’t move and reduce accordingly.   If you decide to reduce things below cost then do so in December so the lower price is reflected in your inventory.    If they’re really past their sell-by date, consider applying a write-off code to them before inventory also.
  10. You may not have to lay off staff after Christmas.   Ask all your existing staff what their expectations, need-for-a-break status, and holiday plans are.   Some staff may be willing to pare down their hours allowing you to keep people you’ve invested hours in training.
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Bestsellers… But Where?

The number six and number nine books in the CBA top ten this week are the Standard Lesson Commentaries.   But I’ve never, ever been asked for this in my store, let alone actually sold one.

Who uses them?   Is this another example of U.S. charts not reflecting Canadian realities, or do some of us in Canada sell these?

How do the bestseller charts reflect what’s going on in your store?

Do you have a chart of your own that reflects what your customers are interested in? If you send it, and we can cut/paste it in, we’ll include it here.

(Here’s ours:)

chart October

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Short Discount Not Intended on Individual Copies


Despite what’s happening at your local church, some people still have an interest in hymnbooks.   Hymnbooks are produced in quantity and sold to churches in bulk.   Usually a short discount applies, in some cases as low as 10% or 12%, but usually never better than 24%.

However, when an individual comes to your store and wants to buy a single copy — either to have a home copy that matches what’s used in their local congregation, or to simply enjoy a trip down memory lane — you probably shouldn’t be even mentioning the MSRP that you find online or in your store’s database.  Not if you want to stay in business, anyway.

Rather, that should be treated as a “net” price, and you should price the book incorporating at least a 40% markup.   (That’s not the same as the items you get a 40% discount on; to do that you multiply times 1.67 or a 67% markup.)   Of course, if you want to make the normal margin as you would on a regular book, then you would use a 67% markup.   (You can then be seen to be giving a good discount when First Church asks you for a price on 200 copies.)

How does your store treat individual sales of hymnbooks (and some publishers’ pew Bibles)??

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New Policies for Book Reviewers in USA

Patti Gibbons notes this week the announcement in the US by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) requiring that bloggers and other reviewers clearly indicate that they were given free copies of the book in question.   Since this blog is read by people “in the biz,” I wanted to note it here.

Following months of deliberation by the Federal Trade Commission and rumors throughout the social media marketing world, the FTC this week released it’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” to much buzz.  And, a little panic, I think, for bloggers, twitterers and facebookers who like to talk about their favorite goods and services, wondering what this all might mean for them.

It’s an 81-page document, in rather complex legal-governmental language. You can read it by clicking here if you like [opens PDF document in a new window].

First, because I’ve fielded a few questions about this from the reviewers I work with on content for clients, I want to define what the new regulations say about bloggers – as I understand it. Disclaimer:  I’m not a lawyer, this isn’t legal advice…

If a company gives you product or money or any other kind of award or compensation in return for your posting about them or their product on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social networking site, you (the blogger) need to say so clearly.  The consequence for not doing so includes potentially hefty fines, but the report does not delineate what to expect for certain infractions, nor how specifically it will be enforced…

I in turn left his comment on her blog which shows a potentially “other” way of looking at this:

While the FTC announcement doesn’t directly affect Canadian bloggers, I review books frequently and therefore have an interest in this.

“If a company gives you product;” is an interesting statement because if a publisher gives you a book looking for endorsement or review, it’s true they’ve given you something that has, for example, a retail value of let’s say $14.99 USD.

However, many of the books I’m given are NOT product; they are “advance reader copies;” they have no barcode and they are marked “Not for Sale.”   Ergo, no commercial value.

To me, this is key.  Publishers can take the pressure off reviewers by simply doing more of these advance copies.