Archive for November, 2009

Credit Notes Vanish Into Black Hole

Part of being entrepreneurial is learning to run your business by following certain instincts.   But have you ever had a hunch that something just didn’t feel right and you discovered you were right?

I have to admit it, I use my memory to store information more than I should.   There are times when it’s good to write things down, and I don’t.

This weekend, my wife and I came to the shocking realization that one of our key suppliers — who we’ve been paying by credit card with a monthly phone call — hasn’t processed a credit note on our behalf since the 4th of July.

Furthermore, they now want us to go through every invoice, every packing slip, and every e-mail since then and come up with a complete listing of products, quantities, ISBNs and reasons why we were short shipped or in receipt of damaged goods.

Yeah, we have all the time in the world to do that.   And pigs can fly.

This is a supplier from whom we’ve made a lot of purchases.   But we’ve also had our fair share of missing or hurt items.    (Hurts that could have been avoided by waiting until our next order, as we requested, rather than sending out vulnerable small packets.)

Moral of the story:   Keep a “receivables” journal of pending credit notes, and/or mark invoices “not to be paid” until a credit note is received.

This is going to take several hours I don’t have.    First, I have to deal with an abandoned car that broke down on the weekend…

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Reconsidering Our Own Store in Light of Ontario Government’s Anti-Business Policies

November 29, 2009 1 comment

I love this business.   And my interest in it means that I will be continuing this blog regardless of what happens to my own stores.

But today, customers in Cobourg, Ontario were given notice:


We are currently re-assessing the need to continue in business.    The provincial government, in introducing the HST, in creating yet another statutory holiday with Family Day, and by constantly raising minimum wages on a regular basis is putting us into a position where it’s no longer practical to continue operating…

Toronto Author Pens Study on Romans

What God Has Promised You, by Stephen McAllister, is a hope-filled, faith-building book that opens people’s eyes to the beauty, majesty, and power of God’s promises to the early Romans … and to you today.

This powerful, liberating book invites you to discover key truths from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and see for yourself how they apply to the challenges you face individually and in your family, job, and church. Whether you use the book for private study or as a guide for group discussion, you will grow in faith, knowledge, and spiritual and physical energy as you claim God’s promises to:

– Direct your path.
– Be present in all circumstances.
– Make your life new in Christ.
– Rescue you from sin.
– Restore your life through the Holy Spirit.
– Use your gifts to strengthen the Church.
– Overcome evil through love.

15.95 US/16.95 CDN; 174 pages, BPS Books.  Wholesale terms available.  To learn more visit the website at Spirit Renewal Ministries or contact srministries [at] gmail [dot] com.

Book information submitted by the author.

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Zondervan’s Woes Chronicled

While many general readers aren’t as preoccupied with industry concerns as we are, today on my personal blog I listed some of the major concerns facing Zondervan, as it is a leading Christian publisher, and it’s interesting to see them all assembled in one article.

Some of the items contain links back to this blog which many of you have already read.   A few items may be new to you, including the lawsuit launched against Zondervan by Thomas Nelson alleging copyright infringement in the former’s Princess book.

Click here to read today’s edition of Thinking Out Loud.  Comments may be left there (if general) or here (if industry related).

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Cassidy: Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation

November 26, 2009 3 comments

I’ll probably getting into trouble with some of you for linking today to Canadian blogger Tim Challies.   His website is hugely popular in both Canada and the U.S. but his Christian book radar is limited exclusively to the online world, to whom he refers his very large quantity of mostly Calvinist readers.   He’s certainly no friend of Christian bookstores, though he would argue that he’s promoting a general awareness of Christian titles; blah, blah, blah…

Still, it’s a holiday in the U.S. and our industry has ground to a halt, so I thought you might enjoy his take on what would be The Ultimate Christian Novel, which includes both a summary of the book and a few sample paragraphs.  The title of this post is the title of his proposed work of fiction.    Click here to read more.

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Deadly Viper Pulled from Retail Shelves: Zondervan

While Christian bookstores and national online retailer CBD have complied with Zondervan’s request to pull the book Deadly Viper Character Assassins by Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite, as of 11:00 PM EST Wednesday, Amazon was still processing orders for the title, as were Ingram and STL.

By 5:00 PM EST Wednesday, the pulling of the book had caught the notice of USAToday which reported:

Evangelical publisher Zondervan has pulled a leadership book featuring a kung fu theme after Asian-American Christian leaders led an online protest against its imagery.

The book, Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership, and its related curriculum included Asians in ninja garb with the words “character creep” and videos that featured “Caucasians speaking with fake Asian accents,” said the Rev. Soong-Chan Rah, an associate professor at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago.

“It’s inappropriate to use an ancient culture to simply market the book when it’s not really about martial arts,” Rah said Tuesday (Nov. 24).

He wrote a Nov. 3 open letter to Zondervan and the book’s authors that caught fire on the Internet and prompted criticism from a range of Christian leaders who thought the imagery was offensive.

Continue reading “…Zondervan pulls Kung-Fu book” here.

Zondervan issued an apology which included a link to this image:

which was one of four major issues cited North Park Theological Seminary professor Soong-Chan Rah who called for an apology on November 3rd.  To read the whole of the Christianity Today article concerning Zondervan’s apology, click here.

The article goes on to say that several bloggers praised Zondervan’s decision, though we also found some who thought the whole exercise was a gross overreaction, something with which the seminary professor would obviously disagree.

Did your store receive a request to remove the books along with a return authorization?   If so, does it bother you that Amazon and several distributors are continuing to process orders?

As long as it’s still up, the promo video at YouTube is located here.

This one won’t be taken down, you can read the professor’s article here at Sojourners.

Zondervan Sells Youth Specialties to Youthworks

Zondervan Publishing, a HarperCollins company, has sold Youth Specialties to Youthworks, a Minneapolis based organization founded in 1994 that heretofore, most of us in this country have never heard of.   The deal was announced by Youthworks on November 20th and reiterated jointly by YS.    It is unclear what this means for the development of future products published under the Youth Specialties or Invert imprints, the release states that “the publishing rights will remain with Zondervan.”

The news has created some discussion in the blogosphere, including comments by Tony JonesDavid Lambert, former YS head Mark Oestreicher (who was released several days previous), and current staffer Adam McLine, just to name a few.

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Imagine 40 Christian Bookstores Hanging in the Balance: STL (UK)

November 24, 2009 3 comments

The limbo in which STL finds itself in the UK impacts more than just a book distributor and a couple of publisher imprints.   There’s also the issue of the 40 Wesley Owen bookstores, or as they say across the pond, bookshops.

To get an idea of the heat being generated by the discussion over there, you should visit The Christian Bookshops Blogisn’t that name eerily similar to the one for this blog? — and in particular this post which indexes all of the recent discussion and mentions some of the options being considered.

In Canada, we’ve seen a 17-store chain and an 8-store chain impacted over the last eighteen months.   But never anything like this.   For Brits, the memory of the SPCK Bookshop chain debacle is all too fresh.  There are also reports that one supplier, Kingsway, has reclaimed all their inventory from the STL warehouse.

Wikipedia on STL

Complete list of 40 Wesley Owen locations

Christianity Today story

Church Times (UK) story

Having listed a few alternative links, The Christian Bookshops Blog linked above remains your best source to follow this story.

Why Every Store Needs to Audit Freight Costs on Every Invoice From Every Supplier

November 23, 2009 1 comment

Last week I received another in an endless parade of shipments from a supplier whose frequency of backorder releases I had brought under control until they changed computer systems.     After taking several years to tame the beast, it was frustrating to have to start all over again, especially when the transgressions this time around are far worse than at the first.

The recent shipment of three backordered items had freight costs of 19.1% on items with a working margin of 40%.  That means that if I did not dispute this invoice, I would be losing 49% of my gross profit margin if I am able to sell the three items in question.   This is a supplier from whom I order every 2-3 working days, so the shipment could easily have been added to the next order created.

But keeping after your suppliers to stop the backorder nonsense benefits them as well.    When you consider the human resource costs of picking, checking, packing and pickup; and then add invoicing/accounts receivable costs plus the costs of the packing materials themselves; it’s easy to see that the supplier pays as much again for the shipment as they are paying UPS or CanPar or Purolator.  (Stores that commit their wholesale shipments to Canada Post are, in my opinion, taking a huge chance on when and how they will arrive.)

Ministry is ministry, but business is business.   Don’t be afraid to speak up.   The effective gross profit margin you are able to preserve may contribute to the longevity of your store.    Ignoring it may contribute to its downfall, and in some small measure, possibly the downfall of the supplier concerned.

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Get to Know Paul Baloche

Click on the image below to see the eight-minute video and learn a little about Paul and his songwriting process:

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Jack Hayford: A Great Author Working a Great Text

For several years we were able to pick up Jack Hayford’s Sunday night broadcast from Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California.   Hayford is a very level-headed, balanced Charismatic pastor who is often seen as a ‘reconciler’ between the Charismatic community and those outside it.   He’s also a gifted worship leader — and writer of  the chorus “Majesty” — and author of many books.

The book of Nehemiah is a great text to be working with.   I enjoyed Andy Stanley on this recently, but this classic title by Hayford — currently in re-issue by Charisma House — looks at the text as painting a picture for us of the Holy Spirit.

On this short video, Hayford introduces the book in his trademark vest; though as often it’s a sweater!

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Next Generation of NOOMA May Bypass Retail

In an interview with the Burnside Writers Collective, Rob Bell explores the possibilities for another generation of video clips.   He says that it was plain funny to produce something and then have to wait six months for it to appear on retail shelves.  But isn’t that what authors and artists have been doing for generations?

As a user of today’s technology, I get that.   But it appears the future of his short film production won’t include retailers like you and I:

BWC: It’s been a while since our last interview with you, and I’m inclined to say that what’s upcoming for you is a reinvention— “Rob Bell 2.0”. What new direction are you heading in? And what’s this I hear about Nooma being over?

Rob Bell: It’s sort of an endless evolution. I have a new series coming out next year—I can tell you that much. When you work within a particular format, each has its strengths but it also has its limitations. With Nooma, we made twenty-four. And then, you start musing on, “What if I do this? What if I try this? I’m bumping up against this element of it, so what happens if I remove that element?”

Obviously, being able to view [the videos] free online is a factor. When we started Nooma in 2001, we would make something that, six months later, came out in a store. And now, that just seems funny. Now, you make it, and then next week everybody’s got it.

I’m endlessly interested in content—how to make something shorter, denser, get to it faster. Film can sometimes get in the way of what you’re doing. With filmmaking, you can have these nice panoramic shots, and I love it: it’s great film, it’s great cinema. But there’s this thing you’re trying to say, and you’re always trying to get at it—the essence. Raw essence. Faster, better, stronger.

With Nooma, people said, “No one will watch these. No one will buy these.” You kind of have to see one, and then say, “Oh! I get it!” Hopefully, this [upcoming project] has the same sort of effect. I’m endlessly restless.

BWC: So I take it this new series will adapt to or embrace the file sharing age?

Bell: Yeah, one of the things we’re exploring is making a film and releasing it in such a way so that people could instantly send the link to their friends… how to make it as easy as possible so that everyone could watch the highest resolution quality, etc.

Read the whole interview here.

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