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Archive for February, 2010

GodRocks Goes It Alone for Canadian Distribution

In a promotional package mailed February 16th to some — but clearly not all* — Canadian stores, Chelsea Road Productions, creators of the GodRocks series of books, DVDs, apparel, and VBS curricula for children and early teens announced the launch of their own distribution company.   Product was previously fulfilled in Canada through David C. Cook.

Independent distribution — such as when Steve Bell pulled his product from CMC years ago to create another distribution source — allows authors and artists to ensure a more focused marketing effort on behalf of their product.   They feel that otherwise, product gets ‘lost in the shuffle’ of a larger distributor.

But some retailers don’t like the idea of having to add another supplier to their database.   As someone who worked on two different occasions — in two different locations — for InterVarsity Press Canada, I can tell you that the absorption of that product line by R. G. Mitchell would have had a mixed effect depending on the size of the stores buying product.

In the larger store environment, maintaining separate accounts for Steve Bell’s Signpost Music, InterVarsity Press, or GodRocks is a non-issue.  But for smaller stores that are more conscious of freight costs, being able to buy single units in the context of larger stock orders is more efficient.

However, GodRocks is offering free shipping on orders of $200 with many core products available at better than normal trade discounts, including an aggressive VBS curriculum discount.

*Stores like ours which didn’t get the mailing piece should contact GodRocks in Kilbride, Ontario at 877 444 4045 for a 48-page, full colour catalogue.  You can also visit the webiste at www.godrocks.ca

Christian Stores Not Part of HarperCollins Storefinder

February 27, 2010 1 comment

Customers using the HarperCollins Canada website to track Zondervan books are given the option of clicking on a “store finder” for suggestions as to where to purchase, but not a single Christian bookstore comes up among the listings. Not one.

The page is arranged by province and is only accessed after a title search; thus leaving the impression that it is title-specific.   Regrettably, Christian bookstores, some of whom would count among HarperCollins’ top accounts in terms of dollar volume, don’t get the referrals.

As the web becomes more central to how customers find product information, this needs to change soon.

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Alison Strobel Uses Fiction to Confront Spousal Abuse

In a very frank and honest story Alison Strobel — daughter of Lee Strobel — deals with the issue of spousal abuse, which affects many marriages, even within the church.   The video gives you an clear window into the graphic nature of this book, The Weight of Shadows which releases in paperback in May from Zondervan.    To learn more about Alison, click here.

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Veggie Tales: Lost Confidence in Pricing

February 26, 2010 1 comment

The following is reflective of the Canadian marketplace.  Your circumstances in the U.S. may differ. Prices are $CDN.

For Canadian Christian retailers, being shut out of better pricing on Big Idea DVDs is similar to being shut out of a gated community.

With Veggie Tales titles selling in the Christian bookstore market for $18.99 also selling for $6.99 at Zellers (Canada’s equivalent of Target) it’s hard for either consumers or retailers to maintain confidence in the CBA stores’ pricing.

While big-box retail incursions into CBA products are nothing new anymore, this case is different from The Shack, the Left Behind series or the Gaither DVDs, because the price difference is so radical:  $6.99 is perceived as one-third off $18.99.

The $6.99 price point at Zellers wasn’t just a momentary thing, either.   Stores have continued to receive shipments at this price for the last two (possible three) quarters on all but the three most recent titles.

In the U.S., CBD was selling Veggie Tales backlist before Christmas for as low as $4.99 when you purchased ten assorted units.   With their 25% handling charge on Canadian orders, plus the varying currency exchange rate, at one point their deal was better than Zellers.

Both prices are below Canadian dealer cost, and when the HST goes into effect in Ontario and British Columbia on July 1st, dealers will be free to buy their own stock at Zellers, finally being able to write off the full tax inputs on non-book items.

At price differentials that severe, many retailers simply opt out.   As one frontliner told me, “It’s hard not to tell the customers about the deals elsewhere.”

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Bible Design Blog Represents Almost Obsessive Bible Insights

February 25, 2010 4 comments

I like books.  You like books.  I am at my most passionate selling a Bible to someone, especially when it’s their first.    But after 35 years in the business, there’s still a thing or two about Bibles I don’t know, and I don’t breathe the business the way J. Mark Bertrand does.

Mark has been blogging on the subject of Bibles for many years at the Bible Design Blog and there’s nothing about them that he doesn’t know.  In fact, fifteen years ago, he began the process of trying to design a Bible that would contain a number of desired features.   In the process he developed an appreciation for the complexities and challenges of this unique form of printing and binding.  In September of 2007, he started the blog.

If his name seems familiar to you, he’s the coauthor of Beguiled, a fiction book written with Deanne Gist.  He has his own series of mysteries coming next spring with Bethany House which you can read more about here and this year started a blog about the crime fiction genre in general.

In the Bible Design & Binding blog, Mark doesn’t pretend to engage the theological debates that typify most Bible critiques, but he’s an expert on editions, binding types, features, type sizes, availability, margins, fonts, types of leather, gilding, edging, etc.  He is prolific as a writer, and also supplies many photographs as well.   While this may be a case of “too much information” for some of us, my guess is that each of us has a handful of customers who share Mark’s passion and would find his blog to be most helpful and informative.

In that respect, the blog is both consumer- and trade-friendly.   You can share the site information with customers with confidence, although, as you might expect he does have some links to A*az*n and more surprisingly lots of links to e-bay (presumably for out-of-print editions, about which he writes frequently.)

In addition to the first link here, you might also want to go directly to his FAQ page, to learn more about the man and his obsession — I don’t think he’d mind the word — with all things Bible.


Christian Concert Ticket Prices Make Access Elitist

As a veteran who helped pioneer contemporary Christian music in Canada back in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, it grieves me to see Christian concert ticket prices in Canada cross the $40 mark.

Tickets for the Michael W. Smith & Downhere concerts — long sold-out in Ottawa with a second show added — are $35 advance, $40 at the door, plus GST and online surcharge.   This is before gas/transportation/parking and any consideration of any social activity before or after involving food.

A guy taking a date?   That’s $70 advance or $80 at the door.   A father taking his two kids?   That’s $105 advance or $120 at the door.   (At an average $17.99 price, that $120 will buy 6½ CDs.)(At $9 admission, that $120 will by 13.3 cinema tickets; they could each see four movies.)

I’m sure there are churches that will subsidize tickets for the youth group, or for particular people who can’t afford them; but should churches really be footing the bill for kind of thing?   Don’t get me wrong, a concert can be a really positive thing in the life of a young person for several reasons:

  • the music itself; the words, the performance, the worship value
  • the personal ministry of the artist in the spoken word portion
  • being among a much larger group of Christian youth

but one wonders if the donors to youth ministry in general would be supportive of knowing where the money goes:

  • the usual sound reinforcement, lighting, travel, hotel, marketing, ticket giveaways, promoter’s office expense and salaries, etc.  (They are using churches, so there are not the usual expenses associated with a unionized concert hall.)
  • the artist’s fee — which must be considerable if the ticket price is $35/40

It would be interesting to know of all the revenue collected at these concerts, how much of it was subsidies from Church youth budgets, because I know my kids can’t afford it.   We regularly pass on lesser expenses — my son is home right now because we didn’t have the $30 for his school’s “field trip day” including a youth concert last week and the spring and fall retreat weekends.

Perhaps it’s nothing for a mom or dad in the affluent suburbs to reach in their pockets and hand Jeremy or Jessica $70 so they can buy a ticket and take a friend.   But what about those hit harder by the current economy?   What about the youth groups in the inner city?   What about the poor soul who has heard MWS on Christian radio and would simply give anything to be able to afford the concert experience?

In adding the pricing to our store’s “Coming Events” website today, I guess I just got “sticker shock.”   I’m sure there are people out there who can’t wait to tell me I’ve got it all wrong.

So I’ll just apologize now.   I’m sorry.   I just don’t see the need to price of a Christian concert in Canada to be $40.

Let’s save the price gouging for Christian conferences.   At least there it’s understood that the money is being siphoned out of church budgets.

Later That Same Day — An Update:

The concerns here were also voiced in an e-mail to the promoter and we received a prompt and polite reply.   While obviously nothing can change with respect to this concert, I felt that they are indeed exercising some sensitivity to concert pricing and are trying to be proactive in this regard.   My hope is that, moving forward, the Christian music industry can find ways to keep the costs within reach of the people who most need to be there.

UK Christians Pray for Christian Book Industry

First, I was astounded by word that a UK Charitable Trust was rescuing the remaining Wesley Owen stores.

But now comes word that the entire country will focus on the Christian book trade in a Day of Prayer on the last Sunday of March.  And this isn’t the first time.

As an industry we need need prayer.  But again, I have a hard time envisioning something like this gaining momentum in North America.   Our Christian community in the U.S. and Canada doesn’t see the benefits of having a presence for the Church of Jesus Christ in the retail marketplace.   They see it solely as a business, which of course, much of it is.

Still, if you’re going through a rough winter season, don’t be afraid to call local churches and ask them to put your store on their prayer list.   You might get a mixed response, but the support of the ones who respond favorably is immeasurable.

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Out of Print — 5 Stages of Customer Reaction

February 22, 2010 2 comments

He is a respected leader in his church, and a respected businessman in our town.  I thought he knew how things work in the greater world, but when I told him his requested book was most definitely out of  print, it was obvious even over the telephone that I had greatly wounded him.   Add to this the fact that he is part of a denomination that gets seriously attached to the great titles of the past, and would have a hard time accepting their unavailability under any circumstances.

So, with apologies to Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, here are the five stages a customer goes through after you give them the bad news.

  1. Denial.   It’s a very, very popular title.   It can’t be out of print.  You must have looked it up wrong.  Or they have it confused with something else.
  2. Anger.   What kind of publisher would take a title like that and delete it?   What has this Christian book industry come to?  That’s the book we use.
  3. Bargaining.   Perhaps if you, the retailer, would make some calls they would see how badly needed this title is.  I’m prepared to wait a week.
  4. Depression.   If that’s how they want to play the game, I guess I’m going to give up reading Christian books entirely.
  5. Acceptance.   Okay; is there another similar title you might recommend by a similar author?   Does that publisher cover the topic in another title?

Fortunately, once you get there, the answer to number 5 is often “yes.”

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Kevin Leman is Exceedingly Blunt

February 21, 2010 1 comment

Kevin Leman is very comfortable on Christian radio, but not every Christian radio listener is comfortable with Kevin Leman.    References to what is referred to in physiology as “the male sex response” are dubbed “pleasing Mr. Happy.”   Fine for adults.   A little risky — not to mention risqué — if there are children in the room.

Check out this promo video for Have a New Husband by Friday ONLY if there are no kids or teens in the room.

For a further discussion on the state of Christian radio check out this post.

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Bruce Marchiano Re-releases Matthew DVD

On the 15th Anniversary of the project you and I know as The Visual Bible: Matthew comes word from STL Distribution that the actor who starred in the production, Bruce Marchiano, has acquired the product under his own Marchiano Ministries banner and will re-release an anniversary edition of the DVD on March 11th with a new title, The Gospel According to Matthew and new cover with distribution from Nest Entertainment.

The actor — who has longed to return to the role — is also working on a production of the Gospel of John, which has a high percentage of “distinct material” from the synoptic gospels and therefore very little overlap of the text of Matthew. Visual Bible once licensed a version of John to Garth Drabinsky, which is still available here from the Canadian Bible Society, however that version was based on the CEV, not the NIV

UK Christian Music Giant, Kingsway, Establishes North American Presence

February 18, 2010 2 comments

CCLI Most Recent Survey for USA

CCLI most recent survey for The UK

A comparison between the CCLI Top 25 Worship Songs list for the United States and for the UK reveals that the top songs on both lists don’t appear in the top 15 of the other.   There is a different tenor to worship depending on which side of the Atlantic you live, with Canada sometimes caught between the two worship styles.

Chris Tomlin’s name is absent on the UK list, while many Americans would be unfamiliar with the music of Robin Mark, Stuart Townend or even Graham Kendrick, who is considered the father of modern worship in England.    Over there, Matt Redman’s “I Will Offer Up My Life” out-charts his “Once Again,” and songs like “Be The Centre” and Canadian Brian Doerksen’s “Faithful One” are widely used but often unknown stateside.   Meanwhile in the U.S., newcomer Matt Maher’s “Your Grace is Enough” and the multi-authored “Jesus Messiah” have joined the top 15; no small feat when you consider the number of songs currently out there.

So it’s no surprise that the leading producer of worship recordings in the UK, Kingsway Music, sees North America as a relatively untapped market and beyond existing distribution arrangements, and has elected to establish a full-fledged label office being headed by Canada’s Steve Nicolle and using the distribution services of EMI Christian Music Group (EMI CMG) in the U.S. and David C. Cook in Canada.  (Both Kingsway and DCC Canada are subsidiaries of David C. Cook.)

Nicolle implied that beyond product distribution, the establishment of a North American branch might see more North American visibility of the artists themselves, and also the development of Canadian artists on the Kingsway label itself, though it was not clear if those Canadian artists would see distribution in the UK.

For this writer, a fresh infusion of UK-based worship music can only raise the bar here in North America.   Without wanting to minimize what we have already, the fact remains that almost all North American Christian music — recorded and played on radio — is controlled from Nashville, and owes both its origins and its current influences to guitar-based country music.   British Christian music has always been more substantive in its lyrics, with compositions and arrangements often owing to more orchestral or keyboard-based forms.

The sound of MercyMe, Casting Crowns or Third Day is simply an ingrained American music form, so the question is, does the highly controlled U.S. Christian music industry really want to expose its audience to something of a different quality; in other words, do they want to upset the status quo?

Conversely of course, is the question as to whether Kingsway North America can really succeed in getting its titles played on radio and sold at Family Christian or Lifeway stores.

I hope they do.   There’s more to be gained at this point in betting for them than betting against them.   I believe that this is the music that worship leaders in the U.S. — and the people who attend their churches — are desperate for.   For a sample of what I mean, check out this communion song by Stuart Townend.   You can also click on some of the related links to hear other songs from this DVD.

In the last few months, we’ve taken some time to try to get this 2008 DVD released in Canada at the very least.   I personally believe that, given the right exposure, every single person in Canada who purchased Robin Mark’s Revival In Belfast would want to purchase this CD or DVD.   Hopefully this is one of the products that Kingsway North America will bring to light.  Let’s see if that happens.

~Paul Wilkinson

Source:  CCLI Top Songs Page and  Graf-Martin Communications Press Release (Feb 10)

If the Kingsway name is unfamiliar to you, visit their UK website.

Women’s Interest Title from Sheila Walsh

We often tell customers that Stormie Omartian has had three lifetimes:  Music artist and songwriter with husband Michael, Christian exercise and fitness expert with books, cassettes and videos, and now the author of over a dozen bestselling books on prayer.

If that’s true, then Sheila Walsh has had four lifetimes:  Cutting edge concert performing artist in the UK, co-host of The 700 Club, women’s author and speaker, and finally increasingly known as the author of children’s books and videos.

Beautiful Things Happen When A Woman Trusts God releases this month from Thomas Nelson.

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