Archive for May, 2010

Teens Encouraged to Dream Big, Make a Difference

There’s a new genre of books emerging, aimed mostly at young adults, encouraging them to consider doing things on a global scale and inventing ministry opportunities that have heretofore never existed.

A few days ago here, we looked at Alex and Brett Harris’ new title, Start Here, which is the sequel to Do Hard Things.   Many of our stores also continue to stock Be The Change by Zach Hunter as well as his Generations Change and the newly-released Lose Your Cool.

Today, we want to introduce you to Austin Gutwein, who at age nine (not a typo) started an organization called Hoops of Hope which builds schools, dorms and water projects for children in Africa orphaned by AIDS.   If there’s a teenager nearby, call them over to watch this 7-minute clip with you:

(If time is a factor, this clip is shorter, thought not as well produced.)

Here is the actual 90-second preview for the book Take Your Best Shot (Thomas Nelson, 2009 paperback) which doesn’t compare to watching the above documentary and shows a promotional video can actually miss the mark in telling a book’s story.

Promotional copies of books featured in video links at Christian Book Shop Talk are generally not provided by the publishers.   Books chosen are selected as having greatest potential impact in the Christian bookstore market.

Bonus link:  Here’s a longer, 9-minute, 700 Club piece on Zach Hunter.  Make sure youth in your area have access to these books.


Worship at the Altar of Book Publishing

This weekend, as part of our tour of Doors Open Toronto sites, we stopped in to visit the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Libary located next door to the Robarts Library on the University of Toronto Campus.

I made a comment which brought back this response from a staff member, “Yes, it’s a temple to books.”

Sadly, the entire Robarts facility, constructed in the early 1970s, was made of the wrong kind of concrete and is leaking profusely in many places, including one section of the Rare Book building.

In the meantime, about 125 km northeast, one of my wife’s Facebook friends writes this update:

Public library. Wireless. Good coffee. Wicked air-conditioning. And for some reason, shelves and shelves of of these paper things with cardboard covers.

CNN Religion Reporters Note Rise In “Historical Jesus” Publishing

Although the back-and-forth banter between authors sometimes bypasses more Evangelical Christian bookstores, when you study the publishing industry as a whole, there is a lot of effort current being put toward a single aspect of Christian belief…

The rise of Historical Jesus, Inc.

The search for the historical Jesus is an academic field, but it’s also turned into a thriving publishing industry, the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik points out:

The appetite for historical study of the New Testament remains a publishing constant and a popular craze. Book after book – this year, ten in one month alone – appears, seeking the Truth.

That “Truth” revolves around the historical study of Jesus: Did he actually exist, what did he really say and do?

Biblical scholars such as the controversial Bart Ehrman have long tried to answer those questions, Gopnik says.

But the search for the historical Jesus has become so popular that it’s now luring non-academics like Paul Verhoeven, the director of the film Basic Instinct. Verhoeven just released a book written from a skeptic’s view of the historical Jesus entitled Jesus of Nazareth.

Verhoeven depicts Jesus as a political revolutionary, according to a press release from Seven Horses Press, the publisher of Verhoeven’s book:

Paul Verhoeven disrobes the mythical Jesus to reveal a man who is, after all, startlingly familiar to us, a man who has much in common with other great political leaders throughout history, human beings who believed that change was coming in their lifetimes.

In one of the most famous passages from the New Testament, Jesus asks his followers, “Who do you say I am?”

Two centuries later, skeptics – and the book industry – are still trying to answer.

Click the title link to follow comments on this story…

The Last Christian: David Gregory

No, David Gregory isn’t the last Christian, but he is the author of two very effective gift books which answer the questions many have about Christianity:  Dinner With A Perfect Stranger and A Day With A Perfect Stranger, both of which have been made into movies.

This time around, he authors a futuristic novel:

A.D. 2088.

Missionary daughter Abigail Caldwell emerges from the jungle for the first time in her thirty-four years, the sole survivor of a mysterious disease that killed her village. Abby goes to America, only to discover a nation where Christianity has completely died out. A curious message from her grandfather assigns her a surprising mission: re-introduce the Christian faith in America, no matter how insurmountable the odds.

Here’s a preview of The Last Christian:

Zondervan Announces Postponement of Rick Warren Title

The on-again, off-again title by Rick Warren, The Hope You Need is off-again.  Indefinitely this time.   The object of a cover design contest that received thousands of entries was also to be the first significant release by the California pastor since the record-setting Purpose Driven Life. Here’s the press release as issued yesterday:

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – May 26, 2010 – Zondervan today announced that the release of Rick Warren’s book, The Hope You Need: From the Lord’s Prayer, will be postponed indefinitely from its anticipated Fall 2010 launch.

“We had hoped to release this much anticipated book this Fall, but Rick has expressed his need to focus on some other projects at this time, which will result in the postponement of The Hope You Need,” said Moe Girkins, president & CEO of Zondervan.  “We understand many people will be disappointed at the delay, but we fully support Rick and respect his decision. Of course, we remain eager to bring this book to market when the time comes.”

The Hope You Need: from The Lord’s Prayer is inspired by a sermon series Warren taught at Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif.  It will invite readers to plug into the unparalleled power that exists within the words of the best-known prayer on the planet. With his classic approachability, passion and candor, Warren will provide helpful insight and much-needed inspiration for reviving whatever seems to be dying in life.

What amazes me is that with Warren’s popularity and prestige, why are there not several books in the market from his sermon series? Almost everything Andy Stanley preaches is adapted as a commercial product somewhere down the road, and this is true of other pastors as well.

Warren is beyond being simply well-recognized, he has a proven track record in the Christian bookstore market, and we are an industry in need of an injection of high performance products.

This isn’t Zondervan’s loss, it is a loss that affects every one of us.

Canada’s Status as “International” Bookselling Territory Declines

I’m sure that for many a Canadian Christian bookstore, there have been times when the difference between a good day and a bad day hinged on the availability of International Trade Paperback Editions from Thomas Nelson, Zondervan and other Christian publishers.

Conversely, while I’m not given to physical violence, if I ever meet the first literary agent who changed the words “United States” to “United States and Canada” in contracts related to prices and royalties, I’m not sure that for my part, that meeting will be altogether peaceful.

In the former case, Canada is considered a “foreign” territory and is entitled to international paperbacks in lieu of the first edition hardbacks sold in the U.S.  Purpose Driven Life has always been a paperback here, as The Me I Want To Be and 66 Love Letters currently are as well.

But in the much more predominant — as in 95% of the time — second case, all Canadian pricing is in converted U.S. dollars, which means that in the past few weeks, prices on newly-arriving stock have been in flux daily.    Technically, even ITPEs from Thomas Nelson arrive priced in U.S. dollars which must then be converted.   We live in the constant tension between two currencies, and staff have to be conversant with both, and aware which one they are quoting to customers at any given moment.

This past weekend, I happened on the website for Australia’s large Christian retailer, Koorong, and did a number of category sorts by popularity.   On one, the number one title was the new Francine Rivers title, Her Mother’s Hope, clearly indicated as “Intl. Trade Paper.” Wait — What the fiction is going on?

Last night, after receiving confirmation that the Canadian distributor for Tyndale was aware of this situation, I went back to Koorong and tried Son of Hamas. Same deal.   I tried Heaven by Randy Alcorn which was ITPE here until a few months ago.    Still available as ITPE at Koorong.

So the question is, ‘Is this just a Tyndale thing, or is this the shape of things to come?’    If it’s the latter, I don’t think our Canadian Christian book industry can take another hit. I’ll prefer to think at this point that Foundation Distribution fought on behalf of us all and lost, because I can’t imagine a different scenario.

And to the geniuses at Tyndale who think this is a good idea, I’d like to remind you again that the Rivers title was showing at as number one title in the sort I did at Koorong; you’re not polling those kind of numbers of Canada.   Not in hardcover.

This is a very price-conscious market which is part of a retail culture that lies in an economic DMZ halfway between the British and the American book marketing models.   Publishers can help the industry here succeed, or they can do what Tyndale is doing and shoot the wounded.

Michael Spencer aka The Internet Monk: First and Only Book Releases Posthumously

Nearly ten years ago, in November of 2000, Michael Spencer began blogging as The Internet Monk.   During that time he gained a huge online following, and when he passed away just a few short weeks ago, there was a huge outpouring of sympathy and love online.

Sadly, he never lived to see the publication of his first book, Mere Churchianity, being published by Multnomah.   I just finished reading the first chapter, “The Dairy Queen Incident,” and I think that Michael’s message is about to reach an entirely new set of readers.   Make sure you have copies on order.   (In Canada: Waterbrook/Multnomah is distributed to CBA trade by Augsburg-Fortress.)

…This is not a Christian book in the time-honored tradition. I’m not going to tell Christians to be nicer, care more, help other people, be generous, try to
forgive, do more for God, and so on, so that we can be better witnesses for Jesus.

I have good reasons for staying off the standard Christian-book path. It was churchianity—the “do more, be better, look good for God’s sake” variety—that turned me and my youth group into a room full of jerks.

So if you’re a Christian, by all means read this book.  You will find an approach to following Jesus that doesn’t ask you to do more while pretending to be righteous. I think you’ll like it.

But I’m not writing to church members who are happy where they’re at or to Christians who are heavily invested in the success and propagation of the church as an organization. I’m writing instead to those who
may still be associated with the church but no longer buy into much of what the church says. Not because they doubt the reality of God, but because they doubt that the church is really representing Jesus.

If you have customers who peruse Christian blogs, they will already be anticipating the release of this book.   You can send them to this blog post at iMonk to catch a first chapter download, but since most of us are bookstore buyers, I hope that neither the blog nor the publisher will mind me posting the link button here for us industry types.   Just click the image.

Dear Cards Provides a Christian Greeting Alternative

Sometimes a store owner will be reluctant to recommend a supplier with whom they had problems — especially multiple problems — but in this case, they all had to do with errors that took place as part of the extra contingencies that have to be in place when a U.S. supplier is shipping to Canada.  As the saying goes, ‘Your mileage may vary.’

All that to say, I still think we made a good choice in selecting Dear Cards as a supplement to our greeting card section; the cards are designed and printed somewhat differently; the inside verses are often full, multi-verse poems; and the wholesale and retail pricing is very reasonable.    The response has been slower than I hoped for, but I’m including their advertisement here — at no cost to them — because I tire of reading that there is only one supplier in the Christian greeting card industry.

Add Short Term Locations

There’s a business owner in our area who has five bookstores.   At Christmas, he does a number of temporary displays in shopping malls.   This year he did nineteen of them, bringing his pre-Christmas location total to TWENTY-FOUR!

That’s two dozen locations, but working from a base of only five permanent retail stores.

While Christmas is also a good season for Christian bookstores — really, who better to offer the ‘real’ Christmas message than those who sell Bibles and Children’s Bible storybooks year round — our “extended location” opportunity may lie somewhere else at a different time of year.

I’m talking about Christian camps, retreat centers and conference grounds.

Many of these have tried doing their own bookstore, only to met with the frustration of unsold stock at the end of the season.   It’s amazing how ‘stale’ inventory can appear when it has been boxed up for the previous ten months and other bestselling product has replaced it at the top of the charts.

It is a far better thing for seasonal organizations to work with an existing store.   Perhaps your store.

You have to decide what your role is going to be, and in fact, you may find you need to be flexible depending on who you’re dealing with.   You might chose to

  • Be the supplier. Get them what they need to start the season, have them pay you, and then buy back the unsold stock.   (Returns would have to be in good condition, however.)
  • Be the store. Take your own staff, your own cash register, and operate the store on a daily basis for the organization and pay them a percentage of sales, or a rent for the space and utilities.  (If we do this, our staff receive accommodation and meals, which may be a taxable benefit to the employee.)
  • Consign the product. Get them what they need to start the season, but no money changes hands up front; you count everything at the beginning and at the end and they pay for what they’ve sold at a shorter discount, perhaps with a supplementary payment each week throughout the summer.
  • Consign your overstock. Similar to the above, but you don’t do any additional purchasing on their behalf, you simply do a stock split on your existing inventory.
  • Consign selected product lines. We did this with a large campground about twelve years ago because they didn’t want to be burdened with running their own music inventory, given how quickly music changes. (Especially with new titles releasing mid-summer, which they truly appreciated!) At one point we were the music department in three different seasonal bookstores, and had additional music displays in nine other stores.

These are just a few examples.  You might be able to add some other models.

One obvious concern:  If the camp or conference center has a denominational bias, there may be inventory that you would not want to have come back to you at the end of the summer.   You would then need to tell the organization that sales on selected authors or publishers were final, or make arrangements whereby they share the cost of pre-arranged returns to your suppliers.  (You also need to establish a protocol upfront if the guest speakers or musicians for a particular week show up with their own product.)

Well planned out, this can be a great growth area for your business.

Have any of you tried anything like this?  What was your experience?

Omnivision Takes Christian Book Sales On The Road

You’ll have to click the link — at the end of this story — this time to catch the video, but you’ll be glad you did.   The converted bus Christian bookstore is a reality in the UK, and could be a model project on this side of the pond for people who want to get Christian books into under-served areas, especially more remote, rural towns.

Thanks to UK Christian Book Shops blog for this story.   To learn more about the parent company behind the mobile bookstore, check out the website for OMNIvision.

To begin, Click here to watch the 4-minute video.

Sophmore Title from Shauna Niequist

I tend to include book trailers here for books that are already landing on your shelves, though many companies issue these well in advance.   I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but if you’ve ever uploaded a video to YouTube, then you have an account and can create your own playlist of book, music and DVD trailers and just leave it running in your store.

This title actually releases mid-July.  Bittersweet is Shauna Niequist’s second non-fiction title with Zondervan, a follow-up to Cold Tangerines, with a similar one-colour cover theme.  It’s a book about the wisdom and growth that happens in seasons of pain and chaos.

Shauna is married to Aaron Niequist who directed worship for several years at Mars Hill Grand Rapids (Rob Bell) and now does the same at Willow Creek.   The latest move is no surprise since Shauna is the daughter of Bill and Lynn Hybels.

Canadian stores:  What rights do you have in firing people whose beliefs or lifestyle undergoes major changes after you’ve hired them?   It’s a question that Christian bookstores — whether or profit or non-profit — often have to consider.   The Ontario Divisional Court ruling in the Christians Horizons case is therefore significant.   Read the latest in this story at the May 20th post at Thinking Out Loud.

Arrest Warrant Issued in Copyright Infringment

In what must be one of the most blatant acts of copyright violations involving key Christian publishers, the ECPA has organized an effort to sue for damages, while the High Court of London has issued an arrest warrant against a man who has gone missing.

It’s almost worthy of prime time television, yet it involves publishers we know including Tyndale, Zondervan, Baker, IVP and Nelson.   Here’s the May 19th story at Publisher’s Weekly:

A bench warrant has been issued for the arrest of Andrew Amue by the High Court in London after Amue failed to appear at a hearing to enforce a March 2008 order that he cease copyright infringement on hundreds of Christian books.

Acting on behalf of several of its members, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) asked the High Court to hold Amue in contempt for refusing to comply with the court’s order that he stop displaying and charging for access to more than 130 works on his Web sites, and

In 2004 ECPA discovered that Amue’s site at featured the full texts of hundreds of copyrighted Christian theological works that had been posted without permission.
After first offering free access to the texts, Amue began to charge a subscription fee. To address the infringement ECPA organized a coalition of its members, including Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, Baker Publishing Group, Tyndale House, Moody Publishers, Logos Software, and InterVarsity Press U.K. to file charges against Amue.

ECPA president and CEO Mark Kuyper told PW this was the first time the association had encountered infringement on this scale, and with this persistence. “Our individual publishers issue take-down notices all the time, and usually sites comply right away. But Amue just doesn’t give up.” Added Kuyper, “We were very concerned looking at a future of digital publishing about how people like Amue might abuse their access. We wanted to make sure to set a precedent going forward.”

From 2004 to 2008, ECPA sent Amue a series of letters and e-mails asking him to either remove the works or obtain the necessary licenses. Amue either ignored the letters and e-mails or defended himself, “even getting indignant and belligerent that we would ask him to do that,” said Kuyper. Amue’s whereabouts are currently unknown, and he is believed to be operating under a false name. “He’s disappeared before, and we’ve always found him,” said Kuyper. “I expect we will again.”

For more background, check out this 2008 blog post by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition as well as an earlier 2010 media release from ECPA’s own website (where you’ll also find today’s story)