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Archive for December, 2011

Mark Driscoll Tackles Sex-Related Subjects Other Books Don’t

This consumer-oriented review also appeared today at Thinking Out Loud

The man who doesn’t mince words is, not surprisingly equally candid when it comes to comes to marriage and intimacy in marriage. In Real Marriage, Mark teams up with wife Grace and reveals much in the way of personal details of their own marriage, both in its early days and presumably as recent as yesterday. It walks the fine line — without truly crossing it — of too much information; while at the same time making your marriage the focus of the book’s content.

The full title is Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together though a proper disclaimer would warn you that the book is divided into two parts, with sex being the theme of the second, and probably being the focus of much that will be written about the book both before and after publication. The book does warn more conservative types — and less urban types — to sit down while reading the Q & A chapter on what types of sex are permissible within the bounds of Christian marriage.

First person narratives written by two authors can be as awkward to read as they are tricky to write, so there are sections of “… I (Mark)…” interspersed with sections of “… I (Grace) …” but beyond that the book flows well and Grace’s background in public relations means she was undoubtedly a gifted writer long before this.

Mark — no stranger to print with more than a dozen previous books and tons of online copy — is especially vulnerable here as he is brutally frank about everything from his own sex drive to various conflicts that have arisen in their married life. As with so many pastors today, the availability of online audio and video means that you can almost literally hear Mark speaking as you read.

God does not give us a standard of beauty — God gives us spouses. Unlike other standards of beauty, a spouse changes over time. This means if your spouse is tall you are into tall. If your spouse is skinny, you are into skinny. If your spouse is twenty, you are into twenty. When your spouse is sixty, you are no longer into twenty, but rather into sixty. And if your spouse used to be skinny, you were into skinny, but now you are into formerly skinny. We are to pour all our passion and pursuit of sexual pleasure into our spouses alone without comparing them to anyone else in a lustful way. (p. 108-9)

Mark’s take on this subject is born not just out of theory and research, but from thousands of interactions with individuals and couples as a pastor and conference speaker. Just a page past the above quotation is this anecdote:

He had a beautiful wife but was never sexually satisfied. His mind was filled with sinful fantasies from pornography he had viewed, as well as sexually experiences he had enjoyed before marriage. Some would have been sinful to do even with his wife, others were not sinful but she was opposed to them because they violated her conscience. Over the course of some years in their marriage, rather than killing these sinful desires, he occasionally nurtured them by daydreaming about what it would be like to make his fantasies realities. One day he did — with another woman.

He decided to never tell his wife because in his flawed mind, it was better for her not to know the truth and be devastated. He actually considered his lying somewhat loving but she could tell something was different and so she pressed him for answers. Eventually he confessed. As we met during their counseling session, while his wife wept continually, he tried to downplay what had happened by saying it was only one day of their life, he did not love the other woman, and similar inane efforts to make his sin seem less sinful.

Nothing seemed to get through to him until I (Mark) simply told him he was not only an adulterer but had become an adulterer because he was first an idolator. The first commandments are that we are to worship God alone. If we obey, we then do not worship other people and things as functional gods. When we disobey we then continue to worship but do so as idolators treating people and things as gods. His sin was not just sleeping with a different woman, but sleeping with another woman as a worship act to another god. Sex was his god, a bed was his altar, their bodies were their living sacrifices, and he was a pagan priest committing idolatry. (pp. 109-10)

Again, I don’t know of anyone else who is a forthright as Mark Driscoll and who delivers a message with such passion and authority. With sections dealing with oral sex and masturbation, Mark (and Grace) face no question too difficult to deal with.

While I probably disagree with Mark’s doctrinal position in other books dealing with other topics, I was intrigued by how he would handle this, and I was not disappointed. The book has value to engaged couples, newly marrieds, and people like my wife and I who are a few decades in. Real Marriage releases January 3rd from Thomas Nelson.

An advance copy of Real Marriage was provided by Graf-Martin Communications, a Kitchener, Ontario firm which works with North American publishers and author agencies to provide additional promotion and publicity for books and book-related products.

Looking for more details? Check out Aaron Armstrong’s review of the book at The Gospel Coalition.

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Post Christmas Street Dates Can Be a Tough Sell

There’s a method to the madness.  Our sources of supply guarantee a steady stream of both customers and new product arriving by spreading out their stable of authors and music artists new products over the entire calendar year.  But I always feel somewhat sorry for those creators whose works are assigned (in terms of this year) a December 27th or January 3rd release date, missing out on in-store traffic and the availability of pre-Christmas spending money.  You have to assume that companies have their reasons, but it’s a part of their corporate culture I would have trouble adjusting to if I were back working at the publishing level.

Categories: Uncategorized

Best Wishes for 2012

As we finish off a year that has been disappointing for many of us, we still have a lot to be grateful for. Our lot in life is sometimes tough, our calling is often is often misunderstood, but others faced greater challenges in the past twelve months; we do have much for which to give thanks.  More than anything else, we need insight for the new year, and this is one prayer request that God has pledged to answer in the affirmative, if any of us feel we lack wisdom.  May God give you and I clear direction for our lives and our bookstore ministry in the days to come.

Categories: Uncategorized

Fleeing Foundation’s Comupter Hell

It was a two line email.   An ISBN and title with the subject line, “Is this item shippable yet.”  An email necessitated by the fact that the company still, all these years later, does not have a working website.

The email was returned to us as “Message rejected as spam by Content Filtering.”

And it was the last straw.

As 2011 ends so does my relationship with Foundation Distributing.

A relationship that began all those years ago with this explanation as to why the company — four months in — didn’t have an 800-number: “We’re very busy.”

Yeah, right.  It turned out they did.  For certain accounts only.  And the two-tier system there has persisted to this day.  So we’re done.

And the sad thing is, they couldn’t care less.

What Happens to All Those Online Orders You’ve Shipped Out

Not every customer shops in person. Even the smallest stores get a few of what we once called “mail orders.” Or if your store is larger, online orders. Isn’t it good to know those shipments are in good hands?  Or are they?

From the video description…

Here is a video of my monitor being “delivered”. The sad part is that I was home at the time with the front door wide open. All he would have had to do was ring the bell on the gate. Now I have to return my monitor since it is broken.

Categories: Uncategorized

Top Albums of 2011 List Bears Little Resemblance to Bookstore Sales

Maybe we’re all just carrying the wrong product.  Perhaps the whole industry that we track so closely — watching the display racks of our stores line up with the playlist on local Christian stations the same way astronomers watch the stars line up — is the wrong sector of the industry to be following. Yes, maybe it’s all our fault. Or Christian radio’s fault. It’s gotta be somebody’s fault, right. But we’ve been down this road before on this blog.

So how many of the Christianity Today top albums does your store carry? The links take you to the magazine’s original reviews.

  1. Josh Garrels, Love & War & the Sea In Between (Small Voice Records)
  2. Gillian Welch, The Harrow & the Harvest (Acony)
  3. Over the Rhine, The Long Surrender (Great Speckled Dog)
  4. Burlap to Cashmere, Burlap to Cashmere (Jive Records)
  5. Joe Henry, Reverie (Anti)
  6. Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music)
  7. Alison Krauss & Union Station, Paper Airplane (Rounder)
  8. Emmylou Harris, Hard Bargain (Nonesuch Records)
  9. Sara Groves, Invisible Empires (Fair Trade Services)
  10. Mutemath, Odd Soul (Teleprompt/Warner Bros.)
  11. Laura Marling, A Creature I Don’t Know (Ribbon Records)
  12. Gungor, Ghosts upon the Earth (Brash Music)

Honorable Mention (listed in alphabetical order)

Blind Boys of Alabama, Take the High Road; The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow; Amos Lee, Mission Bell; Bill Mallonee, The Power & The Glory; Buddy Miller, The Majestic Silver Strings; Jill Phillips, In this Hour; Aaron Strumpel, Birds; Switchfoot, Vice Verses; Phil Wickham, Response.

A Recent History of Religious Publishing

Found an interesting article from November online today at Deseret News, which was interesting because the article was all about Christian retail, but Deseret is the publishing brand name for the LDS/Mormon Church. 

The reporter did a credible enough job covering the topic, but because I was speed reading, I stumbled over the references to the “Association for Christian Retail” and had to actually Google the phrase to realize the author was referring to CBA USA. 

Most interesting was the third page, where Christian retail chart positions from are compared to positions for the same title on broader bestseller lists.

You can read the whole article here.  It’s a good primer for those who want to know who we as Christian retailers are and where we’ve come from.

For the Love of Books

“If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them – peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are.  Let them be your friends; let them at any rate be your acquaintances.”

 

~Winston Churchill

 

quotation sourced at David Fisher’s blog, Pilgrim Scribblings
Categories: Uncategorized

Supplier Cooperation at Christmas Can Be Revealing

December 14, 2011 1 comment

Thanks for your patience while I took a few extra days off.  This is the busiest time of year, and if you’ve got time to be checking this blog, you really should be out on the sales floor helping customers.  If you work in wholesale or marketing, you should be dropping by your nearest  retailer and be out on the floor helping customers.  This was rather common a few decades back, now it’s a rarity to have publisher staff in the stores doing whatever needs to be done, though I know of at least one store that was forever in the debt of a sales rep who took two hours out to help a store get their vacuum cleaner fixed. That just never happens these days, but that store rewarded that salesman with generous purchasing in the months that followed.

Here in the land of ice and snow the Canadian branch of David C. Cook really gets it when it comes to getting whatever product they can from their warehouse to stores.  The “Red Hot Rush” program not only processes orders rapidly but ships free for surface delivery and at half price for air freight.  Furthermore, the program runs right through Dec 30th for those post-Christmas orders and emergency re-stock situations. Kudos to DCC (Canada) for keeping alive a program that CMC originated, and one that they could have easily dumped when they purchased CMC.  Those last few days before the 25th can be like an extra month-and-a-half compressed into a very short period, and having a just-in-time delivery system also avoids compromising inventory expenditure.

On the other extreme, while HarperCollins Canada drops “designated ship days” for all of two weeks (Dec 5-16) the program is not available during that critical final week. This is the company that repeatedly earns “supplier of the year” in Canada from general market stores, so I don’t want to swim too strong against the current here, but it’s a mystery why they drop the program when it is most needed. Anything I order next Monday won’t arrive until Friday, which, with shipping on the 24th rather variable, means it may not arrive at all. But this month is also the time of year that HarperCollins wholesale customers are most acutely aware of the liabilities of its “import-to-order’ system on slower moving titles. Apparently this really grates on some accounts, and it does render impossible getting anything after the 21-days-before-Christmas mark. The company needs to realize that while independent distributors may not carry every title exhaustively from every supplier, HarperCollins is both publisher and distributor in this case, and they have plenty of room in their Scarborough warehouse to carry at least a single copy of many of these items. With the number of SKUs involved in the Thomas Nelson deal, this situation may actually get worse for Christian retailers.

Augsburg-Fortress Canada, on the other hand, will bend over backwards to rush something to a store prior to the big day. Generally, the smaller a company, the greater flexibility you’re going to see. Retailers need  to work with suppliers who understand the retail mission. Sadly, for too many, it’s been years since they’ve ever looked a customer in the eye.

Post 1000 – Shop Talk for Christian Book Stores

Apparently, I’ve sat at the keyboard a thousand times and ranted, shared valuable information, and did a few things in between.  In hindsight, starting this just a fortnight prior to the RGM bankruptcy proved to be timely not only for getting information about the receivership out to stores, but for launching a forum where various issues could be raised.

Moving forward, this blog will continue to serve needs as long as there are multiple people contributing ideas.  (Two of this week’s columns came from readers, for which I am most grateful.)  And I’d like to see more guest posts here, so this isn’t just the work of one individual.

On the other hand, I recognize that we’re all working twice as hard for the same dollar, and most of us honestly don’t have the time. But it would be good to hear from more of  you. And again, my most humble thanks to the two stores who reported using this blog for senior staff training.

Increasingly, readers here are from all over the world.  While the U.S. still accounts for the greatest numbers, it’s now only one-third of total visits.  An equal number of U.S. visitors read at work, while worldwide readers tend to check out this site from home. And some of your other interests include:

  • religion
  • politics & commentary
  • science/nature
  • nonprofit
  • science & technology
  • online trading
  • regional/local news
  • news
  • books
  • technology

I realize a lot of you still don’t know me; I’ve never been hugely attracted to trade shows and try to keep a low profile during the things I do attend. But that’s all the more reason why we need other ways to connect and stay connected.

Hoping you have a blessed Christmas season and see God’s favor shine on all your efforts;

Paul Wilkinson

Appraising the Strength of the Giant

December 8, 2011 2 comments

It is a challenge to take on Amazon because they are quickly becoming every publisher’s number one customer. It puts publishers in an awkward position.”

~Michael Hyatt, Board Chair and former CEO of Thomas Nelson; interview with
Christine Sheller at High Calling Blog

One Third of British Children Don’t Own a Book

This disturbing news was reported Monday in the Daily Mail:

Almost four million children in the UK do not own a book, research suggests.

It raises concerns that the number of children growing up without books is rising, with poorer youngsters more likely to miss out.

The latest report by the National Literacy Trust, based on a survey of 18,000 youngsters, reveals a third – 3.8million – do not have books of their own.

And the number has increased from seven years ago, the last time the poll was conducted, when it stood at one in ten.

Today’s report also reveals boys are more likely to be without books than girls, and children eligible for free school meals – a measure of poverty – are more likely to not own a book.

The findings, not unsurprisingly,  show children who do own books are more likely to enjoy reading, read more books and read more frequently.

All the more reason to make sure books for children are included in this season’s purchases.