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Archive for March, 2012

Purchasing Levels Higher at Christian Bookstores

Dr. Peter Maresco is a professor of marketing at Sacred Heart University. After becoming a relative newcomer to the Christian bookstore industry, he began work on a forthcoming title, The Business of Christianity.

This paragraph of his study was especially interesting:

Maresco pointed out that Christian consumers also buy Christian merchandise in such places as WalMart, Costco, Barnes & Noble and Target. However, he said, when Christians shop in Christian stores, their Christian book purchases are 47 percent higher than when they shop in big-box stores or online, and their Christian book purchases are 103 percent higher than when they shop mass merchandisers. “Within Christian consumers, active Christians are the biggest buyers of Christian books on the globe, and they buy more Christian books at Christian stores than any other retail outlet,” Maresco said.

Read more at TheDay.com

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Heaven is For Real Shatters Records for Thomas Nelson

Publisher’s Weekly reports this week:

…the book has spent 69 weeks on the New York Times paperback bestsellers list and this past Sunday (Mar. 25) was once again at #1—the 57th time (non-consecutively) in that position. It has been on the Publishers Weekly trade paperback list for 65 weeks, at #1 more than ten times in the past year, and also reached the top spot on the lists of the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Christian Booksellers Association, and the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association multiple times. There are now nearly 6.5 million copies in print.

In November 2011, Nelson published Heaven Is for Real for Kids, which has now sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide and ascended to the top spot on the Times’s Print Children’s Picture Books list and on PW’s Children’s Picture Books list. Unlike the adult title—which was told through the eyes of father Todd Burpo—the children’s book (illustrated by Wilson Ong) recounts the story from the point of view of Colton Burpo himself, now 12 years old…

…Matt Baugher, senior v-p and publisher at Thomas Nelson, told RBL, “The success of Heaven Is For Real is unprecedented [for us], both in its sales numbers and the short amount of time to achieve those numbers. It is now the highest-selling trade book in the history of Thomas Nelson…

read more at Publisher’s Weekly

Keeping Sales Floor Computers Running Quickly

We tend to think of deleting web browser history as an activity carried out by people with something to hide (!) but it can be a useful tool if your browser seems to be running a bit sluggish or is slow to open at the start of the workday.

Looking up titles for customers on multiple websites — not to mention simply placing orders — can consume tens of thousands of different URLs each week in an active retail environment, especially if one computer on the sales floor is doing the bulk of the work. Each URL is saved in history as an individual page, whether it’s at Ingram, STL, Cook, Book Manager, Augsburg Canada, etc.,; or visits you pay to check competing websites; or YouTube book trailers you show customers; or book images you download to create colorful customer emails.

You could simply delete everything at the end of the day; but particular sites you’ve discovered — small publishers, author fan pages, etc. — may be useful for future searches, and it’s easy to forget to bookmark them at the time.

So you have a choice: You can simply delete everything at the end of the day or week (which I don’t recommend) or do a selective deletion on the pages from the major suppliers (which I recommend doing weekly).

To lighten your web history’s load, simply select the time period that your browser offers. (I’m using Firefox, and currently can chose between “last week” and “last month” and then the last six months individually, and “older than six months.” ) click on the “location” part of the library and the entire time period is now arranged by URL. 

Click on the first one of a cluster you wish to delete, then hold down the shift button and click on the last, and hit the delete button. If you’re dealing with hundreds — and many of you will be — it may take a few seconds as the process works its way through the list.  You then continue this for each individual cluster you wish to purge.

Auto-complete can be a blessing however, and you might want to keep the odds and ends in the browser library. Searches have a way of repeating, and the customer who isn’t sure often comes in two weeks later to confirm the order, and it can be handy not to have to go through a long search process all over again.

Other URL files that can slow down your computer include all your search engine requests, and your online banking. If your search engine is tracking you, deleting them within your own computer won’t change that tracking history, but you should see your system running faster as a result.

If your staff are more liberal about creating bookmarks for author blogs and publisher sites, you might want to houseclean those several times a year. It may be necessary to have several staff members in at the same time so that people can recall why a particular site was bookmarked. Sometimes this can be a useful reminder of products you were considering but didn’t finalize orders on; you can then revisit that decision in light of current sales.

Publisher Second Guesses What We Will and Won’t Carry

Vagina.

Yes, you read that right.

That word is at the heart of a controversy involving author Rachel Held Evans, Thomas Nelson Publishing, and a small army of readers who are blaming us — the Christian bookstore industry — for keeping blunt language out of Rachel’s forthcoming book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood.    At her blog she writes:

The issue isn’t whether I am allowed to use the word “vagina” in the book, but whether Christian bookstores will carry it if I do.

I want to make it clear that it is not my editors at Thomas Nelson who are insisting that I take out the word “vagina.” I can stick to my guns, keep “vagina” in, and I suspect Thomas Nelson will still publish the book. The problem, as I understand it, is that Christian bookstores probably won’t carry it, and Thomas Nelson sells a lot of books to Christian bookstores.

So, as sad as it is, we have a business decision to make. Do we risk losing a bunch of potential sales in order to keep the word “vagina” in this context? Or do we decide to choose our battles and let it go? And do I risk alienating myself from the Thomas Nelson team—which has been great so far—because I refuse to cooperate with Christian retailing, their area of expertise?

I’ve struggled with this decision, which is why, in the original post I wrote this:

“They won’t let me use the word “vagina” in my book because we have to sell it to Christian bookstores, which apparently have a thing against vaginas. I make a big scene about it and say that if Christian bookstores stuck to their own ridiculous standards, they wouldn’t be able carry the freaking Bible. I tell everyone that I’m going to fight it out of principle, but I cave within a few days because I want Christian bookstores to carry the sanitized version of my book because I want to make a lot of money, because we’ve needed a new roof on our house for four years now, and because I really want a Mac so I can fit in at the mega-churches. I feel like such a fraud.”

It’s important for me to communicate that I actually have more control over this than you might think. The last thing I want to do is present myself as a victim of censorship when that’s just not the case. I chose to work with a Christian publisher and, for better or worse, Christian publishers generate much of their sales from Christian bookstores.

Well, first of all, it’s nice to think that the brick-and-mortar retail side of Christian book distribution still carries some weight. Guess we’re not dead yet.

But I also think they’ve been extremely presumptuous as to how prudish we really are.

Because the truth of the matter, is that this isn’t about you and me, the owners of independent bookstores and small chains; this is about LifeWay, because it’s LifeWay — or perhaps even more accurately, Baptists — who are going to raise the roof over this word.

As Rachel points out, the vocabulary in some books we’re already selling might surprise you:

In Ian Cron’s fantastic book, Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me, which was also published by Thomas Nelson, he writes this: “Did I mention that it’s cold? You have no idea how far a man’s testicles can recede into his body until you have jumped into the Dorset Qarry…My testicles were very, very angry.”

And in To Own a Dragon, the ever-talented Donald Miller writes, “I felt as though all the men in the world secretly met in some warehouse late at night to talk about man things, to have secret handshakes, to discuss how great it was to have a penis and what an easy thing it was to operate…”

Yes, you already stock those titles; or you did until 30 seconds ago.

I know there are people who will say, “Well that’s why we shop in Christian bookstores and buy from Christian publishers. We trust you and them to act as gatekeepers, to provide us with reading that’s safe and family-friendly.”

Really?  I can see that applying about 85% of the time, but I also have readers who want material that is reflective of their real world, but doesn’t buy into its worldview. Material that doesn’t couch meaning with silly phrases such as the one my wife heard two weeks ago in sermon on Song of Solomon: “Her lady bits.” These are readers who are progressive but decidedly not liberal. They don’t put stock in the censorship of certain words and phrases, but they are at the same time completely orthodox in their faith and ethics.

So what should Rachel do? She admits — see point #5 in the post linked above — that she is torn.  While her readers are absolutely not the same people who shop at Lifeway, they do have buying clout. Thomas Nelson is leaving a certain amount of the decision up to her, but with the caveat, ‘Allow the word and the book won’t sell.’

Again, really? Is this a deal-breaker for you as store buyer or merchandiser? Does the conservative element dictate what goes in your store? Do your personal tastes or preferences dictate what you carry? Is Thomas Nelson correct in their forecast of poor sales if the word is allowed?

And thanks to Tony Jones, whose blogged alerted me to this week’s teapot tempest.

7 Christian Publishers Signed on To Edelweiss Catalog Platform

It began in the spring of 2009, which means the Edelweiss  interactive catalog aggregator from Above The Treeline has been around for three years, but many store personnel, including this writer, aren’t making use of it.  There’s no cost, you can mark up catalog pages, and you can share book information among your staff and even local book bloggers.

The website is  http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/

Participating Christian publishers are:

  • Crossway
  • Eerdman’s
  • Moody
  • Thomas Nelson
  • Tyndale
  • Westminster John Knox
  • Zondervan

but of course there are also Christian titles in the listings for

  • Hachette
  • Harlequin
  • HarperCollins
  • Random House
  • Simon & Schuster

Listings are incredibly detailed, but not always entirely complete.  For example in the section of the Hachette listings for FaithWords, there are two different listings for the forthcoming Joyce Meyer hardcover Do Yourself a Favor…Forgive one at $21.99 US, the other at $19.99. An experienced bookseller will quickly realize one is regular print and one is large print, but a less experienced sales clerk may need to determine that from a secondary website.

I haven’t tried to use some of the interactive features as yet, but believe that Christian market stores will find this a most useful tool, especially when composing restock backlist orders, or frontlist orders on a publisher-by-publisher basis.  Click the image above to learn more about Above the Treeline.

Life Cards, Life Lessons

Most people reading this will remember Lawson-Falle greeting cards. The company was based in Cambridge, Ontario in a building visible from Highway 401; and was in subsequent years sold several times. In one of its later incarnations it appeared as Life Cards, and the logo design is incorporated into the cover design of a new book by Rick Tocquigny being published this month by Thomas Nelson.

Here’s the official book blurb:

Life brings successes and failures, joys and adversity, to each of us. It’s what you do with these experiences that shapes the person you become. Through true stories, readers will discover sixteen simple life lessons that will motivate and inspire. These simple truths will:make decision-making simpler;provide courage to pursue passions;give eyes to see new opportunities; offer tools to conquer challenges; and equip with the ability to find joy in each moment. Author, blog-talk radio host, and renowned speaker Rick Tocquigny delivers truly motivational messages tailored to help people overcome life’s discouragements and find the blessing in each day. Tocquigny’s message is infused with grace, joy, and faith.

9781400319992 / Hardcover / $15.99 U.S.

Categories: Uncategorized

Biblica Spins Off STL to Senior Management

Christian Retailing magazine announced Monday that Biblica has spun off STL Distribution to a senior management team headed by industry veteran Glenn Bailey.

The buyout brings a new name, that is actually an old name: Send The Light Distribution.  A trademark application under that name was filed on December 16th of last year, and a Facebook page established more recently, though nothing currently posted.

The new owners assume existing bank and supplier liabilities totaling “in excess of $10 million.” 

A few months ago, parent company Biblica spun off its trade book division — not including Bibles — to InterVaristy Press (IVP). The goal is to make Bible publishing its sole focus. Biblica partners with Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT) on foreign language translation and is the publisher of the New International Version (NIV) and operates the website BibleGateway.com

We’re hoping to track down the local reporting on this story from Elizabethton, Pennsylvania or nearby media outlets in Johnson City, or from Publisher’s Weekly; but in the meanwhile, the only source for this on the ‘net is available at Christian Retailing.

Categories: Uncategorized

Testing the Resilience of Greeting Card Sales

Here in Canada we’ve faced three specific threats to sales of everyday greeting cards.

The first threat was well entrenched almost 20 years ago: The rise of dollar stores and dollar store cards. At first, people gravitated to the bargain cards, but over time people — both senders and receivers — noticed a marked difference in quality and returned to purchasing a “proper” card.

Next, over a decade ago, was the inception of e-cards. They threatened to annihilate sales of physical cards — or so some people said — but the fad waned.  It’s been a year since anyone last sent me an e-card, though you can still get them online.

The third threat appeared in 2008 when the Canadian dollar reached par and consumers refused to pay $4.49 CDN for a card marked $2.79 U.S.  Dayspring’s Canadian distributor, David C. Cook Canada quickly responded with an extra discount for retailers; but other card suppliers couldn’t or wouldn’t and quickly got dumped by individual stores.

We’ve survived those three crises, but are we still surviving?

Certainly e-mail is a viable substitute for licking envelopes and stamps, but even among those not internet-connected, we’ve noticed a drop in card sales; though churches keep buying boxed birthday and anniversary cards.

A discussion two weeks ago concluded that perhaps the dollar store threat still exists, and in a tighter economy people can’t justify paying $5.49 or $6.49 for a Dayspring card, even if they are owned by Hallmark.  An ongoing rant at this blog is that Dayspring is hopelessly out of touch with the average Christian consumer, so that explanation would suit me fine.

But I think what we’re really seeing is a loss of what I would call “greeting card culture.” Keeping in touch by mail has been replaced by Facebook and Twitter, and even if you aren’t online or don’t have a Facebook account, you’re being affected by their inroads into the social communications landscape. Receiving a card subconsciously reminds you to send cards, and when the volume of personal physical mail decreases, it has a snowball effect.

Farther down the road, I believe stores will have to re-evaluate the floor space currently devoted to greeting cards. I don’t see them totally disappearing in the next decade; but take a picture of your card section, because in two decades you might find yourself explaining to your grandchildren this facet of life we currently take for granted.

When Sales Become Personal

This morning, like most mornings, I breathed a silent prayer and asked God to bless our efforts to have a good sales day in the stores. But this time, I paused and an inner voice inquired, “What, exactly are you asking for?” Two things immediately answered:

  • Obviously, at the most basic level, we have bills to pay and need revenue coming in to pay those bills. We need to pay those bills to keep the store going.
  • At the ministry level, we want to see the various resources in-stock find their way into the lives of families, neighbourhoods, workplaces, schools, hospitals and churches. We want to connect people and products to meet felt needs and to introduce people to Christ.

But then I realized that besides this there is something else going on that is perhaps a little more subtle:

  • I want to be vindicated, so to speak, for the purchasing that we’ve already done. I want to know that each inventory unit purchased was not just an impulse, or the result of a bad pizza the night before, but that each one was a reasoned, informed choice of something available in the wider marketplace that we needed to carry in our local marketplace. I want to know that our coming alongside ministries and authors who God seems to be using also resonates with people in our part of the world who are also aware of these same organizations and writers.

In this sense, each purchase of something we ordered in advance is a “like,” but each item that needs to be special-ordered is a “fail.”  While there are a few special requests that are simply totally obscure, many others represent:

  1. Our initial decision to pass on that product, or
  2. Our decision to let that product run out, perhaps prematurely, or
  3. Our lack of awareness that product ‘X’ was being featured on a national television program, or
  4. Our reluctance to part with a larger investment on an item carrying a higher list price, or

…a host of other reasons, which you can add.

On the other hand, our markets are smaller than those of most of the people reading this, and our shelves are already jammed. With shelf-space at a premium, you can only carry so much.

In which case, I probably shouldn’t take it too personally.

However, if you find yourself processing  more special orders through than inventory items, it begs the question, ‘Why have all that inventory?’

High Expectations for Jerusalem Countdown DVD

Featuring a name recognizable cast and based on a bestselling book by John Hagee, the Jerusalem Countdown DVD should do well for retailers. Here’s the publisher marketing information from Pure Flix Entertainment.

Publisher Synopsis — With the Middle East in turmoil, Israelʼs preeminent Ally is thrust into an impending war— America is now the target as the battle for Jerusalem begins. Adapted from the Best Selling Book by Pastor John Hagee, JERUSALEM COUNTDOWN highlights the reality of an inevitable conflict between Israel and Islam. When nuclear weapons are smuggled into America, Senior FBI Agent, Shane Daughtry (David A.R White) is faced with an impossible task—find them before they are detonated. The clock is ticking and the only people who can help are a washed up arms dealer (Lee Majors), a retired Agent (Stacy Keach) and a by- the-book CIA Deputy Director played by Randy Travis. Nuclear holocaust on American soil threatens global stability and the impending destruction of the world is coming to fruition, in this film of international terror and suspense. Also featuring Nick Jameson, Jaci Velasquez, Marco Khan, Carey Scott, and Anna Zielinski.

The prelude to Armageddon has begun…

Watch Trailer

 

In Canada: Contact Crown Video

Categories: Uncategorized

Apologetics Title Fills Publishing Void

Working in and around the Christian publishing industry, I am constantly frustrated by requests for resources that are appropriate to give as gifts to people who do not identify as Christians, but may be interested in reading something that resonates with their current worldview, or communicates in terms more familiar to other materials they are currently reading.

But then, when something arrives on the scene from outside the fold — not bearing the Seal of Approval of a publisher like Moody, or Zondervan or Baker or Tyndale — I find myself straining for clues that will verify that the title in question is sufficiently Evangelically kosher; and that the author is worthy of my unconditional recommendation.

I’m not sure you can have it both ways. If a book is going to absolutely connect with people of other faiths, there are times it’s going to seem foreign to those of us deeply embedded in modern church culture.

Ellis Potter’s book 3 Theories of Everything (2012, Destinée Media) arrived in my mail last week from Switzerland as the clear winner in my “curiosity of the month” category. At a trim 112 pages, nothing was stopping me from reading it cover to cover, but who was this author and where was he going with this?

It turned out not so important where he was going as where he was coming from. A visit to the website of Eastern Europe Renewal provided this:

Mr Potter, a native Californian now residing in Switzerland, is a former Buddhist monk who became a Christian under the influence and ministry of the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer. Mr Potter’s dramatic conversion came about as a direct result of several intense, personal discussions with Dr. Schaeffer during the turbulent seventies.

In 3 Theories of Everything, Potter looks at the overarching structure of many popular religious worldviews, which can be classified into one of the following: Monism, Dualism and Trinitarianism. Looking at each, he then shows the ways in they succeed or fail to succeed in explaining the world around them, with a particular emphasis on the problem of suffering.

The book would be of special interest to anyone who has experience with Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Astrology, Meditation or New Age religions; as well as anyone who has done basic reading in Philosophy including cosmology or metaphysics. Here’s a fairly accessible sample

Freedom and form is another pair of opposites that we see in the world. A good illustration is gravity. Gravity is one of the basic forms, or structures, of reality but it gives us a certain freedom. If gravity were not here and I began to walk, I would float and spin and soon I would be dead. Form or structure is necessary. Let me give you an equation to express this idea:

total freedom = death

There is nothing postmodern about this equation. Postmodernism as usually understood and practiced in western culture regards freedom as the highest value and sees the purpose of freedom as fun and play. But freedom cannot really be valuable or life-giving unless it is accompanied by form. If you want to be totally free to fly you can go to the top of a building and jump. You can say, ‘I am free;’ but you won’t be free, you will be dead because you have not respected form. But if you study the various forms of reality — the laws of properties that give reality, structure and shape, such as gravity, aerodynamics, thermodynamics, metallurgy, jet propulsion, stress, torque and so on — then you will be able to build an airplane and fly across the ocean. That’s a great freedom, but the freedom is connected to form. Freedom and form are not independent of each other in reality. Again, their relationship is complementary rather than competitive. (pp. 48-9)

Having worked through alternative worldviews, Ellis gently builds a case for the Christian worldview incorporating a fresh (but orthodox) retelling of the fall, the incarnation and the atonement.

But then, as a bonus, the author appends answers to 45 questions that have been asked in seminars he has given in different parts of the world; some clearly arising from Christians and others from skeptics. He is not unwilling to tackle things like, ‘Is it possible you might one day find a different answer and abandon Christianity?’ In answering that most candidly he defines Christian commitment, while at the same time indicating the scenario to be unlikely. In another question, he’s asked if his years as a Zen Buddhist monk informs his present occupation as a Christian pastor. His answer would make a few people I know uncomfortable, but in the answer that follows immediately after, he says he identifies theologically as close to Baptist or Brethren.

Again, this is that book that I mentioned at the beginning; a rare gem of a book for that person not ready for Paul Little or Erwin Lutzer or Josh McDowell; and for reasons of length and style and the writer’s background, I think this would also be a good book to give to a man who is looking at faith questions from a distance; or with whom you want to begin a deeper conversation. It’s also a pre-apologetic title fitting for a college or university student.

3 Theories of Everything by Ellis Potter ISBN 9780983276852 — is available for bookstores to order worldwide as a print-on-demand book through Ingram Publisher Services,  in paperback at $13.99 U.S.

Read another excerpt from the book at Christianity 201.

Top Selling Title Vanishes From STL Inventory

Operation World — now in its 7th edition edited by Jason Mandryk — is a book in a category by itself.  It’s also a long-time number-one selling title for Biblica Books.  But when this prayer encyclopedia’s imprint was spun off to InterVarsity Press (IVP), it also vanished — along with all the other Biblica titles — from the inventory database at sister company STL.

The world of mergers and acquisitions is fraught with contractual baggage that transcends understanding for most of us; but STL carries IVP products, so why would IVP restrict sales of the product or STL not want to carry the titles of a former sister company?

I guess that those of us on the bottom of the totem pole aren’t supposed to wonder about things like this. But I’d like to know the story. Or did someone mis-read the contract? 

UPDATE: As mysteriously as it disappeared, Operation World is back in the listings — ISBN 9780830857234 — with a release date of March 30th.