Archive for April, 2012

Bookseller Arbitrary Censorship

by author Karen Spears Zacharias

This was an actual exchange between a reader/fan and a Christian bookseller:

Reader: “I wanted to let you know that the author Karen Spears Zacharias has a new book out and will be coming through town. I thought maybe you’d want to have her in your store for a signing.”

Bookseller: “What’s her latest book about?”

Reader: “Child Abuse.”

Bookseller: “Oh… Do you know if it’s about sex abuse or just physical abuse?”

Reader: “I haven’t read the book yet so I don’t know. Does it matter?”

Bookseller: “Yes. I mean if it has sexually explicit material in it we couldn’t sell it.”


For the record, Christian Bookseller, the abuse wasn’t sexual in nature. Not that that should matter in any way, shape or form.

That you would even ask that question appalled every Christian sitting at the table who heard that story recited.

Let me get this straight — you feel comfortable carrying a book about child abuse as long as we mean the punching, slapping, knocking them upside the head kind of abuse, but if the words penetration or vagina appear in the book anywhere you can’t carry that?

I don’t know how to say this any more clearly — Child Abuse is one issue where the Church ought to be leading the way in intervention,  healing, restoration, and redemption.

No one needs healing more than a child who has suffered at the hands of an abuser — be it sexual or otherwise.

Shouldn’t the faith community be stepping into the lives of these children and showing them the transformation powers of Jesus Christ?

But then again that might require us to act as thinking and thoughtful adults instead of sheep led about by booksellers pushing Amish porn.


Update: Karen Spears Zacharias released her true story highlighting the impact of child abuse, A Silence of Mockingbirds through MacAdam Cage Publishing, and stores which wish to carry the title — in hardcover at US$ 25 — can order it through Ingram using 9781596923751


Christian Artists: Do You Want Your Songs to Live On?

All music products follow a natural cycle from top sellers to the delete bin.  In the book industry, we call them remainders, with CDs their deletes.  Not sure which is worse: Being ‘leftovers’ or ‘write offs.’ The end result is the same.

There are two surefire ways to make sure your songs don’t die after the album sales die: One is to make a comeback every five years; the other is to make sure the songs are remembered and perhaps even rediscovered years later to be covered by other artists.

If you’re an upcoming band or solo artist, you want to get signed to a label, and you want to get signed to a good label, and a good label is one that will work hard to aggressively promote your music and aggressively protect your copyrights, right?

Well, maybe not. Those royalties will certainly buy a lot of groceries and nobody wants to see their music blatantly ripped off.  But I don’t think any musician lying on their deathbed is preoccupied with performance royalties or mechanical royalties.

They would much rather see their music outlive their lives.

I’m returning of course to the issue raised the other day concerning EMI-CMG, the Christian music group of EMI.  Is getting signed with this label the top prize, or might you do better, in the long run, to sign with a more ministry-focused organization?

Today I decided to listen online to the song “More” by Mylon LeFevre.  Classic Christian rock.  “More of Jesus, less of me…”  Beautiful harmonies. 

But instead, I got the far too recurring black screen telling me the song is not available in my country.  Apparently people in Canada are tripping over themselves trying to profit from Mylon’s material.  (If I wrote this on one of my mainstream blogs, I would get back, “Mylon who?”)  It’s a shame really, because the song is most worthy of a cover version. 

I’m sure somebody at EMI thinks they are just doing their job; bowing to whatever copyright oddities permit the song in the U.S., but ban it in Canada, Japan, Serbia and three other countries you’ve never heard of.  And in fairness, the notice also implicates Warner Music Group, who aren’t so much of a player on the Christian music scene, but probably own a song or two that you and I would want to recall.

The bottom line is this:

  • Christian music exists for a different purpose
  • Christian songs ultimately belong to the body of Christ
  • Christian artists answer to a higher boss

For years, the CCM industry yearned for “crossover,” we wanted to see our products rack up the numbers in K-Mart and Target and be equal players in the larger industry. So independent record companies like Sparrow sold out to the majors.

But perhaps it’s time to stop chasing success and start crossing over in the other direction; time to take back our music. And if you are a music artist on the cusp of signing with a ‘major,’ think twice about where you want your music to be long after the songs are deleted and the band breaks up. Available or locked in a vault somewhere?

Store Owners: Pay Your Suppliers

Several years ago we ran into a problem where churches were becoming extremely lax about paying their accounts to our store. At first we introduced a 2% discount for payment within ten days, and then in another year, we reversed it and indicated a penalty, similar to what your local utilities do if you don’t pay within a specified time.  Usually we added about 3% if payment wasn’t received within 20 days.

But later on, we got tired of manipulating numbers and decided simply to “encourage” local churches according to Galatians 6:10

KJVAs we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

NLT Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Message So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

I reminded them that, with far less notice, they are able to remit their electrical and telephone bills on time, and that we should be treated with the same respect; not blown off with the “we have to get two signatures on each cheque” excuse.

Lately, this hasn’t been a problem.

But this “Biblical financial policy” cuts both ways.

It’s incumbent on me to pay my suppliers in the way I would expected to be paid; which means the small, independently owned suppliers are a top priority; and paying all suppliers in a timely way is part of our corporate ethic.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels this way. Defaulting on supplier balances is not unusual with stories circulating involving stores allowing accounts to run six months past due, even twelve months, and some not paying at all. Often these same stores turn around and simply find an alternative source for the same products.

Brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Canadian Author Anthology Wins Award

The Christian Small Publishers Associaton has recognized That’s Life Communications‘ various authors title, A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, which topped the Gift Book category.

You can read a complete list of winners in all twelve categories.

Many of the winners are part of The Word Guild, an association of Canadian Christian authors.

EMI Doesn’t Believe Exposure Equals Marketing

Here’s the bottom line:

If AM and FM radio were invented tomorrow, EMI would not permit any of the songs for which it owns copyright to be played.  Not in Canada, anyway; or Japan which shares Canada’s fate when it comes to restricted access to songs in the EMI catalog.

But radio is how we all came to hear those songs way back when, and continued exposure means today’s artists are often covering those same songs, perpetuating the value of those copyrights.

But as a Canadian who finds myself shut out from re-experiencing thousands of music memories on YouTube, I find I can’t continue to support a company that doesn’t get it when it comes to the equation that “exposure = marketing.”

And what does EMI have to lose when the recordings in question are out of print?

As someone who sells recorded music products, any video uploads of those same songs aren’t hurting my sales; all anecdotal evidence suggests that YouTube exposure is helping my sales.

But until EMI feels that way, I have no choice but to throttle EMI-CMG products entering my store.

EMI-CMG, there’s a difference between sharing music and file sharing. YouTube posters and bloggers promote your music in the same manner as album reviews in music magazines. If you ban YouTube from being a conduit for the promotion of your copyrights, then you must immediately end your association with every radio broadcaster in the world.

Remembering Author Chuck Colson

Christian author of over 30 books, and Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson has died.

CNN reports:

Chuck Colson, a Watergate-era “hatchet man” for President Richard Nixon who became an influential evangelical leader after serving time in prison, died Saturday afternoon, according to his website. He was 80.

His death came just over three weeks after he “was overcome by dizziness” while speaking at a conference and rushed to a northern Virginia hospital. Surgeons operated on him for two hours for a brain hemorrhage

“At times, Chuck showed encouraging indicators of a possible recovery, but his health took a decided turn, and he went to be with the Lord,” said the statement on his Website.

continue reading here…

A longer obituary is available  from the Colson Center website

Much more at Thinking Out Loud

Categories: Uncategorized

Business / Store Contents For Sale

After originally committing to close our Brockville store on February 29th, we’ve hung in there longer to continue to serve the people of that community, but really need to focus on our store in Cobourg.

Therefore, unless there is any offer on the store as a whole there, we’re offering the various parts piecemeal.  This is an ideal opportunity for someone considering starting a Christian bookstore in Ontario who wants to minimize investment.

Dayspring Cards and Racks — We’re aiming to give away the five Dayspring (older style) racks to whoever purchases the inventory.  There are an average of only 2-3 cards per pocket, so this represents an opportunity to break into the card business with half the normal investment, and no five-year commitment on the fixtures.  (You can reinvest by updating the cards several months in.)  Cards all 60% off.  We also have some Celebration Greetings and Marianne Richmond cards, and a total of seven other card fixtures of various vintage.

Wall Fixtures for Books, Music — approx eight feet high divided into three-foot sections; about 42 feet total; all footings, side pieces, shelves are yours for only $60 per foot.This is very trim, shallow book shelving that really economizes on floor space.

Bargain Books — Publisher overstock and remainder books make up about 80% of what’s available in the Brockville store. Most are reduced at least 30% off original Canadian list price, with many hardcovers 50% off MSRP. You would then get 54% off the lowest marked price. There are no used and no hurt books in the assortment, though probably about 15% of the product is visibly older where newsprint was used instead of bleached paper.  All titles were handpicked; no sorter’s lots or skid lot books are included. A good mix of fiction and non-fiction.

Frontlist and Core Inventory — We’re hoping someone is interested in both the bargain books and the core stock, but if the bargain books sell separately, we can always absorb the others back into our other store. But if someone wants both we’re hoping for 55-60% off marked white-tagged (reg.) prices. We don’t consider this a distress sale because our non-sale items are either handpicked titles in very reasonable quantities or rare out-of-prints that are still sought after.  This section makes up about 20% of our existing inventory.

Giftware, Jewelry, Wall Decor, Music, DVDs — Again, our desire is to sell our books, Bibles and cards; but if someone is starting a store from scratch, we can negotiate the sale of everything; music would be updated to provide a first-class starter selection.

There’s also a couple of island fixtures, a bargain bin, a counter, and 2 X 8-feet of 4-foot shelving. We also have some sections of slatwall in storage, painted grey, if anyone is interested.

Contents available to view at 15 Central Avenue West, Brockville.  For more info, call us in Cobourg at 905 372 5519.

Categories: Uncategorized

Giving Suppliers Another Chance to Get it Right

We’re in a grace business.

By definition, that has to mean not only extending grace to our customers but extending grace to our suppliers. But what do you do when a customer has consistently let you down; when it simply isn’t a good fit?

In February we learned that a supplier we hadn’t purchased from in about seven years was participating in a catalog that we were already committed to. I instructed our staff to say that the dozen items from that supplier would not be available through our stores. But then, a convergence took place regarding a book written by a woman who lived in our community and would be remembered by many of our customers.

So we placed the order. We gave them another chance. I was hopeful this would all work smoothly and without incident.

Years later, nothing has changed at that company. There were problems identifying products. There were problems linking the two parts of the order to ship complete. There were delays from the time the credit card was supplied to when the order actually shipped. There were emails that went unanswered. There was a problem communicating the nuances of the merchandise content of the order to someone in accounts receivable, who confirmed both parts of the order were shipping when in fact they were not. There were two requests to get an email address for someone higher up in the company that were ignored.

So what’s my advice to my Canadian suppliers today?

  1. Higher good people and continue to evaluate performance.
  2. Process orders through your picking, checking, packing and shipping system quickly. Your U.S. counterparts are doing this usually within 2-3 hours. It can take Canadian suppliers 2-3 days; and there’s never an excuse for seven days, or in this case ten days.
  3. Make sure your accounting people understand the basics of order processing, and have at least a cursory familiarity with the major product lines; and don’t make promises about shipment contents which are not checked or verified.
  4. Always answer an email with an email, a phone call with a phone call, a letter with a letter.
  5. Don’t be monolithic or bureaucratic about product identification. If a customer supplies detailed information but lacks UPC or ISBN information, don’t refuse to process the order.
  6. Make sure all your customers understand your corporate organization chart and know who to call for what; and have one person who can act as an overseer and troubleshooter for each account.
  7. Allow customers to escalate a complaint if necessary. Don’t shut down that process; allow the customer to make their issues heard at upper levels.
  8. Make sure all customer service reps understand the principle of follow-through in dealing with service issues.

In addressing the issues that arose on this, all of the past history with their company came flooding back. It’s been a long, long time since I got that frustrated with a supplier, and I think that the decision to refrain from ordering from them was the right one.

Sometimes the problems in an organization are systemic and the only way change will ever take place is through a change in management or ownership. The biggest act of grace in this situation is for me to allow them to spend their time serving someone else’s account. This is obviously an impossible fit, and I won’t be back anytime soon, if ever.

Footnote:  Re. The woman with the custom-published book: Her former church refused to cooperate with us in promoting availability of the title through our store. “She’s coming here in May;” I was told, “And she is bringing books with her and people will buy them then.”

It seems to be raining attitude everywhere, but I’m hoping the forecast calls for a chance of clearing.

Which Book Format Has The Most Applications?

From the blog, Marketing Christian Books, a Pew Research survey graphic.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Bible: Over 100,000 Weeks on the Bestseller List

Many years ago the Canadian Bible Society produced a black-and-white poster that said: The Bible — Over 100,000 Weeks on the Bestseller Chart.  I thought it was one of the best Bible promotions they ever did, and greatly regret not getting some extra copies when the first one faded in the store window.

The Bible is the all-time bestselling book.

Although you may purchase Bibles online, the level of informed service one gets from a Christian bookstore associate can be extremely helpful; though occasionally customers drain the store clerks of information and then buy online anyway.

We developed our own newspaper advertisement using the theme –see above — but I really wish the Bible society would bring back theirs. A store is wise to focus on highlighting the product for which they have the most to offer in terms of product knowledge.

Evangelism Products Target Different Worldviews

While walking the exhibits at Missionfest Toronto, I discovered a product line that I believe will make an excellent connection with friends of my customers and yours.

The products are marketed as “Worldview Evangelism and Discipleship” and the website is

The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus is aimed at adults and teens who have been primarily influenced by Christianity, whether Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox, but are not necessarily believers. It’s published in ten languages, with optional workbooks available in six languages. There’s also an audio book available in English and Spanish, and an interactive DVD curriculum.

All That the Prophets Have Spoken is aimed at adults and teens who have been primarily influenced by Islam, but are not necessarily Muslim in belief.  It has 25% different content than The Stranger and is available in five languages with workbooks in two.

By The Name is aimed at adults and teens who have been primarily influenced by polytheism, pantheism, atheism, agnosticism or animism; or see themselves as a post-modern, post-Christian or secularist.  It is available in English and French.

The Lamb Story is a picture book hardcover is aimed at children age four and up from different backgrounds. It is available seven languages, with PowerPoint and DVD, CD audio, and DVD versions in English.

Goodseed has branches in Canada, Australia, Scotland, Luxembourg and the U.S., and Canadians have the option of ordering from Alberta or Quebec for best shipping costs.  There are generous discounts for bookstores.

The ministry also has training courses on using their materials, with one coming up in Ontario this fall.

My only regret is not having some page-views for you to see the quality of this material up close. If your store has customers who are wanting to find apologetic resources that are customized for different worldviews, this is the product to stock and recommend.

The Only Way to Compete with “Free” is to Pay People to Read

Now that the dust has settled, I can state here for the record that while you were busy attending Good Friday services, your not-so-favorite online competitor, A**z*n was busy giving away Francis Chan’s eBooks for free.

I was upset about this on several fronts.  For one, online stores are open 24/7; they have no issues with sales on Sunday or on Christmas Day. They get ALL the sales when brick and mortar stores are closed. Secondly, this little stunt happened while the industry was shut down for three days making it unlikely to be on the front burner when people returned to work on Monday, or in some cases, Tuesday. Third, it makes price — not the books’ content — the discriminating factor in purchase. Fourth, it totally cheapens the value of all books in all formats. If a book is worth $0.00, do I really want to see what it has to say?

While I wanted to respond, I didn’t want add awareness to this offer at the time; thereby delaying the discussion until now.

It is, to this industry observer unconscionable that publisher David C. Cook would sanction such an offer, if in fact they had any control. Or that author Francis Chan would want to see his works thus diminished to where it’s all about pricing.

But even today, as I write this the selling price for the three books that were involved is:

Crazy Love 2.99
Erasing Hell 2.99
Forgotten God 2.99

And the U.S. Government filed an anti-trust suit over price fixing because of increases?  Apparently whatever sector of the eBook industry where that was taking place was far removed from customers of eBooks from David C. Cook. 

…Christians are expected to spurn vengeance, but we’re also expected to prize wisdom; and the wisdom in this situation would be for conventional retailers to think twice about generously stocking inventory from publishers whose titles in alternative formats are, at least at a cash register level, consistently worthless.