Archive for May, 2012

Family Photos

To some of you this looks like a photo collage of a bunch of storefronts, but after 37 years in the business, to me, these look like family photos.

Pictures were taken for the masthead of the Thomas Nelson Indies (independent stores) page at Facebook.

Thank you for letting Christian Book Shop Talk be a part of your routine for the past four years.


Being Part of the Mission of Local Churches: Survey

Store owners and managers: Curious to know, are any of you part of the local ministerial association where your store is located? Have you ever been invited to make a presentation? Leave your answer in the comments section.

Categories: Uncategorized

Taking on the Giant

Phil Johnson, in Forbes Magazine, writing to business execs and leaders:

Imagine for a moment what it would feel like if people walked into your company and used the lobby to call your competitors and buy their products. That’s standard consumer behavior in a bookstore. People browse, find a book they like, pull out their smart phone, and order online.

His article, The Man Who Took on Amazon and Saved a Bookstore, is about Jeff, who purchases a Cambridge MA bookstore

Jeff Mayersohn, the new owner, elicited my sympathy, but I also wanted to get to know him. I respected his mission, even if I didn’t quite believe in its future. So, Jeff shocked me a couple of weeks ago, when he told me with a certain amount of pride and pleasure that he has been seeing double digit sales growth month by month over the last year.

He got that right. The article is one of the success stories involving an Expresso Book Machine.

To truly compete, he would also have to solve consumer’s expectations for instant gratification and delivery. Jeff needed a complete production, distribution, and fulfillment model. He has likely shocked a lot of people by building one in his own backyard.

Essentially, Jeff installed a printing press to close the inventory gap with Amazon.  The Espresso Book Machine sits in the middle of Harvard Book Store like a hi-tech visitor to an earlier era. A compact digital press, it can print nearly five million titles including Google Books that are in the public domain, as well as out of print titles. We’re talking beautiful, perfect bound paperbacks indistinguishable from books produced by major publishing houses. The Espresso Book Machine can be also used for custom publishing, a growing source of revenue, and customers can order books in the store and on-line.

If I knew most of you would click through — you don’t — I would have simply included the link, but at the risk of having borrowed more than half of the article, I want you see past the story and catch the brilliance of the following two paragraphs that comes from the analysis of a writer for Forbes:

Of course, Amazon has got nothing to fear, but that’s not the point. Harvard Book Store defended their market and they did it by leveling the playing field with a giant. You shop there because it’s the most effective and satisfying experience.

Ultimately the bookstore exists to serve a community, and Jeff devised a strategy to safeguard that mission. While people will always take the path of least resistance to buy a book, they still value the experience of browsing and spending time in a place that ignites their imagination. That’s the position that Harvard Book Store has defended.

Key phrases

  • leveling the playing field
  • satisfying shopping experience
  • defending the market
  • safeguarding the mission
  • giving customers the path of least resistance

I think there are ways we can learn from this. Years ago, I had a young employee in her late teens tell me to stop telling her peers that I “could order it for you.” Her advice was a few years ahead of time. Now we simply look up the title and say, “It will be here on Wednesday.”  The response is amazing.  I wish I had the market size to afford an Expresso machine, and many of you can’t even afford the type of Expresso machine that makes coffee; but I think there are things we can do even in the limited markets we serve to defend those markets and “safeguard the mission.”

Forbes article link.

Two New Titles From Zondervan

…and they’re both by someone named Joel…

Love Works

Love Wins. Love Does. Love Works. Lots of books right now on the market with titles that will inevitably confuse some. I’m considering writing a set of four: Love Hurts. Love Scars. Love Wounds. Love Mars. But I am digressing big time.

Love Works (subtitle: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders) is most appropriately titled however, because this is a book about going to work, or better yet, taking principles with you to work. The principles are based on the “Love Chapter” in the first few verses of I Corinthians 13.

Author Joel Manby knows these principles can apply at the place you earn your paycheck, though it took him quite a while to finally arrive at a place of reorganized priorities. After a successful career in the automotive industry, he now works for a chain of theme parks, Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation, which owns many properties, run the operations for others, and have a consulting role in still more.

Though published under the imprint of Zondervan, a company better known for Bibles, Bible study guides, Christian living books and Christian fiction titles; this is really a business book; with a chapter organization scheme that management types will relate to, and a review section that will bring you back to the book months or even years later.

But because most of in the Western world have been to Christian weddings where “Love is patient, love is kind…” was part of the ceremony, this makes a good bridge title to give to someone who might not yet consider cracking the pages of anything else Zondervan publishes.

And the ‘gold’ of this book is that a hands-on, caring management philosophy is infectious and can have a positive influence on the bottom line.

With Father’s Day just weeks away, I can’t think of a better gift for the aspiring CEO, COO or CFO in your circle of contacts than a copy of Love Works, even if the workplace in question is family-run or even home-based.

While Love Works is light on scripture and not at all preachy, read an excerpt from a later chapter of the book at Christianity 201.

A copy of Love Works was given to Paul Wilkinson by HarperCollins Canada


With this being graduation season, I want to get the message about this title out there for that person transitioning from high school to college, or from college into life.

Awake: Discover The Power of Your Story, by Joel N. Clark (paperback, Zondervan) is one of the more interesting books you’ll watch in a long time. Yes, I know;

  • You read books
  • You watch movies

But that’s not the case here. In addition to containing a variety of black and white drawings and photographs, Awake is liberally sprinkled with QR codes that allow you to use your smart phone to watch the drama as the story unfolds.

And drama, frankly is what this book is all about. Joel’s adventures in Haiti, South Africa, and other places; have been, for lack of a better word, adventurous. If you can’t think of a reason for doing something, Joel suggests doing it for the story you’ll be able to tell afterward (though if the person you want to give a graduation book to is already daring and a little reckless, this may be like pouring gasoline on a fire!)

And really, Joel isn’t always interested in the story he’ll be able to tell, as much as the story he will be able to film, since that is the lens (pun intentional) through which he views the world, and what has taken him into some rather interesting situations. 

Joel carefully gives his readers practical advice from a Christian perspective, without being preachy. If someone you know has been away from church for a time, or is distant from God right now, I think this would work well.

Don’t have a smart phone? There are website addresses under each QR code where you can go to watch the same clips. Here’s a sample.

A copy of Awake was given to Paul Wilkinson by HarperCollins Canada

From Today’s Email Forwards

A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t…!

Got this in my in-box this morning; glad to see such a well-used Bible, but I’d really like to sell the owner a new one… soon!

Categories: Uncategorized

Congratulations to Tyndale Publishing House on 50 Years

As the story goes, Ken Taylor wrote Living Letters on a commuter train to read to his kids in their nightly family Bible story time.  Armed with yellow lined paper and a copy of the NRSV, he restated the text in words they could relate to. 

And a whole lot of other people related to those words, too.  When nobody was interested in a publishing deal, Ken formed Tyndale House Publishers which turns 50 this year.

I have a threefold relationship with the company that’s identified in my internal systems simply as TYN. 

  • I’m a longtime consumer.  We share the same values and I respect their product integrity. Readers of my two other blogs will note that when I need a go-to translation for a scripture, my preference is NLT.
  • I’m a blogger. Tyndale, Nelson and Zondervan have been most generous with print review copies, and though I haven’t done much with Tyndale product in the past year, I appreciate the opportunity that exists.
  • I’m a retailer. At this point, I’m prepared to say; “Two out of three ain’t bad.” I don’t let the politics of retail cloud my admiration for the company’s products, though I really do wish a lot of things were different right now.

So congratulations to Mark Taylor and the rest of the gang at Tyndale.  I most sincerely wish you all God’s best in the years to come.

The picture above is from a photo history of the company.  Click this link and then click the small boxes under the timeline.  See also the company’s 50th Anniversary press release.

Random House Announces June Drop-In Title on Heaven

This video is a short preview of the book entitled “To Heaven and Back” by Mary C. Neal, MD. The book was published last year as a print-on-demand title from Circle 6 Publishing, and has now been assigned to Random House. It is “The True Story of a Doctor’s Extraordinary Walk with God.” Based on sales of similar titles in this genre, you might want to check this out; however at this point, neither CBD or Send-the-Light are tracking this title from either publisher.

In Canada, Waterbrook/Multnomah and Random House titles are available to CBA trade from Augsburg-Fortress Canada (AFC) in Kitchener. AFC is marketing this as a Waterbrook/Multnomah drop-in, but the ISBN assignment is clearly Random House. Ingram/Spring Arbor is only showing the Circle 6 Publishing edition in its database.

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Keeping Backlist Active

Sarah Bolme is the Director of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) and had an interesting article for authors at the blog Marketing Christian Books, where it ran under the title, Extending The Life of a Book. I include it today because (a) we do have some authors who read this blog, and (b) it offers insights for retailers who have stock on hand and could use some imagination stimulus on how to reactivate certain product.

The other day I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my mail and found a royalty check for a good sum of money. This royalty check was from our foreign rights agent. It was for payment for copies of Baby Bible Board Books: Stories of Jesus that had been sold in Indonesia.

When we secured the foreign rights for Baby Bible Board Books, we were originally paid an advance royalty on the books by the Indonesian publisher who acquired the rights to translate, print, and sell the books in Indonesia. I figured that this advance royalty was all we were ever going to see.

I never imagined that this Indonesian publisher would sell enough copies of the book to continue to pay royalties beyond the initial payment. I was wrong.

There are a number of ways to extend the life of a book. These include:

  1. Placing the title on your back-list.
  2. Continuing to actively promote the title by tying it into current events and issues.
  3. Bundling the title with a newer book and offering it for a reduced rate.
  4. Selling foreign rights for the title.

Selling foreign rights for a title is a great way to extend the life of a book. Not only does the publisher or author continue to sell copies of the title, they do so without any ongoing efforts on their part.

I believe the best way to secure foreign rights for a title is through a foreign rights agent. These agents work to establish relationships with publishers in various countries. They know which publishers in these countries are reputable and will abide by their agreements. In addition, they negotiate the contracts and act as the liaison between the publishers.

Have you sold foreign rights for any of your books? What was your experience? I would be interested in hearing about it.

~Sarah Bolme

Footnote: I believe the first of Sarah’s four ideas above is meant to address the mentality where publishers and authors are only focused on the latest product. In our environment, a key to moving backlist may involve hand-selling product customers may have missed.

Signs of the Times

Christian video departments — both brick-and-mortar and online — really need to have a caveat like this posted to avoid disappointment:

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David C. Cook Selling Zondervan Titles To Your Customers

I’m not sure which bothers me more here: The fact that David C. Cook is selling Zondervan titles through, or the fact they can sell them cheaper than I can. Do Canadian brick-and-mortar Christian retailers have any friends left?

Remembering Grant Jeffrey

Toronto-based author, apologist, prophetic teacher and TBN television host Grant Jeffrey passed away on the weekend. The full catalogue of his independent publishing imprint, Frontier Research Publications was purchased years ago by Random House subsidiary Waterbrook Press, with Wikipedia listing 34 titles including one scheduled for next January. Funeral information will be posted Tuesday at Grant Jeffrey Ministries.

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Stories from the Frontlines

Our store is located two doors down from a convenience store which is frequented by people who simply need bread and milk and would rather not wait in grocery store checkout lines. If I stand outside — which I do this time of year — in any given hour I will recognize people I know.

When I spotted the very unique convertible, I knew it belonged to a guy from one of the local churches who has a rather high profile in town. Business was exceptionally slow on Thursday, and I thought it would be nice if he would drop by, but I don’t know if I’ve ever served him in the store at all, though his wife drops in occasionally. I realized it was a fantasy to expect a visit, and I could feel the emotions rising as this started to upset me.

But then God spoke to me, and I am not the kind of person to say, God spoke to me easily. But clearly a thought was literally injected into my brain, and that thought was, “You don’t need to worry about serving who feel they have it all together; your ministry is to the people who know they are broken.”

And at that point, I realized that included me. Sure, I am proprietor of the place some people come to looking for answers; but our bookstore community — our staff, our customers — we are a group of people who recognize that without Jesus we are nothing; without the Holy Spirit we are helpless.

And really, when I look around at our books, our CDs, our DVDs… we have nothing in particular to offer those already righteous; but for those who are in process, for those who are being made righteous, the doors are always open.