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Archive for August, 2012

Giving Great Customer Service

I regularly follow a blog by Brad Lomenick who monthly posts a list of upcoming Christian leaders — he calls it the “Young Influencers List” — in ministry, the arts, technology, etc; and I have linked to him several times at Thinking Out Loud.  This piece appeared recently at his blog under the title,

8 Points on great Customer Service

I’ve worked on some great teams over the past several years, and seen great customer service in action. One of the places I learned the most about great customer service was Lost Valley Ranch, an incredible 4 diamond guest ranch in Colorado. Serving the guests was part of the DNA of the staff. We took great pride in our ability to create a great experience for our guests through unmatched excellent customer service. Here are a few of the ways we did that:

1. Treat someone like you would want to be treated- the Golden Rule. It really does work. And it makes sense. Common sense. Use it.

2. Remember someone’s name. Always. Especially when you’ve met them before or talked with them before.

3. Let your actions speak way louder than your words. Don’t just talk about it. Make it happen. Your work can be a great example of your attitude and commitment to service.

4. Anticipate. Stay a step ahead of your clients or guests. Don’t wait for them to ask for something. Be proactive. Figure it out before they even need it.

5. Go the extra step. Have a “+1″ type of attitude and demeanor. Not just anticipating, but actually doing more than what is expected or required of you. Make memories for your client or guest by wowing them with the “above and beyond.”

6. Engage in meaningful conversation. Serving creates opportunity for impact–it builds a bridge. So make sure to connect with your guests or clients through conversation when it’s appropriate. Understand who they are by understanding what they read, what they watch, where they travel and what their interests are. If you deal with families, learn their kids names and hobbies. And look them in the eye when talking. Little things add up.

7. Give permission. Make sure your entire staff and everyone in the organization feels empowered to respond immediately to a customer service issue. Empower your employees at every level in the organization to respond and resolve.

8. Own the relationship, and the result. Your answer should never be “that’s not my job.” Take initiative to see the problem or the issue through to the very end. IF you have to hand the relationship off to someone else, make sure you literally walk them to that other person, introduce them, and hand them off well. If over the phone or through email, the same applies. Constantly make sure you are “walking” with that person through the process.

~Brad Lomenick

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Steven Futick Book Trailer for Greater

I’m a big Steven Furtick fan, but not a fan of publishers who manufacture ITPEs but exclude Canada from access. So yes, some of this is simply a copy and paste from yesterday, because when you report news, you have to be balanced, but when you blog you get to rant.

There’s an ITPE of Greater for the overseas market, but literary agents have blocked it in Canada on the grounds that North America is a single market, and paperback copies here would leak back into the U.S. Okay, which ones of you have been selling to U.S. dealers? As I suspected. It doesn’t happen. Nonetheless, this first edition hardback should do moderately well among readers who don’t decide to just wait a year for the trade paper conversion, which, my dear friends at Random House, you should know that large numbers of them do. Canadian stores: Order conservatively, but do stock this; you’ll get demand.

Here’s my review of the book if you missed it last week.

Nick Vujicic New Title Trailer

For my Canadian readers, I would expect Nick Vujicic’s titles do proportionately better in our market due to the exposure on 100 Huntley Street. There’s an ITPE for the overseas market, but literary agents have blocked it in Canada on the grounds that North America is a single market, and paperback copies here would leak back into the U.S. Okay, which have you have been selling to U.S. dealers? As I suspected. It doesn’t happen. Nonetheless, this first edition hardback should do moderately well among readers who don’t decide to just wait a year for the trade paper conversion, which, my dear friends at Random House, you should know that large numbers of them do. Lesson for Canadian retailers: Definitely stock this, but order conservatively. This is a price conscious market.

Dee Henderson Returns to Shelves in October

She is constantly sought after by Christian fiction readers and, as we learn here, by journalists as well.  A Publisher’s Weekly story begins:

These days, most authors are out there energetically promoting their books in print and broadcast and via social media—wherever they can get attention. But Dee Henderson keeps a low profile. She avoids telephone interviews because of hearing problems, declined to provide a current photo, and will say only that she lives in Illinois.

continue reading more about Full Disclosure here

Author Calvin Miller Dies

As a young man in my 20’s acting as warehouse manager for InterVaristy Press Canada on two different occasions in two different buildings, I have many memories of packing and shipping copies of The Singer and The Song and The Finale, the three books in Calvin Miller’s landmark Singer Trilogy, which I would later read.  He was a gifted writer who made a unique contribution to Christian literature, so I was very sorry to learn of his passing several days ago.  Details at Christian Retailing.

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Christian Book Shop Talk Celebrates Four Years!

August 24, 2012 1 comment

August 24, 2008 I launched this blog never expecting the pivotal role it would play in the 30 days that followed as major changes swept through Christian product distribution in Canada.  My goal continues to be to place the focus on areas of interest to Christian bookstore owners, managers and staff; and to try to be a voice for retailers who want to bring concerns to publishers and distributors.

Thanks to all of you who stop here on a regular basis.

Paul Wilkinson

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Vertical Church

Although James MacDonald is writing more to pastors and church leaders with his new book, Vertical Church, he has a commanding presence on Christian radio that makes his books in high demand in areas where Walk in the Word is broadcast. This is an excellent book trailer, voiced by MacDonald, which not only spells out what the book is about, but has a ministry value in and of itself.

Peer-Authored Book Meets Needs in Youth Non-Fiction Department

This review is appearing tomorrow at Thinking Out Loud.

Because the nature of my work permits me to be able to recommend books to parents for their middle-school and high-school kids,  I have three “go-to” authors to recommend. While a number of books are written to teens, it’s great to have authors like these where the books were written by teens for their peers:

  • Zach Hunter — He has three books with Zondervan, starting with Be The Change, and his cause his 21st century slavery. His organization is called Loose Change to Loosen Chains, which he began at age 12.
  • Alex and Brett Harris — A&B are twins and also brothers to author/pastor Joshua Harris. Their books, Do Hard Things, and its companion, Start Here inspires challenge youth to deeper commitment.
  • Austin Gutwein — His first book, Take Your Best Shot tells the story of how he turned a passion into throwing free throws into a fundraising organization, Hoops of Hope, that benefits HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa, a charity he started at age 13 based on an idea he had at age 9.

[Note: Are there any female equivalents to this list?]

So when I had a chance to review Austin Gutwein’s newest book, Live to Give, I jumped at the chance to be able to introduce people to Austin’s writing and his personal story.

But the temptation was to thnk, ‘Hey, this is a youth book, I’ll just read the first half of it and then write the review.’ However, I’ve never reviewed a book I haven’t read to cover to cover, and honestly, I really enjoyed the experience.

Live to Give is based around the story of Jesus feeding five thousand men (plus women and children) and focuses around the lunch that a young boy offered up to Jesus and his disciples that was multiplied many times over. Austin compares this to the lunch box his mom packs for him, and sees that lunch box as symbolic of the ‘gift set’ that each of us possesses. Remarkably, he gets more than a dozen chapters out of that analogy.

The writing style is very conversational. I can’t emphasize that enough. This is a book that even that “not-much-of-a-reader” in your house — which is usually a boy — can get into.

Although the book centers around the gospel narrative of the miracle Jesus performed that day, and the little boy who played a part; there are a number of other stories and related scriptures mentioned. This is a book that will raise the Biblical literacy level of that kid who hasn’t been paying attention at weekend services.

I suspect that Austin tells more of the story of Hoops of Hope in the first book, but there’s enough of it here that you don’t need to have read Take Your Best Shot to appreciate Live to Give.

This is a book that teens, parents and youth workers should be aware of. Thomas Nelson, paperback, 197 pages. Great book. Amazing author.

A copy of Live to Give was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Graf-Martin a Canadian agency that works alongside U.S. publishers like Thomas Nelson to promote key titles north of the 49th.


I wanted to step outside the review itself and add a few comments that may seem superficial, but which I feel are important. There’s a saying that you can’t tell a book by its cover, but there are three things with the back cover of Live to Give that I think need to be addressed.

  1. What on earth is Austin wearing in his publicity shot? And is that a tie he has on? Are they cool now? Please don’t tell me ties are coming back. It seemed an odd choice for the primary market they’re going after. I would have gone with something more like the one I’ve added to the comments section here. 
  2. The sticker price of $14.99. Thomas Nelson has kept its youth fiction at $9.99 for paperbacks; I’d hate to see this price work against more people seeing the book; though I’ll grant you some prices are being set high with the full knowledge that mass merchandisers will be aggressively discounting, rendering the MSRP somewhat meaningless. Still, Pete Wilson and Max Lucado list at $15.99, $14.99 seems high for a youth market title.
  3. The use of the appellation “JUVENILE NON-FICTION” above the bar-code. I realize this is standard at Thomas Nelson; everything that’s not for adults gets this “juvenile” designation; but perhaps it is time to rethink that on teen/youth books. Heck, Austin just started at Anderson College as a poli-sci major; his peers — who would enjoy it — aren’t going to read his book when they see that category label. If that’s ‘policy,’ either change the rules or make exceptions.

To repeat, I enjoyed this book, and I intend to strongly recommend it, but I think the publisher’s choice for a back cover constitutes shooting themselves in the foot.

Should Stores Carry Products That Piggyback on Others’ Success?

August 21, 2012 1 comment

Sometimes a really influential book will produce a “Songs Inspired by…” CD and usually these are authorized by the publishers of the book in question.  But as my wife pointed out to me, “They’re missing a word; the book is called Heaven is For Real, not Heaven is Real.”

At this point, you, the retailer have an ethical dilemma. You can either say, “I’m not going to be part of this capitalist greed,” and not carry the CD — which, by the way, is available in regular stereo and split track versions — or, you can get in on a piece of the action and order heavily and make sure the CD is quite visible throughout the store.

I’m not going to suggest anything here one way or the other, but you’re welcome to leave comments. Just remember that while the cover is the same yellow color, the title is not a perfect match, so this is far from an authorized product. But that doesn’t make it wrong. Or does it?

Next Generation Prefer Print Textbooks to e-Texts

A story last Tuesday in USAToday by Yasmeen Abutaleb confirms what some of us have know for some time, some people just prefer print books. But this story is shocking in that the ‘people’ in question are university students, a segment of society that doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on a book that won’t get used when the semester ends.

They would rather have print, especially when they end up printing out some or all of the eBooks anyway, so the universities now force them to take the electronic editions.  Here’s part of the story:

“How excited can you expect to get about an e-textbook?” Student Monitor President Eric Weil says. “It’s not a fashion statement, it’s not a status symbol; it has to overcome the advantages that students see (in) a printed textbook.”

Typically, students don’t save much when opting to buy an e-textbook. For example, an organic chemistry e-textbook costs about $100, while the print version of the same book costs just $15 more.

For University of Wisconsin senior Leslie Epstein, having to buy an e-textbook only added to her expenses. She still found herself printing a copy of her textbooks in the two classes that required an electronic version, and said despite the lower price tag of an e-textbook, she’d buy the print version of the text “every time.”

“I see what (universities) are doing to make textbooks cheaper and less paper-reliant, but I don’t think it’ll work in the long run,” she says.

But universities are looking to combat that mindset with programs that urge — or force — students to adapt to the trend.

read the whole article at USAToday

While the textbook market is quite different from the trade book environment in which most of us operate, the reaction of students here is significant; especially when you consider that this is a generation that is normally conditioned to get information content from screens.

Expanding the Gaither Homecoming Brand

“Congratulations, Mrs. Gaither; It’s a Bible.”

October release date, NKJV from Thomas Nelson in black bonded or dark brown imitation and  burgundy imitation; all with optional indexing; also hardcover.  Because nothing says Bible study notes like a comment from Mark Lowry.

Liability Issues Always Lurking

August 18, 2012 1 comment

Today we were asked if the Veggie Tales bandages contain latex.  I have no idea. I’m not a scientist. The label says they’re made from polythene. That could be a word for latex for all I know. (I was married before I found out sucrose was just another word for sugar.) Guessing wrong could be serious if a child as a severe allergy. We have the original display carton, but it doesn’t help. I told our staff member to write on the bill, “unspecified content.” We saw a thrift store in the U.S. this week that does this on all their plush toys and it seems like a good way to put the situation in writing and avoid future litigation.

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