Archive for January, 2013

Closing The Store Gives a Different Perspective

January 29, 2013 3 comments

You never have such great 20/20 hindsight as when you’re packing the contents of your store into dozens and dozens of cardboard cartons.

Here are some things I know now that I didn’t know then:

  1. We bought too many copies of many titles. Being a store that deals heavily with remainder product certainly added to the temptation to seize the day when a title was offered at 75-80% off, but remainders and overstock are remainders and overstock for a reason.
  2. Once you have the above principle firmly in your mind, you’re still stuck with those excess quantities; mainly because…
  3. …The barrel of sand theory: Your inventory is like a large barrel of sand.  You are constantly pouring new sand in, and people are constantly scraping sand from the top, but very few people dig deep into the barrel to see what’s near the middle or near the bottom.
  4. I should have accelerated the discount percentages as we were closing. We got a lot of traffic from two newspaper stories, and contented ourselves that the 50% discount was sufficient, when in fact, it might have created more buzz — and caused us less packing to do — to go to 60% and 70% on some items.
  5. Unlike a true liquidation, we’re not totally closing the business, since we still have one location; so we tempered the discount percentages somewhat, but the cream of the crop stock had long been picked over.
  6. We were a full year in shut-down mode. Once we realized we were staying through Christmas we reactivated the new release section. Keeping a small core section of bestsellers — not part of the sale — at regular price was a waste of time. If people wanted to respond to the new titles the industry was offering, the store wouldn’t be closing.
  7. If you don’t have people lining up to buy your fixtures, you’re basically stuck with a load of scrap metal. You know the possibilities for those fixtures, but people aren’t lining up to open bookstores right now, are they?
  8. Having learned a lesson with my parents’ furniture, I know that paying to store the fixtures wouldn’t happen. Right now we’re being offered free storage for everything.
  9. Giving away the cash registers probably made the most sense.  They were old when we got them 20+ years ago.  Newer ones are being modified because of the 1-cent-piece being discontinued.
  10. Go for fruit. Seriously. When you’re closing and you look back, the fruit of ministry that took place in your store is all you have to remember. We had some encouraging things happen, but only a couple of recorded salvation stories. In-store evangelism should be the goal of every store owner and staff member. I wish we had pressed this goal further.

If anyone is interested in pictures of the store fixtures in question, and lives anywhere in Ontario to make it practical, let me know. We also have some great remainder stock that you can no longer access, and I’d make sure you didn’t get more than two copies of any given title. 

Categories: Uncategorized

Religion News Service Notes The Heaven Book Trend

…Folks have been going to heaven with amazing regularity lately. They look around — one even sat on Jesus’  lap — then come back to report on the trip. It’s a lucrative journey.

Three of these tales have ascended to heavenly heights on USA Today’s best-seller list recently, and more are on the way…

…Can you hear the publishing angels singing? …

Read more at Publishers are in seventh heaven with near-death memoirs

U.S. Online Vendors Now Free To Add Credit Card Surcharges

As of Sunday, January 27th, new rules kick in allowing U.S. merchants to add service charges of up to 4% to credit card purchases made instore or online. Consumer World reports:

…Historically, merchants have been prohibited from imposing a surcharge when a customer uses a credit card because of a ban on the practice contained in contracts that banks and credit card companies have with sellers. That all changed last November when a federal judge preliminarily approved a settlement in an antitrust class action case brought by retailers against Visa, MasterCard, and a number of big banks. Part of the settlement, eliminating that ban on surcharges, goes into effect on January 27, 2013.

While widespread adoption of a credit card surcharge is not expected in the short-run, consumer advocates worry that over time they will become commonplace, and that surcharge abuses that developed in other countries will be replicated here.

“This outrageous, new fee should make every shopper think twice before plunking down a credit card,” said Edgar Dworsky, founder of “If a national sales tax of 2, 3, or 4 percent were being proposed, everyone would be up in arms. Yet, nearly the equivalent of that – an up to 4 percent credit card surcharge pushed for by retailers – has flown under the radar with seemingly little scrutiny, criticism, or concern for consumers’ pocketbooks.

Under the new rules:

  • Sellers will only be allowed to surcharge customers for the actual costs of processing credit card transactions (typically 1.5 to 3 percent) or 4 percent, whichever is less.
  • Complicated rules allow retailers to choose the cards to which a surcharge will apply. However, American Express says while its agreements allow surcharges, a clever provision in them will likely mean that no surcharges can be applied to AMEX cards.
  • Debit cards and prepaid cards will not be subject to a surcharge.
  • Brick and mortar retailers will have to post a notice at the store’s entrance advising customers that a surcharge applies on purchases made with a credit card. However, only at the point of sale must there be a disclosure of the exact percentage. In addition, sales receipts will have to itemize the exact amount of the surcharge.
  • Online sellers only have to disclose that a surcharge will be imposed on the page of the website where credit cards are first mentioned. In a typical online transaction, however, selecting the form of payment is usually the final step before completing the transaction. Consumer advocates believe this late a disclosure will turn off shoppers who may feel they were hoodwinked into almost completing the buying process before being advised that a credit card surcharge applies.

…Continue reading at Consumer World

Categories: Uncategorized

Wiley Sets Canadian SRP LOWER Than U.S. as CDN Dollar Drops Below Parity

Was it a printing error above the barcode? Not according to the data on Book Manager. The new book Immortal Diamond by popular Catholic theologian Richard Rohr is marked ” $19.99 U.S. / $17.99 CDN .” A recognition of the strength of the Canadian dollar? Or a response to not having an international trade paperback edition to offer? We would have immediately dispatched a reporter to find out, but this is a blog and we have no reporters.

Not all Canadian Christian booksellers have accounts with Wiley’s Canadian office in Mississauga, so most will be ordering through Ingram, since STL doesn’t have this title. With standard discount and Ingram flat rate shipping charges up to 8.5% (depending on your province) and bank exchange of around 3%, that gives you a cost price of $13.40 CDN on a $17.99 CDN item for an effective margin of 25.5%. Not viable, is it?

But all this comes as the Canadian dollar dips below parity with the U.S.– closing yesterday at .9971 US — a situation that is expected to continue based on recent economic forecasting for Canada and optimism for the U.S. currency after averting the “fiscal cliff” earlier this month.

Wiley subsidiary Jossey-Bass does not have any other religious titles announced between now and October, so this pricing policy may be an anomaly limited to this one title. In this writer’s opinion, stores would be advised to overprice the title to at least par.

Follow exchange rates at this link

Non-Distributed Product Inquiries Increasing

January 24, 2013 2 comments

My evidence here is anecdotal and subjective, but it seems that recently the number of inquiries we have had for product only available through the author’s website are increasing.

In the last 24 hours we’ve had people looking for

  • The Art of Marriage curriculum (Family Life) DVD
  • Helping Those in Grief, Crisis and Trauma (Norman Wright) DVD
  • My House Shall Be A House of Prayer (Jim Cymbala) DVD

Each of these products appears only to be sold through the creators, bypassing Christian retail and Christian online sellers. Setting up a website and selling direct has become too easy for self-publishers. We can’t access these products and we can’t blame e-books or downloads for the ones I encountered over the past day. Even Crown Video, which specializes in DVD media, doesn’t have them.

The problem isn’t just lack of availability.

The problem is the total discouragement it brings to see potential sale after sale disappearing into the ether.

How did customers hear about this product? Why aren’t existing products that we can access sufficient?  In the first case above, I recommended the Alpha Marriage course. In the third case, I noted the Jim Cymbala curriculum product available from Zondervan.

But people want what they want, what they’ve seen, what they’ve been told to investigate.

And it leaves us looking totally irrelevant.

Chris Tomlin Tops Billboard Hot 200 Chart

January 23, 2013 1 comment

This is not the gospel or Christian music chart; this is the top 200 of all music sales. (The Les Miz Soundtrack was #3, Taylor Swift was #4, One Direction was #10 and Mumford and Sons was #11)  Analysts attribute part of this to the huge bump from the Passion Conference which featured Louis Giglio who himself had quite a bit of press in the last few weeks.

Chris Tomlin Billboard Number One

Watch the video for Whom Shall I Fear at the end of this posting at our devotional website, Christianity 201.

Categories: Uncategorized

Last Week at Our Brockville Store

January 20, 2013 3 comments

Maybe some people don’t have a problem locking up their store for the last time, but if there was anything I could do to keep our Brockville store open, I honestly would do it.  The response for our clearance this month has been so positive that I actually started having second thoughts.  If anyone wants to defy the odds and start a store, we have some great store fixtures for sale. In the meantime, ten days left in the month and we have no game plan as to how this shutdown is going to happen.



Categories: Uncategorized

Zondervan Creates New Product Category

Theologian Trading Cards - Thomas Merton

Theologian Trading CardsBaseball players have them so it was only a matter of time. I love it that a company like Zondervan is able to indulge creative types and bring a wild and crazy idea from the conceptual stage to store shelves. An idea like a box containing 288 Theologian Trading Cards. (My wife, a little more skeptical, believes they are the result of someone getting drunk at a pastors’ conference.) The ‘author’ credit for this goes to Norman Jeune III who is the Lead Hospital Chaplain for a children’s hospital in Orange, California.

This is not an “everything you always wanted to know” product. A student will get far more info at Wikipedia. And it’s not a deck — 15 decks actually — of “heroes of the faith.” A great biography doesn’t automatically merit inclusion, but rather a contribution to the various branches of theology.

This is an ideal product for a graduate or current student from a Master’s program at a school of divinity, seminary or Bible college; for anyone else who wants to satisfy their inner church history nerd, or for the pastor who has everything. I’m sure publishers at other companies looked at this and asked, “Whatever were they thinking?” Still, it stands to do better than Zondervan’s direct-to-remainder “Chunky” NIV Bible.

The decks represent different streams of thought, types of approach or in some cases, eras in theological history. From the Munich Monks and Athens Metaphysicians to the St. Pius Cardinals, Geneva Sovereigns and Constantinople Hesychasts one gets a good idea where different figures from ecclesiastical history fit either into the larger time line, or doctrinal groupings. (Did you click that link? See, you’re learning stuff already!)

For the serious student, these serve as a reminder. For the uninitiated, they serve to whet the appetite for reading classic authors. For the critic, your best bet is to consider who was and wasn’t included. For the doctrinally obsessed, you can carry your Ulrich Zwingli card in your wallet or purse. For the person who refuses to read an actual book, this just might work!

Zondervan has created an entirely new product category.  Your challenge as a retailer is to figure out what shelf to put this on. However, nobody is going to find this on their own by browsing online; so here’s a unique product that lets you hand sell the physical product in a physical store.

Cards are not shown actual size.

Theologian Trading Cards - D L Moody

Christian Fantasy Evades The Theology Police

January 14, 2013 2 comments

From blogger Mike Duran…

Fantasy, often of the YA variety, appears to comprise the largest segment of the Christian Speculative Fiction category. Bryan Davis, Jill Williamson, Donita K. Paul, Wayne Thomas Batson, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Christopher Hopper, Jeffrey Overstreet, D. Barkley Briggs, C.S. Lakin, Vox Day, Karen Hancock, G.P. Taylor, Stephen Lawhead, are just a few of the Christian authors with entries in this field. By way of example, the last three Christy Award winners in the “Visionary” category have been Fantasy novels.

Having bemoaned the disparity of Spec titles in the Christian Fiction market, it’s rather fascinating (to me, at least) how so many of the titles that DO make it into the market are in the Fantasy genre. Why is this?

I’m sure there’s lots of possible reasons. On the surface, you could say we’re simply following the footsteps of two of the greatest Christian novelists ever in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, whose Narnia and Middle Earth sagas have shaped the genre. But I have another theory. It goes like this:

Fantasy Fiction is a buffer against theological scrutiny.

This is the “Christian” part of “Christian Fiction.” Our tales must jibe with revealed biblical truths. Stories that take place in make-believe worlds are LESS subject to theological analysis than stories in “real-world” settings. In realms where magic is tolerable, ethics may also have wiggle room. If I am free to create Elvish races, then binding those races to the Ten Commandments (or some equivalent) is my prerogative. Which is why one reason for a Christian novelist to write Fantasy is to evade the Theology Police.

continue reading Christian Fantasy Novels: Our Theological Buffer here at Mike’s blog, Decompose…

For those who don’t click through, I don’t want you to miss his closing statement:

…[Y]ou don’t need to watch your theological P’s and Q’s if the world you create uses a different alphabet.

Author Wants To Be Part of the Solution

January 12, 2013 4 comments

This came in as a comment the other day; the author, Kevin King, is from the UK and has a self-published book and really wants to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  What would you say to him?

I have just published my first book, Transformed by Love (the Story of the Song of Solomon). I am also the webmaster for my church. Our local bookstore, which was taken over by Oasis Trust after Wesley Owen folded, has also now closed. Our church leadership were keen, even before the bookshop closed, to have an on-line shop on our website. The software is already in place: but this was postponed, partly to give the bookshop a better chance and partly through lack of a volunteer to run it. The project is still currently in abeyance.

In producing my book my primary concern has been to make it available to bless those who stand to benefit by it. I wanted it to be available free of copyright restrictions, which meant that I was forced to take the self-publishing route. My resources are limited and I am unlikely to recoup my investment in the foreseeable future. To make matters even more difficult, I understand that many Christian bookshops won’t take titles from self-publishers: and even if they do, the bulk of their main display space is given over to the large publishers, who naturally have more financial clout and better publicity resources.

I believe that Christian bookshops are a precious asset that we really do not want to lose. Besides selling books, they serve both as a meeting place for Christians and as a contact point for the unchurched. Part of the solution may be in developing that ‘social centre’ aspect, such as the coffee shops that are integrated into some of them. I think that is a great idea: provided it doesn’t become too up-market and thereby discourage the less well-off.

But my main point is, how can I as an independent author help the bookshops? As far as I can see I have no workable alternative to marketing via Amazon and ebooks. And that means my hands are tied. My contract with Amazon prevents me from offering product for sale at less than their prices. The only way bookshops can get a discount is by ordering from one of the major distributors: but although these do list and can supply my book; they will not actively promote it and may well not even stock it unless there is a demand. And how else can I generate that demand as a small independent author on a limited budget?

I would be happy to accept a reduced royalty if that would help to make my book available to Christian bookshops and in turn help them to survive. After all, what better place is there to publicise a Christian author’s books? And there is potentially a great resource for the church in the independent authors (though I realise that there is also a lot of rubbish and worse out there as well). What we need, I think, is a distributor who is prepared to act as a middleman between the ‘Indie’ authors and the Christian bookshops, without charging the authors a small fortune for the privilege. This could perhaps be done by the distributor charging a small commission direct to the author on their sales. Does anyone know of a distributor who is doing this or something similar, or who might be prepared to consider such a scheme?

Or how else can we co-operate in this? One promotional idea I am working on is to offer one book to a bookshop on a ‘sale or giveaway’ basis. They would be requested to place it an appropriate position to be seen by those looking for books of a similar genre and; if the book is sold within three months, to purchase one replacement copy. If not sold within that period, they would be free to give it away to anyone they chose. (I plan to pilot this scheme in the near future: so if any bookshop owner out there is interested in having a free book, please get in touch. I can also supply a PDF version for appraisal by anyone who wants it.) But the obvious drawback to this idea is that I have to pay for a copy up front: and I can’t afford to do that too much. Can anyone suggest a compromise arrangement that would be acceptable from a bookshop owner’s point of view?

Or can anyone suggest any other approach that might help? I really don’t want my attempts to promote what I believe to be a resource for the kingdom to become a means of undermining the kingdom work of others.

Pricing Hymnals

Dealing with short discount product.

While they don’t comprise a high percentage volume of our print music sales, people do occasionally ask for hymnbooks. It’s important to remember that when these are priced, they are priced with bulk sales in mind, at a short discount. In terms of the number of pages, actual content, and the work that goes into assembling them, they represent one of the best deals in your store for any hardcover product.

However, a product can’t exist in computerized inventory with two prices. So it becomes necessary to incorporate a standard markup when you sell a single hymnbook to a customer. For that reason, as on any short discount product, it’s important that sales staff not quote the price as it appears in the database.

A 40% discount on book product means the selling price is the cost price X 1.667. If that places the product in too high a range for your comfort, you can always use 1.500 as a slight bow to the posted MSRP. If a music committee is considering a volume purchase for the church, or even for a choir set, you can always offer to rebate the difference on the sample copies when they place their bulk order.

Another challenge with this is that most online sellers consider the database price to be the price, but most don’t offer additional discounting on that price point. Again, we find that a simple explanation satisfies most customers. This problem also arises with some publishers’ pew Bibles, so it’s important to explain to staff the intricacies of quoting prices on short discount items.

Not The Day The Music Died

Thanks to Lando at House of James for sending us this article about how HMV and Sunrise are handling the declining sales in physical music sales. Turns out they’re handling it with great optimism, and after cutting back from 28 to 14 stores, Sunrise is now planning to open new locations. HMV is betting that the strong appetite for physical CD sales will continue, even as they increase their presence in the digital market.

HMV generates about 50 per cent of its sales from movies and 30 per cent from music. Sales of related items like clothing and collectibles, which currently make up about 20 per cent of sales, will rise to about 35 per cent of overall revenue in 2014 as movies and music sales drift lower…

The company has improved profit margins by working closely with suppliers, scaling back its permanent real estate portfolio, and dropping low-margin video games and tech products while shifting to items such as T-shirts.

But as HMV rushes to become the go-to entertainment retailer, it risks getting caught in the crosshairs of discount players – another one, U.S.-based Target Corp., arrives next year.

Read more at The Globe and Mail. If you see an article readers here would appreciate, be sure to send it.