Archive for February, 2013

Charisma House Joins List of Bible Publishers

February 28, 2013 1 comment

Yesterday at Publisher’s Weekly:

MEVCharisma House will produce a new Bible translation that will update the King James Version. The new Modern English Version (MEV) will be a word-for-word translation. Editors will be drawn from institutions such as the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Harvard University, Oral Roberts University, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Yale University. “To Bible readers who value biblical truth, the MEV literally translates God’s Word in a way that preserves the message but remains readable for today’s world,” said Tessie DeVore, executive v-p of Charisma House in a statement. The MEV will be available in 2014.

Now, we don’t expect everyone at Publisher’s Weekly to understand the nuances of Bible translation, but there’s no escaping the cryptic phrase, “will update the King James Version.” Given the further details provided, one expects that Charisma — a division of Strang Communications — is hoping that the translation will be adopted by conservative Pentecostals who are presently devotees of the KJV. But can you have a “modern language” Bible that uses formal correspondence translation methodology?  As English changes, staying “modern” increasingly involves altering the construction of sentences from their familiar forms.

With the addition of the MEV, it appears that almost every major publisher has their own Bible translation. The NLT, NKJV and HCSB are examples of publisher-driven translations, while the NASB and AMP originate with The Lockman Foundation, the NIV is a product of Biblica (formerly The International Bible Society) and CBT (The Committee on Bible Translation), and the Good News Bible is the product of the Bible Society in the US and UK. Some translations, such as the NCV have a much longer, complicated history, while The Message is the product of a single author.

Can the customer be expected to keep track of all these? This writer suspects that the MEV — with “English” as the unique word — sounds a lot like the CEV (Bible Society) and the CEB (Common English Version, Abingdon).  Furthermore, fringe KJV supporters already have an alternative in the NKJV or the obscure, but still available KJ21 (21st Century King James). 

From a Strang press release, the ultimate hyperbole: 

While most translations are preferred for either study, reading or devotions, the MEV seeks to fulfill all of these needs in one Bible. 

MEV? Meh.


Will Canadian Customers Buy Hardcover First Editions?

This one, scheduled for October, will also be a hardcover.

This one, scheduled for October, is also hardcover.

With more and more Christian authors moving to wider market publishing houses like Simon & Schuster (Howard) and Hachette (Faithwords), first editions in paperback are becoming a rarity, and ITPE (International Trade Paper Edition) editions are disappearing as well.  Are Canadian customers willing to pay the price?

A big test will come Tuesday when The Chance by Karen Kingsbury releases in hardcover at $22.99; thankfully the same price on both sides of the border. Selling The Bridge into the busy Christmas market was easy. Selling another hardcover in March will be a challenge, though diehard fans probably won’t think twice about shelling out the bucks. An October release, Fifteen Minutes is also scheduled for hardcover at the same price.

Koorong shows a paperback for The Bridge available in Australia, but the $29.99 AUS price is rather prohibitive. Surprisingly, there’s no ITPE down under on The Chance, either; it’s releasing at $27.99 AUS for 327 pages.

My market is extremely price conscious. I’ve had only inquiry on The Chance so far, and no advance orders. But other markets are not as price sensitive. But neither have I locked in an advance order. Inventory will be purchased on a need basis on this title from day one, with an initial surplus of only three or four copies.

Booksellers Need to be Passionate About New Titles

February 25, 2013 1 comment

An author gets a great idea.

He/She convinces the literary agent that it’s worth publishing.

The agent pitches it to the publisher.

The book is printed.

The publisher assigns a release date and begins a marketing pitch for that quarter’s sales.

The sales reps learn about the book at a sales conference.

The rep then takes the title on the road — along with dozens of others — and pitches it to you, the retail buyer.

The retailer can envision customers who would resonate and respond to that title and orders an initial quantity.

Weeks or months later, the book arrives in a shipment, and now the retailer must remember why it was that they bought in on that title.

Then the retailer must sell the book to frontline staff, full-time and part-time.

Then the staff must find the optimal place to display the title, and be prepared to highlight the title to the type of customer the buyer had in mind.

The customer has to catch the passion that way, way, way back the author had when he/she crafted the first chapter.

Then they have to decide that it will meet a felt need, and that it represents good value for the sticker price.

As long as their debit or credit card clears processing, the book is sold.

That’s not a difficult chain of events, is it?

Where I think the process can sometimes break down is that there can be a “dilution of passion.”  Unless the retail staff can catch the excitement about new titles — or strong backlist — nothing moves.  Buyers have to remember what drove them to select that title all those weeks ago. Sales reps have to communicate the same excitement that led the publishers to choose the title in the first place. The customer has to respond to what the sales associate is telling them, not because the sales clerk wants to make a sale, but because the customer sees this as the kind of thing they usually buy.

In other words, the customer at the very end of the chain has to catch the passion the author had at the beginning.

Put that way, it’s a wonder anything sells.

But when this works, it works well.

And when it doesn’t work, sometimes the customers find the titles on the shelves in spite of us.

And sometimes, the publisher puts enough effective marketing into place that even if a few links in this chain are broken, the book is still a success.

Betting on the Collectable and Decor Value of Books

From a January 28th (print) Toronto Star story about a series of books that are being re-issued in designer covers at a higher price for those who like the ‘look’ of books on a shelf, this quotes Kristen Cochrane, executive publisher of Random House’s McClelland & Stuart Doubleday:

What makes this series so special to us is that it is a true celebration of the printed book… In a world where the ebook has established a significant presence, we want to remind readers that while the downloadable book is a great, convenient, new way to read, it will never be a replacement for the printed book.  (emphasis added)

Shannon Culver, who works at Kobo added,

There are books that I’ve read in digital and then bought in print because I like the cover.

The article went on to explain that some of the books have an original price of $11.99 but the color-coordinated titles list for $16.95, but are currently available at 2 for $25. The article also noted that classic Penguin titles are always colour coded with the familiar orange template.

Although Christian publishers have brought special editions to market before, we’ve only seen traditionally jacketed hardcovers in conservative clothbound formats. If a trend, this would lend itself to more modern covers to complement interior design.

EMI-CMG Name Change Ignores Foreign Distribution

Capitol Christian Music GroupWhile nobody here wants to be the Grinch that denies the brand name capital implicit in the iconic Capitol Records label, changing the name of EMI Christian Music Group to Capitol Christian Music Group — complete with a rendering of the U.S. Capitol building — is, from a foreign markets viewpoint, just plain dumb.  Especially at a time when the regard that people in other countries have for the United States is rapidly, rapidly diminishing.

This is a time in music sales history when you don’t want to do anything to alienate customers — any customers — be they foreign or domestic. Furthermore the original label name mostly recalls memories of groups like The Beatles, hardly a reference point for the Christian rock or modern worship buyer.

Methinks the people at EMI need to buy a copy of Greg Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation, and read it before they suggest that the new name and Christian music sales are in any way compatible.

Read the story at the (U.S.) Christian Retailing website.

What Sold at My Store: 2012 Chart

Usually I do our full year chart at the end of December, but the last few weeks have been packed with work and personal busy-ness. Anyway, I finally got around to completing it — we do have customers who refer to it — so have a look and feel free to make comments. Bonus marks if you can spot the spelling error.

Searchlight 2012 Chart

Social Media Publicity Gambit Floundering

February 15, 2013 7 comments

John (not his real name) gets about six visitors to his blog every day. Despite some rather dismal stats, John is currently reading book number ninety-four as a member of numerous blog book review programs he’s signed up for. It’s doing wonders for his personal library, though the manager at his local Parable store is kinda wondering what happened to him.

Nobody ever really asks for stats. Only one organization, Graf-Martin in Canada had the good sense to ask bloggers to share the size of their readership. There isn’t a single book publicity program for bloggers that teaches them how to ‘tag’ their stories to attract additional readers, or how to register their URL with search engines. So bloggers of all shapes and sizes enjoy a bounty of free stuff in the hope that it will do something to spark sales, including people like John who intersperse the book reviews with pictures of his new truck, which isn’t really new, but is new to him.

As someone who has benefited greatly from these programs in the past five years, I wish to herewith advise Christian publishers everywhere that you are totally wasting your money.

Meanwhile, as I’ve mentioned here many, many times; retail frontliners have an almost zero chance of every getting one single free book in the course of a year, unless they attend a trade convention. (Though in fairness, David C. Cook Canada has a program with Baker Books that allow staff to share advance copies, but sadly — for me anyway — the program is almost complete devoid of non-fiction titles.)

But things are about to get worse — far worse — for blogs like my own Christianity 201 (which publishes excerpts of books I’m sent ) and Thinking Out Loud (which publishes reviews of books I’m sent) and Christian Book Shop Talk (which concentrates on the trade and marketing angle on new titles) as the programs are cutting back.

First of all, it’s becoming just about impossible to get an actual print book sent to a Canadian address. Since I don’t have any interest in reading electronically, I’ve already told a couple of the publishers to take a hike. Shelf-naked I came into the book business 37 years ago, and shelf-naked I shall leave.

But now Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program has handed me the greatest insult of all. They suspended my account because I haven’t reviewed any of their books in over 90 days. Here’s a suggestion, Thomas Nelson: Publish some decent books every 90 days. Seriously. (I did in fact offer a title I would be willing to be consider, but was told yesterday, basically, ‘Tough luck, you missed out;’ despite my attempts to parade out my reader stats as a kind if trump card.)

You know what? The social media promotion gambit was an idea that had merit. And my store is filled with dozens upon dozens of titles that I would never have carried were it not for the buzz that was created in the Christian blogosphere. Furthermore, many of the authors were originally nothing more than bloggers like myself, and through their various iterations online — blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — I feel like I really know these people, even though we’ve never met. Heck, I can name their spouses, their children, their favorite restaurant.

And now, as the industry contracts, industry hirelings who know neither the publishing industry they work in nor the Christian blogosphere where they are paid to toss out freebies are suddenly all busy shooting themselves in their collective feet.

So to the golden age of social media publicity in the Christian publishing industry — 2007 – 2012 — I say, Rest in Peace.  You were Christian publishing’s last great idea, and last great hope; and your loss is about to be reflected by sales at both physical and online sellers.

~Paul Wilkinson, former book reviewer

For the record, Thinking Out Loud is currently ranked #7 out of all Christian blogs in North America for incoming links from Google, the number one search engine.

Zondervan Relaunches College Devotional Bible

Once upon a time, it was the Collegiate Devotional Bible, but it wasn’t one of the bestselling NIV devotional editions. Now the concept returns in an all new format that segregates the summer month devotionals from the ones for the rest of the academic year. If you click through to watch the video at YouTube, you’ll note that it is, “Available for purchase at, B&,, and”. Yeah, you saw that right. No mention of Christian retail. None at all. Thanks, Zondervan. Thanks for nothing.

Respect Dare Book Trailer

Thomas Nelson paperback; $15.99 U.S.

Categories: Uncategorized

Redman’s 10,000 Reasons Scores Double Grammy Win

February 10, 2013 1 comment
Matt Redman

Matt Redman

In the Best Contemporary Christian Music Song category of the 2013 Grammy Awards, it was oh so close as the song Your Presence Is Heaven by Israel Houghton and New Breed tied with Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons. This was a songwriter award which beat out. among other songs, White Flag, on which Redman was a co-writer..

For Redman, the win was clearer in the Best Gospel / Contemporary Christian Performance category with a win for 10,000 Reasons.

The Best Gospel Song award went to the writers of Go Get It, as performed by Mary Mary.

Best Gospel Album was Gravity by LeCrae.

In a category more closely watched by readers here, Best Contemporary Christian Album, the statue went to Tobymac’s Eye On It, beating Kari Jobe’s Where I Find You, Casting Crowns’ Come to the Well, Gold by Brit Nicolle and Into the Light by Matthew West.

More info at

Snow Days: Great for Kids, Bad for Retail

February 8, 2013 2 comments

I just posted this on our store Facebook page. Being a longer item than we normally post, not everybody who sees it will bother to read it. But I felt I needed to because of misconceptions. (We have customers who think that we don’t own any of the inventory; that it’s all consigned from publishers.)

So while some might criticize this approach, we find our customers have a sense of ‘ownership’ in the store — too bad it’s not literal — and we need to be transparent every once in awhile.

Snow Days: Great for Kids, Bad for Retail

We ARE open right now.

Contrary to what many people think, retailers don’t make up snow days a day later. The day is a complete write off.  

With only 19 selling days in February, because of Family Day, the loss of another day means we have only 18 days left. Out of that we are expected to pay rent, utilities and insurance costs that are not adjusted for the short month.

A sympathetic landlord might hold a cheque an extra day, but some things are very time specific, like the $3,960 we have due on Monday at 6:00 PM. That one must be paid in full.  (We have $623 in the bank today.)

That leaves us the option of borrowing from savings (if we have any that month) or asking friends and customers (which we’ve done; you know who you are; thank you!) or borrowing from our MasterCard at 9.90% interest, which is what we usually do and will probably do here. We can be as much as $12,000.00 in debt to them at any one time; fortunately that’s not the case right now.

Having a ministry model which is also a retail model is not my first choice. True, we are self-sufficient most days (because we don’t pay ourselves a salary) and therefore don’t have to ask for donations (some stores are part of non-profits or charities) but at the same time, when the lean months hit, there is no backup.

Searchlight is also unique in that it is a ministry that benefits the broadest Christian community, but the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of one individual family. Again, not my first choice.

So basically, if you can think of anyone in the next 24 hours who would benefit from a good book or a CD or DVD, we really do need some ‘miracle’ sales between now and closing on Saturday and/or cash (not electronic) sales on Monday.

Because you don’t make back a snow day in retail.

Tough Translation

For Heaven's Sake - Jan 7 2013

Categories: Uncategorized