Archive for October, 2013

Foundation Offering Brilliance Audio at Par

Even as little bits of parity keep trickling out of the Canadian dollar — trading at 10:15 this morning at 0.9576 US — Canada’s Foundation Distributing is offering Brilliance Audio products at par. The line includes a number of current bestsellers by Kyle Idleman, Max Lucado, Kevin Leman, Mark Batterson, and the Love Dare products; and gives consumers the option of buying discs with recorded audio, or the MP3 files for the audio which are usually reduced prices, though not for every title (such as the Love Dare products).

Foundation is one of three multi-line Christian product distributors in Canada; the others are Augsburg-Fortress and David C. Cook Canada.


Do Christmas Shoppers Know What Your Store Is About The Other Ten Months of the Year?

I’m at that point in the year where people in smaller retail environments need to make tough decisions. What featured sections need to be sacrificed for Christmas merchandise?

The problem is that my philosophy is such that I want the once-a-year customer to have a good idea what we’re doing the rest of the year. I don’t want to go crazy with Christmas decorating that leaves them with the impression we’re a “Christmas store.”

So decorating is sparse, and only the minimum number of niche departments and subsections are removed to make way for boxed cards and other seasonal items.

Do larger stores still face this issue?

Categories: Uncategorized

Sales Associates No Longer Source of Authoritative Information

I don’t usually double-up on stories in Christian Retailing, but I think this study raises a vital issue: Our sales staff need to be better informed and need to be able to educate the customer regarding the products we carry. Here’s the opening paragraphs followed by a link:

Study: Uninformed associates drive away nearly half of all potential customers

Christian RetailingAlmost 50% of all consumers believe their smartphones are more useful than store associates in helping them make buying decisions, according to a new study from Motorola. A study from Red Ant—a consulting company focused on using technology to help retailers drive experiences—revealed similar issues on the employee side of brick-and-mortar retailers.

In the Red Ant survey of more than 1,000 retail associates in the UK, 47% of employees revealed that they were unfamiliar with the products they were selling. The survey also found that 67% of consumers were disappointed by poor product knowledge, while 40% preferred shopping online in order to avoid shoddy customer service.

continue reading here

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Running Out of Authors To Recommend

October 25, 2013 3 comments

I’m running out of pastors, authors and ministries I can wholeheartedly endorse.

Whether it’s James MacDonald’s weekend antics at John MacArthur’s conference, or MacArthur’s tirade against Pentecostalism itself; I find myself having trouble finding a team to back.

The latest to come under the microscope is Charlotte, North Carolina’s Steven Furtick, author of Sun Stand Still and Greater, and pastor of Elevation Church. Both books have been reviewed here favorably, and I have many times linked to Elevation sermon podcasts. I enjoyed the books. I enjoy his preaching style. Dare I say, I’ve learned a lot from his ministry.

Steven Furtick House

But the local NBC News affiliate in Charlotte is concerned about the house the Furticks are building as well as the inaccessibility about how it’s being paid for, or Furtick’s salary. You can watch that report by clicking here.

Steven Furtick Board of Overseers

And while the salary information is not forthcoming, there is also a concern about who sets that salary: In contrast to (founding denomination) Southern Baptist Convention policy, none of the board are from the church or even live in the immediate area, nor are they elected by members of the Elevate congregation. You can watch that report by clicking this link.

The board of Elevation consists entirely of pastors from other megachurches.

While this isn’t a “watchdog” blog, I respect these two writers who strive to hold church leaders accountable, in particular The Wartburg Watch. You can read their pieces — don’t miss the reader comments — at this link, this link, and this appeal to people to stop giving to rich pastors.

The WCNC-TV story also has raised the broader issue of megachurch pastor compensation, as seen in this item, which appeared yesterday, about Perry Noble, who is also listed above as a board member of Elevation.

…Thinking Out Loud exists partly to celebrate the good that is taking place in various corners of the (capital C) Church. But as I stated at the outset, I’m growing rapidly disillusioned with the very ministries I so much want to endorse.

At Disciple Dojo, there’s a great piece which summarizes both sides of the issue. But in conclusion, the writer calls this week’s events “a tempest in a teapot” which I feel understates what could be the unraveling of Steven Furtick’s ministry.

And then, just to make it more interesting, blog readers there are asked to make a $10 monthly contribution.


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The Closest Thing to an Interview with Jesus Calling author Sarah Young

Sarah Young CT ArticleYou know it’s a different set of circumstances when Christianity Today’s “interview” with a living author doesn’t contain the author’s photo. This isn’t Ste. Therese of Lisieux or Ste. Hildegard of Bingen we’re talking about; this is a best-selling author currently residing in Nashville, as in United States. I guess it’s not so much that the images don’t exist, they do, but the reclusive author probably requested CT do otherwise. She actually did the interview through a publicist, which meant that CT had to do a journalistic two-step when “quoting” her.

Nonetheless, it’s the most info we’ve had in a long while, so I encourage you to take the time to read all six pages of Melissa Steffan’s piece, Sarah Young Still Hears Jesus Calling.

If you wish to see further discussion of the book, check out Ryan Dueck’s article and the 100+ comments at this 2010 blog post.

  • Sarah Young isn’t the first to write as God speaking in the first person. Larry Crabb does this in 66 Love Letters, as does Shari Rose Shepherd in the His Princess series of books. But going further back, we also have author Frances Roberts, best known for Come Away My Beloved which follows this same format.
  • Two years ago, Canadian blogger Tim Challies covered this book as well.

Stores Need to Take a Hard Look at Carrying Jerry Jenkins and James MacDonald

October 21, 2013 11 comments

In light of what I wrote here on Friday about the need for Christian retailers to practice greater discernment, and in light of an article posted at a James MacDonald watchdog site, The Elephant’s Debt which links to an article at World Magazine, I do not see how I can continue to stock books by either author.

The articles, which have corroboration from reader comments, link both men to recreational gambling, including a trip to Las Vegas. Both recently collaborated on the fiction book, I, Saul, published by Worthy Publishing and distributed here in Canada by David C. Cook. Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the 70-million selling Left Behind series is the chairman of the board of Moody Bible Institute and owner of the Christan Writer’s Guild;  while MacDonald is the senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, the founder of Harvest Bible Fellowship (a network of churches) and the host of Walk In The Word (a radio show).

Both of these articles were posted the same day that MacDonald and Mark Driscoll ‘crashed’ John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference to hand out copies of Driscoll’s book, which you can read about at this article, or this commentary. One online writer suggests that on the opening day of the Act Like Men Conference (which MacDonald created, much to the surprise of Promise Keepers) the two were acting like boys.

The Elephant’s Debt is a website primarily devoted to controversy surrounding James MacDonald’s salary, his lack of income disclosure, his home and lifestyle, and his dealings with people who have challenged him on these issues. They have exercised much diligence in their reporting.

The Christian Bookstore industry in Canada consists almost entirely of independent, privately-owned stores. No one is compelled to carry product by anything other than local demand and their own informed opinions as to what titles are worth investing in. In other words, dealers can “just say no” if an author’s lifestyle does not conform to the type of standards they would set, for example, for their bookstore staff or the staff of the church they attend.

Furthermore, promoting products by an author whose ministry is a “house of cards,” means that the eventual disappointment that young, vulnerable believers will experience when these people are stripped of their ministry and their reputation, really amounts to “causing someone to stumble” if you know these things to be the case and don’t act.

My advice to my fellow retailers is to flag products by these authors as ‘discontinued’ in your inventory systems and allow existing stock to simply run out.

Additional articles at Thinking Out Loud:

Bookstore Buyers Need Discernment

October 18, 2013 3 comments

This graphic appeared at the blog of Jim Wright, Crossroad Junction:


Underneath, he wrote:

Some do it, others write about it. Some live it, others want to tell you how you ought to live it.

For those of us entrusted with buying and promoting the books that others read, this is of vital importance. There are so many market segments, and so many voices, that it’s hard for many of us to keep track of who is who. 

But we must be diligent, as spiritual gatekeepers of our communities. Jim goes on to write:

…Since then, I’ve learned to be much more discerning about those those who promote books, blogs and other resources on how to be the church:

•  Do they have an ongoing, successful history of being part of – and are they currently rooted in and accountable to – a functioning local church that is actually applying what they are now promoting?

•  If so, have their concepts, as applied to their own local church, exhibited actual sustained health – with tangible outward evidence?

•  Do they provide that evidence, in the form of specific stories involving real people and real churches, in their books, blogs, conference engagements, DVDs and e-magazines?

If they don’t routinely provide concrete accounts of their ideas and concepts actually working in their own life, and in their own church, then move on.

You can read the whole article here.

Should Pastor Appreciation Month Be Ministry Appreciation Month?

October 16, 2013 2 comments

Pastor Appreciation Month

While I don’t remember the exact wording, we were visiting another retailer last month and noticed that there are several new categories of greeting cards, one of which offered several cards to be given to people who benefit us all by their service through a church or parachurch organization but are not necessarily pastors.

Additional changes we noticed included:

  • an increased presence of divorce cards
  • cards to be given to caregivers
  • cards for people dealing with depression
  • a type of encouragement card captioned ‘hope’

Are there cards you get asked for that don’t exist at present?

Greeting Card Rack

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Mark Batterson’s Brand Keeps Improving: All In

October 14, 2013 Comments off

Of the three books I’ve read by Washington, DC pastor Mark Batterson, All In is the best one so far. The call to wholehearted surrender to God is reminiscent of another Zondervan bestseller, Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan. The book re-introduces a term that was often the theme of sermons in a past era: Consecration, as in “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee.”

All In - Mark BattersonThough Batterson isn’t one to quote song lyrics, another fitting one here might be “I have decided to follow Jesus… no turning back, no turning back.” It’s a book about buying a one-way ticket to wherever God would have you; of giving yourself to Christian service without an escape clause or a backup plan.

Mark Batterson’s writing style is more sermon-like than conversation-like inasmuch as his books show the evidence of carefully considered strategy as to which chapters ought to contain which elements of his research. To be more precise, All In is equal parts:

  • Stories and examples from history or quotations from historical figures; not all of which were necessarily believers.
  • Illustrative examples forming allegories from nature, or sports.
  • Contemporary stories of people who’ve made the news, or obscure people who have connected with Mark through National Capital Church.
  • Old Testament stories.
  • New Testament stories and teaching.

While not wanting to go off too far on a tangent here, this is a How To example of how to write a Christian book, keep it interesting, and give it applicable substance.

So how is my life different after reading this book? I think that some teaching we are exposed to through Christian books and podcasts can have an instantaneous effect, but that more often, certain truths ‘stick’ through the applying of layer upon layer of repetition. This is stuff I need to be reminded of; including examples I need to hear for the first time. The ideal of the Christian life is a life lived in abandon to God.

I think the highest recommendation I can give this book is one that will sound strange out of context: All In is a very disturbing book! And that’s just what Mark Batterson intended.

>>>Watch the book trailer at YouTube

A copy of All In was provided to Christian Book Shop Talk by HarperCollins Canada, the distributor for Zondervan in the frozen north. Thanks, Mark H.

The book is also the basis for a small group DVD curriculum. For the trailer for that product, click here.

For a previous review here of The Circle Maker click here.

Fiction Section Remains a Mystery

October 12, 2013 3 comments

This year our store is doing the Send the Light Christmas catalogue. We’re probably part of a very, very small number of Canadian stores doing this one; we’re also doing the David C. Cook catalogue for a more limited time period. The Send the Light catalogue is 40-pages; prices are in U.S. dollars, so we have the option to run things at par or convert prices, depending on what the dollar is doing.

But here’s the strange part: Out of 40 pages, only 1 page of Christian fiction. Six titles. Period.

Who needs mystery books when we have this mystery on our hands?

Categories: Uncategorized

Thomas Nelson’s New Graphic Novel Collection: 7 Titles Announced

From Publisher’s Weekly:

…Thomas Nelson group is launching a new graphic novel initiative, Vital Shift, to be announced Thursday (Oct. 10) at New York Comic Con. Seven graphic novels series for readers 18-34 will be published between now and 2019; Messiah: Origin, the first in the Messiah series, releases this week.

Vital Shift follows on the success of Zondervan’s The Book of Revelation (2012), which, according to Zondervan, sold 20,000 copies during the first six weeks of its release, topped only by Image Comics’ The Walking Dead as it rode the coattails of the season three premiere of the popular AMC series. Prior to The Book Of Revelation, Zondervan had only published graphic novels for children. Chip Brown, senior v-p and publisher at HCCP, will lead Vital Shift for Thomas Nelson; he told PW the name refers not only to the recent and ongoing shifts in traditional media and the culture, but also to the fact that “Jesus was the vital shift in history…”

…Why go after the 18-34 demographic? Brown explained there are plenty of Bibles and books based on it for children, tweens, women, men—but they are virtually all bought by one customer: women. “This product is intended to be purchased by the end user,” he said. He noted that Christians in the college- and post-college age group are often questioning their faith and leaving the church. There also is a lack of biblical literacy today. “Graphic novels are the stained glass for this century,” said Brown. “We want to create [graphic novels] that are as good or better than anything out there.”

It can be hard to get graphic novels with religion content into comics stores, but, said Brown, with social media, online searches, and consumer reviews, “people will find this product. I have no doubt about that.”…

… Read the full article at Publisher’s Weekly

Maximizing Your Facebook Page

Here are a few things we’ve learned, some recently!

  • It’s okay to post frequently, even daily, if you keep it short, interesting and informative.
  • Make your Facebook page a ministry by including scripture selections and video clips that have ministry value.
  • Use lots of pictures but make sure they fit the page; don’t assume people will click through to see the full size image. (See below.)

To make pictures fit you need some type of graphic program.  We like one called Irfan.  It’s free at this website.  Find images you want to use, and then paste them to the viewer. Then click on the tab marked “image” and select “resize/resample.”

The ideal size you want for Facebook is 403 pixels wide.

You can also explore other aspects of the program to add color or swap colors or add intensity.  Here’s one we used yesterday on our site:

7 Men Facebook

In our computer, this file is stored as “7 Men Facebook” to differentiate it from “7 Men Eric Metaxas” which we use on our website.  Here’s an example of adding color.  Since the basic color scheme of the book is grey/blue and you don’t want to change the image of the book, we simply added some blue:

7 Men Example

You can also use Irfan to create instant graphics, for example you can take this:

October 23 – 28

which was typed directly into this blog page, or you can even use a blank e-mail; and turn it into this:

October sale

This type of thing adds life to your Facebook page.

To check out what we’ve been doing, visit “Searchlight Christian Books;” or for other ideas use the Facebook search feature and type “Christian bookstore” or “Christian books” to visit other stores’ pages from around the world.

(If any of the graphics above don’t appear normal, try refreshing the page!)