Archive for December, 2013

The Question Everyone is Asking

Duck Dynasty VBS

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Canada’s Don Pape Joins NavPress as Publisher

Christian Retailing Magazine reported this week that Canadian Don Pape would be joining NavPress as Publisher, a position he has held previously at Waterbrook, Random House, and more recently David C. Cook where he was also Vice President of Trade Publishing.

Don PapeDon was born in Brazil and after moving to Canada received a BA from Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo before working with Women Alive, a Canadian charity founded by Nell Maxwell. In 1999 he went to Waterbrook/Multnomah where he stayed until 2004, leaving to work two years with Alive Communications, a literary agency whose A-list roster today includes Terri Blackstock, Emerson Eggerichs, Karen Kingsbury, Anne Graham Lotz, Eugene Peterson, Philip Yancey and Billy Graham. In 2006 he moved to David C. Cook. He has published five titles which reached the New York Times list. Alive Communications, Cook, and NavPress are all located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Recently, NavPress signed a marketing, warehousing and fulfillment deal with Tyndale House Publishing of Carol Stream, Illinois.

Canada Post Increase Will Impact Greeting Card Sales


Canada Post is soft-pedaling the impact that the postage price is going to have on various sectors of the economy, including charities concerned it will impact donations. However, in the Christian retail sector, we tend to see a higher rate of cost sensitivity. While different stores may notice the change to different degrees — some perhaps not at all — this is definitely a time to buy cautiously in the greeting card department, including commitments for 2014 Christmas cards which are due by March 31st.

The Toronto Star highlights the changes effective March 31st:

  • Domestic postage jumps from 63 to 85 cents, an increase of nearly 35%
  • Metered mail jumps to 75 cents for a domestic letter
  • New in 2014, stamps purchased individually are $1.00 (Note: It’s unclear how the Post Office will process sales of individual stamps needed to ‘upgrade’ existing stamps the extra 22 cents.)
  • The permanent or “P” stamps were taken off the market the day after the announcement
  • 40% of small businesses send 50 letters per month. Canada post cites a $55 increase for businesses sending 250 letters annually, but 50 a month would be 600 letters annually.
  • Flyer (direct mail) prices are unchanged.
  • Door to door mail delivery in Canada will begin being phased out and will completely cease in 2018

In addition to the impact on greeting card customers and the impact on mail your store sends, the increase also affects people sending mail to your store, such as churches remitting account payments.

For charities — including Christian missions and parachurch organizations — the increase is of utmost concern since mail is critical to receiving revenue. Many large donations come from older donors less likely to use online giving.

In the United States, the price for a first-class domestic letter is expected to rise from 46 cents to 49 cents on January 26th, an increase of 6.5% (compared to 34.9% here) with bulk rates also expected to rise 6%.

>>>Sidebar: David C. Cook Canada announced last week that for stores selling Dayspring counter cards at discounted rates, the consumer discount will drop January 2nd to 15% from 20%.

Christian Bookstore ‘Clamps Down’ on Unauthorized Parking

December 20, 2013 1 comment

Thanks to our friends at The Christian Herald, we were tipped off about a story in The National Post about a Christian bookstore owner in New Brunswick who has zero tolerance for non-customers using her four parking spaces.

To a rookie motorist in Moncton, N.B., the four parking spots beside the R.D. MacLean Christian supplies store look mighty appealing. Why pay for street parking when the shop’s free spots are vacant? But locals have quickly learned the store manager is no timid church mouse: Fed up with non-customers routinely taking those spaces despite a sign warning them against it, Claudia MacLean has started giving them the ‘‘boot’’ — affixing a device that immobilizes their vehicle and costs the driver $85 to be removed. The boots even go on when the store is closed. Drivers are outraged. Even the mayor is upset. The Post spoke with Ms. MacLean — the most unpopular Christian bookstore owner in town — by phone on Thursday.

Read the whole interview here.

So what do you think? Is this good public relations for a Christian bookstore or the vendor of the Good News bad news?

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Community Relations: Interviewing Job Applicants

Sometimes the resumés that cross your desk are random, but sometimes they are specific to your store from people who are also customers.  In a busy world we tend to ignore the first type, but with the second group — and some would argue this should apply to all job applicants — it’s good public relations to do some kind of personal follow up, by email, phone or even in person. (You never know when you might have an opening even if right now that seems unlikely.)

If you think the individual is someone whose information you would like to keep on file, be honest that there’s nothing open right now, but then ask them if they’d like to complete an application form anyway. This separates people who have a casual interest from people who would really love to work in your bookstore environment.

It’s been awhile since we ran this, but here’s a screening process we send out by email that appeared here many years ago.  Because we once had three stores, we used this extensively, and in the last 18 years have employed 45 people — not including inventory help — in four different locations.

Searchlight Pre-Interview Questionnaire

(1) We hire mostly from our customer base. So….read any good books lately? What are some recent or classic Christian titles that mean a lot to you?

(2) What other Christian bookstores have you enjoyed shopping at?

(3) We sell a variety of styles of music. How do you feel about selling a Christian rock CD to a teenager with facial piercings and purple hair?

(4) What are your feelings about the variety of Bible translations on the market? Would you be open to selling the various types we carry?

(5) Do you own or have you used Bible reference materials such as a Concordance or Bible Dictionary or Bible computer software?

(6) If someone walked in and ask you to, would you be comfortable praying with someone in the store?

(7) If the cash register fails, are you comfortable completing a transaction manually in a sales books, with different rates of tax?

(8) Skill-testing question re. the above: If books are subject to 5% GST, and CDs are subject to 5% GST and 8% PST, and there is no tax at all on gift certificates, what is the total sale amount on the following: a $20 book, a $20 CD and a $20 Gift Certificate?

(9) We refer people to a variety of local churches depending on their story. Are you familiar with the worship patterns of a few different denominations and comfortable recommending a church to someone even if it’s not your personal first choice?

(10) Since our staff are basically, “working for peanuts” do you feel a sense of calling to this type of ministry that would override financial considerations?

(11) While human rights legislation prevents limiting applicants on the basis of faith, is there anything in your personal faith journey that you feel would be helpful for us to know, given the nature of the store and its customers, or part of your own faith story you wish to tell?

A Rare Glimpse into the Author Selection Process

Christian publisher query form“I can say without reservation that the bigger the platform the less the author has to say…”
~Scot McKnight

Earlier this week at the blog Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight posted a sample form that one publishing imprint uses to respond to author queries. WARNING: It’s got nothing to do with anything the author may feel led to say in print. It’s not what you know, it’s who knows you. It’s all about trivialities like Facebook friends and Twitter followers. FURTHER WARNING: If you’re already disillusioned with the Christian publishing industry, this story won’t help.

Scot McKnight is highly respected and widely read, so it’s not surprising some high profile people — some authors themselves — chimed in on this one:

Skye Jethani: I had a conversation with a publisher recently about these problems. He shamefully admitted that in today’s Christian publishing world a Eugene Peterson would never get published. Another literary agent said it’s much easier to get talented writers published by non-Christian publishing houses–they’re less beholden to celebrity and platform. Arg! I suppose it’s not worth fighting. In a few years we’ll all be serving one master anyway–Amazon.

Karen Zacharias: We are a celebrity-driven culture which is why platforms matter. Not for content, but for economic value. It’s a business. Many of my author friends have quit the business in the past couple of years, as their work and merit has been devalued by the digital era. Not that being an author was ever a money-making venture, but it’s even less so for mid-list authors than ever before. There are days when I think I will quit and go get that job at Dairy Queen after all.

Dan Kimball (tongue in cheek): When looking at this form, there is a very obvious mis-focused attention to the questions being asked. They should be including ones like: “If you were on a deserted island for a year and had to listen to only one kind of music the entire time, would you listen to rap (with clean lyrics) or contemporary country western?” “How many times have you seen the David Lynch movie Eraserhead?” “Please provide a list of concerts you have seen the past 18 months?” “What hair gel do you use and please provide a short paragraph listing the specific reasons why you choose that hair gel over another?” If they would only ask these questions, then it would show they are critically thinking about what they are publishing. I hope there is change, it can happen.

Basically, with the release of this form, the Christian publishing establishment has been caught red-handed.

Click to read: Platform and Publishing

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January Titles from HarperCollins Christian Publishing

In the last few days I’ve been reading four books from Thomas Nelson; one is already released, three are releasing in January. The past few weeks have been full of promises from publishers for specific titles; so it’s nice when books actually arrive.  I like to do full reviews at Thinking Out Loud closer to the actual street date in stores. But I wanted to share some brief thoughts on each today.

Currently Reading 1

Futureville by Skye Jethani — Just as his first book, The Divine Conspiracy used the art of Vincent Van Gogh as a motif, this time around the Leadership Today editor looks at the anticipation for the future which American’s experienced at the outset of the 1939 World’s Fair, and shows that whatever we believe about the future is rooted in and shaped by the present. I’ll admit to some bias, but I believe Skye Jethani is one of the most important voices in the church today; a writer with a prophetic gift for telling it like it is. I’ve already read part of this book twice. You can get to know Skye through his website, Skyebox, and his appearances as co-host of the weekly Phil Vischer Podcast.

The Noticer Returns by Andy Andrews — This author has a gift for propelling the reader from chapter to chapter. The character known as Jones returns from the first book in the series, and Andy Andrews portrays himself in the story. So is this fiction or non-fiction? (See yesterday’s post here at Christian Book Shop Talk for the author’s take on the dilemma of book classification.) You decide. Either way, you’ll wish you had a ‘noticer’ speaking into your life. This title released in October.

How to Be Rich by Andy Stanley — This book summarizes material from different sermons the North Point Community Church pastor has used in introducing the church’s annual Be Rich campaign, which this year gave away over $4M U.S. to area service organizations. Unfortunately, the title is going to confuse some — it already has in my family — and lead to the impression this is a book on prosperity doctrine, when it fact it is all about being generous with the riches you’ve already been given.

Clout by Jennie Catron — The executive pastor of Cross Point Community Church was on the fast track to success in the Nashville music business until a merger and downsizing ended her dream. The book deals with seven things that can destroy ambition and dreams, and four things that can strengthen you as you reach toward personal objectives. Jennie Catron is a key writer on leadership issues for both women and men; there’s much similarity between her writing and that of Michael Hyatt. The book is published under the Nelson (business books) imprint.

When Books Defy Categorization

Sometimes the best books get lost in the shuffle, even in Christian bookstores. I mean, where do you put Operation World? Is it a missions title? Prayer title? World issues title? Apparently Andy Andrews knows what it’s like to have your book mis-filed. In the opening to his new book, The Noticer Returns, he writes:

Travelers GiftThe first book I wrote that was read by anyone other than my family and friends was called The Traveler’s Gift. It was easy to read and interesting – at least that’s what folks said. I thought of it as a story that includes some of life’s principles. It eventually made the New York Times Best Sellers List in the Fiction category, but that same week the book made the Wall Street Journal Best-Selling Books list in Nonfiction. Barnes and Noble placed it in their Self-improvement section. determined it to be Literature, and there it stayed until they finally settled on the two different categories it still occupies today: Inspiration and Spirituality.

Even the stalwart publication Publisher’s Weekly struggled to define it. Widely read and greatly respected, Publisher’s Weekly is an international magazine that has been produced four times a month since 1872, and for the first time in a history of more than one hundred years, Publisher’s Weekly listed and reviewed a single book – The Traveler’s Gift – in different sections within a week of each other, in October 2002. Religion loved The Traveler’s Gift and gushed, “Andrews is an author to watch.” The review even compared the book favorably to the Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life. On the other hand, the Fiction section greatly disliked the book and gave it a negative review.

Meanwhile, the New York Times kept The Traveler’s Gift on its best seller list but decided the book was not fiction after all. They placed it in the Business category. To this day, I walk into most bookstores and still need to ask for help finding the Andy Andrews titles. Believe it or not, I was once escorted to my own books . . . in the Travel section.

HarperCollins CEO Claims Christian Division Strengthens Print Sales

An article today in Variety, the ‘bible’ of the entertainment industry quotes HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray as saying, “HarperCollins has been ‘less dependent’ on Amazon because it has a significant Christian publishing side, where consumers have been slower to adopt digital books.”

The article also notes that the company — parent to Zondervan and Thomas Nelson — is “testing what he called ‘dynamic pricing,’ where prices of ebooks can be changed ‘daily’ to increase revenues and royalties for authors, as opposed to the print side, where prices are set on the book itself.”

Murray said that, “physical retailers could see business stabilize, noting the recent improvements for independent booksellers.” He also referred to Amazon as a “frenemy,” and noted that in eBooks, there are five dominant sellers emerging not the one single online vendor.

The article also noted that even with lower MSRPs, eBook royalties are higher for authors, citing a hypothetical case of 85 cents for print and $1.25 for electronic books.

Read the entire article at Variety.

Tony Jones on the Shakeup at Jericho, a Hachette Books Imprint

December 9, 2013 1 comment

Tony Jones is a veteran Christian blogger.  You’re encouraged to read the full text at source at this link.  I’ve added some emphasis in a couple of paragraphs.

What’s Up at Jericho Books?

Late last week, Hachette Book Group announced that Wendy Grisham was being let go, and that her imprint, Jericho Books, was going to be dramatically downsized. In the Christian publishing world, this is very big news. (Full disclosure: my agent, Kathy Helmers, pitched Jericho several book proposals from me; Jericho did not bid on any of them, and I ultimately signed with another publisher. I harbor no animus whatsoever, and Wendy and I remain friends.)

Jericho arrived on the publishing scene with a bang, paying significant advances to acquire big name authors like Brian McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Philip Yancey, and Shane Hipps. Their first book to the make the New York Times bestseller list was Nadia’s Pastrix this fall.

Big New York publishing houses like Hachette have been snapping up evangelical publishers for some time now, as Christian books have one of the few bullish areas in publishing. Thomas Nelson and Zondervan are owned by NewsCorp, Waterbrook and Multnomah are owned by Penguin Random House, etc. You get the picture. The conglomeration in publishing is a reality.

With few evangelical houses left to eat up, mega-publishers looked to progressive Protestants. They buy books, right? For many years, HarperOne had virtually owned this space, with authors like Bart Ehrman, Marcus Borg, and Barbara Brown Taylor — and they’d recently gotten Rob Bell when he was disowned by Zondervan. Hachette launched Jericho out of Nashville, where they already run Faithwords. And Penguin Random House is now launching a progressive imprint called Convergent, numbering authors like Doug Pagitt and Matthew Vines, out of the Colorado Springs offices that also house Waterbrook.

Many of us have wondered about how much space there is in this market, and whether progressive titles will ever sell as well as evangelical books…

…[continue reading here]…

Plagiarism Issue Puts Spotlight on Christian Publishing

December 7, 2013 1 comment

If you missed it, the eyes of a much broader Christian populace have been focused on the world of Christian publishing this past week, as the story we brought you last week continues regarding charges of alleged plagiarism that were brought against author Mark Driscoll in an interview on a U.S. talk show.

Here’s an update of the past week, but please remember this is still a developing story.

Without actually retracting any of the substance of her allegations, U.S. talk show host Janet Mefferd has withdrawn all of her posts related to the charges of plagiarism she brought against Seattle author and pastor Mark Driscoll because of the manner in which she brought those charges publicly.

A transcript of the apology from her radio show reports her saying,

…I feel now that in retrospect, I should have conducted myself in a better way. I now realize the interview should not have occurred at all. I should have contacted Tyndale House directly to alert them to the plagiarism issue. And I never should have brought it to the attention of listeners publicly…

But also acknowledges that the subsequent publicity has been overwhelming:

…I didn’t anticipate that the story would go viral online the way it did and creating such dissension with the Christian community was never my aim. And so in an effort to right things as best as I can, I have now removed all of the materials related to the interview off my website, and also off my social media.

I’m not sure how removing the source documents “rights” things. I live in Canada, in a society which has in more recent years been labeled with the stereotype of a nation that is “polite” and “always apologizing.” True or not, this Canadian believes that if you make a statement, you have to own it. What you say is either true or it isn’t. If it was worth saying in the first place, it’s worth holding to. It’s what I think Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:37 when he tells us to you “Let your yes be yes.”

Perhaps that is what drove Ingrid Schlueter, a senior producer for Mefferd’s radio show to resign on Thursday with this statement:

I was a part-time, topic producer for Janet Mefferd until yesterday when I resigned over this situation. All I can share is that there is an evangelical celebrity machine that is more powerful than anyone realizes. You may not go up against the machine. That is all. Mark Driscoll clearly plagiarized and those who could have underscored the seriousness of it and demanded accountability did not. That is the reality of the evangelical industrial complex.

In a later post she said,

Being limited in what I can share, let me just say that truth tellers face multiple pressure sources these days. I hosted a radio show for 23 years and know from experience how Big Publishing protects its celebrities. Anything but fawning adulation for those who come on your show (a gift of free air time for the author/publisher by the way) is not taken well… The easiest thing in the world is to do fluffy interviews with fluffy guests on fluffy books. So hats off to those like Janet who have the courage to ask at all. And my own opinion on Mr. Driscoll is that despite the bravado, despite the near silence of his Reformed peers and enablers, his brand is damaged, and damaged by his own hand.

The link above is to Warren Throckmorton’s blog, which in turn links to Spiritual Sound Board, where Ingrid Schlueter’s comments may have been removed subsequently. Throckmorton claims he had permission to use them.  (Also reproduced at Religion News Service.)

On Twitter, there have been hints that an issue here may involve the fact that Janet Mefferd’s radio show is distributed by the Salem Radio Network, which has Tyndale House Publisher’s as a major sponsor. I’ll leave you to consider that one without further comment.

And Mark Driscoll hang up on Mefferd? For that read here and here.

This story is BOILING HOT, and it’s possible that this blog will receive a request to take down the story.  In the meantime, the Topic Producer at the radio show suggests that our industry is somewhat corrupt. Do we, as booksellers on the front-lines want to rush to defend our industry, or do we, with her, suspect that she may be correct?

I personally believe that Tyndale House founder, and Living Bible writer Ken Taylor would not have tolerated even a hint of plagiarism for a single minute. As both a blogger and someone who has worked in the arena of Christian publishing for 35 years, I am concerned for this and other reasons that Tyndale House may be evidencing a state of moral and ethical decline.  Only full repentance of this current situation will reverse that opinion. 

Timeline from the blog Bene Diction Blogs On (which has only covered this once, and thereby has a broad, general overview of the story worth reading):

November 21 – Mefferd interviews Driscoll
November 22 – Tyndale House (publisher) releases audio of last two minutes of show (as recorded by them and/or Mark Driscoll; NOT what aired)
November 27 – Mefferd releases more allegations of plagiarism
November 27 – Tyndale House says review indicates no plagiarism
December 4 – Janet Mefford removes all tweets, posts and alleged plagiarism material, issues apology
December 5 – Part time topic producer for The Janet Mefferd Show resigns