Archive for March, 2014

Create Website, Blog and Facebook Elements from Newsletters

Just as we’ve done below, you can take news items you get from suppliers by email — particularly David C. Cook Canada and HarperCollins Canada — and paste them into store newsletters, blogs, websites and Facebook pages. They look professional and they save you time.  Use a program like Irfanview (available free online) to do screen captures and resizing. If you do pay someone to look after your social media, they might be able to create a sharper image than what I’ve done here by using a more sophisticated graphics program.

Another thing we’ve done recently is take a wall space at our entrance and create a kind of bulletin board for pages from supplier catalogs.  It’s true that in the fine print there is often reference to “your customers” but I find the customers themselves usually don’t read that far.  You get to feature items you want customers to be aware and things they may not see.  One of the pages on our wall is for a product we don’t even carry, but would love to order.

Welcome to the New

This image is from today’s Christian Retailing newsletter:

Harbinger Decoded DVD



Target Marketing

Steven Furtick did this book promo just for Mary Kay representatives.

Categories: Uncategorized

Salaries are Highest Expense Component

Unless you’re currently in the middle of a major capital expansion or renovation project, odds are that your greatest expense in any given month is wages and benefits. Most of us don’t like to think about cutting back on employee hours because often that means we would have to work longer and as it stands, most of us feel we’re working harder than ever before. But it long-term sustainability is the issue, we might have to reduce hours for some employees.

This was brought home to me in a story that appeared Monday in the print edition of The Toronto Star. San Grewal is writing about the impact on shopkeepers in Oakville, Ontario, an area once considered one of the richest municipalities in the province.  The owner of a shoe store is quoted as saying “A lot of people with money; they’re not shopping here any more.”

And then,

“It’s all the owners working inside the shops now. They never used to, but who can afford all the staff anymore?”

Julia Hanna, executive member of the city’s Chamber of Commerce is also a downtown restaurant owner. She told The Star,

“I’ve been a business owner in downtown Oakville for 30 years. I’ve never seen it this bad. Never.”

“People in Oakville are affluent because they worked hard, were successful and were careful with their money. There’s no question the economy has affected everyone.

“But I’ve been through two other recessions. To have this number of businesses closing, there’s more happening.”


Categories: Uncategorized

Where Closings Lead

Instead of inwardly speculating on the possible residual spill-over effect on my still-standing store to closings in other regions, I see it as another cluster of people who will now become skilled in the art of online ordering.

Opening a store in an area where there has not been one for as little as six months would be risky; the if the period is twelve months, you would have to work so hard to reverse purchasing patterns of people who are regular Christian book, Bible and music customers. If it was more than twelve months, the prospects are daunting but not impossible if you understand the odds going in.

Categories: Uncategorized

Keeping Vision Fresh

Thought for the day: Don’t focus on the stores which have closed in recent years; focus your thoughts on the stores that are still open, the authors still writing books, the musicians still making albums and the backlist treasures that are still in demand.

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Zondervan and Nelson to Increase Library Market Presence

From Library Journal

HarperCollins Christian Publishing (established when HarperCollins, longtime parent company of Zondervan, acquired competitor Thomas Nelson in 2012) is moving more strongly into the library market. Earlier this year, the company appointed Tracy Danz, a Zondervan veteran and former publisher of general trade nonfiction, to the newly created position of director, library sales and marketing. “We’re putting a focus on libraries we didn’t have before,” Danz told LJ.

Danz said that a consumer survey done by the company last fall found that libraries are the third most common way that consumers found out about new books, after bookstores and friends and family. “If libraries are key to discoverability, we need more resources directed at the library market,” said Danz. That includes greater visibility at library conferences, so more HC Christian Publishing adult marketing staff and authors will be at shows starting with the American Library Association conference in Las Vegas this June, as well as author events in libraries, both in person and via Skype. Danz is working closely with the experienced HarperCollins adult library marketing team, led by Virginia Stanley…

…continue reading the rest of this story, and two other Christian publishing stories at Library Journal.

British Christian Book Distributor Enters Receivership

The company that succeeded STL Distribution’s UK operation, Trust Media Distribution has gone into “administration.” I’m not sure if this is the equivalent of receivership [in Canada] or Chapter 11 [in the U.S.] as the final paragraph indicates the business is still operational, so I’ll let you click through to UK Christian Book Shops Blog to read the whole story

The news comes just days after a number of both UK-based and U.S.-based publishers changed their distribution agreements in what one industry insider called, “a totally unprecedented scale and speed of change, the like of which I have never witnessed in my 20 years in this trade.” To read that story, click here

If you have any questions about how things work across the pond, leave a comment, as UK Christian Book Shops Blog moderator Phil Groom regularly monitors what we do here.

Categories: Uncategorized

Moses at the Checkout

This was going around Twitter a few hours ago. The website is and the author is Mark Jeantheau. Click the image to see the particular panel containing Mark’s Top Three Religious Bestsellers.

Moses at GrinningPlanet(dot)com

© Mark Jeantheau/Grinning Planet. More great articles at

Did Steven Furtick’s Strategy Work? Book is #1 at Ingram

Recent events involving top authors manipulating the New York Times bestseller list are leaving everyone’s ‘chart’ stats suspect. Did Steven Furtick crash the sales system or did Crash the Chatterbox earn its success the old fashioned way?

Either way, the book was the top title shipping yesterday out of the Spring Arbor division — the Christian book division of — Ingram Book Company, the largest book distributor in the world, which is a good thing, ’cause Steven’s got a new house to pay for.  However, putting this in perspective, in the overall Ingram Top 100 list, the book was only number 26; plus, the daily numbers are quite volatile.

Crash the Chatterbox

Crash the Chatterbox 2

Find and Promote Your Own Titles

Last year a couple of books cracked our Top 20 listing that probably weren’t on yours. They weren’t local authors nor were they something that a particular church was using for a group study. They were simply books that I latched onto and started recommending.

You can do the same.

The advantage is that you don’t face competitive pressures when it comes to price. This week, CBD is back to selling Not a Fan and One Thousand Gifts for $5 each. Even with the exchange rate plus shipping and handling, that’s below your cost and mine.  The key is to find titles that aren’t on their radar, but to sell them passionately, you have to know about them more than just superficially and/or have read them.

Life Changing Power of the Holy SpiritWhile we’re on this topic, I just want to again mention the book that we ourselves were instrumental in bringing back to press a couple of years ago, The Life Changing Power of the Holy Spirit.  In this book, Christian leaders from the middle part of the last centuries were interviewed on radio as to their beliefs on the power and work of the Holy Spirit and then the transcripts were edited and published. Leona Frances Choy author, public speaker, radio personality, headed Chrsitian radio station WTRM in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia and has authored or collaborated on 15 published books, and her articles and stories have appeared in over 70 different periodicals.

There are 2,000 copies in stock at Send the Light using ISBN  9781600661556

Another strategy is to find recently-remaindered books or titles that have been placed in overstock due to wrong bar-codes or prices or minor cosmetic issues. Properly and strategically chosen, you can beat the online vendors at their own game by offering discount books that they don’t have or can’t price match you on.

A final strategy is to be your own remainder/discount source. Find books that didn’t work and prior to doing returns offer them at close to your cost. Or if you’ve missed your return window, don’t wait forever for them to catch on; slash the price as you would if the title was featured at low margin in a flyer or catalogue. You can also place recently discounted books on display with older remainders to give a display an overall fresh look, making the old books seem more new and relevant and causing customers to take a second look at them.

Keller Titles Not a Series; It’s the Same Book

We’re into our second week of a Tim Keller sale; we even advertised it and direct-marketed to people who had bought his previous books. We were so happy that we were able to offer four of his titles at remainder pricing. But alas, we got burned!  King’s Cross and Jesus the King are the same title.  Anyone want to buy some copies of either?

We need to dust off this series of articles, I guess:

Categories: Uncategorized

Distribution Hierarchy Doesn’t Exist

I don’t for a moment think that everybody believes this, but there are some who might think that retailers are the bottom feeders of the larger distribution hierarchy. I’m not sure where this began but it belies the Biblical concept of co-labourers expressed in verses like I Cor 3:9

For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

and II Cor 6:1

As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.

There was a time when distributors held all the information, but in an internet age, most retailers are well aware of upcoming releases and tie-in products. There was a time when distributors held all the power, stores would be terrorized by the idea of being put on credit hold and being cut off from what was their only source for particular products, whereas today most product items have multiple sources. (True story: Word Canada once put me on a punitive credit hold for two months because I had refused to pay a contested $4.60 invoice.) There was a time when distributors had all the glamour because they were one degree of separation closer to the actual authors and artists than you were, but again, in the internet age, you can obtain an author’s email, be friends on Facebook, or send a direct message on Twitter.

So when spring sales events occur like the two coming in April from the two dominant Canadian distributors, I always picture the two women I met at one such events who were complete neophytes and were in total awe of the distribution mystique, completely forgetting that the system only works if they actually purchase product.

There aren’t 400 stores in our industry anymore in Canada. Distributors need each and every retailer to be their partners; what the above verses describe as co-workers; what the KJV describes as fellow workmen. 

The retailers in turn don’t need to be herded like cattle through a warehouse as though they’ve just been granted access to an inner sanctum. They need to be given a seat at the table in the board room, and on more than just an annual occasion. Their wisdom needs to be tapped. Their customers’ requests need to be noted and relayed back to publishers and product creators.

The relationship needs to be collegial. Don’t tell me how to do displays or force me to listen to a C-list author talk about a book I’ll never sell. Let’s play book trivia, or share stories. Basically, let’s laugh together; we could all use some of that. Or if people want some author contact, let’s Skype about ten of them for seven minutes each, and take questions and comments from the dealers themselves.

Or better yet, how about arranging for the publishers themselves to have their doors open to Canadian dealers on a drop-in basis from the U.S. Memorial Day to Labour Day.  That’s a Stateside summer vacation road trip I’d love to take even if the tour was cursory and the only freebie was an autographed chapter excerpt. That’s a show I’d drive to see, and you wouldn’t even have to pay my hotel costs or buy me a meal. (True story: After 35 years in the biz, I got as far as the lobby at Zondervan in Grand Rapids, but they don’t do drop-ins for “security” reasons. Word Music in Nashville was equally aloof, but the staff at Upper Room Books rolled out the red carpet and kept us engaged for nearly two hours.)

Dealers and distributors are playing on the same team, but if the dealers don’t buy product, the whole system breaks down. For retailers to buy in, they need to feel the product passion from the inside, they need to feel the relationship is somehow intimate. That’s why I’ll take following and interacting with top authors’ blogs and on Twitter over a warehouse tour every time.