Archive for May, 2014

A Fresh Perspective Always Helpful

Earlier this week, I got to have a 30 minute phone conversation with someone whose analytical skills and business experience was evident right away.  As we talked three things came up which I wanted to share here:

First, it was suggested that it’s tough being on the downside of a shifting paradigm. While you might say that’s nothing new, it really forms the basis for a lot of the discussion that followed. Rather than try to deny the realities of the marketplace, it’s a question of learning to live with those realities, react to them, or decide not to endure them long-term.

Second, the discussion shifted to horizontal marketing. This means finding parallel products that are still family-friendly. Books that aren’t Christian books, but would be of interest to the people who shop in Christian bookstores. Mainstream music that is still family-friendly and wholesome. Giftware that is appealing even if not overtly Evangelistic. (In my own store, the challenge here is limited shelf and floor space, and a history where ‘outside the box’ buying didn’t resonate with conservative customers.)

Third, it was suggested that I advertise and promote the greeting card section. This was surprising to me at first. You never see the individual cards referred to in store catalogs and flyers. I said, “They’re kind of the bottom-feeders of our merchandise mix.” But I still intend to implement the suggestion at some level, and remind our customer base that we are their best go-to destination for a sympathy, get well or religious birthday card.

Overall, I got the feeling that I’d like to spend another half hour having this person share their thoughts with me. The outsider perspective was nonetheless informed, was encouraging and was appreciated.


Store E-mail Newsletters Need to Comply With New Law

Canada’s Anti-Spam legislation comes into effect on July 2nd. Stores that send out e-mail newsletters need to be aware of requirements and penalties for non-compliance. Basically, you need to be sure that at some point the people on your list have opted in to receive it. There needs to be clear identification of who the e-mail originates with. Third, there needs to be a clear and simple mechanism to unsubscribe.

For our store, the issue of express consent would be just about impossible to gauge. Over the past seventeen years, we’ve sent numerous sample store newsletters to people with whom we were already engaged in a product enquiry or related search and many have opted in. Many times the consent has been verbal at the store. Many times, the history of individual contacts for the 250 names we have on our list go back to computers where there was no need to retain e-mail files when the computer was updated. Furthermore, in 2010, we streamlined our database to work only with raw addresses. In some cases the recipient is known to us and obvious by their address, but in some cases I don’t know who the address relates to, even though I possibly serve that person on a regular basis.

It’s already been suggested to me that because our newsletter has historically been a list of upcoming Christian events in the community its commercial purposes form a very small part of the content. I’m not sure I would want to rest on that assumption, but our little business simply cannot afford the consultation for a legal opinion.

Getting express consent would be difficult. Some times we include direct questions in our newsletters and we get about 5% response. The law allows for a 36-month transition period. Names and e-mail addresses added to the list after July 2nd would require consent, and probably a lawyer would tell you that you now need to retain records of that consent.

What does this mean?

At the same time as Facebook is proving itself ineffective in reaching our customers, now the government is killing off any incentive to continue to release e-mail newsletters. Once again, we’re seeing how at both the provincial and federal level, small business is under attack.

For stores reading this, one option is to try to go back to asking churches for periodic bulletin announcements. Twitter is great in theory, but very few customers have accounts. Another idea is to simply swallow the costs and try for a broader reach through advertising in local newspapers. Finally, distributing flyers through church and parachurch organizations may be the best and most cost-effective option, especially if you can insert some local information relevant to your market.

Penalties quoted range from $1M to $10M. Obviously, these are meant for corporations; the information is unclear how the government intends to prosecute small business.

People are very particular about their privacy and their e-mail account. Only one complaint from a customer could destroy your store.

The Alternative: Unfiltered Selection

I decided to check out our local Wal-Mart’s book selection; especially now that they have a “religion” header in one of the sections. Four book overlap with what’s at our store: Two Osteens, one Joyce Meyer, and a Kingsbury novel. Then about two dozen titles which we don’t stock some of which we wouldn’t even special-order.

And that’s the problem. There’s no filter for customers. One spirituality is as good as the next. No sales staff to advise, no buying criteria to trust. You’re stuck with back cover blurbs and left to your own discernment.

Indigo/Chapters offers Canadians the same challenge. Although they’re moving toward a Barnes & Noble approach where religion is more than a single category, there are still many titles that are misfiled.

More than anything, I feel sorry for customers who aren’t anchored to some source for book recommendation.

Categories: Uncategorized

News Roundup

  • Thomas Nelson has launched a new consumer website for Tommy Nelson, its children’s imprint. The site includes online shopping as well as a sign-up page for a parents newsletter, Tommy Nelson Mommy.
  • Distribution for Cambridge Bibles will, as of June 2nd, revert back to Cambridge University Press after a 23 year run with Baker Book Group.
  • Outreach, Inc., the nation’s leading provider of church communications resources, is co-publishing a Bible study package for the movie God’s Not Dead with Pure Flix Entertainment for a June 2014 release.  Both a standard 6-session DVD study for small groups, and a four Sunday church kit will be available. Details at
  • The California wildfires just missed the home of Christian singer and actor Rebecca St. James.
  • NavPress is publishing God Took Me by the Hand, A Story of God’s Unusual Providence, a personal memoir by Jerry Bridges, now 83.
  • My editor at PARSE, the blog of Leadership Journal, interviewed author and lecturer Michael Frost.
  • Number one Tuesday on the daily Spring Arbor Demand Top 100 chart was Church of Mercy, A Vision for the Church by Pope Francis.
  • Billboard has awarded Chris Tomlin “Top Christian Artist of the Year” for 2014. More info at  Breathecast, a Christian music fan site.
  • Also at Breathecast, a review of the new David Crowder album Neon Steeple.
  • Indie Book of the Week: You Can’t Find Peace Until You Find All The Pieces. Author Marie Maiden tells of an eighteen year journey to find her father, and how faith in Christ sustained her through a tough childhood, a teenage pregnancy, and life as a teenage mom. More at this website. [Author submission]

Best Christian Books List

All lists have biases, and this one doesn’t try to mask its Reformed origins (or maybe it’s just the dominance of those voices in Christian publishing) but still, there are a lot of good books here. Bill Reichart currently works as the Atlanta Area Director for CMDA Atlanta. CMDA (Christian Medical and Dental Associations) is an international ministry dedicated to bringing medical assistance to those in need around the world and equipping Christian doctors, dentists and medical school students. Before that, Bill worked at The Vine Community Church in Forsyth County, GA. Before coming coming to The Vine, Bill worked on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ for over 16 years. To read this at source, click this link. Since most of these are currently published, Bill also composed a list of 25 classic Christian books. Overall, I think these are books you can recommend to people with confidence.

Prodigal God – Timothy Keller

Knowing God – J.I. Packer

Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis

Simply Jesus – N.T. Wright

The Master Plan of Evangelism – Robert Coleman

Simple Church – Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger

Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Ragamuffin Gospel – Brennan Manning

Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Basic Christianity – John Stott

Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free – F.F. Bruce

Christ Centered Preaching – Bryan Chapell

The Message of the New Testament – F.F. Bruce

Desiring God – John Piper

Nine Marks Of A Healthy Church – Mark Dever

What’s So Amazing About Grace? – Philip Yancey

The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

Blue Like Jazz – Don Miller

Deep Church – Jim Belcher

The Pursuit of Holiness – Jerry Bridges

The Mortification of Sin – John Owen

The Reason for God – Timothy Keller

The Heart of a Servant Leader – Jack Miller

The Wounded Healer – Henri Nouwen

Abba’s Child – Brennan Manning

When God Weeps – Joni Eareckson Tada

Chosen by God – R.C. Sproul

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction – Eugene Peterson

Humility – Andrew Murray

Dangerous Calling – Paul David Tripp

Abide in Christ – Andrew Murray

Religious Affections – Jonathan Edwards

Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri Nouwen

The Holiness of God – R.C. Sproul

Systematic Theology – Wayne Grudem

The Cross of Christ – John Stott

Don’t Waste Your Life – John Piper

Crazy Love – Francis Chan

A Scandalous Freedom – Steve Brown

Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren

The Jesus I Never Knew – Philip Yancey

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Love Walked Among Us – Paul Miller

The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the Old Testament – D.A. Carson

unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity –  Gabe Lyon & David Kinnaman

Putting Amazing Back Into Grace – Michael Horton

My Utmost For His Highest – Oswald Chambers

The Gospel in a Pluralist Society – Lesslie Newbigin

The Continuing Conversion of the Church – Darrell L. Guder

The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church – Alan Hirsch

Canadians Lack Confidence in the Bible

Canadian Bible Forum

Revealing study compels Canadian Bible agencies to undertake unprecedented nationwide action 

Canadians have been asked about their Bible reading habits for years. In 2013, the Canadian Bible Forum, a group of nine Canadian Bible agencies together with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, engaged world-class market research company Angus Reid Strategies, led by Angus Reid, to undertake the Canadian Bible Engagement Study. The study results were so concerning that the Canadian Bible Forum member agencies have chosen to partner closely to take action to reverse the alarming trends.

Study Snapshot

More than 4,500 people across Canada were interviewed for the study, making the Canadian Bible Engagement Study the most recent comprehensive national study of its kind. The study revealed many details about Bible reading and engagement, with the overall finding being that most Canadians are not reading and are not interested in reading their Bible. Since 1996, weekly Bible reading has declined by 60 per cent and only 14 per cent of Canadians actually read the Bible at least once per month.

“Hold on,” you say, “It’s not that bad. People are just busy. If Canadians had more time, they would read the Bible more.” 

That’s not what Canadians told the Canadian Bible Forum. Study results revealed that:

• In general, confidence in the Bible is at an all-time low
• Many Canadians no longer believe that the Bible is the Word of God
• Some Christians question the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible
• Since 1996, church attendance (which has a strong link to Bible reading and engagement) has plummeted in Canada

Now what?  

The Canadian Bible Engagement Study found that Canadians with real, meaningful Bible engagement have three behaviours in common:

1) Community: They are involved in a worshipping community; they go to church regularly and participate in church community.
2)Conversation: They discuss and explore the Bible with their friends. They’re having conversations about the Bible, often in small groups.
3) Confidence: They have a growing confidence in the Bible as the way to know God and hear from Him.

The Study argues that in order for Bible engagement to flourish, all three behaviours must be performed intentionally.

The Canadian Bible Forum Responds with Hope  

While the study results leave Canadians wondering whether our nation is  in fact, done with the Bible, the Canadian Bible Forum members are encouraged that there are things that can be done today to encourage people to find community, engage in conversation and increase their confidence in God’s Word.

Forum Members  are committed to creating and making available free Bible engagement resources to churches and individuals, taking a long view to improving and even reversing downward trends.

Laptop with Bible Engagement Study homepage
This specially created website features free and low-cost resources, along with a free download of the research results and a video synopsis.

We encourage you to watch the video and share it with your congregations and youth groups. You can access the video at 

Like the Canadian Bible Engagement Study on Facebook for daily updates and resources!

The Members of the Canadian Bible Forum are:

Bible League Canada
Canadian Bible Society
Every Home for Christ
Open Doors 
Scripture Gift Mission
Scripture Union
The Gideons International in Canada
Wycliffe Canada

About the Canadian Bible Forum 

The Canadian Bible Forum promotes collaboration and cooperation amongst Bible Agencies with a shared vision of working together to maximize the access and impact of God’s Word in Canada and the world. CBF collaboration includes strengthening of inter-agency understanding and relationships, undertaking strategic national or international initiatives, advocating for the centrality of God’s Word in life and mission, and most recently (in partnership with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada), formulating and facilitating the Canadian Bible Engagement Study. The members of the CBF are the Bible League of Canada, Canadian Bible Society, Every Home for Christ, Gideons Canada, OneBook, Open Doors Canada, Scripture Gift Mission Canada, Scripture Union Canada, and Wycliffe Canada. To learn more visit 

Submitted by and used with permission of Graf-Martin

Copyright © 2014
Graf-Martin Communications, All rights reserved.

Store Fixtures for Sale

Looking to start a store, expand or re-balance your floorspace allocation between departments. Here are some fixture offers to consider.

1) Faith Family Books (Toronto)

I’ve had a couple of notes about these; most of which are former Mitchell Family Books items:

Book shelves, display units and acrylics
They are priced to move, and are in great shape.

We have a small warehouse full of it that we can show them and prices are very reasonable.
The number here is 416-291-9005
The items are listed on kijiji and more will be posted soon. Here are the links.

2) Searchlight (Colborne)
We have a number of fixtures from our Brockville store including a ten-foot island unit with two-sided and endcap shelving, and a very large section of shallow (book sized) floor-to-ceiling wall shelving divided into 3-foot sections; approx 33 feet total. (Pictures available.) Contact Cobourg store.

3) Searchlight (Port Hope)

We have four fixtures in storage that were in our Lindsay store which would be ideal for a thrift shop environment. These are wooden, assemble quickly to ten feet with four shelves on each of the main section and an encap section. (Pictures available) Contact Cobourg store.


Categories: Uncategorized

Publishing News Updates


Here are some stories you may have seen in other media this week:

  • Christian Retailing had a story this week about how the Mayor of South Holland, Illinois joined with others to save the city’s Family Christian store.  “The store in the Village of South Holland had announced it would close May 31. However, after a rallying of the village’s clergy, mayor, business leaders and residents, the store has been saved.” “Family Christian President and CEO Cliff Bartow commended the community for taking a stand for the store, one of the chain’s 270 stores in 36 states.” Read the whole story at Christian Retailing.
  • Christianity Today reported on a CBA report summarizing 2013. “While the 2012 sales surge masked mixed results for Christian booksellers, this year’s CBA State of the Industry Report says stores are competing less on price and focusing more on personal engagement with customers.However, 49 stores still closed across the country, according to the Association for Christian Retail…” Read the full story at CT Gleanings. (Includes a link to the actual report.)
  • The Christian blogosphere has been busy this week discussing Rob Bell’s inclusion in Oprah Winfrey’s The Life You Want Weekend Tour to eight U.S. markets.  The two-day events include Deepak Chopra and Iyanla Vanzant. Concurrently, HarperCollins is publishing Bell’s YES, YOU: How to Find Your Path and Thrive. More info at
  • Dwight Baker will serve as the new chair of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). For a full list of newly elected board members, see the list at Baker Books.   
  • Finally, Michael Frost Tweeted this week: “Here’s one reason I love being published by InterVarsity Press (IVP) — they send their authors framed book covers as mementos. Nice!”  Click here to see the picture.

Remainder and Overstock Product is a Win for Everyone

remainder book publishing

At first glance, the benefits of buying remainder and overstock product seem rather obvious:

  1. Sales draw customers
  2. Savings leave customers feeling good
  3. Stores usually get a slightly higher margin
  4. Stores can stock a wider range of product with a smaller investment

But there’s an often overlooked benefit, and that is that remainder and overstock product often introduces customers to authors and series they would have otherwise never considered. This often results in orders for related product, or even a kind of “reverse remaindering” where the store subsequently decides to stock the product at full price because local demand has been established.

So the obvious question is, “Why don’t all publishers see the benefits and offer remainder product?”

Among Christian publishers, historically Baker Book Group as well as Zondervan and Thomas Nelson (when they were individual entities) have led the way on this. Although I haven’t seen much product lately, we always did well with remainder titles from Harvest House Publishing.  In the U.S., Broadman and Holman has a number of channels through which it liquidates overstock and deleted titles.

But some publishers apparently don’t play the game at all with Tyndale House being one of the largest companies with no remainder profile. I once asked someone at InterVarsity Press (IVP) why they don’t have more remainder titles, and they simply said, “Our books all sell.”

Publishers: I know this involves walking a tightrope, but I really think releasing a few skids of bargains here and there would actually do far more good than harm. For Baker and HarperCollins Christian, the practice is a win for everybody concerned.


Categories: Uncategorized

Review Bloggers (Usually) Offer Candid Opinions

While I’m sure that some of them don’t want to jeopardize their gravy train of free books, most book review bloggers seem to be fairly honest.  So if there’s a new release coming up and you’re wavering in your commitment, these writers usually get their hands on copies ahead of the general release.

Thomas Nelson/Zondervan’s program for reviewers — the one formerly known as Book Sneeze — is now Book Look.  When you go to the reviews page, you can choose a book, such as Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist, where you’ll find that (as of Monday) 95 members of Book Look have posted a review. You can either arrange these by date, or by how high the readers rated the title. Then you can click on links to go direct to the blog of each review.

Baker Book Group, by comparison, offers a similar blog review program, but no way to see the reviews their titles are getting. For that reason, sometimes Google Blogsearch can be useful, as you generally avoid all the online sales sites vending the title in question.

Half Price Prophecy Books


prophecy book sale cartoon

from Church is Stranger Than Fiction by Mary Chambers an IVP book from 1990

Categories: Uncategorized

On Sale

  • Send the Light is offering 45% on about 20 Bridgestone DVDs, today only
  • Augsburg-Fortress is offering 50% on any mix of 20 or more titles in Elf Help, Elf Help for Kids and Just for Me titles from Abbey Press; to May 30th
  • Cook has announced two more titles in its Big Deal series, Hillsong’s No Other Name for July and Mark Batterson’s Grave Robber for September. Batterson apparently follows Kyle Idleman from Zondervan to Cook.

I got my first Anchor order in several years in yesterday, but the shipping charges are really high and we don’t yet know what the UPS charges will be. The sale books cushion the shipping a little, but we wanted to keep them as red-tagged sale prices; perhaps we should have simply priced everything at regular and used the promotional books to pay the freight.

Categories: Uncategorized