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Archive for March, 2016

Ingram Suspends Full Trade Discount to Small Stores

Ingram announcement

March 31st represented the annual culling of the herd at Ingram, better known in the Christian market as Spring Arbor, as stores failing to purchase $5,000 in 2015 had their trade discount reduced to 30% on books. If you’re looking for a notice you missed, it may be because the announcement appeared as a “service alert” posted on the right hand side of iPage that you had to click to read in full:

ingramDear Valued Ingram Customer,

As with any business, Ingram must closely monitor our expenses and make adjustments when needed so we can continue to provide the speed, accuracy, and support that you’ve come to expect. Sometimes, as our costs decrease, we have been able to pass that savings on to our customers.

However, to cover increased freight and operating costs, we’ve found it necessary to explore and evaluate our discount structure. On March 31, 2016, all accounts that fell below $5,000 in net sales for 2015 will have a new discount structure of 30% on all regular discount items. Please note, this discount applies only to regular discount titles, regardless of quantities purchased or order method. All other items such as video, short, audio, etc., will continue to be discounted as they have been. Also, Ingram does review each customer’s account sales annually and offers volume discounts based on net annual purchases.

We truly value your continued business and appreciate your understanding in this matter. Please contact your Ingram sales representative or call Customer Care at 800-937-8200 if you have questions about this new discount structure.

Sincerely,

Ingram Content Group

So once again, it’s survival of the fittest. They didn’t even wait until April 1st, the policy is now in effect. Once again, I have some opinions on this, some of which I shared last year at this time.

  1. Small stores often get large orders. The bookstore owner or manager in a small market who works to get a 100 copy order gets no reward for their efforts. All other distributors base the discount on the size of the order, an approach Ingram has constantly resisted. I have orders currently holding from a couple of publishers waiting for me to add a few more titles. I have no problem working with that constraint. Send the Light’s minimum is 20 books. I understand why they instituted that and it’s not that hard for me reach their quota. As I said the last time this happened, I probably use some of my university publisher accounts once every 2-3 years, but my legitimacy and entitlement to a trade discount is never challenged.
  2. Ingram is a victim of their own system. Yesterday I received a $3.99 booklet from them. I have no idea why they do this or how they can afford to. When I placed my first iPage order, I was told to “click DC Pairs and where it says ‘hold/release’ click ‘release.'” I did what I was told. If I could change this, no one has ever told me what ‘hold’ signifies or how it would help save costs at their end and save the planet. They say they are “constantly monitoring expenses.” Uh…no, I don’t think so. If they streamlined their operations at their end, such as merging backorders or running multi-order invoices, they would not have to penalize small stores like yours at your end. Relatively speaking, this is all about shipping costs. The actual picking costs are minimal by comparison and the cost of a small store using the website is infinitesimal.
  3. Ingram already ships to addresses buying less than $5,000. In this case I’m referring to the host of individual consumers whose orders to companies like Chapters are fulfilled through Ingram. I feel like when I do place a larger order, I’m indirectly subsidizing the inefficiencies of Ingram’s costs in filling orders for online competitors.
  4. This shouldn’t apply to Ingram Publisher Services accounts. When Ingram is the exclusive distributor of a particular imprint, they are making money twice over. For a small store, they are the only game in town, and even if you approached the publisher directly and were willing to pay any importation costs, that publisher is contractually bound to Ingram as its exclusive warehouse distributor. Personally, I find scaling back the discount with respect to those publishers somewhat reprehensible. 
  5. Canadian stores were forced to scale back. Christmas season purchasing from the U.S. was greatly curtailed when our dollar crashed. With Ingram, accounts are settled by credit card on the 15th of the month following, so there was the added variable of not knowing what Canadian prices to set because no one knew how low our currency was going to fall.
  6. Ingram has other options. They could change the minimum order on iPage from 10 to 15 items or set a dollar-value minimum. They could change the “low” discount threshold from $2.99 to $3.49 or $3.99. They could adjust discounts on hardcovers as Send the Light did. They could modify discounts on publishers where they feel they are being squeezed. They could scrap the “cascade” system and have stores meet a 10-unit minimum per warehouse. They could scrap the minimum order altogether and change it to a minimum shippable. (The last two involve some major system reprogramming changes, but this is about saving shipping costs, right? And the price of oil is going to turn around eventually and courier fuel surcharges will again go up.)

In my community, a large, general-market bookstore is closing today. We put the word out to our customers that we would happy to take their orders on a variety of different subjects; not knowing our access to full margin on those items might be restricted. (At least I can do Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin/Random House.) It’s more possible now that a store in my position (or a store that finds itself being given some larger orders) would have no problem meeting that $417 per month average. 

If you don’t know what your purchasing from them was in 2015, a phone call may be in order.

Sadly, for stores now facing a shorter discount, their relationship with Ingram vis-a-vis dollar volume, has now become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It should be about the order, not a store’s performance in 2015.  


Update: I want to make clear that while this is partly personal, I just think this particular strategy is bad policy. It’s bad for bookstores, bad for publishers, bad for authors and really bad for Ingram itself, since it simply makes everyone angry.

If my account is a drain on their bottom line, then they should put structures in place that force me to consolidate orders, or higher minimum orders.

In our Christian product sales sector of the larger market, people are often well-networked and vertically integrated. So if I’m talking to a new publisher or a new author and they have a choice between Ingram Publisher Services and Advocate Distribution Services, I think it’s obvious which one I’m going to recommend.

 

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Steven Furtick: Honest About Brokenness

Un(Qualified) - Steven Furtick - Waterbrook PressThe title of Steven Furtick’s 4th major book release (Un)Qualified is taken from a YouTube clip he watched where the person being interviewed was tersely dismissive of Steven’s ministry. One word. Unqualified. I would have been hurt. Insulted. Devastated. But instead, he decided to own it. Apart from Christ’s help, none of us is qualified. The book is an invitation to embrace our weaknesses instead of denying them.

In 2010 I reviewed his first book, Sun Stand Still and in 2012 I reviewed his second book, Greater. Those two form a set, dealing with Elijah and Elisha respectively. In the intervening years, I had forgotten how engaging Furtick can be when he confronts such narratives. I was only planning on reading a couple of chapters — I hadn’t specifically requested the book — but his unique take and quirky sense of humor soon won me over. Consider:

The Bible takes time to point out that, despite being twins Esau and Jacob were polar opposites. When Esau was born, he was red and hairy. I’ll withhold my comments about how his parents must have felt when one of their long-awaited sons came out looking like a baby Chewbacca. Esau grew up to be an outdoorsman and a hunter. He was tough. He was rough. He could skin a buck and run a trotline. The star of the original Duck Dynasty.

But Jacob? The Bible says he was a smooth-skinned, quiet man who liked to stay among the tents. Translated, he may have been a mama’s boy. He may have been more into HGTV than ESPN. (p. 140)

The book — full title (Un)Qualified: How God Uses Broken People To Do Big Things — is so much more than Steven Furtick’s quirky sense of humor. This is a voyage into self discovery. How God uses broken people.

Often our greatest influence is birthed in our deepest suffering and brokenness. Our education, our eloquence and our intelligence are helpful, but they aren’t nearly as relatable as our weaknesses. We touch people around us because of the pain and humanity we share.

I realize that not everyone can or should be trusted with the details of our weaknesses. The goal isn’t to parade our problems, wearing our weakness for the world to see. But as we learn to be vulnerable with God and the right, trusted people we discover that every weakness, properly processed, contains secret strength.

Think about the last time you broke down and cried in front of a friend. It might have felt uncomfortable. It might have embarrassed you. But I bet that moment of vulnerability did more to win the person’s heart and cement your friendship than any other experience you’ve shared.

There is something about weakness that opens hearts. It disarms the defensive. It softens the suspicious. It endears the indifferent. (p. 112)

Another complication of brokenness is that we often create an alternative edition of ourselves; a false persona that we carry with us into the world that is totally fake. Among other cautions, Furtick offers: “God can’t bless who you pretend to be.”

In this his 4th book, Jacob, Moses, Gideon and others (and more of Jacob) come under the microscope. Bible narratives are brought to life as never before, and there is practical advice on every page. My recommendation is that Furtick’s readership probably skews young. This would be a great gift to someone in his under-40 demographic. But I enjoyed it, also.

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Thrift Stores Banning Rapture Fiction?

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about a new Christian news satire site, The Babylon Bee. This story ran today and I couldn’t resist sharing it with you (just like I couldn’t resist the buzz pun.) Remember, I did say this is satire.

Thrift Stores, Landfills No Longer Accepting Rapture Fiction

 

left-behind-696x373

ALEXANDRIA, VA—A spokesperson for the Salvation Army Family Store confirmed Wednesday that the popular line of thrift shops will no longer be accepting donations in the rapture fiction genre. “We have enough Left Behind books to pave the parking lot,” the representative stated in a press release. “Our store managers have been instructed to turn away any donations of fictional works set in or around the time of Christ’s return, on sight. We simply cannot afford the liabilities involved with the upkeep and storage of teetering towers of books describing the fiery wrath of God on the earth from the perspective of one-dimensional characters. And don’t get me started on the film adaptations.”

This announcement comes as a blow to the millions of Americans looking to offload their rapture fiction after just last week being hit with the news that the nation’s public landfills would no longer accept the same books and videos. The new governmental regulations, taking effect the first of the month, place tighter restrictions on the quantities and types of motor oil, electronics, batteries, high-density polyethylene, and apocalyptic novels the nation’s junkyards will accept. While the laws are tough on hazardous chemicals, there is now a zero-tolerance policy on doomsday fiction.

So what is a family with dozens of Left Behind books and their spinoffs to do? “Recycle!” a waste authority manager told us. “These kinds of books make great paperweights, kindling, bird cage liner, and even a conversation piece for your entryway.”

Items being considered for next year’s ban list, according to an anonymous source within a top ecological agency, include heaven-tourism books, WWJD bracelets, and Steven Curtis Chapman cassettes.

 

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My Frequent Order to My Staff: Stop Working!

Walk into our store and you might see my industrious sales associates busy straightening shelves and displays. No, they’re not trying to intimidate me into paying them more money. We probably are higher than the national average for our industry. Granted, I’m told this is a technique that was used in some Asian factories; the employees would work twice at hard to get the boss to relent and pay them higher wages.

However, there’s another activity that I feel is just as important as merchandising maintenance.

My wife works in a sweat shop. No matter what the customer volume on any particular day, it’s a given that staff are to be in motion all day long. There is always something that needs doing and staff are simply not expected to be standing around. Ever.

But I often tell my staff that their order for the next hour is to sit down, and pick up a book and start reading. I usually suggest one of our bestsellers, or something that we want to promote. Or something that’s not naturally up their alley.

Having said that, I got in trouble here for a comment I made nearly four years ago, that our policy is, “If you’ve made it through chapter three, you’ve bought the book.” Some off-the-blog responses suggested that if the book stays in resale condition, staff should have unfettered access.

Here’s a comment that appeared from Alice, who worked at Treasure House:

Having worked for 2 different owners I’m happy to say the policy was the same. Read anything you like. Just don’t bend the spine!

I’ve never had a customer claim a book was ‘used’

I have made a staff member pay for a book that had obviously been read on vacation.

I would never read the first 3 chapters of a book – that’s just too frustrating.

I also figure that considering the pay scale most bookstores operate on – it’s a nice perk.

What I do have are great staff who are prolific readers in various areas – one likes fiction, another likes christian living, etc. They often share their latest ‘read’ with their co-workers.

Our staff will put a book on hold under their name when they take something home – it’s a good reminder to remember to bring it back.

Like my wife’s boss, I’m not thrilled at the idea of paying staff to sit around and do nothing, but getting into the products is part of staff development. I’d rather see them read three chapters of four books than twelve chapters of one. But I want them to have the same passion about the books as I do. 

So how do you do this in your store? Does your staff have access to book trailers? Review copies? Reviews on blogs?

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Beth Moore Novel to Release in September

In a video announcement two weeks ago on her LPM website, Beth Moore announced The Undoing of Saint Silvanus, which she began writing in 2012 will release this fall, on September 20th, from Tyndale Publishing.

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Barnes and Noble’s Nook Continues to Unravel

After an on again, off again history regarding the device going back to 2013, Barnes and Noble appear to have moved one step closer to ending the Nook story, closing a chapter in their history that has not offered great return.

Diginomica reports:

While we remain committed to providing a great digital reading experience to our customers, we are exploring all opportunities to reduce costs.

That’s the sound of Barnes and Noble CEO Ron Boire sounding the retreat from the firm’s ill-advised venture into competing with Amazon’s Kindle with its own NOOK e-reader…

…So action is required – and it’s starting to kick in soon. B&N customers need to get used to some big changes coming up next week – 15 March to be precise. That’s when the firm will no longer offer third party applications from the Nook Store. That’s a decision fuelled by the success of Google’s Play Store which runs on B&N devices and has been inevitably far more successful.

This decision impacts every tablet B&N has ever made, but the company insists that all existing Apps previously downloaded from the NOOK Store will remain in customers Nook Library and will continue to be accessible on compatible Nook devices.

From 15 March, customers will also not be able to rent or purchase video content from the NOOK video store, which will be closed down completely on 30 April. If customers want to keep the content they’ve already purchased, they need to transfer content to other providers.

If you’ve bought Disney, Pixar, Marvel or Star Wars content, you need to open an account with Disney Movies Anywhere, while all other content will now require the opening of a CinemaNow account.  If you haven’t done so by 30 April, you lose the content you’ve purchased.

Meanwhile in the UK, e-books will no longer be supported by B&N. Instead, customers need to open an account with supermarket chain Sainsbury’s…   [emphasis added]

A UK report has customers there accessing contenting from a grocery store chain:

…The company has signed a deal with UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, so that the customers can continue to access their content Sainsbury’s Entertainment on Demand…

…Starting 31 May, the option to download purchases and synchronize Nook libraries will be discontinued.

Following the transfer of service onto Sainsbury’s app, customers will be able to access a vast majority of Nook books, which will be available for download and read.

If the existing purchases are in stock, customers won’t need to purchase them again. Vouchers will be made available for non-transferable titles…

I have mixed feelings about this. As brick-and-mortar bookstore owner, I obviously have greater affection for print, and see the demise of an eBook platform as confirmation that the printed book will be around longer than the doomsayers predicted about a decade ago.

On the other hand, it’s also another win for Amazon, whose Kindle will now hold even greater market domination.

For consumers, it’s a reminder that holding your library electronically can be fraught with perils. A week ago at Thinking Out Loud, I wrote about the dangers of having your family memories in forms dependent on current technology; in my parent’s day it was their choice to use slides and 8mm movies instead of print; but the principle is still the same. You may read that article at this link.

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Poaching of Coloring Book Titles Knows No Limits

As a follow up to our breaking story last night on an Amazon subsidiary “borrowing” the title of the number one bestselling adult coloring book from Christian Art Gifts, we learn that the company has actually poached the title of five top selling books in the popular, still-trending category. Affected publishers in the examples noted below are from Waterbook, Baker Books, Harvest House, Christian Art and Paige, Tate & Co.

CreateSpace Coloring Books

Graphic is from Ingram Books, which shows in-stock positions on all titles. The content is now archived here in case it is needed by the publishers as evidence and was sourced on 03.06.15 at approx 8:50 PM.

 

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Another Reason Not to Like Amazon (In Case You Needed One More)

Today is Going to be A Great Day for Amazon

A study of any Christian bestseller chart instantly reveals that the adult coloring book from Christian Art Gifts titled Today is Going to be a Great Day is, without any doubt, the number one selling title in its category.

But “coincidentally” the month of March brings us a title with exactly the same name published by CreateSpace which Amazon acquired in 2005. This just seems mean-spirited and brings competition to a new low. This shameless cashing in on the popularity of another title is totally reprehensible. I guess they’re assuming, ‘They’re Christians. They won’t take us to court.’

As I’ve stated before, we won’t carry CreateSpace products in our store, and won’t special-order them for customers except under extreme duress.

Many consumers will no doubt be duped be the title “similarity” but fortunately booksellers will think twice because of the publisher’s short discount. At least, let’s hope so.

Today is Going to be Another Day for Amazon to Rip Off Customers

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse  (Gen 12:3a ESV)
I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt (same, HCSB)
I will also bless those who bless you and further you in your journey, and I’ll trip up those who try to trip you along the way. (same, The Voice Bible)

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Dollar Continues Climb; Will Book Prices Adjust?

Dollar March 4

The Canadian dollar ended the week above 75 cents US, the best showing since November. Before bank charges, purchasing an American dollar would cost you only 1.3324 CAD.

So are price adjustments poised to kick in? It’s imperative that retailers stay competitive as customers who avoided US sources over the past 4 high dollar months start looking around again. And it’s imperative that wholesale distributors stay competitive as there are always dealers who will shop for the best price; especially those in areas where shipping costs and freight times are longer.

Graphic: CBC The National

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U.S. Publishers: Canada is a Different Market; Unique Culture

I’m reading an advance copy of a book right now that is certain to receive a good review on my other blog. I can think of various people I know who would enjoy reading this.

I’m not going to carry it in my store.

The reason — and I know I sound like the proverbial broken record — is that the first edition released in hardcover and this publisher chooses not to include Canada in the list of countries which get the international trade paperback edition (ITPE).

Canada is not the United States. I know that sounds obvious, but American publishers are oblivious. Here are some things they need to keep in mind:

  • Evangelical titles are never going to do as well here. For example, while the U.S. is religiously about 25% Catholic, Canada is about 50% Roman Catholic. But the number of people who would claim no religion at all is also much higher.
  • Canadians are not as free-spending as their U.S. counterparts. In economic terms, the velocity of money here is much slower.
  • Canadians are also much more price conscious. Go too much higher than the pricing sweet spot for a book, and you’ve lost the sale.
  • Canadian Christians are much slower to accept new authors, new concepts and new trends in the Church. The “buy-in” is harder to achieve, takes time, and is never as great.
  • Churches here are smaller. While about 25% of U.S. churches have less than a hundred adults present on a Sunday morning, in Canada it’s closer to 50%.

These factors — and others — combine to the point that when it comes to publishing culture, we’re more aligned with the consumer mindset in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

So publishers, your books are not going to do as well proportionately here as in the U.S. We offer you 1/10th of the population, but probably you’ll achieve about 1/20th or even 1/30th of your U.S. sales in this country.

However, when a year passes and you’re ready to do a trade paperback conversion (TPC) release, you’ll find you’ve lost momentum on the titles. The reviews, the social media, the buzz, etc., have all faded from view and from memory. Furthermore, you won’t get the spillover effect from people who bought the hardcovers, because they didn’t purchase them here.

Look publishers, you already print the ITPE editions. We go on the websites for Koorong in Australia and Eden Books in the UK and we know they exist.

Publishing marketers, are you allowed to do your job, or do you let literary agents call the shots? You need to stand up to them and tell them to allow the ITPEs in Canada.

Until this changes, you’re killing the exposure of your authors here. Waterbrook / Random House, Howard / Simon & Schuster, FaithWords / Hachette Book Group … this means you!


There was an element in this story’s first draft that I left out, but decided to return it here. If Dave Ramsey really wants to help people with their finances — and his appeal is to people who have reached some time of monetary crisis — the first thing he can do is release his books in paperback. That books like his signature Total Money Makeover and the new bestseller Smart Money, Smart Kids are sold at the price they are tells me that Ramsey is only concerned with helping himself with his finances. Unless something turns up on a remainder list, we don’t carry his clothbound titles.

David C. Cook Canada Purchased by Senior Management Team

David C. Cook Distribution Canada of Paris, Ontario has been sold. The announcement came Tuesday (1st) afternoon in a press release from its former U.S. parent in Colorado Springs. Many of us had trouble opening the release so I’ve copied it here in full:

DAVID C COOK SELLS CANADIAN DISTRIBUTION OPERATIONS

Colorado Springs, CO (March 1, 2016) – David C Cook’s Chief Executive Officer, Cris Doornbos, announced the Canadian management buyout of its Canadian distribution division, located in Paris, Ontario, by Executive Director Greg Tombs and Financial Director Hardy Willms. The sale is effective February 29, 2016.

The Canadian distribution division has been resourcing Christian and general market resellers and the church for over 30 years and will continue to provide a national full service sales, marketing and fulfillment operation. David C Cook’s resources will continue to be represented along with the other partners in Christian publishing, music, media, cards and gifts the organization already serves.

Greg and Hardy have been competent leaders over the years. They have a real passion for the dissemination and distribution of Christian resources for the long haul. We are confident that this purchase by Greg and Hardy will result in a long term continuation of their effective service to the Canadian market,” Doornbos stated.

During this transition, we remain committed to each and every customer and client and will ensure the high level of customer service everyone has come to expect from David C Cook Canada. Every effort has been made to make this transition as seamless and successful as possible. A strategic plan looking forward to 2020 is already being executed Greg and Hardy.”

Tombs said, “Hardy and I are delighted to have the opportunity to continue to serve the CBA trade, general market and churches in Canada with the books, curriculum, music, cards, gifts and church supplies that Canada needs for ministry and discipleship. We are pleased that we will continue to have a great working relationship with David C Cook as we continue to distribute their curriculum, books, and Integrity music in Canada.”

This is independent of another story we reported on earlier the same day of the selling of Augsburg Fortress Canada to the same owners.

Augsburg Fortress Canada Sold to David C. Cook Canada

augsburgfortress-logoChristian bookstores in Canada now have one less organization in the supply chain. Augsburg Fortress Canada has been purchased by David C. Cook Canada, effective March 1st. The sale includes all of the existing inventory and distribution rights for everything AFC carried including:

  • Augsburg
  • Fortress Press
  • Westminster John Knox
  • Abingdon
  • Abbey Press Gifts
  • Anglican Book Centre
  • United Church of Canada Publishing
  • Penguin/Random House religious titles (CBA rights only)
  • Waterbrook/Multnomah (CBA rights only)

Norm Robertson will continue to call on mainline Protestant and liturgical accounts representing the former AFC product line and any existing Cook products those stores may find of interest. One other former AFC staff member is transferring to Cook.

This also adds a curriculum line and VBS brand to Cook Canada’s already huge stable of Christian Education resources. (The company recently picked up the former Standard Publishing’s Sunday School curriculum.) With Abingdon, it also gives Cook a virtual monopoly on church bulletins and ancillary products.

Not to be overlooked in the deal is the strong success many stores are enjoying with Abbey Press giftware, which will also now be stocked and shipped from Paris, ON to Canadian accounts and will only make the brand more accessible to stores here. 

Anglican and United Church denominational products include a mixture of trade titles and items sold to stores on a short-discount basis.

The sale came about after Augsburg Fortress in Minneapolis had been seeking to shut down the Canadian operation if it could not find a buyer. The AFC retail store in Kitchener, ON has closed and is not part of the transaction. 


This story is independent of another announcement the same day of the sale of David C. Cook Canada to two members of its Canadian management team.