Archive for June, 2016

Review: Hearing God in Conversation

God has many means at his disposal to get our attention

Hearing God in ConversationOver a year ago I was privileged to read a manuscript edition and asked to do an endorsement for a book which was released today by Kregel. Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere is the second book by Sam Williamson, following Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids which we reviewed here, and which I stocked in my own store. 

A year is forever when you’re an author awaiting national release, so I was surprised today with the good news that the book is now available.  Here’s the book summary I wrote:

In Hearing God In Conversation: How to Walk with God, Samuel Williamson affirms the church’s long-held position that God’s primary means of speaking to us is through scripture; while at the same time, through a blend of Bible teaching, contemporary and classic Christian authors, and personal experience, shows us that God is in no way limited in terms of what he can use to prompt us, nudge us and lead us. Written in a casual, sometimes lighthearted style, Hearing God in Conversation propels us to a place of expectancy with respect to God’s voice; to look for God’s personal message to us in a variety of circumstances; and to be aware that God has a vast catalog of means he uses to guide his children.

Here’s the official publisher marketing for the book:

Christians are comfortable saying that Christianity is about a relationship with God. Yet many might also say that they sense little meaningful relationship with God in their own lives. After all, the foundation of good relationship is communication–but conversation with God often seems to go only one way. We may sing of walking and talking with God in the garden, His voice falling on our ears, but few have heard that beloved voice themselves.

Sam Williamson acknowledges the fundamental human longing to hear God’s voice and offers a hopeful supposition: God is always speaking–we’ve just never been taught how to recognize His voice. Williamson handles this potentially heady topic with his characteristic straightforwardness and leavening humor. This book deftly bridges the gap between solid biblical theology and practical application, addressing topics such as how to truly pray without ceasing, how to brainstorm with God, how to navigate our emotions, how to answer God’s questions, and how to hear God’s voice for others.

Hearing God in Conversation offers simple, step-by-step lessons on how to hear God. Williamson begins with Scripture meditation. He then expands the practice of listening for that voice everywhere–in the checkout line, on the job, in a movie theater, and even in silence. From there, he demonstrates how to hear God’s guidance when making any decision. By the end, readers’ eyes and ears will be opened to the limitless methods through which God speaks.

The 224-page book is distributed in Canada by David C. Cook at $19.99



Do Your Staff Use Above the Treeline?

I gotta be completely honest: My secret weapon of choice for staying on top of new and forthcoming releases has been the “sort by release date” feature at STL. Yes, their database wasn’t perfect, but it suited me just fine, thank you. And now it’s gone.

So tonight I decided I needed to get better acquainted with Above the Treeline and I’m sorry but I find it completely counter-intuitive for what I’m looking for, not to mention it’s been a reminder of why I never adopted it in the first place.

On the positive side, it perfectly reiterates the sales presentations my HarperCollins Christian Publishing rep shares. (I haven’t tried the Cook or Tyndale catalogues tonight.)

On the negative side, I can’t sort by release date, and I can’t understand why the names of the author are in such teeny tiny font sizes.

Is this resource helpful to staff in your store?

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Posting this tomorrow morning at Thinking Out Loud, and thought I would share it with you guys first…


When another volunteer decided to step down after many years, I offered to collect used books in our area for Christian Salvage Mission. I’m in the book business after all, so I believe in the power of Christian literature to transform lives. I haven’t been as successful at this as I could be however, because we now also have a Christian-operated thrift shop in town. Still, I try to inform customers of things we can take that the thrift store might not.

Sometimes the books that people drop off are excellent collections. I immediately recognize the authors or the publishers, even though the books may have sat on home library shelves since before I was born. Others are more recent; titles I would easily recommend.

But sometimes, in the middle of a great grouping of books there is the odd Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness or Seventh Day Adventist title. (I recognize that some readers will sense my concern about the first two, but not necessarily the third.)

How did those books end up on these peoples’ shelves? Was a friend persistent? Or did the individuals not realize what they were getting into?

At this point, as a matter of full disclosure, I should point out that I have a copy of The Book of Mormon somewhere in my library. My parents got it in a hotel room while as a family we were in Salt Lake City. I have read some small sections of it. If I die tonight, and someone is going through my collection, they might well ask the questions I am asking here.

Generally, though, I worry that the average, church-going, pew-warming, tithe-giving Christian may not have sufficient filters with which to process the origins of some books, and thereby see the books through a more finely-tuned discernment lens. Do people check to see what the publisher imprint is? Which group claims copyright? Where follow-up pages (with phone numbers or websites) lead?

I should say that I have an unfair advantage. I’ve spent so much time in the industry that when I see Pacific Press®, Deseret Book Company, or a reference to the Watchtower Society, I immediately know who I’m dealing with.

But it’s not just the publisher imprint. Many of the books out there use a similar style of artwork; even the titles themselves sometimes are just a plain giveaway, especially the outreach materials which are produced for giveaway…

…At first, I had no specific conclusion to this, other than to say that this is a reality and people need to be more careful what they allow to come into their homes.

But then it occurred to me that while I didn’t write this with any agenda, Christian bookshops offered the type of vetting process that is needed. One pastor once told me, “You and your wife are gatekeepers for the people in our town.” That’s an honor. It’s also humbling. It’s a huge responsibility.

As long as the Christian bookstore owner, or manager, or buyer knows what they are doing, they can insure that only titles of the highest orthodoxy are presented for sale. Even if they don’t, the distribution networks for such stores simply don’t carry materials from marginal groups. And the Christian publishers generally don’t produce such products in the first place.

To the contrary, when you buy a book online just because the title looked interesting, or it was “recommended for you,” or because “other customers also purchased,” or maybe just because it was in the religion section and you liked the price; you really, really don’t always know what you’re getting into, unless you are savvy about publishing.

When a Christian bookstore closes, we lose a certain level of discernment; we lose some badly needed filtering.



Ingram Content Group Database Errors Continue to Amaze

Before they broke faith with our bookstore a few months ago, I would, at least once a week, send Ingram Book Group notifications about serious glitches in their database. I took the time to do this for free, sometimes to the benefit of an author, sometimes to help out a publisher, but always with Ingram themselves as the primary beneficiary.

Not any more. If they want to post nonsense like this about John Piper, I’m just going to enjoy the hilarity. Actually, their information is getting increasingly unreliable. But this one was too funny not to share. If you want to read it for yourself, it occurs in the second half of the ‘Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.’ for this recent Crossway book: 9781433550430

Piper Biography

So that explains the lack of hair? Didn’t realize he was so financial savvy.

By the way, not once did anyone at Ingram ever say thanks.

Christian Fiction Doing Just Fine, Thank You

CBD logoAnyone who has heard the rumors of the demise of Christian fiction — both in terms of losses to the eBook market, and overall declining sales — need look no further than the recent CBD Spring fiction catalogue to see that the genre is alive and well.

This 80-page, full color, glossy publication is a testimony to the health that at least this one company sees in Christian fiction, and one that would make an excellent showpiece for this category, were it not for the source. Let’s face it, long before the internet, CBD was sucking the life out of many local Christian bookstores, and continues to do so to this very day.

Even here at Christian Book Shop Talk, a trade blog, CBD advertising often appears in the space following an article. Their reach is pervasive and relentless.

Still, I find the fiction flyer encouraging. I suspect that at 80 packed pages, this is their largest advertising support of fiction authors and publishers; books and series. I also learned about some titles which my sales reps may have mentioned but I had missed: A new James Rubart (The Long Journey to Jake Palmer, Thomas Nelson) coming in July along with a new Richard Mawbry (Medical Judgement, Abingdon) along with new products by Lynette Eason and Judith Miller at Baker Book Group.

If you can get your hands on one, it makes a great inventory checklist as you head into the summer and fall seasons.





Industry Faces Challenges, But Job Opportunities Exist

for example…

Categories: Uncategorized

For the Love of Reading

Author Leonard Sweet:

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Send the Light Closeout Deals Available

Send the Light Distribution Warehouse

Looking at the above picture, it’s sad to think it was Memorial Day weekend, 2015 when over 200 tractor trailers rolled into Send the Light’s new facility in Bristol, Tennessee; and now, a year later, they are shutting down.

Some good great bargains currently exist. We clicked some 90% off items into a cart and left them there and were surprised we still got them the next day. Some Bibles, books, and giftware are are at high discounts, while everything is 10 – 15% off depending on the size of your order. I’m not seeing any great discounts on Lumen, their house brand, but they may be negotiating to have another supplier take over that product line, which includes everything from t-shirts to mugs to communion supplies to reprints of classic books.

At the homeschool site, there is a posted reminder that they have pledged to their suppliers not to discount this product to consumers, which may still leave their hands tied on how the closeouts there are going to proceed. Perhaps this part of the business will also be spun off to someone else. There isn’t anything there to indicate to those customers what’s going on over at the main STL wholesale site.

Stay tuned.



Categories: Uncategorized

Anchor Clarifies Terms for Canadian Accounts

Anchor Word Alive joint logoWith Send the Light Distribution winding down their business, Christian stores in Canada need an alternative for publishers not represented here. The Anchor Distributors / Word Alive announcement could not have come at a better time. Some of us have used Anchor before, several of you use them frequently, and for some this might be a new supplier. We reached out to Anchor with some direct questions, but never heard back. The following was an attachment to an email our store simply did not receive, but was forwarded by a Christian Book Shop Talk reader and store manager. Note the line about billing being in Canadian funds. Interesting how that will work or if orders will need to be, by necessity, all fully prepaid.

Anchor Canadian Terms June 2016

Send the Light Distribution Confirms Closing

Days after first reported by Christian Retailing, Send the Light (STL) Distribution confirmed its closing in an email to stores last night and on its website this morning with a very short note:

STL Closing

Needless to say, this will be devastating to small stores in the U.S. who used the distributor to consolidate orders through a single source, avoiding the paperwork and freight costs associated with dealing with individual publishers. Also affected are:

  • Canadian Stores: Many of the small publishers STL carried have no representation here; the company was also a good source for non-book items that Ingram (Spring Arbor) won’t ship to Canada.
  • Homeschoolers: It has to be presumed at this point that is also shutting down
  • Independent Publishers: This will hit former Advocate Distribution publishers hard, and as we’ve indicated elsewhere on the blog, if they choose Ingram Publisher Services, they’ve lost smaller stores like ours who have had our discount yanked for not reaching Ingram’s $5K (US) minimum.
  • Remainder Booksellers: Again, presumably Great Value Books (GVB) is also closing.

Not too long ago STL had moved into a new warehouse, and recently folded GVB into the larger company. Operations were streamlined, efficient and of great benefit to stores like ours.

We pray for the staff and management of STL in this time of transition, and for the many categories of people listed above who must now find other means of getting requested products.

A consumer-interest version of this story has been posted to our parent blog, Thinking Out Loud