Archive for July, 2016

Social Media for Canadian Christian Booksellers

Christian Retailers Unite Canada

In just a few weeks, Christian Book Shop Talk will be celebrating its 8th Birthday and kicking off its 9th year. We really appreciate the support this blog has had from both sides of the border as we endeavour to bring you news and opinion (and a few rants) that are believed to be helpful. We appreciate your feedback, though we wish more of you would do so on the blog; though I recognize some topics — usually pertaining to supplier relationships — are touchy and you don’t want to be quoted.

In the last two weeks however, we’ve seen the emergence of two new options. On July 4th, we covered Christian Bookstore Media Kit started by Derek Ouellette and two others. This is a paid service, and we didn’t sign up, but there is a free blog. To date, nothing beyond the initial post has been published.

Today we learned about Christian Retailers Unite Canada, a Facebook group started by Lynda Schoffro who works at the Gospel Lighthouse store in Port Rowan, ON. (It’s on Lake Erie; I had to look it up, too.) One of the initial FB posts covers next Wednesday’s one-day trade show at Bingeman Park in Kitchener, now in its 10th year. Generally, I think Facebook is an excellent medium for getting stores talking to one another. We can’t make it to trade shows ourselves, so we rely on social media and email to connect with other retailers. There are a number of things we’ve tried to do here that didn’t work out well, and perhaps a more interactive medium like Facebook is the answer. As Lynda explains,

It is my hope that this will be a forum for all of us to join in conversation about many different areas of interest. Somewhere that we can go for answers to questions, or to give ideas of how things are working in our store.

Feel free to invite others who you think may benefit from this. I encourage your staff to join as well as others who are in our industry.

We wish her the best, and encourage those of you who are on Facebook to consider joining…

…And this is also a good time to thank you who have been reading here for the past eight years. This page is available to industry people who wish to write a guest post, both north and south of the border. Feel free to supply your input. And thank you for telling other people in our industry about Christian Book Shop Talk. 

Here’s more info about next week’s show:

Sperlings Annual Trade Show 2016



The Type of Men’s Bible Which Meets a Need

This review is appearing tomorrow at Thinking Out Loud; it has been amended for Christian Book Shop Talk…

In the world of Bible marketing, a men’s Bible doesn’t make a splash as do similar products for women, which may be why I was completely unaware of last September’s release of the NIV Bible for Men. Perhaps you missed it as well, which is unfortunate when you consider there is probably a guy in your sphere of influence who would benefit greatly from this edition.

NIV Bible for MenA few things stand out.

First, they carefully avoided the word devotional in the title on this one, but like the Men’s Devotional Bible, there are 260 weekday readings and a single reading for weekends. The placement of these readings is next to adjacent text and there are prompts as to where to go for the subsequent reading which means you could use this as a one-year reading program, but the passages would be of varying length.

Second, they incorporated many newer church leaders and writers for this product. Any awareness of Christian social media means the names of contributors here will create instant recognition; and it also means this is a Bible edition you can confidently place in the hands of younger customers. Some names include:

  • Chris Seay
  • Tony Morgan
  • Matt Chandler
  • Joshua Harris
  • Tim Challies
  • Shane Claiborne
  • Jarrett Stevens
  • Bill Johnson
  • Jeff Manion
  • Pete Wilson
  • Bob Goff
  • Ted Kluck
  • Eric Metaxas
  • Craig Groeschel
  • Joel Rosenberg
  • Andrew Farley
  • John Ortberg
  • David Kinnaman
  • Jeremy Myers
  • Ravi Zacharias

and many, many more. Interestingly, annotations are keyed to the Kindle editions of many of these, an acknowledgement perhaps that guys do much of their other reading on devices. This doesn’t really encourage future purchasing in print.

Third and finally, there are the weekend readings. Set out as Myths, the series of 52 two-page articles cover ideas that are common in society and sometimes even found within the church, such as:

  • It’s possible to get something for nothing
  • Sexual thoughts are harmless
  • The purpose of the church is to meet my needs
  • Image is everything
  • This world is all there is
  • Christians are guaranteed health, wealth and a stress-free life

and some of these will resonate with some guys more than others. Generally, I found this approach more topical than what is usually found within the pages of a Bible, but the second page of each reading — the response — drives you back into scripture. Some guys will want the extra day to cover the material in these weekend readings.

A subject index at the back is extremely helpful for returning to previous topics.

I hope this Bible is doing well as anything which plunges guys into scripture is a resource that needs to be celebrated. Is there a young man you can think of who might appreciate knowing about this?

Note: The Myth section readings appeared previously in Manual: The NIV Bible for Men, published in 2009.

ISBN 9780310409625; 1,684 pages; hardcover; black-letter, double-column format; $34.99 US

Getting a GST or HST Refund is Not Good News

We’re coming up to the end of the 2nd quarter, and Canadian retailers are filing their HST or GST returns. If you hear a store owner or manager say, “I’m getting a refund;” that’s not good news and may mean they are doing something wrong.

With a Value Added Tax, the amount of tax you remit quarterly is equal to the difference between the tax you paid on inventory and supplies and the tax you collected from customers. If you paid out more — which you sometimes do in the first quarter replacing inventory which sold in December — then you’re buying/spending more than you’re taking in. That’s a problem. If someone’s 4th quarter ends with them getting a refund, I would say their retail business is not viable at all. To repeat, you want to be collecting more than you are spending on rent, supplies, advertising, insurance and the big one, inventory.

But before you get very smug about this and say, “Well, we always have tax to remit…” you might want to consider payroll costs, which represent money you’re spending but for which there isn’t an input tax credit. And here, I’m preaching to myself. It’s nice for me to think we always have costs and inventory purchasing under control, but when I factor in payroll and payroll burden, it’s easy to see why my bottom line at the end of the year is not so healthy; something you might not think about while the summer breezes of July are blowing.

There are a number of resources online from countries which have a Value Added Tax similar to ours. We chose this illustration somewhat at random after looking at many.


Consumers Buying in the U.S. Can Lose 8-10% on Adjustments

Transaction adjustments don’t work in Canadian customers’ favour. With shipping issues, there can be a loss of up to 36% or more.

It doesn’t matter how friendly and willing customer service staff are when there’s a problem, nor does it matter if they remember to credit you any flat-rate shipping charge you paid. The fact remains that if a Canadian consumer is having their credit card credited as opposed to receiving a credit note from the store, they are taking a hit of anywhere from 8-10%, even if they respond just a few days after they were first charged.

The reason is simply, buying U.S. money on your credit card has an entirely different rate than selling U.S. money, which is essentially what happens when you’re getting a correction applied to your VISA or MasterCard. That’s how the foreign exchange market works, and the differences are far greater than the 2.5% the bank is charging for the transaction itself.

Here’s an example:

Last month “Joe” bought some merchandise from Christian Book Distributors. (CBD) Something was damaged or missing, so he called their customer service people, who quickly agreed to credit his account.

Right there, something is wrong. CBD charges Canadians a flat rate shipping charge of 25% (or 20% if the order is over $200). Did Joe get his shipping charge back? He’s not sure, so he checks online. No luck. CBD only posts order history, not accounting history; and unlike those of us in the business who are accustomed to getting actual printed credit notes for bookkeeping purposes, the company issues no paper copies of credits. His credit is in Canadian dollars and the more he stares at it, the less he can remember about what happened that day.

Beyond that, Joe bought the books that day at an exchange rate of 1.3490 but he was only getting credited at a rate of 1.2636 a difference of 8.5%, because of the aforementioned difference in rates depending if you’re buying or selling. If the dollar had been more active in this period, he would lose more. We figured that rapidly calling in the shortage or damage could still result in a difference of closer to 10%, perhaps even 11.5% on some days the dollar has been more volatile.

So Joe knows he’s out 8.5%, but he’s not sure about the 25%. That might be a combined hit of 35.6% when you multiply the two factors together. Really, Joe should insist that CBD issue a credit note that he can apply on a future purchase (assuming he’s not one of the many who never remember to use their electronic credits.) But the CBD customer service is so very friendly, and talking so fast, that the subject of shipping and variable exchange rates never comes up.

On a $20 (US) Bible that didn’t ship or came defective, he’s now out $7.12 CDN, but he thinks that his account was credited to his satisfaction, because he doesn’t read his credit card statement closely, and he especially doesn’t examine the exchange rates on transactions. On a $40 Bible, the amount could be closer to $15.

Buy from a local Christian bookstore and you just don’t have these issues. More Canadians need to be made aware of the potential for things to awry, even when friendly staff south of the border seem to be quickly cooperating with requests for adjustments.

Physical Books Sales Rocket: UK Report

Lucy Cotter of Sky News reports:

Physical book sales have rocketed by four million this year, fighting back against the digital revolution.

Predictions, a few years ago, that the printed book would die appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

Last year saw the first rise in sales since 2007, while digital book sales dropped for the first time since 2011.

One bookseller interviewed for the article said,  “People are re-discovering their infatuation with books and with bookshops… People want to see beautiful books and then want to touch and feel them.”

Read the full report at this link.

Categories: Uncategorized

Send the Light Freight Discount Ends July 31st

Payment Free Freight

Send the Light will not be granting 30 day terms or payment free freight after this month, as the liquidation of their stock continues. I’m assuming they are going to introduce a credit card window that will pop up after you’ve cleared an order cart. For Canadian stores, paying the actual UPS freight will make shopping any remaining bargains difficult, if not mathematically impossible, unless you’re placing a really huge order. But I’m also expecting that as the discounts continue to rise, many things will start to run out.

Categories: Uncategorized

Lynette Eason on Writing

Without WarningLynette Eason fields questions on her writing process from an interviewer who has already read Without Warning which releases August 2nd.


  • Without Warning begins with a twist in the very first chapter. Was the first scene the most difficult one to write?

Believe it or not, the first scene is usually the easiest scene out of the entire book for me to write. I think it’s because I visualize it in its entirety before I even type the first word. That’s not to say I don’t go back and tweak as needed, but my first scene generally stays the first scene. I’ve only had a couple of books where I’ve scrapped the first scene and started over. Not too bad considering I have almost forty stories under my belt!

Click here to read the interview.

Book is of American Interest, but Subject is Pervasive

I usually don’t stock U.S.-interest titles in my store. Anything with the Stars and Stripes on it or the Capitol Building pictured is automatically nixed. But for this I made an exception. Here’s a review of Shane Claiborne’s latest as it appeared at Thinking Out Loud last week…

Executing Grace

Shane Claiborne’s latest, Executing Grace is a well-written, well-researched and well-annotated look at the history of capital punishment in the United States. It is both gently persuasive and passionately persuasive at the same time. It is a thorough, exhaustive treatment of the subject from a perspective that is both Biblical and Christ-centered. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read on any issue. End of review…

…Sitting in my backyard, on Canadian soil, reading Executing Grace: How The Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us, by Shane Claiborne (HarperOne) is a rather strange experience, especially in the wake of a week of violence in the U.S. that has fueled discussions on racial discrimination and injustice. I don’t usually cover U.S.-interest books, preferring to devote my review time to things that are of equal interest to people in Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

I made an exception to this partly because I’ve tasted the writer’s passion after following him on Twitter for a few years. No execution in the U.S. escapes his gaze, and with each one, there is horrible lament. You feel Claiborne’s pain with every new case, and then, after the act is carried out, his sorrow. He’s like one crying in the wilderness, but for him, it must feel like spitting into the wind. There are churches in many southern states who I expect are definitely not keeping him on their short list as a guest speaker any time soon. Such is the life for those who choose to speak with a prophetic voice.

The book brings together an avalanche of material, there are simply so many cases to draw on. Again, from my backyard chair, I have to ask, ‘Why am I even allowed to read this; why would the powers that be allow this book to be exported out of the U.S.?’ The situation is one that I believe any self-respecting nation would find — how do I put this — rather embarrassing. These are not stories you want the world to read, even one at a time, let alone assembled in a single collection. America’s history, on this issue, is rather stained; the atrocities of the era of lynchings only replaced by a more civilized-looking substitute containing an air of due process.

While the book has more than a dozen chapters — each fulfilling a specific function — they are united in their presentation of the contrast between capital punishment as a means of avenging or making right a capital crime on the one hand, and the idea of grace and mercy on the other. You have to ask yourself which side of the issue you’re on.

The reading of the book eventually becomes subjective. I’m getting angrier and angrier as I read of cases where innocent people were executed for crimes they did not commit. Or spent decades of their adult life behind bars until their innocence was finally proven to be true. Or tortured on death row with dates for their execution that were constantly revised and pushed back. Or executed by so-called modern, sophisticated means which prove to be barbaric; the death process dragging out to 30 minutes or an hour or perhaps not working at all.

But the very anger at injustice that I’m feeling lands me solidly at the point of recognizing the system as flawed; yearning for reforming the system. I’m not a U.S. citizen, but it makes you want to work for change. How does my own country fare? While there are references to capital punishment’s top five nations, I don’t recall a reference to Canada, and England is only mentioned in passing. This is a Made-in-America problem which requires a Made-in-America solution.

As with the situation in the U.S. last week, the church can be the leading agent for social change, but unfortunately, we don’t speak with a single voice on this issue. The greatest number of state-sanctioned executions take place in what is termed the Bible belt, and last year one prominent Southern Baptist leader wrote a piece for a major media outlet on why he supports the death penalty.

If you read this book, it will make you angry as well, frustrated, and rather sad; however you can’t not read something like this. As Claiborne states so clearly, knowing what is going on — having the information — is vital to a change in attitudes and practice to take place. For those of us who claim Christ as our Lord, we are complicit in the killings if we remain silent, or simply defer the matter to elected officials.

The penultimate chapter is a crash course on restorative justice. For some, raised and saturated in a world of eye-for-an-eye, punitive justice this will be a stretch; an awakening. It proposes a paradigm shift of epic proportions, and yet is strangely appealing, offering the hope of a new way forward.

Special thanks to Miranda, the new director of promotion and publicity for HarperCollins Christian Publications in Canada for getting me a copy of this. Retailers should note that with this title, Shane moves from Zondervan to HarperOne, which will greatly expand this title’s reach.

Ingram to Erase and Rebuild Author Info

What Ingram Content Group calls the “Contributor” section of its database (usually authors and illustrators for books and artists for CDs) has, as some of us know, gotten a bit twisted lately, producing some rather hilarious results. So as of tonight, that section of the database is going to be wiped clean and reconstructed.

In an email to accounts today, the company said,

…Over the past several months Ingram has received substantial feedback from authors, publishers, librarians and booksellers on the quality of our contributor biographies, often that these narratives described a different person with the same name. These quality issues can be attributed to several root causes, including the substantial volume of contributors in our database and competing contributor data sources.

To correct this, we are taking a ‘clean slate’ approach and wiping out our contributor biography database. During the next several months we will rebuild this database with publisher metadata and authority metadata from several trusted sources, including internal data. You will notice more and more contributor biography information being populated during the coming weeks…

It’s important to note that the author information on the back cover blurb will continue to appear in the product description.

Usually the categories section can help you confirm that you’ve got the right book, or of course you can use a third-party site to verify author information.


Categories: Uncategorized

Miracles from Heaven now available on DVD

Miracles from Heaven DVD

In addition to their work promoting books, Graf-Martin Communications of Elmira, Ontario provides social media reviewers with opportunities to screen movies, in advance of their theatrical run, their DVD release, or sometimes both. We got to see this movie on such an occasion, and this is the review I posted at Thinking Out Loud.

Note: This review contains spoilers.

Miracles from Heaven is a movie based on the real life story of Kevin and Christy Beam, and in particular their daughter Anna who contracted a rare gastric disease in which her central nervous system stopped sending signals to her intestines, making it impossible for her to process food. Her pediatric specialist does not offer the family much in the way of hope.

But one afternoon while climbing a tree with her older sister, she suffers the equivalent of a three-story fall. Miraculously, she has little more than a concussion. There are no broken bones, no spinal injury.

Even more amazing is when it becomes apparent that the fall has caused a jump re-start of her nervous system and thereby kickstarted her intestinal tract. At the time of filming, the real-life Anna has not been sick in three years…

…DVD releases create a unique challenge for the reviewer. With the theater run played out, the basic plot line is already known, and I’m a little freer here with information than if it was the theatrical version we were considering. We have a general idea where the movie is going and simply mark the various steps toward its conclusion. This isn’t an intricate plot, and so the emotional level of the movie is somewhat steady throughout the first two-thirds of the film.

On this however, my wife and I had different reactions. At the beginning I noted to her that the story seemed to be moving rather quickly, with some scenes rather abruptly jump-cutting to the next. But she felt the the movie dragged in places and could have moved faster and been a bit shorter.

It’s also difficult to watch this as a parent. You empathize with the tremendous stress the entire family is experiencing. And as someone who isn’t a fan of medical drama, the hospital scenes are more documentary than entertainment.

But it’s hard not to be wholly invested in the final third of the movie when Anna’s miracle happens. We long for happy endings, and this movie does not disappoint. There’s also an element at the end which is similar to the movie Heaven is For Real which released from the same production company; in fact there is an edition of the DVD available in which Heaven and Miracles are bundled into a single package.

The film’s purpose is not to discuss the validity of miracles in an age of science and skepticism, however there are some realistic moments where the possibility of facing this story with doubt and disbelief are brought to the surface by the characters themselves. (On this I am reminded of the blind man in John 9:25 who is faced with people wanting to know the why and the how: “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!“)

Christy Beam’s faith is fragile, perhaps even non-existent at points in the journey. It’s understandable, given the situation the family faces, not only with the daughter’s illness, but also the financial stress. Some of the people in her church, like Job’s comforters, don’t exactly help either. While those people are southern stereotypes, the portrayal of her church seems realistic.

I did not see Heaven is for Real but I’m glad I got to see this one. The DVD released officially on Tuesday. Enjoy the trailer below or learn more at . (Retailers: Consider posting the preview on your store website of Facebook page.)



Thanks to Sony Entertainment Canada and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. for providing a pre-release screening link to this movie.

The Changing Face of Religious Giftware

WalMart Christian Gift Items

I snapped this slightly blurry picture in a WalMart in Toronto last week. I was really impressed with the texts of these pieces; I would gladly have these in my store; and the price was, I believe under $10. I especially liked — even though it’s the only one that wasn’t scripture — the last one: “Grace isn’t a little prayer you say before receiving a meal; it’s a way to live.” If anyone knows the source for these, and provided WM doesn’t have them exclusively, let me know.

Categories: Uncategorized

LifeWay Product Diverting Profits from Christian Bookstores

I wasn’t going to return to this topic anytime soon, but I couldn’t help notice on the Spring Arbor overnight Top 100 list that the study guide for Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer was #1. More amazing is that this already short-discounted title, is only given at 10% discount by Ingram.  (The Canadian distributor offers a much better deal.)

My immediate reaction was, “No wonder so many Christian bookstores close; we’ve just discovered another factor.”

Each time a church decides to use a LifeWay product for a small group or elective class, the bookstore vending the product loses the profits it would have normally enjoyed from selling a normal study resource from Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Baker or NavPress; just to name a few.

Stores can try to counter this enthusiasm for Beth Moore et al by gently guiding customers to other products. That’s what we do. There’s no reason why churches need to keep pouring money into the Southern Baptist Convention’s cash cow.

Categories: Uncategorized