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Archive for December, 2016

The Joy of Reading

bookshelf

Despite what the category totals indicate when you ring off at the end of the day (or the week, the month, or the year) we still call them Christian bookstores. While product diversification may be necessary for sustainability, I would argue that we still need to advance the cause of reading among our staff and customers. If we fail to do that, we’ve lost our distinctiveness and we’ll lose our motivation. To that end, I posted this to our store’s Facebook account.

It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own. —Katherine Patterson

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Richard Steele

Read. Everything you can get your hands on. Read until words become your friends. Then when you need to find one, they will jump into your mind, waving their hands for you to pick them. And you can select whichever you like, just like a captain choosing a stickball team. —Karen Witemeyer

A house without books is like a room without windows. – Heinrich Mann

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. – Edward P. Morgan

A book is a gift you can open again and again. —Garrison Keillor

Give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an interesting companion. Give me a man or woman who has read perhaps three and you give me a dangerous enemy indeed. – Anne Rice

Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures. – Jessamyn West

and finally…

I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book. – Groucho Marx

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Beware of Top Book Lists

Top Ten Books by Jared Fanning

Retailers need to be careful not to be influenced by end-of-year lists of the “best Christian books.” It’s so easy to look at a list and say, “Maybe I should be carrying this one, or that one.” Here are some things to note:

  1. Some reviewers pride themselves on creating eclectic lists or focusing too heavily on esoteric items. Titles are listed which stores can’t even buy at a normal trade discount. The reviews sound appealing, but in the end the greatest market for some of these books are book reviewers, and they get their books for free.
  2. You have to check the source of the website making the list, many are aimed only at academic readers or pastors. While it’s true that if I had my reading life to live over again I would have chosen more IVP titles and fewer Max Lucado — nothing personal, Max — the average customer isn’t ready for some of the material contained in the more cerebral works on scholarly book lists.
  3. Advertorials abound. The list you’re reading may be from a particular publisher.
  4. Agenda-oriented lists are everywhere. A great example is this one. At first I was going to put this list of Children’s Bible story books on my store’s Facebook page, since we carry a number of these titles in our store. I passed on it simply because there was no denying the author’s blatant Calvinist bias. Many of the titles were from Crossway, which I have now come to view as a denominational publisher, and carry their titles only by special order.

In the general market, more attention is paid to lists and award-winners, but even there, I’m sure that stores have filters for knowing when to jump in and when to hold back. Here’s a better formula:

  1. The CBA lists are generally helpful, but Canadian stores need to avoid things which have a particular U.S.-interest. Also, the number one title on some of the monthly lists is often the Standard Lesson Commentary, but in 21.5 years, I’ve never sold one. So it needs to be read discerningly.
  2. A couple of British titles. I try to check Eden and Koorong frequently to see what’s selling over there and if the titles have distribution here, I’ll jump in. We’re Canadians, and just as our worship music is not entirely dominated by what happens in Nashville, so our reading shouldn’t be dictated by U.S. sales.
  3. Unique titles. This are items you feel will work in your store and you have dedicated yourself to doing the necessary promotion. We’ve done this a few times to the point where a supplier will ask us what’s driving the sales.
  4. Local-interest authors. In the summer of 2015 our #1 title and #3 title had a connection to our community, though the writers do not live here.
  5. Revivals. If the publisher thought the book was worth re-issuing in a new cover and we agree that it has greater potential, then I’ll play the game.

What’s not working:

  1. Christian Television. Remember the days when the simple breath of a title on Benny Hinn brought customers looking for the book? That’s long gone except for 100 Huntley Street, which (especially since the show’s last reworking) is still the bookstore owner’s best friend. Besides, many of the shows offer the books themselves and people are more accustomed to ordering online or by phone.
  2. Christian Radio. Even Focus on the Family has lost its influence.
  3. Reviews in magazines. These benefit booksellers more than anyone else. Beyond that we don’t see a stampede to the store when the new issue of Christianity Today arrives in the mail because so few receive it.
  4. Reviews on blogs. Publishers continue to ship great quantities of books (especially fiction) to bloggers, many of whom actually have very conservative followings. It’s the Calvinists who seem to have the greatest love affair with books, and many of them read on Kindle.

What is working:

  1. A mention by a pastor or speaker in a church service sermon.
  2. A mention by a pastor or speaker in a church service sermon.
  3. A mention by a pastor or speaker in a church service sermon.  I can’t state this enough. If the local church pastor recommends the book, people will respond. In droves. So…how do we make this happen more often? How do we make pastors aware of what’s available? When they do come in the store, they are often so busy and so single-focus-driven that there’s no time to chat, let alone point out key resources.
  4. Word of mouth.
  5. Word of mouth. This is especially evident among, but not limited to women.
  6. A book mentioned in another book or at a conference or in a video curriculum.

So again fellow bookseller, don’t be intimated by the end of year lists. Remember, those are reviewer favorites not charts of sales performance. Let other metrics govern your inventory choices.

What’s In Store for 2017

reunion-bruxy-cavey

Some things to look forward to in the new year:

  • A new Bible. Broadman will launch the new Christian Standard Bible. This is an entirely fresh translation, not merely an update to the HCSB, which bears a similar name. HCSB are now all discontinued when sold out, but won’t be pulled off the publisher’s shelves as happened with the NIV2011 launch.
  • A new website. This simply can’t come soon enough, but a promised revamp of the Parasource B2B site will be a game-changer for retailers desperately needing a better way to respond to customer inquiries efficiently.
  • A sophomore release by a Canadian author with thousands of followers. Bruxy Cavey’s (re)union: The Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints and Sinners will release on Herald Press which, moving forward, will be distributed by Parasource.
  • Equally anticipated, early in the year, is Kyle Idleman’s Grace is Greater: God’s Plan to Overcome Your Past, Redeem Your Pain, Rewrite Your Story.

grace-is-greater-kyle-idleman

 

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2016 Brought Some Changes; Some Things Stayed the Same

happy-birthday-another-yearFor Canadian stores the two most significant events of the year were losing an extremely Canada-friendly supplier (Send the Light Distribution) but also, in a sense gaining a new distributor (Parasource) as David C. Cook Canada and Augsburg-Fortress Canada merged under a new Canadian ownership.

We also saw the reverse, where a longtime Canadian distributor was purchased by an American company as Word Alive became part of Anchor Distributing. Stores gained rapid order turnaround times, but for those who had already been using a U.S. Anchor account, the new situation meant lost access to extra discounts on Whittaker House as well as bargain books. However, for a greater number of stores the timing meant that Anchor somewhat replaced Send the Light, and there was simply no comparison. Canadian stores also lost dozens and dozens of small publishers as well as access to so many types of giftware and apparel.

The Canadian dollar didn’t rally at the end of the year as some expected it would, but we must always take into account that some of the worst calamities in our industry during the past decade have occurred when the Canadian dollar was low, not high. 

The announced closing of Abbey Press was a real blow to stores for whom their products resonated so well with customers, but there are still hopes that the business or the products will be picked up by another entity between now and the summer.

Some authors tried new genres. Francine Rivers released a non-fiction hardcover, while Beth Moore issued her first novel.  Some companies were remaindering adult colouring books at the same time as they were issuing new ones. 

For some of our authors, 2016 was a tough year. Nabeel Qureshi’s illness became the focus of much worldwide prayer; Jen Hatmaker’s books were pulled from LifeWay; Pete Wilson’s wife filed for divorce.  At the same time, it was a breakout year for new authors such as Steve Carter and Bryan Loritts. 

HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Zondervan, Nelson) continued to offer us International Trade Paper Editions while Hachette (Faithwords) Simon & Schuster (Howard) and Random House (Waterbrook) continued to refuse to do so, even while offering them to booksellers in England, Australia and the rest of the world. Tyndale and Baker continued the practice as well, much to the delight of Canadian customers and retailers alike.

On the print-on-demand front, fiction readers trying to complete their series were more frustrated as Bethany House and Tyndale seemed to be deleting titles faster than ever and not offering them in P.O.D., while Bethany seemed to be greatly limiting the availability of large print fiction.  

In Canada, we experienced far fewer store closings this year, as conditioned stabilized considerably from 2014 where at least 20 stores closed, and 2015 where another dozen closed in the first half of the year. Foundation extended its retail run in Ottawa selling its own products as well as selected items from other suppliers in the 3-level location formerly occupied by Salem Storehouse.

Tomorrow we’ll look at what’s expected for 2017. So far we’ve only heard from Parasource, but we invite other contributions.

Store Display: They Misunderstood the Quotation

Apparently this was making the rounds over the holidays on Reddit, but actually has its origins much earlier as evidenced by this June report in The Telegraph bearing an image which says “seven months ago,” with the reminder that the phrase “has been widely used by atheists in discussing the Bible and now the quote is once again being shared online.”

My first reaction when a friend sent this was to reply, “I think the store owners were sincere.” I just think they didn’t realize the intent of the original, which may or may not have originated with Mark Twain.

stores-display-misunderstood-quotation

It’s a reminder of how easy it is to get caught up in the busy-ness of day-to-day operations and fail to think things through. In 21 years of doing Christian retail in our store, along with many other years previously working alongside store owners, there are times you get asked to do things (carry products, post signs, circulate petitions) which are the product of someone’s zeal, but not their careful thinking. The tough part is to say no and then try to teach your customers why it’s not a good idea.

There are times I think that a minimum level of education is necessary to operate stores like ours in the wider marketplace. Even armed with a B.A. that included philosophy and religious studies courses, as well as being raised in the church from infancy, there was simply so much I had to learn once I started operating my own store. The internet has been a great help, but reading a variety of Christian literature, reading critiques of the products we sell, and visiting all the churches in the community are three things I would recommend. If you can squeeze some evening courses in at a Bible College or Seminary in a nearby city, all the better.

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Experience the Wonder of Christmas Anew This Year

the-annual-church-christmas-play

It’s been a busy year! I haven’t posted as much as I would have liked, but I thank those of you who subscribe, check out the blog itself, and follow me on Twitter.  This year I concentrated more of my social media attention on our store’s Facebook page, trying to make it a destination for Christian community events that people will want to check regularly.

My own sales were somewhat flat this year, compared to 2015. I guess I’ve tried to be more precise and accurate in my buying, but still willing to take risks. As a result, there are always mistakes, but fortunately fewer. I’m learning that I simply can’t assume anything as to how the market is going to respond, so it’s best to tread carefully.

I’ll have another post next week about the year in review, if you have anything to contribute please send it.

…I find it so easy to get caught up in the retail cycle that we don’t have time to slow down and allow our hearts to rediscover the meaning of the season. I try to find something new in the narrative each year, something that I’ve previously missed. I hope you can do the same. I know you’re exhausted, but try to get to a service in your community this weekend. When you work at the Christian bookstore, every church is home.

Also, it’s important at this time of year to thank God for all that has taken place in our stores and all which continues to take place in the lives of our customers as they use the resources we make available. Just yesterday I helped a woman and her daughter who wanted to pick out a Bible story book. She seemed only passively interested until she saw The Jesus Storybook Bible and then she smiled and said, “That’s the one! That’s the one Mrs. ______ reads from.” Except for a second when I needed to check the price, she held on to it tightly as they walked out the door. Those moments make it so worthwhile.

I wish you all God’s best as you enjoy Christmas with friends, family and your faith community.

 

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Your Unchurched Customers are Biblically Illiterate

December 20, 2016 2 comments

This is point #5 of a ten-point article by Brian Moss, written to pastors at Pastors.com. If you better want to understand the people on the spiritual margins who probably aren’t even close to being regular customers, then I encourage you to read the entire list at this link.

In the meantime, I challenge you to consider the implications for us as retailers of this:

5. They are biblically illiterate.

They have absolutely no idea what the Bible actually says.

To many it is a dark mysterious book filled with antiquated dictums of morality which are no longer relevant in the 21st century or it is a compilation of fables and fairy tales intended to teach some life lesson.

To others the Bible is a book that tells of an angry deity bent on suppressing happiness and destroying homosexuals.

One thing is sure, nearly all of them are misguided on the true content of Scripture.

It’s clear that many Americans — including Christians — don’t know their Bible. Just look at the numbers from a recent study:

  • More than 60 percent of Americans can’t name either half of the Ten Commandments or the four Gospels of the New Testament.
  • Some 80 percent (including “born again” Christians) believe that “God helps those who help themselves” is a direct quote from the Bible.
  • And 31 percent believe a good person can earn his/her way into heaven.

POINT: Churches need to stop assuming that their audience has any biblical knowledge whatsoever. Stop saying stupid things like, “open your Bibles to…” or, “I hope you brought your Bibles…” or even worse, “I hope you have a real Bible with you this morning and not some silly Bible app on your phone.” Have you not figured out yet that they don’t own one! We’ve got to begin at the beginning. Tell them how to get a good Bible. Teach the Bible for clarity, not to show off your academic prowess. Offer classes that introduce people to the Bible. Teach the stories of the Bible. Help people with Bible reading plans that make it easy for them to begin their journey with the Bible.

Here’s the full list:

The Top 10 Characteristics of the Average Unchurched Family

• They are a blended home.
• They are spiritually mismatched.
• They are financially strapped.
• They are over-calendared.
• They are biblically illiterate.
• They are ethnically diverse.
• They have a special needs child.
• One in five have experienced some form of trauma in the home.
• They want to be successful.
• They are spiritually hungry.

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Babylon Bee Spoofs Our Glorious Industry

For those who’ve been asleep most of the year, The Babylon Bee is a relatively recent arrival to the Christian satire genre which has taken the Evangelical world by storm with its uncanny insights into our wonderful subculture. Normally we wouldn’t re-blog an entire article here (we’d leave crime like that for our other blogs, Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201) but (a) this time it’s our corner of the world — Christian publishing — in the spotlight and (b) you guys are gonna play nice and click the title link below to read this at source. Not here. Why are you still reading?

Of all the top book lists you read this month, this is definitely going to be one of them.

Top Ten Books Of 2016

It’s the end of the year already, and that means it’s time to count down the very best books of 2016.

Using The Babylon Bee‘s proprietary book analysis algorithm, we managed to cut through the chaff of the millions of terrible books released this year, with only the elect few making our definitive, authoritative top ten

10.) We Can’t Dance If We Want To: Living In Holiness — John MacArthur: MacArthur excellently builds a scriptural case against rhythmic movements of any kind, especially in church. Readers will leave this book with a renewed sense of reverence, and a fear of taking their hands out of their pockets for any reason.

9.) ? — Rob Bell: “I was thinking about what I wanted my new book to convey,” Bell said thoughtfully in a short YouTube video designed to promote the May release of New York Times bestseller ?. “And it suddenly hit me—I really have no idea. I mean, about anything.” This masterful work features thousands of question marks arranged on each page in no discernible order, as well as several chapters written in Sanskrit.

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8.) Royalty Checks Are For Real — Todd Burpo: Burpo’s inspirational work will encourage your faith that six, even seven-figure book deals aren’t just fantasy—they’re very, very real. A gripping read from start to finish.

7.) Hyphenating To The Glory Of God — John Piper: Piper focuses with white-hot, laser-like intensity on, as he puts it, “the all-other-punctuation-mark-surpassing splendor” of the hyphen. Soul-stirring and paradigm-shattering, you should not miss this all-too-important, not-exactly-like-his-usual-books-but-still-vintage-John-Piper work.

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6.) Worldview: The Worldview: Worldview Edition — Al Mohler: Al Mohler is right in his wheelhouse when writing about worldviews, and his latest work, Worldview: The Worldview: Worldview Edition is an excellent guide to worldviews and the worldviews that view them in the world.

5.) The Case for Calzones — Lee Strobel: While Strobel is known for his work in layman-level apologetics, few people are aware that Strobel is also a passionate apologist for Italian folded pizzas. In The Case for Calzones, Strobel flawlessly defends the dish while remaining highly readable. The book is peppered with witty anecdotes and lively interviews with top food experts from around the world.

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4.) I Just Can’t Even With The Proper Doctrine You Guys — Jen Hatmaker: Encouraging readers to think of the book as “a big squishy hug,” Hatmaker uses her trademark conversational writing style to admonish all of us to “just be real, you know, and be true to our feelings, especially with things like theology and doctrine and I just can’t even.” A real page-turner.

3.) The Purpose Driven Ferret — Rick Warren: While fans of the Purpose Driven series have hundreds of variants to choose from, Rick Warren may have outdone himself with this special edition of The Purpose Driven Life, written exclusively for the close cousin of the polecat. Your ferret will love learning how to fulfill its God-given purpose as Warren masterfully uses over 250 different translations of the Bible to drive home his point.

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2.) Get Out Of Debt By Selling Millions Of Books — Dave Ramsey: Financial guru Dave Ramsey shows Christians how to pay off debt, put money in the bank, and live happily ever after. His plan includes detailed steps on how to get people to buy millions of your books that mostly say the same thing, so you’ll become a millionaire too. Just don’t buy this one on a credit card!

1.) Whatever Tim Keller wrote, probably: Honestly, we didn’t read any Tim Keller books this year. But we’re sure that whatever he wrote was pretty good. So the number 1 book of the year is whatever he wrote. Pick your favorite and put it in this slot. Congratulations, Tim!

Honorable Mentions:
Radical, Bro — David Platt
Rolling Around In The Mud And Shooting Stuff For Jesus — John Eldredge
Jesus Snapchatting — Sarah Young

There you have it. What were your favorite books of the year? Let us know by saying them out loud to your computer screen.


For more publishing related satire from The Babylon Bee, click this link.

Hillsong United Documentary Releases Next Tuesday

let-hope-rise-dvdIf there’s a single takeaway from the 1-hour, 43-minute documentary Let Hope Rise, it’s that the members of Hillsong United are totally amazed and humbled at the band’s worldwide influence and popularity.

The film played in theaters in North America just a few months ago, and is releasing on DVD and Blu-Ray December 20th, just in time for Christmas. A concert at The Forum in Los Angeles provides the storyline, with scenes in the dressing room just before they go onstage book-ending the movie.

This is very much a documentary, not a concert film. There are a couple of songs which play in their entirety. Others are edited somewhat, or transition between the songwriting collaborative process and the finished product onstage. The focus here is to provide a behind-the scenes look.

Again, this is a film about Hillsong United, not the Hillsong worship program in general. There is a far too short, ten minute nod to the history and scope of the parent church in Sydney, but its worship teams aren’t in view here; neither is the younger band Hillsong Y&F (Young and Free) mentioned.

The members of the band obviously know each other well and trust each other. When they are about to go on at The Forum, the songs are basically so very fresh that one of the guys says of another something to the effect, ‘He’s about to walk on the stage and sing words he’s never sung into a microphone before.’

It was interesting that on the one hand, the band talks about the fact they work for the church and are not particularly well paid, but on the other hand are able to enjoy an oceanfront house in California to write songs. Back home in Australia, the members of the band appear to live quite modestly. Some have very young families, with their wives staying home to take care of the kids.

We had planned to watch this with a full stereo sound system but a last minute glitch caused us to relocate. At first I was disappointed, but the music both is and isn’t the focus; it is more about providing the inside look at the band using material filmed for the movie and archival footage the band owned.

Hillsong’s influence on worship music around the world is immeasurable and Hillsong United’s influence on youth culture and youth ministry is equally significant. Anyone who is a fan of United will probably want to watch this several times. Onscreen lyrics are provided on a few songs for those who even want to sing along. 

Canadian Retailers: Order from Anchor/Word Alive and be sure to select quantities for the DVD or DVD/BluRay marked “Canadian Sales Only.” CDN retail is 24.99 and 29.99 respectively.


Movie has been provided courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc

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Soul Coats: Restoration – How It Was Made (Part One of Two)

This is part one in what will ultimately be a two part series. For several days now I’ve been corresponding with Calgary author Rohadi Nagassar about his book Soul Coats: Restoration, an adult colouring book based on scenes and scriptures from the Bible. I asked him if he would share the background story on his book, which follows; and then at a future date to share his reflections of being an independent author and publisher in Canada trying to get his product into stores. I hope you’ll take the time to read this.

soul-coats-restoration

Thanks Paul for letting me share my story about making my ambitious first publication, Soul Coats: Restoration, an adult colouring book based on scenes and scriptures from the Bible.

We don’t have to go too far back to get the back story: October 2015. I’m sitting at a Thanksgiving party with friends when one woman starts chatting about the fun she’s having colouring. “Colouring?!” I had heard about the growing trend of adult colouring over the Summer but didn’t think much of it. In curiosity I asked her, “are there any Bible themed colouring books?” The response was ‘no’.

I didn’t believe it at first, when a craze hits there’s always a (or many) faith version at some point. Out of curiosity I checked Amazon and discovered there were only a couple faith based adult colouring books. That’s where I left the conversation until Christmas.

The Christmas buying season arrived and adult colouring books were a HIT. The sales of adult colouring books literally ‘saved’ the softcover print industry. For the first time in years softcover book sales increased, by double digits to boot. Colouring books were the reason. The volume of books sold was staggering, the top title alone sold over a million copies that year.

Suddenly my entrepreneur ears were pricked. A MILLION copies? Maybe there’s an opportunity here?

So I checked Amazon again for faith based colouring books and still only found a handful. It was time to take my preliminary research further to see if a book project would make business sense. Step one: order all the Christian adult colouring books I could find.

Soon after they arrived and I was blown away….at how TERRIBLE they were.

I was half expecting beautiful productions of scenes and inspirational images. What I saw instead were rip off stock images converted to illustrations, repetitive floral patterns, cats (for some reason cats, umbrellas, and lighthouses in ‘inspirational’ faith-based colouring books), and heavy use of fonts. Someone basically took a computer and bashed out a colouring book for utility over beauty. A lot of uninspired productions, but here’s the thing, these books were still selling hundreds of thousands of copies. I couldn’t believe the numbers, which made me think, “there must be a market for beauty in an art book.”

Since the existing books paled in comparison to the best colouring books on the market I knew there was an opportunity to create a beautiful book that would not only rival the best faith based books, but would be a work of art challenging the best adult colouring books on the market. With that in mind I set out with two objectives: (a)sell books; (b) those books needed to be beautiful and follow a narrative.

soul-coatsThe only problem? I’m a writer, not an illustrator. I can’t even draw.

Thankfully, I knew (or knew people who knew) a number of people who were talented illustrators. Through relationship I found seven, six of whom were/are based in Calgary. So not only was I differentiating in creating a quality book, it was going to be a local Canadian production as well. After I laid out a storyboard of God’s restorative narrative, including all potential scenes for my Bible themed adult colouring book spanning scenes and scriptures from Old to New, I pulled the trigger. That was January 2016.

Projects like this take months, sometimes years, but I knew the colouring book had to come out ASAP to beat the big publishers from getting their multiple versions out. Four months was the deadline.

April came and passed.

Courageously, the team of illustrators, came through at the end and the final book went to the Canadian printer in May. Early June the (currently) only adult Bible colouring book spanning the entire Bible was released— Soul Coats: Restoration. Constructed to match the best adult colouring books on the market, art that was unique (no cliché scenes) and professional, was the key piece to set the title apart. It remains exceptional in my eyes.

Take a look inside by visiting my book walk-through: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Py-0IUI598 (also embedded below)

To add to the experience I even created a free downloadable reflective guide for every scene.

The whole project was a huge learning curve, but a fun one. The creation of a book title like this was exciting to complete. But as an indie publisher, the real work still remains—marketing.

Creating an exceptional title is one thing, getting people to notice is another.

In part two, I’ll share some of the struggles publishing without a major name, and how to navigate distribution from wholesalers to bookstores.

Rohadi Nagassar

Abbey Press to Close

abbey-tradeAs reported yesterday morning at Inside Indiana Business:

By Alex Brown, Multimedia Journalist
ST. MEINRAD – Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Spencer County has announced layoffs at its Abbey Press unit. In a notice to the state, the archabbey says 71 employees will be out of work following the closure of the Abbey Press trade marketing and printing divisions, which is expected to take place in mid-2017.The layoffs are expected to begin in February and continue in stages until the end of June. Saint Meinrad Archabbey says the two divisions have been printing and marketing Christian books and gifts for nearly 150 years. The publications division of Abbey Press will remain in operation.

The archabbey says the challenges of a competitive marketplace, such as rising costs, changing technology and declining religious gift store markets, led to the closure.

“The Press has had a long, rich history of service and outreach to people of faith, and our co-workers are very proud of that,” said Archabbot Kurt Stasiak. “It’s heart-breaking to see so many lose their jobs, when they have tirelessly devoted their lives to this place and its mission.”

The employees affected by the layoffs include full-time and part-time workers. The archabbey says they will receive generous severance packages, along with employment and counseling services.

A much longer piece appeared at Printing Impressions, which emphasized the closing of the other (printing) division is shown below in part:

ST. MEINRAD, Ind. — December 6, 2016 — Unfortunately, belief in some form of divine intervention won’t save the jobs for 71 full- and part-time printing workers whose jobs will be eliminated here by the middle of next year. According to a Dec. 1 press release issued by Saint Meinrad Archabbey, after nearly 150 years of printing and marketing Christian books, cards and gifts, Abbey Press will close two main divisions — Abbey Press Printing and its Abbey Press Trade Marketing wholesale business — by mid-2017. The Publications division, which produces the CareNotes line of booklets, Elf-help and other books, and Deacon Digest Magazine will remain open, but that work will likely be outsourced…

…In keeping with its roots of ownership by the Bendectine monks at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, Abbey Press lay workers were referred to as co-workers, rather than employees. More than half reportedly had been employed there for over 25 years, including multiple generations of the same families. Displaced co-workers will all receive severance packages, and employment and counseling services, according to Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

Archabbot Kurt Stasiak made the announcement, explaining that the decision was not easy. “The Press has had a long, rich history of service and outreach to people of faith, and our co-workers are very proud of that. It’s heart-breaking to see so many lose their jobs, when they have tirelessly devoted their lives to this place and its mission,” he said.

Abbey Press has struggled to overcome the challenges of a competitive marketplace, according to the Bendectine monastery. Those challenges have included rising costs, changing technologies, competition from overseas suppliers, and a decline in print and religious gift store markets. In response, new marketing, products and suppliers, along with other cost-cutting efforts, were introduced to improve the bottom line. “However, even with added cuts and downsizing, sustainable profitability with all of its sales divisions could not be reached.”  …

For our store, Abbey Press had become our core giftware supplier over the past few years. As a Catholic-based company, they nonetheless were able to get the Evangelical market which characterizes non-Catholic Christian bookstores. Many of the gifts for Weddings, Baptisms, First Communion and Confirmation were among our bestsellers, as well as the ever-popular mugs with saucers that could also be used as lids.  

In Canada, Abbey Press was distributed for many years by Augsburg-Fortress and was part of the package when that company was purchased by the management group of David C. Cook Canada, now known as Parasource.

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Post 2,000 at Christian Book Shop Talk!

state-of-the-bookstore

This is my 2,000th article here at Christian Book Shop Talk. That’s a lot of comings and goings of publishers, distributors, stores and sales reps. A lot of new policies and ways of doing business to consider. A lot of ups and downs for the Canadian dollar. Perhaps mostly, a lot of rants and raves! I thought today, in honor of the occasion I’d share with you a thing I just posted to our store Facebook page. I don’t do this sort of thing often, but some customers have a sense of ownership and are often asking, “How’s the store doing?” I can give them sales numbers if they really need them, but I also like to share my heart for our street-front ministry.

This approach, and the content of what follows is not without controversy. I know some of you would not do this with your customers. I accept that. But it’s something that’s been brewing for a long time that I needed to share with my store community. Your store newsletter or Facebook page may just contain hours and sale items. Decide what approach works best for you.

-•–•- State of the Bookstore Address -•–•-

sotuEach year, the President of the United States gives a State of the Union address to a joint session of the Senate and Congress. Today I want to do something similar for our bookstore family.

Christian bookstores tend to reflect the character of the person who owns them as well as key staff and managers. Because I’ve always worked for Christian organizations (100 Huntley Street, Inter-Varsity Canada, Canadian Bible Society, Muskoka Woods, Cobourg Alliance Church, Northumberland Christian School, etc.) for me, Christian service has never been a Sunday thing or a one-week-per-night thing. I am somewhat immersed in mission. I’ve always been passionate and perhaps even a bit intense about things like Christian service, the Bible, spiritual authenticity, spiritual maturity and simply knowing Jesus.

For me, it matters to know the full arc of the Bible’s story. It matters to know how to present this to outsiders and overcome their objections. It matters to know the rules for proper Biblical interpretation. It matters to know the stories of those spiritual pioneers who went before us and the biographies of those contemporary saints who serve us today. It matters to know what Christian experts say about the standards for marriage and parenting and extended family life. It matters to better understand the nuances of my brothers and sisters in other tribes of the broader church. It matters to be able to access the tools which help us dig deeper into God’s Word. It matters to be able to discern practical application of the scriptures in our neighbourhoods and workplaces. It matters to know the words and melodies of the songs used to sing praises to God both today and in times past. It matters to have a window into what God is doing in the Church around the world. It matters to have the materials to communicate the Christ story to our children, teens and young adults.

That’s a lot of ‘matters.’ But honestly, some days I feel like I’m the only one. There are times like I feel like that nobody else gives a care in the world for these things.

Increasingly, we have days that are greatly dominated by non-book transactions. Don’t get me wrong, the mugs and the movies and the T-shirts and the jewelry and the cards help pay the bills. But I wonder sometimes if it’s true that I’m ‘the only one’ as noted above or if I should just take a cue from our friends at Chapters/Indigo and just remove vast sections of the books in order to spread out the giftware?

For me, the books matter. We have over 1,000 items in our store which would be considered Bibles in one form or another. If that’s true of Bibles, I can’t imagine how many books we have. However, having this great choice is useless if people don’t take the time to browse. Having an awesome selection is ineffective if people only want to read material by some fringe teacher they saw on a late night Christian TV channel. Having a selection of books at all is ill-advised if all your customers are buying is non-book commodities.

Sales were up slightly in November. It’s important that you know that. I’m not writing from a standpoint of financial discouragement. It’s about our mission. It’s about enhancing the Christian lives of the constituency we serve. That’s why we’re there.

If you’re a regular reader — and perhaps you had to be to read this today — obviously this isn’t directed at you.

If you’re a shopper for non-book things, we do still need you. However, I hope you’ll consider diving into a good book. I hope you’ll consider developing what BIll Hybels calls a “chair time.” If you’re a parent, I hope you’ll model reading for your children.

My wish for you this Christmas is that you’ll have a favorite Christian author and a favorite Christian book category.