Home > Uncategorized > Beware of Top Book Lists

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.

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Your Response (Value-Added Comments Only)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: