Archive for August, 2017

An Apologetics Toolbox in a Book

There is so much going on in this book. I feel like I’ve been handed an impossible task, somewhat akin from being dropped off a metropolitan core for a few days and told to write a review of the entire city. Every person. Every business. Every park and school.

Canadian Pastor Mark Clark has set himself to answer ten of the major objections to faith raised by outsiders, skeptics and seekers. It’s a tough assignment, even if you’re leaning heavily on the writings of Tim Keller and C. S. Lewis. Not as tough for Clark however as it would be for you or me, in part because this is his own story; the book is as much testimony as it is apologetics text.

I think that’s what make this one different. Until his later teens, Clark was camped on the other side of the border of faith. Partying. Drugs. Disbelief. So he has those still there clearly in view as he writes this; these are the type of people who made up the nucleus of Village Church when it was founded in 2010. Today they are in three locations on Canada’s west coast with satellites launching in Calgary and Montreal. Mark is part of a new generation of pastors and authors who really does his homework before speaking and writing and his passion and energy rock the house each week.

The ten “problems” form ten chapters:

But to say just that is too simple. Each one of these breaks down into several other subsections. These issues are complex and we’re given a look at each through several different lenses.

Overall, the book stands somewhere between academic apologetics textbook (for its thorough treatment of each of the issues) and biography (for the times Clark references his own story.) It is the latter that makes this book what it is; an apologetics resource which wears a face and a name, and that makes it accessible to all readers.

I know I say this a lot — I choose my review books carefully — but this is definitely another of those “go back and re-read” and “keep handy for reference” titles.

The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity | Zondervan | 272 page paperback | September, 2017




Kennedy’s Parable Forges into British Columbia

Continuing to work their way westward, Kennedy’s Parable has purchased Bell Tower Christian Marketplace in Kelowna, BC, part of the beautiful Okanagan Valley; from owners Jim and June Brown.

Starting with their store impressive store in Saskatoon, the Kennedy’s business purchased the former Scott’s Parable store in Red Deer, AB in an eleventh hour deal, after the new owners of the 15,000 square foot facility indicated a willingness to relinquish 6,000 square foot section at the front. (Read our September, 2015 report at this link.)

The purchase of Bell Tower takes effect on September 1st, with a reopening on September 5th. This means the Kennedy family will own one store each in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Pictured: Saskatoon Store (website photo)

Categories: Uncategorized

Denominational Dilemmas

Most of you have, at one time or another, seen the various glossy magazines published by different denominations. Perhaps your church is represented in this sort list:

  • Pentecostal Testimony
  • Alliance Connection
  • The Banner (CRC)
  • The War Cry / The Salvationist (Salvation Army) 
  • Mosaic (Canadian Baptists)

Each of these periodicals, along with the national Evangelical magazine FaithToday has a review section for recent books and inevitably, the books mentioned are by Canadian authors, since these are Canadian magazines. A sizeable number of the Canadian author titles are self-published, or with a publisher which does not have national distribution.

As a retailer, you know many of your customers read these magazines and furthermore, you want to support Canadian publishing, but it’s simply not practical to get your hands on the titles in the conservative quantities you’re prepared to stock.

I think we need to consider two things here.

First, the publishers responded to the 2008 recession by cutting back rosters, and releasing acquisitions staff. Even authors who had been promised release dates were told their book had been cut. Times are tough for publishers, so there are fewer books available to retailers and consumers.

Second, the major publishers largely abandoned print-on-demand, preferring the eBook as a medium for titles not worthy of significant initial print runs.

Had these situations not existed, the major publishing houses, could have picked up more of these titles — even Canadian ones — and thereby assured those authors national availability at Christian retail, at least in this country if not internationally.

Are all these titles good enough to make the cut? After all, to have the imprint of a major publishing house, even if it’s just to say “distributed by” means there needs to be an assurance to the customer of quality. Some of the books in the aforementioned denominational magazines have some liabilities when it comes to following a basic style guide, or in the cover design, or with a lack of a cohesive flow of argument.

On the other hand, others are of high quality and deserve greater availability.

As a reader, I pick up the various magazines when I’m in different churches.

As a retailer, I wish I could do more to help.

Categories: Uncategorized

Tote Bags a Durable, Reusable Substitute for Gift Bags

Like you, we’ve had customers who have opted to buy a canvas tote bag and simply place their gift purchase in it, effectively giving the recipient two gifts in one. But as we head into the Fall season, we’re trying to become more intentional about making this a default choice for more customers and decreasing our reliance on paper gift bags.

Bags priced between 2.99 and 6.99 are available from CB Gifts (Christian Brands), Christian Art Gifts, CTA, Divinity Boutique and others.

Customers may still wish to purchase tissue paper.

Categories: Uncategorized

Christian Book Shop Talk Enters Year 10

After a week off, we’re back just in time to celebrate the 9th Birthday of this blog. After blogging at e4God and USAToday, I came to WordPress and actually started seven blogs, all within the space of several months. This is one of three which is still regularly updated with new content.

It’s been great to connect with all of you in this forum. I don’t get to trade shows so this is my only opportunity to start conversations, which customers in my store will tell you is something I love doing. Those of us who own, manage or staff Christian bookstores walk a rather unique road which has all the drama of owning a business, all the glitter of the entertainment industry (with books, movies and music) and all the importance of ministry calling.

Canadian readers continue to dominate the stats (unlike my other two blogs) at 58%, but the U.S. is gaining at 37%. Moving forward you may see articles where I explain how things work here and you’ll wonder why I’m doing that since everyone here already knows, but I want to also be able to represent us to the larger readership, which includes executives and international sales directors of American publishing houses.

I also want to take a moment to thank the people at various Canadian distributors who share information beyond what I could expect to hear as a retailer, especially given the size of my own store’s market. I appreciate having a better understanding of what takes place behind the scenes, even if it’s followed by, “But you can’t blog what I just told you.” Sigh!

So Happy Birthday to Us. Thanks to all of you who drop in periodically, subscribe, leave comments, or contact me directly with both joys and sorrows.

This blog is available to all of you who wish to write longer-form articles than what you’re able to say in other forums, and hardly anything posted here has ever been deleted, so the material stays accessible for a longer time frame. Or feel free to pick a month and go back and see what was occurring and what issues were important 3 years ago, or 5 years ago or 7 years ago. If it’s something where you need to be anonymous that’s fine, as along as I can authenticate that it came from someone in the industry.

Finally, if you see an article in other media that you think stores should read, let me know so that we can run an excerpt with a link.

~Paul Wilkinson






Looking in all the Wrong Places

She is an ordained pastor through a large Canadian denomination.

Up until this, I would have considered her a loyal customer.

But she was shopping for Fall curriculum for her small group at the local Mission Thrift Store.  She had found an old book — and I’m not saying it wasn’t a worthy resource to use — and now wanted me to order ten of them.

You know what comes next, right? Long out of print. To be expected. With all due respect, you were shopping in a thrift store.

I decided to be proactive on this and I put together an email for her — and ten other women — using this page at CBD as a source. True, each video identifies them — there are probably generic Zondervan and Nelson versions on line, but time was a factor — but I trust the people I sent it to would order it from us. (Request it and I’ll send you the email I sent them, which you can steal and send to your customers, or use to get ideas.)

Back to the charity shop, I shudder to think people don’t realize that hoping to find your church’s adult elective curriculum in a second-hand store is rather foolhardy.

Categories: Uncategorized

An Example of Losing “Sweet Spot” Pricing

We’ve written four times previously about the idea that there is a key pricing point for certain items, and once you get beyond that you’ve lost the customer. I also noted this seems to apply more with low-price staples than with high end Bibles. Most recently we mentioned Rose Pamphlets, when their price crested above $5. I wasn’t entirely correct on this; we noticed that some customers don’t care, but if you buy 3 or more in my store and the price reverts below $5 anyway.

This time around it’s the God I Need to Talk to You About… series of booklets from Concordia. This series has about 24 titles, and we have them in two places and customers seem to locate them in both. Sometimes they come in asking for them. However recently three factors converged to put them at $2 CDN each.

  • Change in distributors
  • U.S. List price increase
  • High Canadian dollar

These little booklets aren’t that big. I think $2 is too high, so we modified them to $1.79 in our store, with a slight discount if you buy 4/$6.99. (Down from 5/$6.99.) Any more, and we can’t do it, especially with the online competition from Christian Book (who actually sometimes run advertising on this blog because we’re using a free WordPress service.)

…There are times you get to add a little to a MSRP and there are other times you need to subtract to keep the product moving. This is an example of the latter. In a foreign market environment, I think we need to think in terms of DSRP (Distributor Suggested Retail Price) as a reminder that just as they chose a number, we can choose one as well.

In today’s example, hopefully the dollar will respond, or the publisher will hear about the situation and make concessions to the Canadian distributor.

I created the graphic to reintroduce the series to my Facebook customers. A bit of glare perhaps, but feel free to steal it. You can probably do better!

Another troubling question: Why did Parasource choose $2 and not $1.99?

Save you looking: Word Alive says $2.49, so the CDN price may already be a concession. That’s still way too high for what you get.

Last call: Ingram has some 6-packs left at the old 99 cents US list price.

Entire Inventory of New and Forthcoming Titles Available at Word Alive / Anchor

The people at Anchor/Word Alive were quick to respond when I mentioned that Send the Light had featured a new release section that allowed you to view a 60-day window of product according to release date. They immediately posted their own new release link showing January and February, 2017.

But it never updated. So today I got creative and manipulated the dates in the page URL itself and voila! It worked.

Here’s the link I’m currently browsing:

(I chose a 120 day window today, because some of their dates are database entry dates, not release dates. So I’m seeing June to September.)

With so much independent book and giftware product, this helps me see a mix of unusual product. If your store is large, specific buyers can filter the results by product type. You may also see things our domestic suppliers never mentioned to you.

I’ve contacted Anchor again about this and suggested they make the fix.

Categories: Uncategorized

Canadian Pastor Offers Strong Apologetics Title

Mark Hildebrand from HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada just called to tip me off about new title by a new author which is performing extremely well. The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity by Mark Clark is released through Zondervan in paperback and retails for $21.99 

Publisher marketing:

The Problem of God is written by a skeptic who became a Christian and then a pastor, all while exploring answers to the most difficult questions raised against Christianity. Growing up in an atheistic home, Mark Clark struggled through his parents’ divorce, acquiring Tourette syndrome and OCD in his teen years. After his father’s death, he began a skeptical search for truth through science, philosophy, and history, eventually finding answers in Christianity.

In a disarming, winsome, and persuasive way, The Problem of God responds to the top ten God questions of our present age, including:

  • Does God even exist?
  • What do we do with Christianity’s violent history?
  • Is Jesus just another myth?
  • Can the Bible be trusted?
  • Why should we believe in Hell anymore today?

The book concludes with Christianity’s most audacious assertion: how should we respond to Jesus’ claim that he is God and the only way to salvation.

Mark Clark is the founding pastor of Village Church in Vancouver, Canada. Starting in 2010 out of a school gym, it is now one of the fastest growing multi-site churches in North America. Mark combines frank and challenging biblical preaching with real-world applications and apologetics to speak to Christians and skeptics, confronting questions, doubts, and assumptions about Christianity. His sermons have millions of downloads per year from over 120 different countries.

Zondervan | 272 pages | 9780310535225 | 17.99 USD 21.99 CDN

IVP UK Titles Now Available in North America

As reported last month at CBA Online, InterVarsity Press in the U.S. and their UK affiliate are back swapping titles. I say back because when I worked for IVP in Toronto years ago, we would regularly receive shipments from England. Until the article published, I was unaware that they had ever stopped doing this. (Some titles listed in the article below may not be included in Canada if another publisher holds Canadian rights.) Click the link in the title below to read at source.

IVP brings UK titles to North America

InterVarsity Press USA (IVP-USA) expanded their partnership with InterVarsity Press UK (IVP-UK) and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) to bring titles from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada.

In 2015, SPCK made IVP-USA books available to bookstores in the United Kingdom and mainland Europe through Macmillan Distribution Limited (MDL). Now IVP-USA will distribute SPCK and IVP-UK titles throughout North America.

Titles that will now be available to North American readers include:

  • Creation, Power & Truth by N.T. Wright
  • A Celtic Liturgy by Pat Robson
  • A trilogy of classics in spirituality and spiritual formation, which includes The Living Flame of Love by John of the Cross, Introduction to the Devout Life by Francis de Sales, and Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich
  • Places of Pilgrimage by Ian Scott Massie
  • Come, Lord Jesus by Stephen Motyer
  • Aidan, Bede, Cuthbert: Three Inspirational Saints by David Adam
  • But is it True: Honest Responses to 10 Popular Objections to the Christian Faith by Michael Ots


Summer Reading

My friend Lorne Anderson posted this a few days ago…

Categories: Uncategorized

The Next Big Colouring Book Trend

I looked at this forthcoming Harvest House title twice and couldn’t help but think, “What if all the women doing colouring books are getting bored and are ripe for the next big thing?”

I just think some might be tired of butterflies and stained glass windows and want to channel their inner Andy Warhol into a Campbell’s Soup can or something more resembling commercial art? Or perhaps break away from the pastels and rock out some primary colours?

Harvest House says this is for ages 8-12. I’d have to order one and check out the contents and also see if the paper stock is up to adult colouring book standards.

But I think I’m on to something here. Or crazy; which we already knew. I’m sure someone has a reason why this won’t work, but maybe someone else will get the idea and run with it.

80 pages | 9780736971034 | Harvest House | September release | $9.99